1) Position Swaps
Bowl practices are essentially another round of spring practices, with most staffs opting to split the extra time between personnel development — i.e. checking out new players or old players in new spots — and preparing for a bowl game. Here's what Texas coach Mack Brown had to say about the position switches.
"Really not a lot of that yet, but you have to look at Caleb Bluiett as a guy that, will he be the tight end we want or will he still play defensive end, depending on how recruiting goes," Brown said. "A young walk on named Chris Terry, he's done some good things. Can he be a fullback instead of a defensive end if we get the defensive end that we feel like to continue to come? Quandre Diggs has played some safety. Duane [Akina] always likes to move them around and if you have more corners than safeties for next year, you're losing that toughness that Kenny Vaccaro brings and that confidence and leadership. So who will be the guy to step in there and to help that?
"So Quandre has played about every day at safety, he knows what to do, and the other end of it," Brow n said. "We have got Sedrick Flowers that's playing more now at offensive guard now with Trey [Hopkins] out and that will be either he or Luke Poehlmann and will probably play both of them. But other than that, it's pretty much the same."
When asked which defensive backs played cornerback when Diggs was at safety, Brown said "all the young ones."
2) Freshmen Pushing For More Time
Two freshmen on the defensive side did an outstanding job of improving as the season went on in defensive tackle Malcom Brown and outside linebacker Peter Jinkens. Now, Brown said they could be making a push for more playing time.
"Peter Jinkins played so well at the end and that was such a blessing for us, because he can really run, and he can make plays," Brown said. "You know, there's a part of me that wishes we got him in there sooner because when he got in there, he really did things well, and I'm excited about that.
"Malcom looked like he was older the day he stepped in there because he's 310 pounds or something like that, and he can really run," Brown said. "And Shiro [Davis], he batted a couple balls there at the end and got a sack. So those young guys are in a good position to move forward. They just need to keep improving. It will be interesting for the linebackers this spring. We were all over the place at linebacker, we had some people hurt, played a lot of young ones; that will be great competition this spring."
Brown said he was excited about that competition — he said the redshirted freshmen were also making a mark during bowl practices — in that it was helping to foster the kind of attitude he wanted around the program, where players were fighting for their jobs on a day-in, day-out basis.
"It's been that way every day I've been here, for 15 years," Brown said. "We haven't had enough depth. It's been harder to do that with freshmen and sophomores the last two years, but we are getting back now to where if you don't do your job, you won't have one, and they understand that."
3) Oregon State "So Much Better" Than People Think
Brown said the Beavers didn't get the publicity they deserved during a strong season, and said that everyone he talked to said Oregon State was "so much better than people know they are." After all, Brown pointed out, the Beavers weren't far from an even better season this year.
You know, Stanford beats them by three points," Brown said. "So they are a really, really good football team and they are playing with a lot of confidence right now and they are playing so well on defense. They are stopping the run, so like the last two teams we played, they have got great corners that match up well so they can play the man coverage that you have to beat and we have got to do a great job with that.
"And then offensively, Mike has been one of those guys we've visited through the years because when he's had the runner, guys rushed for 2,000 yards, or when he's had the passer, they pass for 2,000 yards, and he's been able to stay really balanced," Brown said. "And he's gotten two quarterbacks this year that have been able to balance it really well. You all probably wouldn't like that, but he's made it work pretty well. So it's working well for him. I think they are a really good football team and, in fact, every coach that I talked to said they are going to be better than they think they are, so just get ready. It should be a good challenge for us."
4) How Important is This Bowl Game, Really?
"There's not been one we've played in that I didn't think was important," Brown said. "I was more excited that we were headed in the right direction at 8-2 and then we had two disappointing losses to two good teams, but I thought we had a chance to beat both of them, said that in here, so I would like for us to get back on track and try to get the ninth win going into spring," Brown said. "I've said many times, I think we are headed in the right direction. I'm so excited for spring practice, and I can't wait for this bunch to get back out there, because we are going to have more seniors next year. We'll be older. I think we'll have 15 seniors that will play and that wasn't the case this year. There were very few."
Finishing the year strong is important, especially to try and generate positive momentum to replace a not-so-hot conclusion to the regular season, Brown said.
"We had our chances this year and didn't finish the way we should," Brown said. "I'm pumped about this game, it's going to be a tough, physical game and we are still trying to get there. My plan when we made our changes was that if we were struggling in a ballgame throwing the ball, we could do what Alabama did against Georgia, and that's rush for 350 yards; do what Wisconsin did against Nebraska and rush for 500 yards.
"We have seen some games where we are running the ball a lot better but we are still not at the point where we can just line up and say, here is what we are going to do to win the game," Brown said. "We are still headed in that direction, and I want us to get there."
5) So What's the Next Step?
Now that the Texas program has leveled out, at least in so far as getting away from the 5-7 season and having built a solid, eight-win foundation, what's the next step? Because, as Brown said, eight wins just isn't good enough for a program like Texas.
"I think that at Texas we want to be 13-0, and that I think that answers it the best," Brown said. "We need to have that position to get its swagger back and step up. I looked at it the other day, we were 75-9 with Colt [McCoy] and Vince [Young] over a seven year period, that's a pretty good run. The standards are higher than 8 [wins], and that's what the kids need to understand and our coaches do understand. And we are ready to take that next step and get it back to where it should be."