As a twelve-year old living in Austin in early 1989, I didn't really pay much attention to Texas Longhorns athletics because at the time I was about as devout of a Baylor fan as a kid born in Waco (who started going to Baylor football games by himself at age seven) could be. Although I attended a number of Texas home games in 1987 and 1988, it was hard to feel anything towards the Longhorns because I always seemed to show up on Saturdays when the football was really bad (a 66-15 loss to Houston stands out). Then, Tom Penders happened, along with Travis Mayes, Lance Blanks and Joey Wright. And then Panama Myers blocked that shot against Purdue and I was beyond hooked. Way before the idea of covering Texas athletics ever became a dream, I loved Texas basketball. It's why what's happening and has been happening with the Texas basketball program is so disappointing. Once upon a time, Texas basketball was a passion, but over the last 10 years or so it's a little like jury duty ... you'll show up because you're obligated to, but by God, if there's a way to get out of it, you'll do it. Changes are needed. Big ones. No one could accuse me of disliking Shaka Smart. On the contrary, some would accuse my respect for him as some sort of love-fest. Certainly, I'd admit to wanting it to work out because all things being equal, if I'm going to watch roughly 80 hours of Texas basketball each year, I'd like for it to be interesting. Yet, it's not working out. Smart might still be a damn good coach, but sometimes fit matters quite a bit and the fit here has proven to be poor. Oh, it's quite possible that this Texas basketball team will still find a way to qualify for the NCAA Tournament, but that's the lowest possible bar of success that can be met around these parts. The bare minimum. What matters is that we're living in the worst stretch of Texas basketball by a long shot since the Dark Days of Weltlich. It's been so long since Texas played on the second weekend of the NCAA Tournament, that I've lost track of how long it’s been. More than anything, I just don't know what giving Smart another year is supposed to accomplish besides owing one less year on a contract you'd have to otherwise pay off. It's been the same week-to-week questions for the last four years with few real answers seemingly ever emerging. What's different about this season from the last? You know what that kind of support of that ideology is called? Uninspiring. Barring something almost impossible to foresee occurring with this team in the next eight weeks, change must be made. Texas can do better than this. In a new spot, Smart likely will as well. For whatever reason, this hasn't worked out and it's ok to acknowledge it. Frankly, it's a healthy thing to do. If it doesn't happen, you'll forgive me if I find something else to do with my 80+ hours this year. No. 2 - Understanding Herman ... No one has written more about the issues in Metroplex recruiting, or a lack of Metroplex recruiting, if you will, than I have. No one is more on the side of there still being room for improvement on Tom Herman's coaching staff. Yet in the aftermath of Anwar Richardson's scoop this week that Herman has every intention of retaining his entire coaching staff in the capacities that they served in this season, I also understand where Herman is coming from. After all, his coaching staff just led the team to a Sugar Bowl championship and a top-10 final ranking. When the kitchen was getting hot a year ago in a 7-6 season, Herman always stood by his coaches and his thoughts that the issues with last year's season were not related to his coaches being failures. When it as time to circle the wagons, Herman left no one behind. These are his guys that he hand-picked and they have delivered two top-10 recruiting classes, along with the thrills of the 2018 season. In Herman's mind, it probably just wouldn't feel right in the aftermath of all of that to channel his inner-Nick Saban and deliver a blade to the career of a loyal servant in the name of what might be viewed as a marginal upgrade. Admittedly, it would be a cold-blooded thing to do and the kind of thing that's much easier to tell someone else to do than to actually do it yourself. This isn't PlayStation that Herman is operating, its real life and every decision he makes has an impact. As far as I'm concerned, the bottom line is that Herman has earned the benefit of the doubt to make the calls after year two, even if I feel a change would potentially lead to more optimal results. I get it. No. 3 - Top three concerns going into the 2019 season ... Speaking of the wonderful reporting of @Anwar Richardson, one of the things that stood out about his work in this past week's War Room was the following section: "Nobody is overly concerned about the loss of Chris Nelson, Charles Omenihu and Breckyn Hager. There are high hopes for Keondre Coburn, Jamari Chisholm and Moro Ojomo, while they have been satisfied with the production of the other backup defensive lineman this past season. In addition, the return of Malcolm Roach has everyone feeling good about the defensive line." Considering the lack of production from those along the defensive line from the group of players that will return, I'm not sure I agree with the notion that the defensive line is definitely going to be solid or even mentioned in the same breath as this year's defensive line. Here's a look at my top three concerns going into the 2019 season (at this point) ... 1. Everything about the defensive line ... Don't get me wrong, there's some returning talent to be excited about it, but all of it is largely unproven. Malcolm Roach is probably the biggest sure thing the defense has, but he's been anything but a sure-fire impact player in each of the last two years. When I look at this group, I see a lack of quantifiable depth and playmakers. Who is going to replace what Omenihu brings to the table in the form of sacks, pressures and created big plays? Who will be ready for prime time against LSU in week two, in what will be the first true test of needing to be ready prime time for almost all of these players? Why aren't there higher expectations for the players that have actually played? I'm not saying it won't be fine, but it's a major question mark in my eyes. 2. Depth along the offensive line ... I trust Herb Hand to find five guys that can make for a solid starting offensive line, but one of the underrated stories of this season was that the offensive line remained remarkably healthy all season, which allowed the depth questions about the group to never be truly asked. Cosmi played all 14 games. So did Calvin Anderson, Patrick Vahe, Elijah Rodriguez and almost everyone else not named Zach Shackelford, who still started 10 games this season after missing four of the first games of the season. It's hard to believe that the team's continued depth concerns won't eventually become an issue, at least until the depth chart evolves into a strength, which is something that hasn’t happened yet. 3. Running back Texas is currently scheduled to enter next season with Keontay Ingram, Daniel Young and ... I guess Derrian Brown. Considering Ingram still has to prove he can survive the pounding of a long season, Young's limitations and the uncertainty of Brown's readiness, I'd offer that finding another grad transfer (if at all possible) should be a priority. No. 4 - Quote of the (It's Still Early) Year ... “I’m still committed to Texas. But I will be making my college decision on February 6,” Javonne Shepherd said on Sunday in an interview with Orangebloods.com. I know what you're thinking. I know what you want to post. I know that kids that fit Shepard's profile often turn out to be massive busts (as do most recruits). But, Texas needs Shepard. Period. Without him, the Longhorns will be left with a two-man offensive line class in 2019 when they still need reinforcements in volume and not just high-end quality. Therefore, my advice would be to bite your lip, stay quiet and let the process play out, even if you're tired of little things like kids not understanding the definition of the word "commitment." This is what recruiting sometimes looks like. Whatever it takes, right? No. 5 – BUY or SELL … BUY or SELL: The new transfer rules will inadvertently create less parity in college football? (Sell) When kids are seeking sure-fire, starting-level playing time, winning matters less than playing every snap. There will be occasional exceptions to the rule, but of the problems that the new transfer rules might create, I'm not sure this one of them. BUY or SELL: Shaka gets whacked if we miss the tournament? (Buy) I feel like you can see the pressure on Shaka's face in every game. BUY or SELL: Of our two freshmen QBs currently in the transfer portal, Thompson is a better fit for the Tom Herman offensive game plan than Rising? (Buy) In theory, yes. It remains to be seen whether he's better than Rising, which is what ultimately matters most. BUY or SELL: Herman becomes a candidate for an NFL head coaching job in the next couple of years? (Buy) If Texas gets to the playoff under Herman, I'm guessing some team will be interested at some point, especially if Sam Ehlinger's star continues to take off. BUY or SELL: You’d take Todd Orlando over Greg Robinson, Will Muschamp, or Gene Chizik to be your DC? (Sell) #TeamRobinson BUY or SELL: Kirk Johnson and/or Patrick Hudson play significant snaps in 2019? (Sell) I don't expect Hudson to ever play football again, so this is really a Johnson question and there's no reason to think right now that he would ever play significant snaps in any year. BUY or SELL: The 2019 Longhorn defense will be a better unit than the 2018 unit by any meaningful statistical measurement? (Sell) I simply have too many questions about that side of the ball at this point to give that unit that kind of benefit of the doubt. BUY or SELL: Kliff Kingsbury will be more successful in the NFL than he was in college? (Buy) I mean the bar is set really, really low. BUY or SELL: The town hall was a success and you talked crap to the people who thought it would be a disaster? (Sell) I'm still not going to get cocky. I'm just glad I survived without needing to call the fire department. BUY or SELL: There is a huge crack in Alabama's football program? (Sell) *blank stare* No. 6 - interesting NFL Draft Talk ... I was over at The Athletic on Sunday when I came across an NFL Draft article with a few interesting notes going into the East-West Shrine Game. Check this out. On former Cedar Hill wide receiver Demarkus Lodge: "Coming off a career year, Lodge finished third in the SEC in receiving yards per game (79.7), showing the juice to separate and twitchy body control to adjust to throws away from his frame. He is a tall, silky athlete who is at his best on vertical patterns, reminding me of Marvin Jones as a prospect." On Andrew Beck: "There isn’t much to get excited about with Beck as an athlete, but he is a very reliable player, both as a receiver and blocker. And while other tight ends might be more dynamic, consistent reps each day from the former Longhorn is something NFL scouts will notice." On former Longhorns DE Derick Roberson: "A transfer from Texas, Roberson had a breakout senior campaign for the Bearkats with 20.5 tackles for loss, 15.0 sacks and five forced fumbles, despite not having P.J. Hall to draw attention from blockers. Roberson doesn’t show much of a pass rush plan, but he’s long and can run, which should earn him mid-round draft grades." No. 7 - Apathy in Big D ... 23 years ... and counting. Going into Saturday night, I'll admit to some optimism. While I was never of the mindset that the Dallas Cowboys were going to be Super Bowl-bound this month, I did like the team's chances of beating a Los Angeles Rams team that seemed fairly vulnerable down the homestretch of the regular season. Yet, when the Rams started mashing Dallas' mouth with the likes of CJ Anderson, who was very much looking like Daniel Cormier in a football uniform, a different mindset started to take over once it became clear that it would be at least 24 years before the Cowboys might get through the divisional round of the playoffs. It wasn't anger. It wasn't sadness. It wasn't snarkiness. It was apathy. Instead of losing any sleep over getting steamrolled by a team that over the course of 60 minutes proved to be better than the Cowboys, I found myself questioning how I let myself get into a mental position that allowed for me to even believe ... just a little bit. The truth of the matter is that I don't have any faith in anything Jerry Jones touches with regards to football. I trust Jason Garrett even less. I still don't know what to completely make of Dak Prescott. Part of me wonder if this is how many long-time Texas football fans felt during the McWilliams and Mackovic years. There gets to be a point where the memories of the golden years start to fade because that's what memories do over time, which causes immense sadness because no one should ever know what it feels like to know nothing but harnessed happiness as a fan for nearly a quarter-century. Now I know what Jimmy McGill must feel like when he operates a Cinnabon on a typical weekday in Omaha, Nebraska. Ultimately, I'll wake up in nine months and I'll put my Cinnabon uniform on and go back to it all over again. p.s. - Don't you dare tell me I'm some sort of bad fan. My soul is invested, which means I'm allowed to feel any damn way I want to after two-plus decades of unfulfillment. No. 8 – Eternal Randomness of the Spotty Sports Mind … ... The idea of Jason Garrett getting a contract extension makes me want to vomit. ... Demarcus Lawrence should be placed on the side of a milk carton after Saturday night. Sadly, there was no need to put any of the Dallas linebackers on a milk carton. We saw them, alright ... ... Very quietly, I find myself rooting for the Chiefs. I think I'm rooting for them because they are the most fun team in the NFL. How can you not love Patrick Mahomes? ... I wonder if Philip Rivers has ever considered pulling a Tonya Harding on Tom Brady? ... Tweet of the Weekend... Now he misses in the snow— Charles Woodson (@CharlesWoodson) January 12, 2019 ... The ref is a Major Applewhite guy... The Refs pushed Chris Simms out of the way.pic.twitter.com/oFKVeYYzat— Dov Kleiman (@NFL_DovKleiman) January 13, 2019 ... Luka Dončić is the kind of player that Phoenix, Sacramento and Atlanta will have to answer for not selecting for the next 20 years. Talk about missing the boat ... ... Blake Griffin running away from Steve Ballmer was one of the true highlights of the weekend. I've watched it at least 10 times. ... Come on home to Philly, Bryce Harper. It's time. ... David De Gea was a witch on Sunday. It's almost unfair when he turns on his cheat mode. ... Just keep grinding, Reds, keep grinding. YNWA. No. 9 - The List: Top 10 "Most talked about recruits on OB who didn’t come to UT" ... Inspired by this thread on Orangebloods over the weekend, I thought I would expand the discussion beyond the obvious No. 1 to a Top 10 list. There were probably 25 names worthy of serious consideration. 10. Lache Seastrunk 9. Russell Shepard 8. Kyler Murray 7. Martellus Bennett 6. Mitch Mustain 5. Rhett Bomar 4. Adrian Peterson 3. Jamarkus McFarland 2. Darrell Scott 1. Ryan Perrilloux No. 10 – And Finally ... Don Caldwell passed away last week. Most would know him as the former Austin McCallum High School head basketball coach, who led the Knights program for nearly 30 years. For someone like myself, who grew up without a father, Caldwell was something else entirely. More than anyone I can think of in the last few days, Caldwell was probably the most impactful father figure in my teenage years. Starting out as my freshman football coach, Caldwell was the first face I encountered as I entered a new school district as a freshman in the summer of 1990. From that very first few days as a high schooler, I found myself around Caldwell a lot over the next four years, as I quickly became a side-kick inside of his office as his official book and stats guy. On one hand, being his stats guy always insured that I had a ride to every basketball game, but more than anything else when I look back on it, it allowed me to be near Caldwell - a man that taught toughness ... and laughs ... and commitment ... and love ... and no tolerance for bullshit ... and empathy ... and vulnerability ... and life ... and so much more. As far as I know, almost everyone loved Don Caldwell. He was as authentic of a person as I have ever had the pleasure of encountering and my life is so much better for it. That I'm far from being alone speaks to the impact he made in his life on so many people, usually doing nothing more than serving as a pillar of strength for so many in moments when a pillar of strength is most needed. Oh, and the stories that I can tell ... and will continue to tell. I love you, Coach. Rest in peace.