- May 29, 2001
For a little while on Sunday, I kind of forgot about the Coronavirus.
Mostly, I just kind of let my mind drift away while thinking about the state of the Big 12 in football heading into a world where the 2020 season takes place as regularly scheduled.
I kept thinking of the list of John Harris of the top 100 players in college football heading into 2020 and how the Longhorns were side by side with Oklahoma in terms of total number of players on the list.
Check out a breakdown of each school ...
Oklahoma : Junior running back Kennedy Brooks (No. 23), Junior center Creed Humphrey (No. 27), Redshirt freshman quarterback Spencer Rattler (No. 84), Junior defensive end Ronnie Perkins (No. 90)
Texas: Senior quarterback Sam Ehlinger (No. 26), Junior defensive end Joseph Ossai (No. 45), senior left tackle Sam Cosmi (No. 67) and junior defensive back Caden Sterns (No. 70)
The rest of the Big 12 ranked like this with regards to number of players in Harris' Top 100: Iowa State (3), Oklahoma State (2), TCU (2), Baylor (1), West Virginia (0), Texas Tech (0), Kansas State (0) and Kansas (0).
Basically, I just kept coming back to the fact that when you look across the Big 2 conference, there's no obvious reason why the Longhorns shouldn't be the favorite in the Big 12 this year.
I say that with the acknowledgement that the Longhorns turned over 70 percent of their coaching staff, including three new coordinators, and haven't even been able to churn out a single football practice together. That's no small thing.
When was the last time that Texas had a legit edge at the quarterback position when compared to Oklahoma? It feels like it's been a hot minute or a decade. The Longhorns are not only the team in the Red River Rivalry with the known and most proven player, the Longhorns are the team in this match-up with an overwhelming edge. Rattler might prove to be a beast and might finish with a first-team All-Big 12 season, but he’s just a guy with 11 career pass attempts heading into the season. Ehlinger has more 1,100. It should matter. It normally matters.
When was the last time Texas had the best offensive tackle in the conference, coupled with such an edge at the quarterback position coming into the season? Jonathan Scott and Vince Young in 2005? It's a hell of a thing to be so strong at left tackle at the exact same time you're so strong at quarterback.
When was the last time Texas had the best left tackle in the conference, a big edge at the quarterback position and also owned the best defensive player in the entire conference? It might slip by you if you're not paying close attention, but Ossai at No. 45 is the highest-ranked defensive player in the Big 12 on Harris' list (TCU safety Trevon Moehrig is No. 49). I'm not sure if the Longhorns have ever had those three things at exactly the same time since the Big 12 began in 1996.
Obviously, Texas isn't blowing everyone away in the talent department like it might have done with its best teams from the 2000s, but this also isn't a team that has to take a backseat in that area, either ... especially at the most important position on the field. Whatever Rattler is, he isn't Jalen Hurts or Kyler Murray or Baker Mayfield, which is who OU has had starting at quarterback since Charlie Strong's second season in Austin.
If the Longhorns don't win the Big 12 this season, there is a list of reasons that would likely stand up as fairly reasonable assertions, the least of which won't be the new coaches on Tom Herman's staff, the lack of any spring practices and the question marks that exist on both sides of the ball on the two-deep.
But, Texas has some advantages that every school in the conference would likely trade for, including Oklahoma.
If the Longhorns can take advantage of those advantages, there's a Big 12 title there for the taking that has only legitimately existed a few times over the course of the last decade.
No. 2 - Sam vs Brock ...
The discussion for pre-season All-Big 12 first-team quarterback is a fairly decent one. In fact, when Harris put together his Top 100 list, it was Iowa State's Brock Purdy who finished as the top-rated Big 12 quarterback, finishing at No. 14, while Ehlinger was slotted at No. 26.
Here's what Harris said about both.
"Purdy is perhaps the nation’s best kept secret. He nearly threw for 4,000 yards as a sophomore (3,982 yards), 27 touchdowns and just nine INT in 475 attempts. He also ran for 249 yards and eight touchdowns, all in his first full year as a starter in Ames. With Purdy at the helm there’s a chance, no matter the obstacle. Always. He brought Iowa State back against Baylor and Oklahoma but the Cyclones fell just short in each game on the road. Fortunately, in Ames, he finished the deal against Texas in one Iowa State’s best wins of the year. Dare I say, he’s got some “Tebow-like” qualities but he throws the ball much better than the former Gator star ever did. He’s on a track to be the best quarterback in Iowa State history and should light up the Big 12 once again."
"Studying defensive prospects for the 2020 NFL Draft, I’ve had the chance to watch even more Ehlinger than I expected. The gritty, confident Austin native was even better than I remembered in 2019. Sure, the Longhorns underachieved as a team, but Ehlinger did his best to carry that offense - 3,663 passing yards, 32 touchdowns, 663 rushing yards and seven touchdowns. He earned 2nd team All-Big 12 honors behind 1st teamer Jalen Hurts (Oklahoma). With offensive coordinator Mike Yurcich on board to lead the way, Ehlinger may elevate his game even further as a senior."
Pretty high praise for both players and when you look at the passing stats, you'll see two players that are hard to separate.
Ehlinger (2019): 296 of 454 (65.2-percent) for 3,663 yards, 32 touchdowns, 10 interceptions and a 151.8 rating.
Purdy (2019): 312 of 475 (65.7-percent) for 3,982 yards, 27 touchdowns and 9 interceptions and a 151.1 rating.
From my vantage point, Ehlinger gets the edge because of his strength in the running game, but Purdy did get the "W" in their head-to-head match-up in Ames.
While Texas fans probably would like to think there's a big advantage here and that Harris is crazy for having the two close together, let alone Purdy listed ahead of Ehlinger, there's a nice little debate to be had about the matter going into the season.
No. 3 - Ossai's big year?
Seeing Ossai so high up the board in an NFL evaluator's set of eyeballs gave me a little reason for pause, simply because if he has the season that everyone believes he's capable of, he's going to have a real decision to make going into the 2021 NFL Draft because he could easily end up carrying a first-round grade.
Once upon a time, it felt like Texas used to keep players like Ossai every year following a big junior season, but in today's climate, it feels like a 50-50 proposition at best when it comes to projecting whether he plays at Texas in 2021.
There are so many wildcards in play that it's truly impossible to project anything at this point, but the seed is planted in my head early on with regards to Ossai. If he emerges as a double-digit sack guy, he's going to carry some NFL buzz.
No. 4 - Real Talk about the upcoming NFL Draft ...
As much as we all love Devin Duvernay, everything I'm reading with regards to mock drafts and projections is that everyone should prepare themselves for the possibility that there won't be a single Longhorn drafted in the first two nights of the draft this week ... again.
Don't shoot the messenger, but Brandon Jones has the looks of a fourth rounder who could possibly sneak into the back end of round three, while Duvernay and Collin Johnson might have to wait a few more rounds. Malcolm Roach and Zach Shackelford could both get selected before the end of seven rounds, which could leave the Longhorns with a very solid five selections, but everyone needs to prepare themselves for the propaganda that will be created by a few of their rivals having better first and second days in the draft.
There's no question that we all think the world of Duvernay's upside at the next level, but in a ridiculously deep year at wide receiver, everything I've read paints a picture of a guy that hasn't carved out a role in the first two days of the draft. It's kind of stunning when you consider the season that he just enjoyed, yet here we are.
No. 5 - Story-time with Uncle Ketch ...
I've never told this story before because it absolutely ranks as one of the low moments of my entire career.
Back in 1996 when I was working as a 20-year-old producer, I had a chance to cover the drafting of former Longhorns slugger Danny Peoples when he was selected in the first round by the Cleveland Indians.
What made the situation really cool was that I had played against Peoples in Town and Country Little League when I was in middle school. As a transfer from another league, Peoples was practically a legend when he arrived at Town and Country more than 30 years ago. He was the league's best hitter. He scared the shit out of everyone as a pitcher. Him ending up as a first-round pick made total sense to every kid that ever played against him when they were 11 or 12.
Anyway, on draft day, I joined a photographer at his home after he was drafted and we started to make small talk.
For some reason, as we were small talking, the following words just blurted out of my mouth.
"I hit a home run against you once at Town and Country," I boasted.
As soon as the words came out of my mouth, I felt so stupid. Of course, that never happened. Never in my entire life have I ever said anything like it to anyone else, but it happened here. Peoples gave me this look that suggested he didn't think I was 100-percent full of crap, but he KNEW I was 100-percent full of crap.
"I don't think you did," he said. "I'd remember that."
Trapped as a damn liar, all I could do was dig in and just try to shrug it off like I remembered the situation better than he did, but what really happened was that he was so much of a legend in my mind that I created a fictional story to make myself look good and the opposite happened. Why didn't I just tell him he scared the hell out of me when I was 11 and I once got on base against him? Why did I have to say I hit a freaking HOME RUN?
I was so ashamed when I left his house that day. A piece of my 11-year-old self wanted to impress the best baseball player he had ever played when he played little league.
And I blew it.
Almost a quarter-century later, I'm still ashamed at my attempt to force Danny Peoples to respect my 11-year-old baseball skills when the truth of the matter is that there was absolutely no reason to know who I was as a baseball player.
Sorry about that, Danny.
No. 6 - I doubt Kim In Waco is sweating just yet, but ...
New Texas coach Vic Schaefer has it cooking in the early days of his tenure as the new Texas women's basketball coach.
The addition of Johnnie Harris to his coaching staff gives the Longhorns one of the most dynamic assistant coaches in the country and the kind of right-hand assistant that will help in recruiting and potentially could be a head coaching candidate in her own right in short time. The fact that Schaefer has been able to scoop up the engine of his program in Starkville and slide it into Austin has made for a quick transition period for the entire program.
In the last week alone, the Longhorns have added transfers in former Duke captain and starting point guard Kyra Lambert and former Penn State post-player Lauren Ebo. Meanwhile the Longhorns received a commitment from national top-100 prospect DeYona' Gaston (formerly committed to Schaefer at Mississippi State) of Pearland to top off what was an incredibly busy week for the program.
"The first thing that comes to mind is that this is the A-Team," Schaefer said about the staff he's bringing with him to Austin. "They're the best in the business.
Everything about the women's basketball program is suddenly very, very interesting.
No. 7 – BUY or SELL …
(Buy) Yes, I absolutely believe Herman has a plan in his head for the constantly evolving situation around him as it relates to the off-season and going into the actual season. Those plans have to have contingencies. The idea that he wouldn't have a plan never actually crossed my mind before you asked the question.Depending on the timing of when the season starts, you get a feeling one way or another that CTH has a plan in his head of how to get the team to where it needs to be? And if so, does he have contingencies for a prep time adjustments depending on how much time he is given?
(Buy) No women OR man has ever been able to pull that off.This virus has done what no woman had been able to do … cancel all sports, shut down all bars, and keep men at home.
(Sell) I'm taking Keaontay Ingram by a very small margin at this point.Bijan leads the Horns in rushing this season, assuming there is one.
(Buy) I would rather have Sam Ehlinger that Spencer Rattler going into this season.You would rather have a senior QB having to learn a new system with no onfield camps until possibly 2-3 weeks before the season starts vs. a redshirt freshman QB, who saw some game action, and is going into his second year in the same system.
(Buy) Herman's boy is getting his cash.David Beatty will eventually receive the $3 million owed to him by Kay U.
(Buy). Yup, I wrote about it this week.Empty stadiums or reduced capacity by start of football season?
(Sell) I think he plays a year for the Longhorns, but I reserve the right to change my mind.Let's cut to the chase. GB III takes the money and runs.
(Buy) I can't name 10 programs with a better OC/DC combo.Tom Herman hired a coaching staff that is top ten nationally
(Buy) As of Sunday, I've lost 20 pounds through the first 16 days. I'm at my lowest weight since I got married in 2010.You have lost greater than 10 lbs since the jaw was wired shut diet?
No. 8 - Three Random Things From This Week in Quarantine ...
a. You guys are going to laugh at me, but I've found myself watching a smidge of Little House on the Prairie on UPTV throughout the week, mostly because it just makes me feel good as a human being for the most part at a time when so much of the rest of the world makes me want to strangle it far too often (see the Alex Jones guest appearance at the Capital this weekend as an example). I suppose Charles and Lura Ingalls were the father and sister that I never had. Anyways, I bring all of this up for a completely separate reason ... even more random than the confession that Charles Ingalls was a surrogate TV father of mine in my youth and into adulthood ... somehow I've gone my entire life without knowing that Shannen Doherty played Jenny Wilder in the show. How could I have watched 90210 in high school and not put that together? I'm absolutely ashamed of myself.
b. I decided to quit on the TV show ER this week once I got into season six. The departure of George Clooney from the show is really felt when you're watching it in a binge and when you add in the loss of the Susan Lewis character, the looming death of Lucy and Carter's drug addiction, the addition of Dr. Dave Malucci (whom I found myself loathing) and the fact that Mark Green was actually kind of happy in life, it just felt like a good time. Plus, and I kid you not, I was watching an episode in season six when I had the following thought run through my head, "I really need to quit watching this show now. It's declining." About 10 seconds later, the smart TV I was watching the show on simply fell off the dresser it was standing on, crashed five feet to the ground and destroyed itself. Season six of ER made my TV commit suicide.
c. Am I the only one that always notices what a total looker Mrs. Turner is in the original Bad News Bears movie? Right about the time Roy hits his own son in front of an entire crowd of people and everyone just kind of shrugs their shoulders and continues on with the game, I can't get my mind off of what Mrs. Turner is wearing at the game. Is this what moms wore to games in the 70s? Is she just so unhappy with Roy Turner (the abusive dad) that she dresses like that for the championship game because she's hoping that she'll meet someone there? Anyway, I went on an Internet deep dig on the actress Shari Summers and it turns out that she only had eight acting credits to her name from 1970-1994. Apparently, using the search words "Shari Summers Bad News Bears" and "Mrs. Turner Bad News Bears" provides zero photos. Therefore, I took a picture off my TV on Sunday night to provide some proof.
No.9 - The List: Top 10 Michael Jordan Moments ...
First of all, I was always a bigger Charles Barkley fan than I was a Michael Jordan fan, but if you check my seventh grade yearbook at Grisham Middle School in 1988, you'll find me wearing a Michael Jordan t-shirt.
It's kind of hard to explain how huge of a star he was back then when you consider that social media wasn't close to existing.
You just knew everyone was watching because everywhere you went, everyone talked about him.
Even if I secretly hated him for denying Barkley a chance at the Pistons in a seven-game series in 1990 and a title when he was with the Suns in 1993, I've always appreciated Jordan's greatness.
As we get ready to dive into the ESPN documentary "The Last Dance", here are my personal Top 10 moments of Jordan as a player.
10. Nearly beats the Sixers in game three of the 1990 Eastern Conference Finals. The Bulls won the series 4-1, but lost game three when Hersey Hawkins hit a three in the final moments after the Bulls had rallied from 30 points down in the second quarter. This was truly the moment when Jordan first put the fear of God in me while playing against MY team.
9. The Shrug: All these years later, it's still pretty gangsta.
8. The dunk on Patrick Ewing: I hated Ewing, so I loved this.
7. The mid-air hand-switch vs. the Lakers in his first Finals
6. Ending the Pistons run: Man, he sent the Bad Boys off the court before the final seconds of the series ticked off like a bunch of tricks.
5. The Flu Game
4. Jordan's video on the NBA James VHS Tape: I must have watched this 1,000 times when I was 12.
3 Jordan drops 63 on the Celtics in the playoffs.
2. Jordan beats Dominique Wilkins in the Slam Dunk Contest
1. Jordan hits The Shot against the Cavs in game five of the Eastern Conference first-round series: I remember where I was, how I reacted and what it felt like when the shot went in. It stands the test of time as an all-time moment. It felt like the moment when he became the basketball god.
No.10 - And finally...
Move over Pizza Rat.