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Bohls: Sarkisian bringing NFL approach, creative play-calling to Longhorns

Kirk Bohls
Austin American-Statesman
New Longhorns head coach Steve Sarkisian reviews his playbook during Texas' win over Louisiana on Saturday. It was just one game in a long season, but Texas looked solid against the then-No. 23 team in the country.

While I got ya, here are nine things and one crazy prediction:

1. Just one game. I have to keep reminding myself of that. Texas’ 38-18 win over then-No. 23 Louisiana was simply one game, hardly a litmus test for Steve Sarkisian and his staff. We know we need a much larger sample size. But the takeaway from the win is so positive that it seems clear to me that Texas has the makings of a very good team, and Sark is an NFL-caliber guy coaching in college. But he might not have interest in the NFL because he’s always raving about what a fan of college football he is. Yes, I know, one game. But he’s going to bring creative play-calling that springs guys open on a regular basis, his receivers are frequently going to catch the ball in stride running downfield rather than the catch-and-go-down style we’ve become accustomed to, and he did absolutely no crowing after the victory or on Monday, which we approve of. Like his subdued style already. He did say, in defense of Keondre Coburn’s stinging criticism that his coach can’t dance, that the players “didn’t give me a chance. They were jumping all over me.”

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2. Nice move, Big 12. Now maybe Texas and Oklahoma can start play in the SEC in a year or two, and that’s a good thing. The Big 12 seems close to getting off the endangered list by announcing it will probably extend invitations to four schools, including BYU. Ironic, isn’t it, that the Big 12 once turned up its noses at BYU as well as Houston, UCF and Cincinnati, only to reverse itself now? Funny how survival trumps all else.  Also I doubt we’ll hear an uproar over the Big 12 plundering the American Athletic Conference as the SEC was accused of killing the Big 12. It’s all business, folks. All about money. Forget loyalty. … The move makes perfect sense since the reconstituted Big 12 might make up some of the loss of 40% or more of its revenue with Texas' and Oklahoma’s pending departures to the SEC. I’d strongly suggest the Big 12 expand by eight to get to 16 and consider invitations to Group of Five power Boise State, improving Tulane for the New Orleans market, solid Louisiana and either South Florida or Colorado State for another new market. I wonder if the Big 12 might also consider UNLV for the Vegas market. Further expansion could help stake the Big 12’s stronger claim to remain a Power Five league and be a megaconference, getting full shares of all College Football Playoff money … OU’s Joe Castiglione and Texas’ Chris Del Conte have sat in on two Big 12 AD virtual meetings so far but are understandably excused for any discussions of expansion. One source described the interaction with the Late Eight as “straightforward.” Neither school is publicly saying when it thinks it might join the SEC, but one Big 12 power broker said it might be as soon as 2023, thanks to budding expansion.

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3. A cool hand. Linebacker Luke Brockermeyer has gone from a little-known high school linebacker/tight end offered by Rice and recruited late by Oregon State and the older brother of linemen Tommy (a five-star tackle) and James (a four-star center), who went to Alabama as freshmen this fall, to a key starter on the Texas defense. Asked why the other sons of former Longhorns lineman great Blake Brockermeyer didn’t become Longhorns as did Luke, who went to every Oklahoma game growing up and three to four Texas games every year, Luke said, “They made the best choice for them.” Asked if they are transferring to Texas, Luke said, “I wish.” … Luke might have the best-looking beard on the team. “Logan Parr (lineman) might have me beat, but I’d like to think I’m up there.” Hudson Card’s chin growth needs some work. “Mine’s a little patchy,” the freshman quarterback said Monday. … Oh, Luke’s nickname? “A couple of guys call me the Machine.” … One thing that probably went unnoticed by many was the terrific downfield blocking by Texas receivers. Blocks by Joshua Moore and Marcus Washington helped create bigger yardage. … Linebacker DeMarvion Overshown showed up big in the first game and only promises to be more impactful the rest of the season. He’s also big with name, image and likeness. “NIL is huge,” he said. Asked if he’s cleared six figures yet, he said, “Not yet, but I’m going for it.”

North Carolina coach Mack Brown's 10th-ranked team was upset by unranked Virginia Tech in last week's season opener. It was one of a handful of Top 25 losses and near losses, including by Ohio State, Oklahoma and Notre Dame.

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4. What impressed — and depressed. I said in our preview column that North Carolina was overrated, and it turned out correct as Virginia Tech throttled Mack Brown’s team and probably killed Sam Howell’s Heisman chances right off the bat. … When is a Power Five school going to hire Tulane’s Willie Fritz? The man can flat-out coach. He’s had two losing seasons in 24 years and dominated at Blinn College and Sam Houston State, where he almost won an FCS title. … Did you see the DBU T-shirt that LSU cornerback Derek Stingley Jr. wore during a great piece on "GameDay"? Did you, Longhorns? I’m sure they did. … Hello, UCLA. Good to have you back. Same for you, Florida State. That was a gritty performance in the Seminoles’ overtime loss to Notre Dame, which has a legit star in tight end Michael Mayer but needs a lot of work on defense. … As for Brian Kelly’s off-the-cuff remark that “maybe our entire team needs to be executed after tonight. We just didn't execute very well,” he was clearly tapping into John McKay’s much-quoted comment about his feeble 0-14 Tampa Bay Bucs. It was entirely predictable that the Irish coach would be taken to task over the line, but can’t we all just relax a little and have some common sense? … How about that Big Sky Conference? Three of its teams won games against FBS squads, including Montana’s upset of Washington. Big 12, any interest in the Grizzlies?

5. Doing Dan Jenkins proud. Roger Angell and Mitchell S. Jackson have been named this year’s award winners by the Dan Jenkins Medal for Excellence in Sportswriting jury, of which I’m a proud panelist. They’ll be celebrated in a virtual event next month. Angell receives the Lifetime Achievement award, and Jackson is recognized for the best sportswriting of 2020. Angell is a senior editor and a staff writer at The New Yorker and has written voluminous and brilliant articles on baseball and other sports, including the book “The Summer Game.” Jackson receives the Jenkins Medal for Best Sportswriting for "Twelve Minutes and a Life: Ahmaud Arbery went out for a jog and was gunned down in the street. How running fails Black America," published by Runner’s World. In one helluva story with comprehensive, vivid reporting and thorough interviewing, Jackson recounts the horrible circumstances resulting in Arbery’s murder and its powerful aftermath as the 25-year old Black man was pursued by white male vigilantes and fatally shot while jogging in Glynn County, Georgia. Jackson’s piece also won the 2021 Pulitzer Prize in Feature Writing.

One-time Baylor signee Jenson Brooksby gave Novak Djokovic a scare before falling to the No. 1 seed in four sets at the U.S. Open on Monday night. Brooksby is ranked No. 99 in the world.

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6. Singularly spectacular. Jenson Brooksby put on a whale of a show with a terrific effort against Novak Djokovic in the round of 16 at the U.S. Open on Monday night. Yes, he lacks the booming serve that would make this 6-foot-4 youngster from Sacramento even more formidable than he already is, but he is cat-quick and covers the court like an octopus. He spent a semester at Baylor but turned pro without playing for the Bears — who were No. 1 but lost to Florida in the national championship match in May — and has had a meteoric rise from No. 1,621 in the world in 2018 to his current ranking of 99. He took the first set from Joker 6-1 and pressed the potential Grand Slam champion in the pivotal second set before going down in four sets. Talk about a bright future.

7. Random hits. It’s pretty clear Georgia has a defense that even Alabama would be proud of. The Dawgs just stuffed Clemson. But I do worry about both teams’ offenses… Baylor dropped the Lady designation from Lady Bears. Good thing or not? Kim Mulkey, in part, left the Bears for LSU because she was jealous over all the attention given to Scott Drew’s national champion men's team.

8. Scattershooting. While wondering whatever happened to former Longhorns running back Graylyn Wyatt, who was the only starter Darrell Royal ever got out of Arkansas (Texarkana, Ark.) and who scored 16 touchdowns in 1974 and 1975.

9. On the couch:  My wife and I were entranced by “Worth,” the compelling Netflix feature starring Michael Keaton as the adjudicator of the government's victims compensation fund in the aftermath of Sept. 11. Keaton deserves an Oscar nomination. It’s a stirring movie full of powerful individual stories and photographs and reminders of that catastrophic tragedy for our country. Gave it 8½ ducks.

Crazy prediction: Ed Orgeron will be fired this season at LSU and replaced by Billy Napier or Gus Malzahn after Jimbo Fisher turns the T down.

Bohls' AP Top 25 ballot

1. Alabama

2. Georgia

3. Ohio State

4. Oklahoma

5. Clemson

6. USC

7. Texas A&M

8. Cincinnati

9. Utah

10. Notre Dame

11. Penn State

12. Iowa State

13. Virginia Tech

14. UCF

15. UCLA

16. Texas

17. Iowa

18. Coastal Carolina

19. North Carolina State

20. North Carolina

21. Kansas State

22. Ball State

23. Oregon

24. Michigan State

25. Florida