February 7, 2008

Mack Brown Strikes Back

Do you remember the moment that Mack Brown began to show adaptation? We do.

The year was 2003. Texas had suffered through humiliating losses to Arkansas in Austin and Oklahoma by a score that continues to expand even today. The criticism against Mack after 4 straight OU losses and a lackluster season was as loud as we have heard, before or since. FireMackBrown.com had joined the internet bubble.

At midseason Mack had done the sensible thing, replacing Chance Mock's mediocrity with freshman Vince Young's potential greatness. Laugher wins over Iowa State and Baylor had given way to a tough contest against a Texas Tech squad that had beaten Texas the previous year in Lubbock.

Vince started off the game great, convincing Mack to scrap his planned qb switch after the third series. After a strong three quarters VY began to slip up and Texas Tech took the lead with just under 2 minutes to play. With the ball deep in Texas territory, Mack made probably the ballsiest move we have ever seen him make...he put in Chance Mock.

We were convinced then, and could still make the argument today, that a second straight loss to Tech may have ended Mack Brown's tenure as Texas head coach.

Instead, Chance came in, drove down the field and scored the game winning touchdown with a pass to BJ Johnson.

Since then Mack has proven far more adaptable than his detractors give him credit. When the defense wasn't working in 2003 he stepped in and got Greg Robinson to fix it. When Robinson left for Syracuse in 2004 he went out and got the hottest defensive coordinator in Gene Chizik. When his fix following Chizik's departure didn't work, he went out and again got the hottest defensive coordinator in the country (BOOM!). When VY's progress had stalled Mack became a looser coach and the team flourished.

The same has held true with recruiting. After Ryan Perriloux, Fred Rouse, and Martellus Bennett played the recruiting game a little too hard, Mack adapted by offering kids earlier and refusing to play the recruiting game except when out-of-state kids approach him (Brantley, Scott, etc).

Mack's new strategy produced two results: insanely early commitments from the majority of his next few classes and other coaches going even earlier.

Mack's recruiting schedule has now changed again with the recruitment of Garrett Gilbert. Gilbert, in case you don't know, is the 5-star QB from Austin for the class of 2009 who committed to Texas this afternoon. With the recruitment of Gilbert, Mack has done two things that he has never done before (to our knowledge). First, he offered Gilbert his scholarship through the mail, and second, he made the offer before Texas' first Junior Day.

Gilbert will be attending Texas' Junior Day this weekend, meaning that Mack seemingly would typically make a face-to-face scholarship offer on Sunday. But Gilbert got his offer through the mail, less than a week before he was set to officially meet with Mack.

We have a hard time believing this is a coincidence.

There are at least three reasons we can think of for Mack to make this move:
  1. Russell Shepard -- Mack's got his elite QB recruit he wants and knew all along he could get. We guess that Mack did not want to risk losing both QBs by pursuing them in any other manner. Now with Gilbert on-board Mack can focus all of his attention on getting the other elite QB (or "athlete") in orange without jeopardizing what he's got with Gilbert. Shepard is now target #1 for Texas, and Mack can point to Florida, LSU, or wherever else a two-qb system has worked as proof that Shepard has a role in the Texas offense.
  2. 2009 Recruiting Class -- This class could be a monster for Mack and this move starts it off with a bang. All weekend Mack will have an extra recruiter in Gilbert, which can only pay big dividends for the class.
  3. Staying aggressive -- Each year is a battle for recruits in the state of Texas between Mack Brown on the one hand, and every other coach in America on the other. By showing that he's willing to change and offer kids earlier, Mack has upped the ante for the rest of the recruiting world. Mack's not even going to risk kids entering the recruiting year now, he's not going to give the kids that want to go to Texas a chance to even think about going elsewhere.

We don't really follow recruiting until the end. It is one of the only facets of football that we implicity trust the coaching staff to do a good job and leave it at that. This may be our only post on recruiting all year (at least until the end of the weekend), but it proves an important point. The momentum for the program is positive again. Next season may not be the magical year it could have been had JC stayed, but we remain convinced that staying on Team Mack is a good long-term investment.

Just remind us of this after the OU game.

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