- By Kirk Bohls American-Statesman Staff
While I got ya, here are nine things and one crazy prediction:
1. Many of us among the local print jockeys have sensed a very low-key approach to the season by Tom Herman, who intimated as much Monday when he said it was “fair” to suggest Texas hasn’t proven anything yet. Athletic director Chris Del Conte doesn’t agree with lower expectations. “I don’t see the low key,” Del Conte told me, “because I wasn’t around for the high key.” Nice line, but it’s been a minute since the high key. Behind closed doors, Del Conte suggests there are a lot higher expectations more than outside the football complex. “It’s flat-out so exciting,” he said. “They’re embracing the new kids. They see the evolution taking place. Most programs take two to three years of great recruiting classes to galvanize and have the culture take hold. Players have to believe in their coaches and their philosophy, and when they do, magical things happen. When you have a fan base that’s just thirsty, last year was a successful year.” Come again? A 7-6 record was successful by whose standards? “We won a bowl game,” Del Conte said. “That’s pretty awesome. That gets lost. It’s you and your job to paint a picture of reality. Tom has high expectations. He has so much confidence in those boys, but at the same time you have to have a pragmatic approach, so not every week is a high or low.”
2. ESPN’s Kirk Herbstreit was very blunt about Texas A&M’s prospects going forward. The Aggies open the season Thursday night against Northwestern State, one of three opponents that won four games each last year. But they also play seven teams that won at least nine games. “I know Kevin Sumlin is now at Arizona, but one of the things I watched with A&M was the inconsistency from an attitude standpoint,” Herbstreit said in a conference call. “They seemed to be front-runners. When things were going good, they were in a good state of mind. They could beat anybody. And then when things were going bad, boy, they seemed to head south in a hurry. So he’s got to change that, Jimbo Fisher. That’s something I’m sure he’s tried to push them to improve on quite a bit. So we’ll see where they are.” Asked the biggest difference between Sumlin and Fisher, TexAgs.com writer and former Statesman alum Olin Buchanan said, “Details, discipline, demand. Fisher doesn’t recoil from expectations. He embraced them.” He adds that eight wins “seem attainable” with eight starters returning on each side of the ball. Look out for big things from freshmen receivers Jaylen Preston and Caleb Chapman and backup safety Bobby Brown.
3. Getting the sense that Major League Soccer using Texas’ Royal-Memorial Stadium or Mike Myers Stadium may be a tougher deal than meets the eye, with the north end zone construction and the use of Myers for the NCAA track and field national championships in June each of the next two years and the Texas Relays and the Texas soccer team and general student parking. “We haven’t unraveled any of that stuff,” Del Conte said. “None of that stuff has been vetted. It’s a long row to hoe. All these things are intertwined, and we haven’t unpacked any of this.”
4. Count me among the Manu Ginobili Fan Club. He may be the most professional, cooperative and selfless athlete I’ve ever been around for any length of time. Among my favorite pro athletes are Lance Berkman, Jeff Bagwell, Darren Woodson and David Robinson with Ginobili at the very top. What is refreshing is that Manu indicated that he’s open to having a role with the Spurs this season, telling reporters, “What I made clear to Pop is that it’s not ‘Ciao, I’m leaving. … If I can help from the outside, I will do it with pleasure.” How about the inside? Would love to see him on Gregg Popovich’s bench.
5. No cat suits at the French Open. Pleeeeeeze. Serena Williams is cool with it because, well, she’s just cool. Doesn’t matter if she wears a cat suit or a trench coat and military boots and a helmet, she’s still the best tennis player ever.
6. On the other side of that coin, kudos to major-league baseball for allowing players to wear uniforms with their nicknames on the back as a reminder this is entertainment. The Texas Rangers rank at the bottom in the American League West standings but near the top in catchy monickers. Love Joey “Pico de” Gallo. That’s almost as good as Miami’s Jarlin “The Marlin” Garcia and Derek “Last Name” Holland.
7. We held our annual fantasy football draft, which is an auction draft with a $50 budget, on Monday night, and the team of mine and son John Tyler called the Sitting Ducks are very star-heavy with precious little depth. We have some front-liners like quarterback Tom Brady, wide receiver Antonio Brown, running back Leonard Fournette, kicker Justin Tucker and the Houston Texans defense/special teams. Our draft places a real premium on trash-talking. No one does it better than fellow columnist Cedric Golden. When Ced landed running back relics Marshawn Lynch, Adrian Peterson and Frank Gore — all of whom are already collecting Social Security checks — I asked if he was drafting for the Old-Timers Game. “Yeah,” Ced said, “I’m drafting you next.” Sports editor Rich Tijerina, a four-time champion in our league, wowed everyone when he took three quarterbacks — Aaron Rodgers, Deshaun Watson and Philip Rivers — for $22.20, almost half his budget, in a defensive ploy to keep them off other teams. I am not going to second-guess him.
8. Scattershooting while wondering whatever happened to rugged running back Darron Norris, who chronologically speaking filled in for a suspended Eric Metcalf in the opener against BYU and then made for a very good tailback tandem. Norris, like another fellow Longhorns running back who later had great success, hailed from California and specifically Oceanside, which also produced stud defensive back Bryant Westrook known for his big hit against Notre Dame.
9. Rented “Set it Up.” Cute movie in what could be considered a romantic version of “Horrible Bosses.” Total fluff. Gave it five ducks.
10. Crazy prediction: Dez Bryant will never catch another touchdown pass in the NFL.