Archive for the ‘2017’ Category

Over/Under Results

Our apologies for not posting the results for the San Jose St. game last week. Here they are.

1.Clayton Frink, Mark Adams, David Frink, Greg Swan ties for first eight correct. Clayton Frink won in the tiebreaker.

Steve Holstead finished 4th.

The average score was 5.9.

USC Results

  1. Mike Frank’s first participation of the year results in a win. Mike posted 9 correct answers
  2. Helen Frink, Homer Mark, and Art Zeitz tied for second with 8 correct.

The average score was 6.1

A record breaking 19 players entered last week. Very cool.

The off week gives me a chance to post Over/Under standings for the season to date based on the total number of correct answers. Hopefully this will add a little more interest to the Over/Under Contest.

Texas’ all-out effort on Saturday night was the program’s best since the 2015 OU game.  My USC column will be posted by this Wednesday or Thursday.

W.E.

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Does Anybody Choke or Throw Up?

When my daughter Molly was about six, our family watched Mrs. Doubtfire on our home VCR.  Those of you who enjoyed the movie as much as we did probably remember the restaurant scene where Mrs. Doubtfire performs the Heimlich maneuver successfully on Stu.  Molly was quite disturbed by this scene and for the next year or two she would ask before the family sat down to watch a movie, “Does anybody choke or throw up in this movie?” That pretty much ruled out us watching The Exorcist.  Anyway, Molly’s question became and remains a stock phrase in the Frink household.

As I prepare to watch the USC game Saturday night, based on what I’ve seen of Texas so far this season    it seems wise to ask, “Do the Longhorns choke or throw up in this football game?”

Orange blows out White

In the annual early September Orange and White game played in DKR Memorial Stadium last weekend, The Orange team methodically dismantled The White team 56-0.

Two weeks of Tom Herman

A friend confided to me the other day that he was already tired of hearing Tom Herman talk. I can’t go that far but I’ve noticed that his preseason oozing of confidence and competence has turned into oozing too hard to sound smart and in control.  In simpler terms, in media appearances Herman has taken on an unpleasant edge. While I can’t say that I’m already tired of hearing Herman talk, I am hearing him more and enjoying him less.

What do I think?

Before big Texas games, I’m often asked the simple question, what do I think?  Sometimes it seems like a straightforward question and sometimes it seems like a plea for reassurance that everything will be all right for the Longhorns.  Putting in perspective what I’ve seen of the Longhorns and USC over the past two weeks, if I’m asked today, “What do I think?”, my gut tells me the Longhorns are going to choke and throw up Saturday night in the coliseum.

Hook ‘eM,

W.E.

USC Over/Under

  • THE DAILY DOUBLE
  • In college football sacks count as negative rushing yards.
  • Tiebreaker: Predict Winners. Scores aren't required



    Clemson at Louisville
  • Harvard @ Rhode Island
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Manhandled is a Verb

Manhandled is a Verb

Walking out of the stadium after Maryland’s last touchdown that made the score 51-34 with 2:08 remaining in the game, I was thinking of several glib observations I could write for this column.  I won’t go through them all but $8,700 lockers and million dollar salaries for defensive coordinators were at the top of the list. But before I was thinking of glib observations, my first reaction to the game was, this program has devolved into a total farce.

Now, six days later, I’ve recalibrated my position on the 2017 Tom Hermans.  Herman was not forthcoming or likeable during his appearance post-game press conference when he miscategorized the word manhandled as an adjective (it’s a verb, Tom) or his weekly Monday press conference when he still didn’t shoulder any blame for the Maryland defeat, but I’m still betting that he will lead Texas to at least seven regular season wins this year and ultimately to a string of 10 win or better seasons.

Here are the reasons why.

  1. Herman hasn’t become stupid since he arrived in Austin. His success as a coach has been well documented and is real. Perhaps he became preoccupied with the music being played in the stadium during games, a water bottle being left in a meeting room by P.J. Locke, and the color of players’ peepee.  After the Maryland humiliation maybe he’ll refocus on football.
  1. Despite what some fans and sports analysts think, Texas’s current roster has enough good players to have a winning season this year. In predicting eight regular season wins, I expected Texas to lay an egg at some point and lose a game when they were the favorite. Maybe Maryland was that game.
  2. Texas receivers caught 34 passes against Maryland. They didn’t drop a single one. Their sure-handedness bodes well for the offense. Reggie Hemphill-Mapps is a budding star.
  3. Speaking of Hemphill-Mapps, he looks like a gamebreaker on punt returns.
  4. It’s so predictable that many fans will blame the quarterback after a disappointing loss no matter what actually happened. Buechele is a good quarterback. He didn’t display the accuracy he did last year in missing on five or six attempts of more than 40 yards but he threw touchdown passes of 33 and 32 yards and completed several other intermediate range passes. If the offensive and defensive lines had played as well as Buechele, Texas would have won. When Buechele gets healthy Herman and offensive coordinator Tim Beck need to produce game plans more suited to his skill set.
  5. It’s a football cliché that teams improve the most  from game one to game two but with a new coaching staff it’s quite reasonable to believe Texas will greatly improve after the Maryland debacle.

Greg Bowers observations and a little inside information

Greg called me Sunday afternoon with information about Texas’ kickoff strategy and observations on the Texas defense.  He assured me that Josh Rowland is capable of kicking the ball deep into the end zone but Josh told his dad who told Greg that the strategy against Maryland called for his kicks to go into the corner on the one yard line which he executed perfectly.  Going forward I hope Tom Herman lets Josh kick it into the end zone and rely less on his shaky kickoff coverage.

Most interesting to me was Greg’s observation on the Texas defense.  He told me that defensive coordinator Todd Orlando used the same tactics he used at Houston but the Texas players looked big and slow compared to Houston’s.  This week Herman said players were thinking too much about not making mistakes which made them a step slow versus Maryland.  Players echoed this critique. Let’s hope over-thinking was the reason the defense looked big and slow not that they actually are big and slow.

Hook ‘eM.

W.E.

Maryland Over/Under Results

The bloodbath last Saturday in Royal Memorial Stadium overflowed into the Over/Under contest.  The average number of correct answers was 3.2.  Not surprisingly, no contestant predicted a Maryland victory.

Greg Swan, Clayton Frink, and D.R. Flower tied for first with five correct answers. All three picked Alabama over Florida State and UCLA over A&M which took it down to their predictions on the Alabama-Florida State final score.  The three were still very close with Greg Swan finally prevailing by predicting the Alabama win by a score of 35-21 and coming closest to the final margin of victory.

San Jose State Over/Under

  • THE DAILY DOUBLE
  • Tiebreaker: Predict Winners. Scores aren't required



    Oklahoma at Ohio St.
  • Houston @ Arizona
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Maryland Pre Game

Willie Earl Unedited and Unfiltered

 

Catchy headline huh? You might even call it provocative and think I’m going to unload some Bill Frink 1970s style outspoken and somewhat abrasive opinions. Not so. It simply means that I waited too long to write this so I don’t have time to send it to my editor before release. Now on with the show.

Kicker Information

I got a call from my old friend Greg (Sid) Bowers—Greg is the first friend I made after arriving in Austin in August of 1974— earlier this week.  After reading my comments in my preseason column on the Longhorns’ new kicker Josh Rowland, Greg called to offer some inside information.  Greg and his wife Suzie are good friends with Josh’s parents and have known Josh since he was a three-year-old riding his tricycle in the Rowland’s driveway.  Josh was an all-district soccer player as a sophomore and junior at Madison Central in Madison Mississippi who surprised his parents when he decided to try out for the football team his senior year.  Josh’s parents are Mississippi State graduates and Josh was hoping to attend there on a scholarship after an outstanding senior season.  No scholarship was offered but Mississippi State head coach Dan Mullen encouraged Josh to walk on and perhaps earn a scholarship after putting in two to three years of hard work.  That wasn’t good enough for Josh and he accepted a scholarship to Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College where he was an all-American in 2015. When Dan Mullen caught wind that Josh was going to  Texas on a scholarship, he called Josh and told him he was disrespecting his parents’ alma mater.  Nice job, Coach Mullen.  Anyway, Josh asked Mullen if he had a scholarship for him. The answer was no so Josh told him he was going to be a Longhorn.

Greg tells me that Josh is a great kid with a ton of talent but the largest crowd he’s ever played in front of was less than 5,000. So as fond of Josh as Greg is, he concedes that how Josh performs in front of 100,000 people is anybody’s guess.  I feel the good karma about Josh as a Longhorn and based on that alone I predict he will perform admirably as a Longhorn.

Greg Bowers on Tom Herman and Todd Orlando

After a couple of wild and woolly years at UT, Greg transferred to the University of Houston and graduated in 1978. Greg was the starting center for the Westchester Wildcats in 1973 and when I met him he knew the height, weight, and college of every single player that was currently on an NFL roster. I really mean every single player. It was kind of amazing.  Greg’s two sons both played college football, one at U of H and one at Ole Miss.  So when Greg offers an opinion on football I almost always take it to the bank. Being a University of Houston alum, Greg is a Cougar fan and he told me during our conversation this week that Herman will most likely return the Longhorns to their former football glory. He was even more effusive about Texas’ new defensive coordinator Todd Orlando who came with Herman from Houston.  In true Greg Bowers parlance, to told me that Orlando was a beast who’s attacking defenses had beat Oklahoma’s and Louisville’s asses last year.  I’m inching a little bit towards the Unbridled Optimism side after my conversation with Greg.

Musing without a Muse

I know Texas has had three straight losing seasons but an 11am kick off on September 2? Really? I think it’s time for Texas to get a real athletic director.

Even so-called curmudgeon Kirk Bohls is in the unbridled optimism camp. In today’s Statesman he has Texas beating USC and finishing 9-3. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t think sports writers are supposed to be cheerleaders for the home town team, just the opposite in fact.  That’s why I said so-called curmudgeon. I’ve thought that Bohls is a very good columnist for decades but lately he’s gotten a little sentimental and political for my taste.

This will be the first season since 1995 when there are no Frink-Yoxall-Zeitz tailgates planned. It was a truly great run and I’m sure there will be an occasional tailgate in the future.  The very first tailgate was a very humble affair in the LBJ Library parking lot out of the trunk of Helen’s hail damaged 1993 Camry. It was just Helen, Dan and Michelle Yoxall, and me that damp evening before the Horns annihilated Texas Tech 48-7 in what was supposed to be a close game matching the two teams sharing first place in the Southwest Conference.  The first half was one of my favorite halves of Longhorn football ever as Texas ran up a 28-0 lead. I particularly remember Helen during the pre-game gate offering four UT students—who we didn’t know—beers and roast beef sandwiches as they walked by the four of us huddled around the Camry’s open trunk.  One of the students had a boyfriend who was a football team manager and the young lady informed us that according to her boyfriend, the Horns had had a great week of practice and were going to trounce Tech. Nice call.

On a related note, this is the first season since 1994 that Helen and I don’t own a UT Football parking pass.  I’m looking forward to a change in our game day routine. From 1974 to 1977, on game day, I took so many memorable walks to and from the Sig Ep house, across campus to what was then simply Memorial Stadium. Sometimes I walked with a date and more times it was just with a SPE brother or two.  Perhaps the most memorable of these walks was the trip back to the house after the Horns beat Texas Tech in 1977. I was with Larry Campbell and we ran and jogged to beat the start of what had become the weekly post-game unhinged, and yes, unbridled drag celebration. When Larry and I got to the drag, Austin police had already taken up their posts. Crossing San Antonio Street we passed the porta-potties that the city had deployed in response to the many complaints the previous weeks about public urination.  Everything about that season seems like a dream to me now.

Remembering those walks has given me an idea for parking sans parking pass. We’re going to leave the our house around 9am and head to the Sig Ep house in the hope of parking somewhere in the neighborhood and walking to the stadium from there.  It’s probably a half-baked plan but I’m a lucky guy so I’m optimistic. I’ll let you know how it turns out.

Let the Tom Herman Dynasty begin.

Hook ‘em,

W.E.

San Jose State Over/Under

  • THE DAILY DOUBLE
  • Tiebreaker: Predict Winners. Scores aren't required



    Oklahoma at Ohio St.
  • Houston @ Arizona
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Preseason 2017

Oozing Optimism

Not since the beginning of the Mack Brown era in 1998 have I seen such widespread optimism about the Longhorns after a losing season—let alone three—across the fan base, talk radio, bloggers, and the press.  I’ve encountered this optimism in conversations at parties, weddings, over a beer, and even at my own dinner table. In the months and weeks leading up to Mack Brown’s first season at Texas, the optimism was of the cautious variety.  Longhorn fans were impressed by Mack Brown’s consecutive 10-2 and 11-1 North Carolina teams before being hired by Texas and were inspired by his embrace and celebration of Texas football tradition. But fans remembered the 4-7 record that included the infamous “Route 66” loss to UCLA at home in 1997. They understood that the starting quarterback—Richard Walton—was a first year starter and an unproven commodity. They knew the defense gave up 33 points a game in 1997, which ranked 96th out of 112 teams nationally.

The current Longhorn optimism is unbridled. When I offered a more cautious optimism at a party a couple weeks ago, pointing out the lack of depth along the offensive and defensive lines, at quarterback, and at running back, I was met with a grudging worst-case scenario prediction of a 9-3 from a couple of 30-something fans. I heard a couple of Austin morning sports talk radio guys check  in with 10-2 predictions despite the Longhorns coming off three straight losing seasons, with a defense in 2016 that gave up 31.5 points a game last year, ranking 91st out of 128 teams nationally.  I heard an afternoon sports talk radio host, who also is the editor of one the most popular Longhorn Football blogs, itemizing 99 reasons why Texas fans should be optimistic.  Drivel, pure drivel.

It’s not hard to understand this 2017 brand of optimism.  Tom Herman oozes competence and confidence from every visible pore in his body.  I can’t think of a more well-spoken coach, including future hall of famers Nick Saban, Urban Myer, or even Mike Krzyzewski.  Similar to Mack Brown’s success before coming to Texas, Herman brings an impressive 22-4 record over the 2015 and 2016 seasons as the head coach at Houston, including a 6-0 record versus ranked opponents. Further, recruiting services inform us that Charlie Strong left Texas with more than its share of top-five-in-the- country talent.

Not to dismiss the above reasons for optimism, but consider that Urban Myer won two national championships at Florida before arriving at Ohio State and Nick Saban won one national championship and two Southeastern Conference titles at LSU before winning four national championships with Alabama. Herman sounds as good as or better than these coaching icons, but in hiring Herman, Texas didn’t hire a coach who is in the same league with Saban and Myer—yet.

Also I remind you that Charlie Strong’s record in his two previous seasons at Louisville prior to coming to Texas was 23-3. As EF Hutton would say, “Past performance is no guarantee of future results.”  And when EF Hutton talks ….

*********

Realistic Optimism and Causes for Concern

Now that I have you in a realistic state of mind, here is an easy-to-understand list of reasons for optimism and for concern about the Longhorns 2017 season.  I will elaborate on each of these in next week’s Maryland Pregame Column.

Optimism

  1. Quarterback – I understand that Tom Herman says the starting quarterback position is up for grabs, and Herman’s offenses at Ohio State and Houston relied on dual threat quarterbacks. So you might think that Sam Ehlinger, the four-star recruit who is rated the #4 dual threat high school quarterback recruit in the country, could have an edge in the competition in the long run; but I think Buechele’s talent for hitting the likes of Colin Johnson, Devan Duvernay, Jerrod Heard, and Jon Burt in stride 50 yards down the field might outweigh Ehlinger’s running ability.

Some longtime Willie Earl readers may recall that in my 2008 preseason column, I predicted Texas would go 11-1 in the regular season because of the emergence of Colt McCoy as a great quarterback and team leader.  Some readers back then said I was looking at the world through burnt orange glasses. You might say that my optimism was unbridled.  While I’m not predicting an 11-1 record for 2017 because of Shane Buechele, I do think that having Buechele as the starting quarterback is probably the biggest reason for optimism for Texas fans.  As a true freshman in 2016, Buechele performed very well, completing 60 percent of his passes and throwing 21 touchdown passes against 11 interceptions.  I don’t recall any freshman quarterback who was as equal to the moment as Buechele was in his very first game.  His stat line—16 of 26 passes completed for 280 yards, 2 touchdowns and one interception—is impressive on its own. That he posted that line against Notre Dame in a winning effort, in a frenzied environment, on national television, and in front of a home sellout crowd of more than 100,000 with perhaps unrealistic expectations tells me Texas has a star at quarterback in the making.

  1. Talented depth at wide receiver – Colin Johnson, Jerrod Heard, Armanti Foreman, Devan Duvernay, John Burt (sorry Mike Frank, Herman has been singing his praises), Dorian Leonard, and Lorenzo Joe are all capable of starting with Top 25 programs.
  2. Offensive Line – Four of the five starters are proven veterans. Left tackle is generally considered the most important position on the offensive line, protecting a right handed quarterback’s blind side when he drops back to pass, and Texas sports Connor Williams at left tackle. Williams was a consensus first-team All-American in 2016 and is projected to be a first round NFL draft choice in 2018. Three of the four other starters—l eft tackle Patrick Vahe, center Zach Shackelford, and right guard Jake McMillon—are experienced starters. Right tackle is the only big concern as of now, with perennial backup Tristen Nickelson thrust into a starter’s role due to a season-ending injury to Elijah Rodriguez.
  3. Punter Michael Dickson was the Big 12 Special Teams Player of the Year and is a 2017 preseason All-American. You casual fans should not underestimate the importance of the punter. Having a good one is a big deal, and Dickson is a good one.

Concern

  1. Notice that there isn’t anything about the defense on the Optimism List. I don’t care what you say about Poona Ford, P.J. Locke, Malik Jefferson, Jeffery McCullough, Malcolm Roach, or any other Longhorn Fanboy favorite you want to throw at me. All these players took part in making the 2016 defense the worst in the history of Texas Football. Come talk to me when this defense has stopped somebody …. anybody.
  2. The Horns lack depth everywhere but wide receiver. It’s especially worrisome at offensive line, defensive line, and running back. You may have noticed that I’ve mentioned the offensive line as a reason for both optimism and concern, so I’ll elaborate. The starting offensive line is a strength but one or more serious injuries and things could “go to hell in a handcart” quickly.
  3. Who is Texas’ kicker? Quickly, without looking it up. If you knew, you were ahead of me. After consulting my “2017 Longhorn Football Prospectus: Thinking Texas Football” I now know the Texas Kicker on September 2 will be Joshua Roland, a junior college transfer from Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College.  He was an All-American in 2015, for whatever that’s worth. He was 25-31 on field goal attempts in 2016. I’ll cut to the chase—starting the season, Texas’ competency on field goals and extra points is an unknown.
  4. Speaking of the Longhorn faithful’s optimism about Tom Herman and his staff, most of the coaches are in their first year at Texas, and this entire staff has never functioned together as unit. Over/under on the first time we hear a mistake was made because the staff is working together for the first time?

Predictions for 2017

Mayor Yorty has just informed me that this column is long enough already, so l’ll close quickly with one prediction and the first Over/Under Contest of the season.

Texas will finish the regular season with an 8-4 record.

Now it’s your turn.

Hook ‘Em,

W.E.

Get your game face on early for 2017 and Play Willie Earl’s 2017 Predictions. The top three finishers will win the kind of prizes that Willie Earl devotees have come to expect. 🙂

2017 Season Predictions

  • Tiebreaker: Pick the team or teams that finish 3rd in the Big 12 in 2017.



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