Thursday, May 23, 2013
Will the real Texas please stand up?
By Carter Strickland
AUSTIN, Texas – It took only a few days for the 2013 Texas football promotional video to go from polished to parody.
It took the actual program several years to make the same transition.
But that’s the space Texas occupies now, just to the right of the punching bags, to the left of the gag gifts, nestled right in there with the leftover, used-to-be-oh-so-cool 2009 gadgets.
It's hard to completely embrace any hype toward Jackson Jeffcoat and the Longhorns after the last three seasons.
Texas, which regularly topped college football’s marquee from 2000-09, has two wins in the past three years that anyone even dared shined a light on. And even those wins are highly questionable. The first came in 2010, before the cracks became chasms, when Texas beat then No. 4 Nebraska on the road. (Nebraska finished the season 10-4. Texas 5-7.) Texas finished 2012 with a win over No. 13 Oregon State, which started the season 6-0 and finished 3-4.
It’s that last win, perhaps coupled with the fact that this could be the last gasp for Texas, that has many desperately, and perhaps even eagerly, pointing to 2013 as the year the jabs at Texas’ expense stop being thrown. Or, at the very least, that Texas gets up off the mat.
"All the energy and work that we put into the last two years are going to start showing results," says coach Mack Brown, like a voiceover from the Almighty, in the opening sequence of the aforementioned promotional video.
As the reel flickers to life, lighting with it some tenuous hope that this isn’t all smoke, mirrors and a movie, it is difficult not to notice there are only two highlights from the 2012 Oklahoma game (a 42-point loss), none from the Kansas State game (an 18-point loss) and none from the TCU game (a seven-point loss).
Clearly Stewart Wade, the Aggies fan and creator of the aforementioned video parody, noticed as well. His 2013 Texas video -- what’s the opposite for promotional? -- video features six lowlights against OU, four against KSU, five against West Virginia and two against TCU.
Texas’ true identity is hidden somewhere in between Brown’s celluloid dream and Wade’s mocking nightmare. It’s this fact that makes Texas’ 2013 so completely confounding to forecast.
Every positive Texas produced in 2012 or can produce either through YouTube or another press release naming another player to some breathlessly anticipated watch list in this offseason can easily be juxtaposed by a negative.
But Jeffcoat and Ash both have their share of issues. Jeffcoat has had two pectoral surgeries and had a bad ankle his freshman season. That’s three injuries in three years. He also is not the "overall" No. 1 defensive end, Jadeveon Clowney is. Mel Kiper actually has Jeffcoat projected fifth among defensive ends.
As for Ash being the fifth-best prospect at quarterback in the 2015 NFL Draft, well, Wade surely will be happy to produce a video of the TCU, Kansas and OU games for GMs.
Now there is merit to the argument Texas is loaded with talent. Nineteen starters return. Most were highly sought-after recruits, including two of the nation’s three top running backs from the past two recruiting classes (2011 and 2012). There is a new offense. A new playcaller. A renewed sense that Texas once again understands it has superior speed and skill that it can and should deploy.
It all sounds so ... 2011.
See, optimism meets pessimism. It’s the yin and yang of the college football offseason. Definitive answers, particularly in the head-scratching case of Texas, are not doled out until the season is well underway. (Oct. 12 being the due date for Texas.)
So while it might serve to a program well to swell the masses with philharmonic-backed highlights and omniscient voiceovers -- "You want to get back to being one of the top football programs in the country where we deserve to be and where our fans deserve to be," Brown said in Texas’ video -- right now that is, at best, just the white noise of the offseason. It can be comforting, even soothing. But, in the end, it carries no weight when the lights actually come on and the real action begins.