I had the chance to catch up to El Cohiba Grande to find out what he was hearing about the shiny new version of the Texas Longhorns. Now if your primary haunt is Barking Carnival and you don't get down to the Recruitocosm much you might be wondering what the hell, or who the hell is a Big Cigar. The Cigars are our primary source of information and they've given the Barking Carnival family razor sharp information over the last year that you can't get anywhere else.
From predicting, down to the coach, who would be fired and who would be retained way back in October of 2010, to the University's Board of Regents Meeting, the event that got the coaching change ball rolling by approving the dollars to go get assistants like Harsin and Diaz. The Cigar was reporting this super secret meeting the second the Regents concluded their business. The Cigars have also given us a ton of recruiting information in between.
As far as the team goes, the Cigars have been nails this off season allowing us to be the first to report that David Ash would not redshirt, but get significant snaps with his own package of plays. Well now there's more.
JS: How are things looking this season? Last time we talked you said the staff had significant worries about their quarterback situation, the main problem being they didn't have one.
Big Cigar: Yeah, I told you that Harsin thought they'd need to manufacture some points with scheme and gadgets early on until they found their QB. That's still the case and their hope is that one of these guys gets hot and takes the reins in game action. What's different since last we spoke is their feelings on the offense they'll surround these guys with. They're downright giddy with the young skill position players they have in the fold, and Searels LOVES his core group of guys and he is blown away by the scheme that Harsin has employed with his kids. The offensive staff believes they can score a lot of points if they get solid QB play and that wasn't the case last spring.
JS: Talk about Searels and what he's meant to this team?
Big Cigar: He's brought a level of toughness to the offensive line and the offense as a whole that we haven't seen in Mack's tenure with the exception of Tim Brewster. But keep in mind Tim just had the tight ends. Searel's a mean SOB but he knows what he's doing from a technical standpoint. I was told he was very happy with the play of his group in the Friday scrimmage, but he still had them doing up-downs after practice because of the silly penalties. I can't imagine what he would have done to them after the 2009 Big 12 Championship Game. But, yeah, he may be our most important hire.
JS: You mentioned scheme and how Searels is impressed with it, can you expound?
Big Cigar: With all of the motion and the different looks they give the defense his unit doesn't need to be perfect to have success which makes his job easier. When he first got here he was surprised at the talent level, but Harsin/Applewhite's scheme have helped make up for it. Our running game is no longer reliant on feats of athletic ability like an undersized center reach blocking an athletic DT a gap over. The scheme creates a level of uncertainty in the defense that makes it easier on guys to carry out their assignments. Then there are the packages, which they're having fun with.
JS: We've heard rumblings from other sources about package plays and you mentioned the Ash package back in June—can you elaborate?
Big Cigar: I wouldn't want you to publish specifics, but just know that each player, receivers, running backs, full backs, H-backs, and even QB's have a handful of plays tailor made to their skill set. Within each of these packages, the plays build on one another.
JS: Yeah, our own Longhorn Scott and Scipio Tex mentioned an added goal of these plays is to gather information for the next play. Have you heard that?
Big Cigar: I have. They want to get real time, in game tendencies, and then attack. They're not totally reliant on game film.
JS: So you mentioned specialized packages for each skill guy? And gadgets? Just share what you feel comfortable with. (Editor's note: we allowed our source to have final editorial control of this information so the more sensitive subject matter was left out. We'll revisit this subject matter when it's appropriate throughout the season.)
Big Cigar: Yes, DJ Monroe and Desean Hales are playing the same position, but the groups of plays differ based on skill set. We are running some Wildcat looks and currently two different players are taking the direct snap. If you were to categorize the Wildcat package based on personnel, you can help to conclude that one is the power package and one is the speed package. The beauty is that personnel won't tip their hand for the most part.
JS: And the QB packages?
Big Cigar: Let's just say, including the two Wildcat looks, there's a better than average chance that 5 different players will take a snap from center. But yeah, Ash has a specialized deal he'll run, while Gilbert and McCoy will continue to run plays that suit them. You'll see each one run four wide, two tights, two backs, you name it. All run with a ton of motion which is why the OL were doing up downs. It's an offense that invites pre-snap penalties.
JS: Who have been the surprises of camp on both sides of the ball?
Big Cigar: Mainly the entire 2011 class. It's a home run and it's evident this early in the game. In fact, you're hearing about all of the skill guys on the offensive side of the ball but Searels is really impressed with his group. Hutchins is a kid that can really play, and I know that probably surprises a lot of folks, but Searels loves the kid. Flowers and Greenlea are the no brainers obviously. They may both play this year and Stacey loves them. He also really likes the Cochran kid, and Doyle has started to come on in fall camp after getting healthy. It's a really good group.
On defense, the secondary is LOADED. I told you that Akina has mentioned Thompson as having a chance to be special. Leroy Scott is better than advertised, while Sheroid Evans and Josh Turner have the frames to difference makers. It doesn't look like there's a miss in the group.
As for the rest of the team, the Oline is really rounding into form, especially in the running game. The tight ends are playing at a high level which wasn't expected.
On the defense, Diaz is worried about the youth of his back four but that's something he's had to deal with his whole career. He's a kid in the candy store with his front seven though. His scheme is predicated on creating havoc and getting you behind the chains and he's got the perfect front 7 to do that. The only worry is finding a second DT, but compared to past stops, that's nothing.
JS: One final thing, can you handicap the QB race?
Big Cigar: It's going to be Gilbert as the core guy until he falters or unless he just stinks up the joint in the next two weeks of practice. Then McCoy or Ash will get their shot as the main guy. David Ash will have his package of plays from the get-go, but the staff will add more as the young guy shows he can handle more.
JS: Thanks for your time.