This week in our "The Other Side" segment, we were lucky enough to get help from a former Avalanche-Journal reporter, Randy Riggs.
Randy now covers Texas for the Austin American-Statesman, and he was kind enough to take a few minutes and give us some good insight as to what's going on with the Longhorns.
The Texas coaching staff named David Ash the starter against Texas Tech this week despite his being pulled in favor of Case McCoy last week against Kansas. Mack Brown expressed confidence in Ash, but how short do you think his leash will be if he struggles early on Saturday?
It depends on the circumstances in the game. Last week, McCoy came in early in the fourth quarter with Texas trailing by only a touchdown. If the Longhorns get down by 14-17 points to Tech earlier than that and Ash is struggling, I think the hook will come sooner.
Johnathan Gray, whose father is a Texas Tech alum, will get the start at running back for the Longhorns. Where have you seen the biggest improvement out of the highly touted freshman in recent weeks?
He’s doing a better job of being patient and waiting for his blocking to develop. RB coach Major Applewhite said Wednesday that Gray is extremely mature for a freshman, but is still developing as a college back in areas such as blocking, etc.
It seems like Texas is facing more scrutiny than any 6-2 team in the country, which I suppose comes with the sky-high expectations for this team in Austin. That said, what is the team’s frame of mind like following a narrow win against Kansas?
They seem to be handling things much better than their fans, who are not happy, to put it mildly. Coaches are trying to project a business-as-usual image but I don’t think many are buying it. There’s just been a different vibe in the air since they were blown out by Oklahoma.
Heading into the season, many had pegged Texas’ defense as the best in the country. At times it can look the part, but the unit has lacked consistency. What have been the biggest reasons for the struggles on that side of the ball?
There are a million theories, but the one thing everyone agrees on is practically nobody saw this coming. Among the popular thoughts: They miss DT Kheeston Randall and LBs Emmanuel Acho and Keenan Robinson much more than they thought; they’re not fundamentally sound, given the poor tackling; coordinator Manny Diaz’s schemes are too gimmicky and players are too often out of position. Those are three popular theories.
How is Mack Brown dealing with the season? What is the scenario that would lead to a coaching change?
It doesn’t look like he’s having much fun, although he insists he is. I don’t think he anticipated the struggles, especially on defense. You can tell he’s under a lot of strain. If Texas doesn’t look better in the final four regular-season games and the bowl, it could lead to a change. But it will be done on his terms. He doesn’t want to go out while the program is struggling, but he and his family might just decide enough’s enough.