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August 11, 2011

Mack's thoughts one week into camp

Mack Brown met with the media Thursday and tackled wide-ranging topics. Here's the Breakdown:

--On the possibility of Texas A&M leaving the Big 12 for the SEC, Mack said:

"I don't have any comment. I have loads of problems. I have my plate overloaded. I didn't know it was a discussion until (Texas football communications director) John (Bianco) told me you all might ask me about it.

"We are over here from way early to way late. Very honestly, I have learned in my life I need to worry about things I can affect and not worry about the other stuff. I figure there are 24 million people in this state who are working on it, so I'm probably safe."


--Texas made players available at Big 12 Media Days and right before training camp started, but hasn't made any players available since the start of camp.

"I don't have anything to do with that. The thing I think (Texas football communications director) John (Bianco) is trying to do is you have to earn the right to talk. We did a lot of talking last year, and not much playing, not much coaching. So we're going to keep our mouths shut and work really hard. You'll get to talk to them plenty, but we need to work right now. We don't need to be talking about how great we're going to be. We need to get there."

--Mack talked about how the Longhorn Network had become a "second full-time job" and said "no question it's a whole lot of work."

He said it's constant from the time he gets to the office to which coaches should be miked at practice - if those coaches even want to be miked at practice.

Mack called it a second full-time job. So I asked him if it was just more work or a distraction.

"Both," Mack said. "I mean we're not going to let it be a distraction. But anytime you've got added work - to put it in the best place, a year from now we'll all know what it means.

"We will have worked together. But obviously the Longhorn Network objectives, like your (the media's) objectives, are different from mine. So it would be no different from one of you coming to practice every day and us negotiating what you can say and what you see.

"It's never been done before. So everything that happens, we have to go over. John sits down with me, then I sit down with the coaches and say, 'Stacy (Searels), you mind if they mike you today for your meeting?' That takes time, extra time. And Stacy says, 'I don't want to talk to anybody except my players.' Then I say to John, 'Not Stacy.'

"'What about you Darrell (Wyatt)?' So it's different. A year from now we'll be able to say here's who we are and here's the format. But it happened so quickly, and the network isn't even up yet. We are all wondering if they show practice, what does that mean?

"How can you show practice without formations or defensive alignment? So there's still a lot of things we have to work out before the week of the Rice game to be fair to the network that we can help them with what Texas felt like it could help them with football.

"And at the same time not be a distraction and not take too much time from our day-to-day routine and not distract our players. It is constant. Steve and I have become really good friends. He walks in with me and walks out with me.

"The thing I want us to get out of it as a program and the only thing it seems to me we can get out of it is exposure for players and young coaches. If I'm Major Applewhite's age, or Bryan Harsin's age or Manny Diaz's age or Stacy, if I'm those guys, it's great exposure for them.

"If I'm an athletic director and I'm interested in one of these coaches, I'm going to turn on the Longhorn Network and watch them. We'll have an hour show on Monday that reviews the previous game. The radio show will now be on air. And then you've got a 30-minute show on Thursday night.

"Those coaches are going to be on there a whole lot. I have to make sure it doesn't change the responsibilities I have in this program. But I'm going to be doing more things than I've done. And I'm on TV enough.

"But I think it's an advantage for a player. If he wants exposure nationally, he'll get it daily. And I think it's a good thing."

--Mack went on to say he hopes his young coaches get hired as head coaches "because it will mean we've won some games."

--Manny Diaz encouraged Mack and the coaching staff to divide training camp into four phases.

1 - The first week was dedicated to "coordinating and assignments," making sure the players know exactly what they're doing in the offense, defense and special teams.

2 - The next eight days are focused on sharpening mental and physical toughness with a lot of hitting and a boot-camp type atmosphere.

3 - The next six days will focus on "confidence and perfection" - really polishing everything in the playbook

4 - The final eight days leading up to the season opener will be focused on "mental reps" and the Rice game plan.


--Mack said he believes Texas has "a great freshman class." When I pressed him for details, he wouldn't talk about specific personnel because he didn't want certain players being hyped too much. (But we know Jaxon Shipley, Quandre Diggs, Desmond Jackson and David Ash have gotten high praise. And there's a couple running backs named Malcolm Brown and Joe Bergeron.)

--Mack said his players are in "great shape, not good shape."

--Practices have been inside the bubble (at a 90-degree temp) and outside for the end of practices. Mack is calling the outdoor portion "the fourth quarter."

"We're trying to develop a level of toughness we felt we've lost over the last couple years," Mack said.

--The coaching staff is "coming together" and is "high energy." The new coaches have brought in drills "that are fun and effective."

--Concern about Justin Tucker handling all the kicking chores, so David Ash is working some with the punters. But Mack repeated that Ash probably won't punt unless he's in the mix to play at quarterback.

"We would not play David (Ash) just as a punter," Mack said. "Until we decide if he'll be in the mix at quarterback, it's hard to put him out there as a punter."

--Mack said, "I really like our schemes. We're headed back in the right direction."

--Laughed about the fact strength coach Bennie Wylie wears a hooded sweatshirt in 100-degree heat. "I think he wears that to send a message to the players," Mack said.

--Stacy Searels is moving everyone around on the offensive line to create depth.

--Saturday's scrimmage will be a big step in separating players at certain positions, including quarterback.

--No timetable on when the coaches will need to cut down to the top two quarterbacks so they can get more reps in practice. "I think they will separate themselves," Mack said.

--Bryan Harsin is charting every single pass in practice from drills to team situations to calculate percentages and efficiency.

"Bryan goes over it with them every day," Mack said. "So they know exactly where they stand."

--The tight ends and fullback position are "really key in what we're doing. To go back and run the ball really well, we have to have strong tight ends and fullbacks," Mack said. He likes what he's seen so far.

--Christian Scott's suspension (for a Class A misdemeanor assault charge) is impacting how the defense will handle situations like five defensive backs on the field.

"And not knowing the timetable of when his case will be resolved also hurts us," Mack said. "Will he be back? Or won't he?"

Mack said Scott is not at practice or meetings and is not taking part in any team activities.

--Offensive line coach Stacy Searels has helped with ideas in the run game and gets along great with defensive line coach Bo Davis - after working together at LSU in 2003 (when the Tigers won the national title).

"That relationship has worked better than I thought," Mack said.

--Three scrimmages are planned.

--Dominic Espinosa is ONLY working at center. Garrett Porter and David Snow are working at both guard and center.

--When asked about whether Mack would be reluctant to start a true freshman quarterback, Mack said, "Our decision will be based solely on who gives us the best chance to win. That's it."


MY TAKE: This is the fourth time Mack has brought up the Longhorn Network being a ton of work. He brought it up twice at Big 12 Media Days, when he openly questioned if his coaches should have a "dummy" meeting for cameras and then wait for the cameras to leave the room before really talking about team matters.

He also brought it up at the press conference to open fall camp. And again today. So there's no question it's weighing on Mack. But he genuinely sounds pumped about his coaching staff and his young players.



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