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DAN NEIL: STRONG SENT AN IMPORTANT MESSAGE

After each game this season, former Longhorns’ All-American OL DAN NEIL, who won three conference titles at Texas and two Super Bowls with the Denver Broncos, will provide a breakdown to Horns Digest of what he saw. Here's his analysis of Texas' 35-34 win over Baylor:

Was I the only one who thought they saw a football team in burnt orange Saturday night?  

I swear I saw a team in burnt orange show up and play with passion on Saturday night.  

This was certainly an interesting week.  

Charlie sent a message to the team and that no one has a starting job.  Everyone earns a starting job and they have to earn it every week.  This was a message that probably should have been sent a few weeks ago, maybe a month or two or even a year or two ago.

Let’s take a minute to look at this and the entire situation in which Charlie finds himself.  

We need to remember Charlie was hired by Steve Patterson.  

Charlie also inherited a team with almost no talent - certainly no quarterback.  

Was I the only one who heard the trivia question during ABC's broadcast of the game on Saturday? 

ANSWER: Texas' last offensive player drafted in the first round was Vince Young.  

That was 2005! ... 11 years ago!

Can you imagine been hired at a new job with a boss like Steve Patterson and with no talent in the office?!?!

Charlie got himself into a difficult situation.   He also knew Longhorn Nation has no patience and he needed to win now.  

I believe these factors led to a situation in which Charlie was not able to do what he wanted. 

 

Patterson wouldn't let Charlie hire the guys he wanted and would not provide a budget for Charlie to get the support staff he wanted.  Charlie was told no on more than a few occasions by Patterson, who actually made sweeping cuts from the operating budgets of all UT's sports to save money.

Rather than go out and raise money, Patterson chose to cut the budget instead - while also running off some of the best fund-raisers in the Longhorn Foundation, such as David Onion and Texas Olympic gold medal swimmer Ricky Berens.

If you worked at Texas and were told no because we didn’t have the budget for it? Would you call bull****?  I know I would've!  

If your boss doesn't support you, it makes your job difficult. It sucks the life out of you and out of the staff of assistant coaches you depend on.  Patterson was not Charlie's fault.

Now, let’s look at what talent Charlie had.  

Outside of DT Malcom Brown, LB Jordan Hicks, CB Quandre Diggs and RB Malcolm Brown - none!  

When your roster is that thin on talent and devoid of a QB, you as the coach have to go find some.  

The good news is Charlie has landed back-to-back Top 10 recruiting classes. The bad news is when most of your two deep is freshmen and sophomores, you're going to have a void in leadership, because playing college football is hard.

I earned All-America honors at Texas and went on to play eight years in the NFL, winning two Super Bowls, and I redshirted my freshman year at UT. I wasn't ready to handle the demands of school, round-the-clock meetings and workouts while competing for a starting job. I needed a year to adjust.

Most of the guys everyone is so critical of for not just hammering everyone on their way to All-Big 12 honors - Malik Jefferson, Holton Hill, Davante Davis, Anthony Wheeler and Charles Omenihu - are all sophomores.

Having freshmen and sophomore starters also does not allow the coach to teach players that fear is a motivator because the coaches need those players to play, so they are busy trying to build their confidence more than they are trying to break them down.  

Honestly, I think the breaking down of the players happened this year for some of these sophomores, and they were surprised by it. I'm thinking of Holton Hill and Davante Davis in particular. Because I saw Malik Jefferson, Anthony Wheeler and Charles Omenihu respond with some fire Saturday. More on that in a second.

A quick story. (Y'all know I love my quick stories!)

When I was a rookie in Denver, the team's third-round draft pick the year before me was injured in training camp.  

When you are injured they can’t cut you.  They are not allowed to cut injured players, so they try to get you on the field.  

If you’re the injured player you have two choices.  You can go out and practice and fight through the pain to try and make the team, or you can stay in the training room and force the team to either put you on the PUP list or IR list and collect a salary for the entire year.  

The team's other option is to settle with you and agree upon a figure to pay you and release you.  

You can take your money and try to get picked up by another team.  

My teammate decided to try to practice and make the team.  The Broncos had spent a third-round draft pick on him, and he probably felt he would be given time to show he could play.  

He came out to practice and is stretching next to me at the beginning of practice.  He starts telling me he is not ready to practice and should not be out here.  

At that moment, the GM comes up to him and asks him to come with him.  He gets up and follows the GM to the locker room.  I never saw him again!  They cut him right there!  You don’t think they did that to make an impression on their most-recent third-round draft pick - a rookie offensive guard from Texas?

That scared the living **** out of me, and I never forgot it.  

I learned you better produce or you will be gone.  Fear of losing my job motivated me.  We won the Super Bowl my rookie year. That guy wasn't needed, so they could afford to cut him and send a message to everyone.  

Charlie has never had that luxury.  He has true freshmen like QB Shane Buechele and second-year guys talking about how they need to be leaders.  True freshmen just need to worry about finding their way to class and let the seniors worry about being leaders.

 

Because Charlie has had such little senior talent, it's been hard for him to send messages to his young players when he might feel like they aren't working as hard as they should.

Charlie decided to send a message this week, and you saw a lot of this team's super sophomores sitting the bench.  Message sent!  

I hope everyone understands their job is a privilege and not a right. And if they don’t prove they deserve that privilege every week, they will be on the bench watching the game.  

If you can’t find the passion to go out there and play at a high level every play, there has to be someone else the coaches can find to go play.  

I’m afraid there has not been any depth on this team and the coaches were stuck with what they had and did not have the luxury of putting fear into the players.  The lack of talent was not Charlie's fault.

I know everyone heard that Charlie told the ABC TV crew  "whoever is coaching his team" next year will have a 10-win team. 

I agree.  I also believe this year’s team could've won 10.  

The question is why they have not played better.  Is it the coaching or the players?  

That is the unanswerable question.  If we're not at practice, we don’t know.  What we know is Charlie decided to put fear into this team and this team responded by beating an undefeated team and stay undefeated at home.  That is sometimes referred to as great coaching.

When a game is over, the first stat you look at is the final score.  

If you win that stat, you win the game 100 percent of the time.  I don’t really care about the rest.  

The point is to win the game.  The other stats tell you what you need to work on in practice over the next week.  

There are areas where this team needs to improve.  

Linebacker play and pass coverage continue to be a problem.  

Baylor rushed for over 300 yards because the linebackers couldn’t get off blocks and couldn’t tackle.  I was just happy to see everyone on the defensive side play with passion.

RB D'Onta Foreman continues to look good, and the rest of the offense is following him.

This offense doesn't need to be too cute. It just needs to line up and do what they do best:  Run the ball, throw go routes to the outside receivers and slant routes to the inside receivers.  

Keep it simple and do what you do.  They have the players to get it done, and I have seen good effort every week from this side of the ball.  

The receivers got better Saturday.  This may be the most talented group on the team, and the No. 1 underperforming group as well.  They showed up Saturday and played well.  

When you can run and throw as an offense, it's difficult for a defense to stop you!

We're all frustrated with this season.  

What we need to do is take a minute to understand all the factors and see how this team ends up in the end.  

The next challenge will come in Lubbock and finding a way to win on the road in the Big 12.  

This team has won one true road game the last two years.  They need to find a way Saturday.  

I hope Charlie continues to send a message and continues to look for the 22 most passionate players at each position.  

If Charlie does this, the talented players will become passionate as well, and he will develop the team he wants.  Let's see if he can get it done this year - starting Saturday at 11 am CT in Lubbock. 


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