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February 23, 2012I swear I could see red lasers coming out of Mack Brown's eyes today.
Everywhere he looked, I could hear the same missile lock tone we heard in the cockpit of those F-14s Maverick and Goose were flying in Top Gun.
Mack is on a mission. Who knows if his battle plan is going to take him to his desired destination - a national title in the next two to three years?
But this is a Mack on a Mission.
When he went through his list of talking points to the media, Mack made sure to let you know that virtually everyone on his coaching staff had chances to interview/leave for promotions at other places.
"All of our coaches are back, and that sends the message to our players and fans that they think there's something special coming up, and they want to stay here and get us back on track," Mack said.
WHAT A DIFFERENCE A YEAR MAKES: When it came to his players, Mack talked about grading their off-season for the first time. Their workouts have been carefully monitored and videotaped by their position coaches.
"This year, for the first time, the coaches graded each of the players in their position group," Mack said. "Today, we will talk to the players about who was poor, who was average, who was good and who was exceptional.
"Everyone should be able to give their best effort to be exceptional, and that's what we're working toward."
When Mack was asked about the reason for grading the players this year, Mack said, "Last year, we were growing. But we don't need to be sensitive anymore. It's time to say, 'You need to do better.'"
Think about where the program was a year ago.
Mack had just replaced seven assistant coaches. When Duane Akina returned from Arizona, it was only six. But he didn't know what his offense and defense were going to look like. He didn't know what Bryan Harsin and Manny Diaz were like in meetings.
What would they be like in times of adversity? And what about Bo Davis, Stacy Searels, Darrell Wyatt and Bennie Wylie?
Hell, Mack was probably reading their bios at Texassports.com like the rest of us.
But now he knows what those coaches are like in practice, on game day, after wins, after losses. He knows what they're like on the recruiting trail. He knows what he can trust.
And trust is everything.
RAISED EXPECTATIONS: A year ago, Mack had brought in Vinny Cerrato, a former player of his at Iowa State and former executive with the Washington Redskins, to help him audit the program.
Mack subjected his players to a questionnaire that the players had to sign saying which players and coaches did a good job and which ones didn't.
Mack told the players he would be the only one to see the results and then he'd shred them.
Mack said Thursday, "The expectation two years ago was to win a national championship. The expectation last year was to get us back on track.
"Now, everyone knows everyone and we need to do better. We need to go back to the attitude that we are going to win every game. And that's where we are starting."
NO DEPTH CHART FOR QBS: The questions came fast and furious about the quarterbacks. Who will start? When will you name a starter? Is David Ash ahead of Case McCoy? Is Connor Brewer in the mix?
Mack said he won't address where the quarterbacks are on a depth chart until the fall.
"We've got a lot of new players," he said. "And now, since we played 18 freshmen last year, if you get set in something and those freshmen come in. They may very well take some of those jobs like they did last year.
"You obviously have to start somebody when you break the huddle on both sides of the ball. But we like the fact that doesn't matter, and the kids will know that.
"I'll tell them, 'None of you have a job. And all of you are fighting to get one and keep it. And you may have it for a day, but it doesn't mean you'll have it for the next practice or the next week."
IDEAL QB: When it comes to what Mack is looking for at quarterback
"We'd like to have a quarterback who is up for the Heisman and another one not far behind," Mack said. "We're trying to get where a bad performance or injury at that position doesn't cost us a championship. And that's happened three or four times around here."
The bar has been re-established. David Ash will feel it and will be coached accordingly. So will all the other players.
PROGRESS BEING MADE: Think of where David Ash and Case McCoy were a year ago.
They didn't know each other, the offense, Bryan Harsin, what games were like, nothing. Now, they both have starting experience. They know what to expect from Harsin. They know what to expect at the Cotton Bowl on Oct. 13. They know a lot. And the coaches know a lot about them.
"The quarterbacks are so much further along," Mack said. "And the whole team should be so much further along."
Mack then praised the progress of WR Mike Davis.
"I thought he got discouraged some in the fall, but he is really doing everything right," Mack said. "So, we're going to be older at wide receiver, along with the quarterbacks, and that should help, too."
NO NEED FOR TRANSFER QB: Mack said he didn't bring in a transfer or junior college quarterback because "you can get too many quarterbacks.
"And we thought unless we found someone we knew 100 percent was a whole lot better than what we had, then you make what was a really confusing position last year really confusing again.
"We feel like the guys we've got and the guys coming in will be good enough. And we wanted to show confidence in them and move forward.
"I think one of the diseases out there in college football, and if we're not careful, we get into it as coaches, the unknown guys are better than the knowns. And that's really a dangerous thing. The backup quarterback is always the best player until he plays. And then they like the other guy who was out there before who we forgot and cussed."
When it comes to recruiting, Mack was asked if UT's current recruiting at quarterback signals a change in the offense.
"We want quarterbacks who can be great at something. The great thing about the Boise offense is it can feature whatever the quarterback does best."