CCM: I don't think that we can start talking about the Longhorns without questioning the current state of the program. Charlie Strong seemed pretty upbeat on Monday, and seems to believe firmly in what he's doing, but the results aren't there yet. How would you describe the state of the Texas football program right now?
Michael: Questions 1 and 2 have a lot to do with each other.
I would characterize it as the most painful stage of transition. The conflict between the older players and the younger players is obvious. As the season wears on, the older players will make way for the younger players. Read into the Mack Brown vs. Charlie Strong story lines as you will.
Ultimately, I think the divide comes from veteran players trying to lead younger players without successes to point to. The younger players see that lack of success and expect to see that translate to playing time for them. I'm sure this is no different from any other team in a similar position.
Ami: Right now I would say our program is in a serious need of a rebuild. Thayer Evans, one of Texas' fans favorite writers, co-authored an article for Sports Illustrated website about the program to-date. It really sums it up; Texas has a dearth of talent right now. There are still a lot of people that don't want to hear this but Brown left things in a mess. I'm not going to beat up Brown here, but you have to be realistic about where we are as a program. Strong deserves, at a minimum, three years to turn this around.
CCM: Was the back-and-forth between older players and younger players with the media, and on Twitter, Monday just vetting some frustration or is there an actual divide in the locker room?
Ami: I have no insight as to what is going on in the locker room and I doubt anyone else does, either. The media is always looking for a good story and Kris Boyd's retweet at halftime gave them plenty of fodder. No, the kid shouldn't be on his phone during halftime, but 18 and 19-year-olds tend to work through things quickly and move on. I doubt they even remember what a teammate said at a press conference on Monday.
CCM: How high is the ceiling for Jerrod Heard and what does he need, in terms of a supporting cast, to bloom as an elite Big 12 quarterback?
Michael: I think Jerrod Heard's ceiling is as high as his supporting cast allows. Against Cal, you can see what he's capable of when given a scheme that provides passing windows and gets a defense out of position. There's young talent at wide receiver, and they'll come along as they get reps with each other.
Ultimately, it's the offensive line's development that defines Heard's upside. At this stage, his ability to scramble should be an asset for the team rather than something that's relied upon. But leaky pass protection frequently leaves him scrambling for yards. Fortunately (or unfortunately, depending on your horizon), two of the Horn's three best offensive lineman are true freshmen with some raw talent currently redshirting. It will just take time for that talent to be realized.
Ami: Jerrod Heard is my bright spot this season and he will only get better. There's only upside to his dual-threat ability. When Joe Wickline finally has an offensive line that can give him some support, he will be scary good. Until then...
CCM: The Sooners haven't shown a strong desire to run the ball this season, although the threat is still there, but Baker Mayfield has found success slinging the ball around. What gives you confidence and what worries you when it comes to defending the OU offense?
Michael: Freshman DBs. Simple as that. Strong's 2015 DB class is highly talented and will be special, but they're still young right now. That combination of youth and relent is as exciting as it is frightening because it means any play can go for 6 in either direction. If Hassan Ridgeway can get pressure up the middle, he may create mistakes for those DBs to capitalize on.
Ami: Michael nailed it. Our defense can be terrifying and exciting all at the same time. Malik Jefferson is my guy to watch. He ranks second on the team in tackles and he could disrupt Mayfield's ability to make plays with his feet.
CCM: Give us a health update on the Longhorns.
Michael: Offensively, WR Daje Johnson and starting RT Kent Perkins should be out. Those are big losses without suitable replacements. Defensively, starting DE Shiro Davis should return, which helps run defense.
Ami: Our offensive line is on life support and Kent Perkins injury is really going to hurt.
CCM: Aside from a monumental upset, what's the best thing that could happen for Charlie Strong and the Longhorns on Saturday?
Michael: Not getting blown out and no glaringly horrible special time screw ups would be improvement. If the last three weeks have taught us anything about Texas fans, it's that you can sell the future in a shoot out loss, survive with a close defensive loss, and get killed by a blow out. But the team has to show something that helps Texas fans think this team can rally down a lighter back half of the schedule.
Ami: I love the fight in this team. Even though they get behind, they don't give up. They need to hang in there Saturday because it isn't going to be easy. I always hope for the very best and a win, but I'm also realistic.