November 16, 2011
I believe Mack Brown, but ...
who has paid any attention to Mack Brown's press conferences over the years
knows that Mack's not always the most forthcoming coach in America when it
comes to injuries. It's been that way for years, but Mack's taken things to new
heights in 2011 when seemingly every injured player
"It's just a flesh
wound" is described as being available for play.
A lot of fans were upset with Mack (and Orangebloods, and insiders, and anyone else who had an opinion) last week when Joe Bergeron and Malcolm Brown were scratched just prior to the kick-off with Missouri. It got so bad that Mack actually addressed the subject at the very top of his Monday press conference in his opening statements, before he was even asked.
The way Mack described it, both Bergeron and Brown were limited in practice during the week but the thought was that both would make enough improvements to make them available on Saturday, even if it was on a limited basis. The team's final workout of each gameweek is on Thursday, so there is a bit of guesswork on the part of the trainers in the 48 hours leading up to kick-off, Mack said. On Saturday morning, both Brown and Bergeron tried to run in pre-game and it was decided by the trainers that neither had made enough improvement late in the week to give it a go. "We're not going to put a young man on the field that has a chance to get hurt worse," Mack said.
That explanation, of course, wasn't accepted by many and Mack was described as being, shall we say, disingenuous. Not sure I get that. The coaches, Longhorn players and others close to the freshman backs thought they would play but nothing was ever set in stone. It didn't turn out the way most thought it would, and I fail to see where that's any fault of Mack's (unless, you want to question why Bergeron was in late in the first place against Texas Tech when he aggravated his hamstring).
Texas does try to issue some sort of injury report late in the week, mostly detailing guys that are known to be out. The next step, Mack said (only somewhat tongue in cheek), is to not release any information ... none ... as some other programs choose to do (like this week's opponent, Kansas State).
The best choice is a philosophy similar to the NFL, where players are listed as out, doubtful, questionable or probable. In the case of Brown and Bergeron, call them what they are ... gametime decisions.
I understand the need to keep opponents guessing in regards to personnel and especially scheme. But would it really have helped Missouri one bit last week had it known that Brown/Bergeron's availability wouldn't be known until right before kickoff? The obvious answer there is no. If you want to keep secrets about special packages, trick plays or secret personnel weapons, that's one thing, but the midweek vagaries on injury reports haven't helped anyone steal a win for a long time.
I don't doubt that Mack and the coaches didn't fully know until Saturday morning that Brown and Bergeron wouldn't be available. I talked to enough people during the week that said the same thing - they thought Brown would "probably" be on the field. I get that. But if you don't know, just say you don't know and quit trying to keep everyone guessing in what comes across as a feeble attempt to get a leg up on the opponent.
While I'm at it, why is UT seemingly the only school in the country that doesn't allow access to summer camps, unsanctioned off-season 7-on-7 workouts and the like? I'll save that rant for another day.
SOME EARLY THOUGHTS ON KANSAS STATE
Someone please explain to me the logic of Texas being a 9 1/2 point favorite over a very good Kansas State team. This is a K-State team that seems to be playing better football than Texas, it has historically dominated the Longhorns and Texas' injury situation is still very much up in the air. The Longhorns have the advantage of playing at home on senior night in what should be an emotionally charged atmosphere, but this one seems like a toss-up at best.
We'll begin to really break down the match-ups on Thursday and maybe we'll discover some weaknesses there that tip the scales in UT's favor, but the guess right now is that if the Longhorns are going to have to win, they're going to have to do it with a dominating defensive performance. Texas hasn't exactly been able to come up with that kind of showing against Kansas State's physical style of play in the past, so Manny Diaz's troops will really have to be on top of their game.
I'm going to assume Jaxon Shipley's probably out. Malcolm Brown and Joe Bergeron are the wildcards. If either or both of those two are available, this game's close to a coinflip in my opinion. If the freshmen backs can't go, it's going to be hard to pick against KSU.
CAN'T WAIT TO SEE WHAT THE FUTURE HOLDS
Saturday's UT career-ending injury to senior running back Fozzy Whittaker really hit home with those inside the program. Mack Brown opened his weekly press conference on Monday by talking about what Whittaker has meant to this year's team and the UT program as a whole. Just about every Longhorn player this week spoke of overcoming Whittaker's loss, including some emotional moments from Blake Gideon.
Whittaker's been dealt a lot of bad hands over the course of his UT career, but he's always been a guy that's kept a positive outlook and he was no different this week after suffering a severe knee injury against Missouri.
I had the pleasure of talking to Whittaker's mother, Gloria, this summer for a story I wrote that gave some insight into Whittaker's strength and character. Having watched Fozzy during his time in Austin and knowing he has such an incredible support network of family and friends, I have no doubts that Whittaker will bounce back and leave his mark in one way or another.
Good luck to one of the true good guys on his latest challenge.
AND NOW FROM THE LIGHTER SIDE
Those Russians sure get hands-on with their news ...