Michael Ungar, Marcus Griffin, Ryan Bailey
This is an article written by USA today about Mack Brown in 2014.
By Scipio Tex Aug 20, 2014, 1:22pm CDT
Brendan Maloney-USA TODAY Sports
The Mack Brown era featured a few impact walk-ons: kicker Ryan Bailey converted clutch kicks and went on to convert 25 of 30 field goals in his Longhorn career, Michael Ungar was a special teams coverage standout, and Marcus Griffin walked on to join his brother Michael and eventually became a starter, amassing 6 interceptions and 200+ tackles in his career.
However, no one would accuse the Brown regime of creating 1980s Nebraska, mining the state for untapped talent that would do anything to play for the flagship. Brown didn't need to - at least so long as good, motivated players kept pouring into Austin and received some level of development and coaching. But when that stopped?
Unfortunately, as with most things under Mack Brown, the walk-on system, instead of yielding occasional gems, degraded - not for lack of long-term developmental talent, but because quality walk-ons began to feel that they weren't being given a legitimate opportunity against more marginal scholarship players who were going through the motions, had terrible habits and were coasting through their four years in Austin. The staff played favorites - not only within the pool of scholarship players, but with respect to scholarship players vs. walk ons.
The reason? Recruiting and perception. Surprised? Probably not.
Brown and some on his staff (although there were dissenters) felt that putting a walk-on in front of a scholarship player was a sufficient insult such that it would alienate the player, jeopardize future relationships and pipelines, anger parents and communities ,and diminish the "special status" of scholarship players across the board.
Of course, this is absolutely insane. The players know who the players are. Football is a rough meritocracy. A walk-on who is kicking a scholarship player's ass isn't a problem. He's an opportunity. To motivate, get rid of, or re-evaluate the scholarship player and elevate and develop the walk-on beyond scout team status to see if he's actually an untapped resource.
While the recruiting stars indisputably matter in the macro, there are exceptions in the micro.