Inside Texas Blog: Scattershooting

Inside Texas Publisher Clendon Ross attacks a number of topics, including Texas' game against Central Florida, the 2008 NFL Draft, Texas-OU seating and the last few spots in the Longhorns' 2008 recruiting class.

Dallas, Ames, Waco, Stillwater, College Station and… Orlando? Which one of these kids is not like the other? If you said College Station, I certainly wouldn't argue. A town full of Aggies is definitely like no other, excepting maybe those in less advanced cultures where ritual replaces rational thought. But I digress. The first five on the list are, of course, regular stops for Longhorn teams. Orlando not so much. Take advantage of this opportunity. I know, theme-park-centric Orlando isn't exactly Southern California (where the Horns will visit in 2011 to face UCLA), New York City or Chicago, but it's a bit sexier than El Paso, Fayetteville and Houston, the non-conference roadtrips scheduled for 2008-2010. With all the festivities around the opening of the new, on-campus Bright House Networks Stadium, with just a 45,000-seat capacity, it may be one of the toughest tickets of the season, though…

Seven Longhorns got a draft day call from the NFL last month, including two first rounders, and at least some early projections indicate that next year's group of draftees could meet that total, and perhaps exceed it at the top. Several early draft rankings tab senior wideout Limas Sweed and senior defensive tackle Frank Okam as probable first rounders, with Sweed a potential top 10 pick at or near the top of the wideout class along with Cal's Desean Jackson and OU's Malcolm Kelly. Another Horn with first day potential, according to projections, is offensive tackle Tony Hills. Then there's a large group of guys that have potential draft value, maybe even first day depending on performance this fall and combine testing next spring: Billy Pittman, Robert Killebrew, Scott Derry, Marcus Griffin, Derek Lokey and Drew Kelson

I'm pleased with the news that the Longhorn section in the Cotton Bowl for the Texas-OU game will remain opposite the tunnel. I don't see any advantage the Oklahoma team gains from having the tunnel seats, so why disrupt the seating tradition every other year? Plus, I had no desire to sit in the traditional Sooner sections. Aside from being tainted by decades of Okie butts in the seats, they're further away from the Food Court building, and particularly Bailey's, my favorite beer (five coupon!) and food booth…

With Dravannti Johnson's late-April pledge, the Horns' commitment total reached 19 in a class we originally projected to be 20-22 signees, what may be a conservative estimate given the number of prospects still on the board. We still consider most of the out-of-staters longshots (Pennsylvania QB Terrelle Pryor, California RB Darrell Scott and Colorado LB Jon Major), but Salt Lake City LB Lynn Katoa joins in-state prospect Garland DE Chancey Aghayere as serious candidates for two of the final spots in the class, while at least Flower Mound TE James Hanna, Garland LB/S Joseph Ibiloye, Houston Yates DE Damian Square, McKinney Boyd WR Jeffrey Fuller and Louisiana S Damien Jackson appear to be in line for more evaluation…

With a series win over A&M this weekend, the Horns will clinch the regular season conference baseball title. But a sweep would be even better. You see, if A&M wins a game this weekend, it will be the first time since 1993-94 that the Aggies will have beaten the Horns in football, basketball and baseball in the same athletic year. Simply clinching the league title is more meaningful than continuing A&M's streak of futility, but Texas certainly shouldn't give the Ags any more bragging rights than they've already earned this year with a football win and a basketball split. Also of note, a series win by the Horns would clinch the Lone Star Showdown title for Texas. With just the single baseball point outstanding, the Horns currently own a 9-1/2 point to 8-1/2 point lead in the standings that take into account all the head-to-head results in men's and women's sports for the 2006-07 season. In essence, a tie would be a huge win for an Aggie program trying to catch up to its big brother in Austin.

What do you think?

NFL Should 'Just Say No' to Ricky
by Bill Frisbie
Lead Writer
May 14, 2007

Ricky Williams plays better on grass. But the opinion here is that the 1998 Heisman winner shouldn't play at all this season following published reports that he has -- again -- violated the NFL's drug policy.

Officials in the NFL's substance abuse program advised commissioner Roger Goodell to delay Ricky Williams' reinstatement after the former Longhorn failed a drug test last month, according to weekend reports. Williams wants to rejoin the Miami Dolphins following a one-year suspension for a previous violation of the drug policy. It doesn't take a crystal ball to determine that the Commish (who sent Adam 'Pacman' Jones packing in the suddenly image-conscious League) will not likely reinstate Williams who has played all of 12 NFL games since 2003.

Presumably, most Horn fans still care more for Williams than they do the reputation of the NFL. Either way, we should support a decision not to reinstate Williams this season.

Having said that, there is a certain amount of hypocrisy involved when pot smokers are treated like pariahs while binge-drinkers, relatively speaking, are appluaded. But keep in mind that the League suspended Williams in April 2006 following his fourth violation of the NFL drug policy. Players know the rules, and many are paid mega-millions as long as they don't violate them. What's more, Williams still owes the Dolphins' organization $8.6 million for breach of contract with his 11th hour decision in 2004 to trade professional football for professional yoga. Two years later, former Dolphins coach Nick Saban risked alienating his roster by going to bat for Williams following his fourth drug-related suspension.

The fact that Williams endeared himself to so many Longhorn fans during his record-setting collegiate career makes it difficult to advocate for his continued suspension. (Truth be told, Williams could probably still be elected mayor of Austin). But if the subject was, instead, a highly-paid, high-profile colleague whose contributions were critical to the success of your business, then the implications of a fifth failed drug test take on a different perspective. We then see the problem for what it sadly appears to be: a serious addiction. Given all that was at stake, given all the second chances, given the NFL's recent crackdown on questionable behavior, given all that Williams still owes, the reports that Williams still could not pass a drug test the very month he sought reinstatement indicate that the biggest obstacle he will face this year is not between the hashmarks but rather between the ears.

The clock is ticking on whatever may be left of Williams career. He turns 30 next Monday, and that renders the reports of another failed drug test ever more unsettling for those who would love to see Williams -- just once -- regain the punishing form that saw him shatter NCAA career rushing record in 1998. But this goes beyond our need to be entertained or to live vicariously through athletes. For Ricky, it needs to be personal.

I remember when current Texas QB Colt McCoy mentioned that he gave up soft drinks in the sixth grade ("I was up to a six-pack a day") just to prove to himself that he could do it. McCoy realized, as a middle-schooler, that the issue wasn't so much that he had soft drinks but rather soft drinks had him. He hasn't touchd a drop since.

Granted, there may be no comparing a narcotic with a Dr.Pepper. But Ricky Williams needs to prove to himself that he can do this: not just for the money but for reasons of his own personal integrity. Williams has less to prove on-the-field than he does off-the-field -- and that is where his energies need to be fully directed.

What do you think?

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