Fall Report: Texas
AUSTIN, Texas – Long-time University of Texas head coach Augie Garrido just seems to have more pep in his step these days. Ask him about it and he’ll give you an honest answer.
This time last year, the Longhorns were in the midst of fall workouts, and Garrido couldn’t quit raving about his squad. The ‘Horns had synergy and Garrido absolutely loved the pieces that he was in the process of molding together. In his eyes, this team was going to take the program back to ultra-elite status, and potentially compete again for a College World Series appearance, or even the program’s sixth national title.
But that hunch didn’t prove to be right. The Longhorns sputtered throughout the 2015 campaign, losing seven-straight games in the middle of the season, and needing a miracle run through the Big 12 tournament to reach the NCAA tournament. Texas was bounced from the Dallas Regional and finished the year 30-27 overall. Questions were abound, and many wondered: Is this it for Garrido and his coaching career at Texas?
As quirky as former Texas athletic department Steve Patterson was, I was firmly convinced he’d part ways with Garrido. But Garrido and his coaching staff kept their jobs, and once again, they now have a clean slate with a new athletic director. And, most importantly, they return a team that, last Friday, looked like a Big 12 title contender.
Garrido is cautiously optimistic this go-round, but so far so good.
“Last year was pretty difficult. I didn’t prove to have the right kind of leadership at the right time. I had so much confidence in those kids and I let that delay my leadership,” Garrido said last week. “I didn’t realize early enough how much of a toll some of the losses we had were taking on their confidence.
“As for me, there was that feeling [losing his job], but there’s always that feeling at a place like this. When you have a negative season here, the restless and unrested are always going to see and expect you to win at the highest level,” he said. “If the person in charge doesn’t win at a very high level, some fans here get pretty embarrassed. Quite frankly, I respect that approach, and I understand it. They should expect to win at a very high level here.”
Tumultuous season now in the past, Garrido feels refreshed. The Longhorns have a new interim athletic director in Mike Perrin that the locals and boosters find to have some endearing qualities, and the baseball program doesn’t seem to have that Patterson-like character looking over their shoulder at all times.
“The main thing we’re looking for this fall is what does the individual do well out here in different situations. And how do they handle situations and adversity,?” he said. “We want our guys to be buying into Texas Baseball, and what Texas Baseball is all about.”
Looking at the Longhorns as they continue fall workouts, this team has some very intriguing elements. Righthander Morgan Cooper was expected to provide a huge boost last season, but a season-ending injury crippled the rotation for much of the season. Cooper will not throw this fall, but he’s progressing well and expects to be healthy in time for opening weekend of the 2016 season.
Beyond Cooper, this pitching staff has some real potential. Kyle Johnston, as we’ll talk about below, showed electric stuff throughout the scrimmage we attended, while freshman righthander Nolan Kingham, who has plenty of room to build muscle, showed an expected, lively arm.
There were other standouts on the mound, while the offense, which will continue to be a big question mark until proven otherwise, also showed potential. Versatile third baseman Kody Clemens was that spark plug type of player the Longhorns desperately need, while Patrick Mathis, Kacy Clemens and Michael Cantu, among others, really stood out from a physical standpoint.
Let’s take a closer look at the Horns:
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