* The Longhorn Network
The Big 12 coaches had a variety of views on the pending Longhorn Network Monday. Baylor coach Art Briles said he didn't see it as that big of a deal, while Missouri coach Gary Pinkel said the network's decision to show high school games failed to exorcise "common sense."
The latter argument was refuted by Texas coach Mack Brown, who said that by the time players entered their senior years, the Longhorns already had their class largely wrapped up. Because of that, he said, the Longhorns wouldn't receive any major recruiting advantage by airing those games. Over the past four recruiting classes, Texas has only received commitments from eight players — an average of two per class — after the start of the high school football season. And even that number could be a bit high: six of those eight came in the 2010 class. The Longhorns had one such commit apiece in the 2008 and 2009 classes, and zero in the 2011 class signed this past February.
Brown went on to say that eliminating that opportunity would only hurt the high school coaches and players who could stand to benefit from the added exposure.
As for the college content, Brown said it would be a balancing act between giving away access and keeping things tight enough to keep a competitive advantage.
"If somebody pays you $300 million, they're going to ask for some access," Brown said.
Still, Brown conceded that the network was an "advantage," one created by forward-thinking Texas administrators and the Board of Regents.
"What an unbelievable thing they did," Brown said. "I think you have to give them credit. It was available to everybody, and they pulled it off. I didn't think they could do it ... I never dreamed that it would happen."
* Question Marks
Brown said that quarterback, not surprisingly, was the team's most obvious question mark heading into camp.
"In previous years, particularly last year, we didn't have an offensive leader to step up," Whittaker said. "This year, we have multiple leaders stepping up. In times of adversity in a game, we'll be able to respond."
Whittaker mentioned himself as a leader offensively, and said that Gilbert and sophomore guard Mason Walters were two of the other biggest leaders of the group. Still, Whittaker said it would be difficult to tell more until the team hit full pads in the camp, and Brown said the staff would use that time to throw extra pressure at the quarterbacks to see if they could handle it.
But while quarterback is the main concern, Brown said it wasn't the only one. Defensive tackle was a big worry, he said, as was the team's youth at cornerback. And the lack of depth on the offensive line and at tight end could also be problems, he said. Senior safety Blake Gideon said he wasn't as worried about the cornerbacks, and said the group had been arguably the most impressive position through workouts and 7-on-7 play.
* Freshmen pushing for time
One of the players mentioned in the discussion at defensive tackle was Desmond Jackson, nicknamed Tank. And the nickname appears to be an accurate one, with Jackson setting the team high in the hang clean, while also finishing among the team's top performers in the bench press.
Gideon also had positive things to say about dynamic athlete Mykkele Thompson, mentioning his intelligence and ability to learn on the fly. Gideon also said Thompson's background as a quarterback was already paying off, as he had an understanding of offensive concepts.
"If he does learn his stuff, he's athletic enough to play right away," Gideon said.
"Jaxon Shipley's the truth," said Emmanuel Acho. "He's going to be one heck of a player."
Whittaker serves as Brown's "big brother," and is responsible for showing the freshman the ropes. Whittaker called Brown a quiet kid and a hard worker, despite his early media attention.
That's a lot of pressure put on him," Whittaker said. "I don't think he really lets that get to him."
Brown said Brown and Bergeron's ability to succeed in pass protection could be key toward their early playing time, but added that offensive coordinator Bryan Harsin's offense was multiple enough that they could be utilized in other ways while they brushed up on those skills. He said neither player would probably stand out before donning pads.
"(We'll know) in that first scrimmage when you hand it off on fourth and two and see if he's going to make it," Brown said.
* Healing up
Two of the four players at Big 12 Media Days — Whittaker and Acho — suffered from injuries a year ago, Whittaker a recurring shoulder problem and Acho with a knee injury. Both said they were 100 percent and ready to go.
And Brown said there was more good news on that front. Brown said Luke Poehlmann was back up to full speed, and said he was looking forward to Poehlmann's addition to an admittedly thin tackle position. And defensive end Jackson Jeffcoat's return from last season's high ankle sprain and tight end Blaine Irby's return from a multi-year leg injury also had Brown in a positive mood.
Brown said Irby went through "thud" work in the spring, meaning he could participate in blocking drills but could not be taken to the ground and tackled, had earned strong reviews for his play over the summer. He'll be full speed in fall camp, with all restrictions removed. Brown said Irby's health, and that of D.J. Grant, who participated full-bore in the spring, gave the Longhorns more options at tight end.
The news isn't as cheery with Trey Graham, who still needs to be cleared by doctors before he can play, Brown said.
Brown pointed to five things that caused last season's issues: an inability to score in the red zone, the struggle to keep other teams from scoring in the red zone, giving up too many big plays, having too many turnovers and failing to generate turnovers.
"There's the five reasons we won five games," Brown said.
At the same time, Brown said the Longhorns would be best served to forget last year's results and move on.
Gideon disagreed somewhat. He said last year's results led to a chip-on-the-shoulder attitude that carried through workouts, and said something could be learned from last year's struggles.
"That was a terrible feeling, having to sit at home and watch other teams playing bowl games whenever we knew we were fully capable and that we had the players to be able to play in those games if maybe we would have played better or prepared better," Gideon said.
But senior linebacker Keenan Robinson said the mood had changed from angry in January to humbled soon afterward. He said maintaining that workmanlike philosophy would be important toward reaching this season's goals.
But what exactly are those goals? Brown said he thought the Longhorns would be a good team, before quickly adding that all coaches felt that about their squads at this time of year. Acho said he didn't focus on rankings.
"Everybody's entitled to their opinion," Acho said. "Personally, I really don't know how good we are. Nobody does."
But that didn't stop Robinson from saying that he thought he knew how good the Longhorns should be. Robinson said his expectations mirrored that of the Longhorn fan base.
I feel like they're expecting another 10-win season," Robinson said. "As long as we handle the things we can control, we should be fine this year."