July 17, 2010

The Ticket City Locker Room Report

Q: (Nickyo7071) - First locker room question ever here. My question relates to the recent trend among elite 2012 class recruits, namely Derek David and Cayleb Jones, who seem to be rushing the recruiting process. I know I am probably blowing this out of proportion, but I am concerned that the top two players in the state of Texas are already leaning in the direction of another school. Do you see this as a problem for Mack and company? Also, is this ridiculously early decision making among elite prospects something we can expect to see more of in the future or are these two just a couple of exceptions

A: I'm reminded of a conversation in the movie Colors between Robert Duvall and a young Sean Penn that went something like this:

"There are two bulls standing on top of a mountain. The younger one says to the older one: 'Hey pop, let's say we run down there and tip over one of them cows.' The older one says, 'No son. Let's walk down and tip 'em all over'."

Don't worry about recruiting right now. It's at an all-time high and I'm more amazed at the machine Mack Brown currently has in place than I am concerned that the Longhorns on the verge of losing their foothold in-state with the elite prospects in 2012.

It's early… very early. Although the recruiting process is a moving, evolving creature, it doesn't change the fact that almost every recruit in the 2012 class is still in the infancy stage of their individual recruitments. Most have only been to a camp or two, and some haven't been to any, which means that there's a huge piece of the process that has yet to begin.

My 16 years of experience in the business tells me that the majority of juniors don't begin to really get serious about recruiting until after the conclusion of their junior seasons. Up until that point, a lot of opinions can change based on the direction of the wind. My guess is that the two particular prospects that you mentioned will see more changes in their recruitments before signing day in 2012.

Let's look at David, who is a state top five prospect and is currently committed to Tech. The week before he committed to Tech, he conveyed to me in a conversation over the phone that he wanted to visit as many as a dozen national programs this summer - from coast to coast. The next week he talked to Howell and told him that he had a different plan and wasn't visiting Texas, which he had told me he was going to do. Then he visited Texas. Then he visited Texas Tech and committed in part… because they offered his brother (a junior college prospect) and have a commitment from a teammate. In my opinion, the Tech commitment will not hold up over the next 18 months. His eyes are too big and he has always seemed like a kid that desperately wants to see what the rest of the world looks like.

Now I'm supposed to believe that he's a rock solid commit to Tech and will never waiver? This has nothing to do with Tech or Tommy Tuberville, but I think there will be a few more loops on the roller coaster ride.

As for Jones, I'm not bending on my belief that Texas will sign him when push comes to shove. While I won't discount Miami's chances completely, Jones is a kid that has visited the 40 Acres more times than he could probably count - we're talking camps, spring games, spring practices, fall practices, games, ect… He's a hometown kid that has grown up in the middle of the hometown school's greatest era and he's a self-proclaimed fan of the program. From what I know, his parents are also fans of the program, so the Longhorns aren't battling some force behind the scenes that works against them.

Despite the reports following his summer vacation, I'd expect Jones to visit a practice or two this fall, attend a couple of games and receive the royal treatment from Texas because he's as coveted as any kid in the 2012 class. You're just going to have to trust me instincts on this one, but I think it's too early to be worried.

Q: (UTexUHouFan) - With all the top recruits Texas is landing lately, I sometimes lose track as each new name replaces the last. It is safe to say, we're going to be loaded, but what will it all actually look like?

So, help me imagine the scariest, position by position, starting lineups (office and defense) that Texas might field in the next few years. Feel free to include any current players, commits or targets that could realistically be on the field at the same time for Texas (Bonus: project when it will happen).

A: Interesting question and not too difficult to do if you simply use recruiting rankings as the basis for the discussion and assume the best of every projection. It certainly creates a stunning visual of the talent that Mack Brown is building.

We'll use the 2012 season as a basis for the project and I've cut off the talent pool through the current 22 commitments for the Class of 2011, which means no Malcolm Brown or Austin Seferian-Jenkins or anyone else still out there for the taking. If Brown commits, he'd move into the top slot for me at running back by a mile.

The Offense

QB: Garrett Gilbert (Sr.)/ Connor Wood (So/Jr.)
RB: Tre' Newton (Sr.)/ DeMarco Cobbs (So/Jr.)
FB: Joe Bergeron (So.)/ Traylon Shead (So./Jr.)
WR: Mike Davis (Jr.)/Darius White (Jr.)/ Greg Timmons (Jr.)
WR: Marquise Goodwin (Sr.)/ DeSean Hales (Sr.)/ D.J. Monroe (Sr.)
WR: Jaxon Shipley (So.)/ Chris Jones (So. or Jr.)
TE/H-back: Barrett Matthews (Sr.)/ D.J. Grant (Sr.)/ Darius Terrell So./Jr.)
LT: Mason Walters (Jr.)/ Paden Kelley (Jr.)/ Josh Cochran (Jr.)
LG: Thomas Ashcraft (Jr.)/Sedrick Flowers (So.)
C: Dominic Espinosa (So. or Jr.)/ Trey Hopkins (So./Jr.)
RG: Garrett Porter (Sr.)/ Trey Hopkins (So./Jr.)
RT: Christian Westerman (So.)/Garrett Greenlea (So.)

The Defense

DE: Jackson Jeffcoat (Jr.)/ Dravannti Johnson (Sr.)/ Cedric Reed (So.)
DT: Calvin Howell (Jr.)/ Desmond Jackson (So.)/ Tevin Mims (Sr.)
DT: Taylor Bible (Jr.)/ Quincy Russell/ Ashton Dorsey (Jr.)/ (So.)
DE: Alex Okafor (Sr.)/ Reggie Wilson (Jr.)
SLB: Tevin Jackson (So./Jr.)/ Steve Edmond (So./Rs-Fr.)/ Tariq Allen (Jr.)
MLB: Aaron Benson (So./Jr.)/ Chet Moss (So./Rs-Fr.)/ Ryan Roberson (Sr.)
WLB: Jordan Hicks (Jr.)/ Kendall Thompson (So./Rs-Fr.)
CB: Sheroid Evans (So.)/ Carrington Byndom (Jr.)/ Leroy Scott
S: Kenny Vaccaro (Sr.)/ Quandre Diggs (So.)/ Bryant Jackson (So./Jr.)
S: Adrian Phillips (Jr.)/ Mykkele Thompson (So.)
CB: Josh Turner (So.)/ Adrian White (Jr.)/ Eryon Barnett (Jr.)

Q: (MBarnett) - After reading yet another thread about how Jaxon Shipley so clearly and utterly dominated his competition at his most recent camp, have you considered re-thinking your evaluation of him? I know you have him ranked highly, but if you are projecting collegiate success (and not where someone might get drafted in the NFL), have you considered ranking him in the top 3? Lately you have run multiple reports looking back at past rankings and seeing where you and the national guys disagree, it just seems like Jaxon might be a guy you want to go out on a limb on. Thoughts?

A: What you're really asking me is whether I have the guts to rank him as a five-star prospect because that's what a top three-type ranking would translate to, since I currently have four five-star grades in the 2011 class from the state of Texas. It's funny that you ask the question because it's something that I've been thinking about quite a bit over the last two weeks.

I have played an exorcise in my head for the last week and if you would indulge me, please have someone read the next paragraph to you while you close your eyes and visualize the scenario.

Go ahead, I'll wait for you.

I want to tell you a story. I'm going to ask you all to close your eyes while I tell you the story. I want you to listen to me. I want you to listen to yourselves. Go ahead. Close your eyes, please. This is a story about a player who is so good that he wasn't just the best player at the last two Texas summer camps in 2009 and 2010, he was the going-away choice by his own peers as the only purely dominant performer. Not once, but twice. Imagine that the guy isn't just a t-shirt/shorts Olympian because when he's on the field in pads, he hasn't been stopped with double- and triple-coverage. He's nearly 6-1, 180 pounds, is a terrific athlete that possesses balls skills as elite as any player you've seen in the last decade. Oh yeah, he's also as technically skilled as any receiver in the country. I want you to imagine this player. Now imagine that he's younger brother of perhaps the greatest receiver in the history of a top five national program, a guy that is currently the buzz of an NFL city as he enters his rookie season. Imagine that he brings the perfect profile as a recruit - solid student, good kid, comes from a great family and is intensely focused on becoming a world-class football player. Can you see him? Have you created the image in your head? There he is… this amazing prospect with everything you're looking for as a player. You have no doubt in your mind that this kid will be a star if he stays healthy and his basement as a prospect is virtually non-existent. There's almost no chance he's not a big-time college player. I want you to picture that player… now imagine he's white.

Yes, I just went Jake Tyler Brigance on you.

Just for giggles, I did a little research on the rankings of white wide receivers by Rivals.com. Since 2002, there have been 37 five-star rankings handed out to wide receiver and none of those 37 prospects were white. During that same span, I counted 106 wide receivers that were ranked in the national top 100 and none of the 106 prospects that I browsed through are white. Perhaps I missed a guy in there somewhere, but I don't think so. I'm somewhat guilty of the same thing because the only white wide receiver I can remember ranking as a national top 100 player over the years was Jordan Shipley - Jaxon's brother.

The bottom line is that I'm stepping out of the shadows - Jaxon Shipley will be ranked in my next top five in the next rankings and rated as a five-star. Also, I will lobby for the racial walls on this issue to come down behind the scenes. It's time to free our minds.

Q: (randoke) - Ketch, how would you see the possible decision to push back the date schools can offer football scholarships? I don't doubt Texas will still get the lion's share of talent, but how will this affect strategy and timing?

How are the off-season workouts structured? How much conditioning type work (running/weights) and how much Xs and Os?

A: It remains to be seen what kind of ramifications would take place if they adjust the date on when offers can officially be extended. At this point, the current September 1st date is one almost every school in the nation dances around constantly. Unless the NCAA really enforces the spirit of the rule by punishing teams for talking scholarships before the date, I'm not sure what it would actually accomplish. You would just have a lot of unofficial offers and commitments.

As for the off-season workouts, the informal seven-on-seven workouts that have been reported on are set up by the players with zero involvement from the coaches. Usually, they meet two times per week in the evening, with the workouts controlled by the quarterbacks on offense and a defensive captain. The players decide the rotations, reps and overall direction of the workouts, which works with like an actual practice without coaches and they often last anywhere between two to four hours.

Q: (jayswisher) - 1. Hypothetically, say Texas misses out on both Malcolm Brown and Aaron Green this year. After the meltdown that occurs on Orangebloods, what will be the big reason why it would have happened? Secondly, what kind of precedent does it set when in a year where the Texas offense moves back to run-intensive plan, that the two top in-state backs shun Texas? What will Texas have to show to start getting commitments from elite-level RBs going forward?

2. I'm worried about the DT position. If you had to call it today, what's the 2-deep at that position?

3. You and I both had our bachelor parties in Vegas (on the same weekend in fact) earlier this spring. During mine, I put $100 bet on Texas to win it all this season. How do you feel about my chances of winning?

A: There's never a universal reason that embodies the decision of all recruits. If Brown were to commit to Alabama, I think their running game history compared to the recent struggles from the Texas side would be a big reason why. That's Alabama's top selling point - they are a better running team at the moment with a Heisman winner and two NFL prospects in the same backfield. With Green, it's all about the relationship with his brother. There's no way he goes to Nebraska without that connection.

Moving forward, the Longhorns need to show that they can run the football. It's that simple. They've made a commitment to do so, which makes the failure to do so a problem in recruiting moving forward. It hasn't been a bugaboo in recruiting to this point.

Second, you should be worried about the defensive tackle rotation because none of us know what it's going to look like. My guess is that we're going to see Sam Acho spin down quite a bit, ala Lamarr Houston, especially on passing downs. A tandem of Acho and emerging star Kheeston Randall would give the team some flexibility, but they need depth to emerge. Second-year player Calvin Howell could emerge as a starter, but he'll be joined by the likes of Tevin Mims, Taylor Bible, Ashton Dorsey and DeAires Cotton for snaps in the rotation.

Finally, I like your play in Vegas. The schedule isn't too rough and the conference isn't very good. If Gilbert is the guy I think he is, the Longhorns can run the table.

Q: (BurtHorn) - Hypothetically, let's say Garrett Gilbert ends his college career with 2 MNC's, a Heisman and a handful of 4th quarter comebacks! Having VY, Colt, and Gilbert all on the same roster.....

1) Who is your starter? Why?
2) Who is your back-up? Why?
3) Down 5 with 2 minutes remaining in the game, who is your QB? Why?.

A: Understand that until I someone forces the issue, it'll be next to impossible to bump Vince Young out of any starting line-up involving anyone that has ever played in burnt orange. Ever. Someone would need to convince me that they aren't human, like VY.

My back-up under these circumstances would obviously be Gilbert for what I think would be obvious reasons - two titles.

As for the final question, with two minutes to o in the game and down by five, I'm handing the ball to VY and it's not even an open discussion. A total lay-up.

Q: (JimsTexas) - Ketch do you think Alabama has gotten into Malcolm Brown head and he is a little confused at this point on were he might want to go? I still feel in my gut that M. Brown is Texas to lose fact is I just don't like that this is dragging out so long. Thanks and Y'all have a good day

A: Brown is taking his time and making a careful decision. Its eight months until signing day. Relax a little and look at it from that perspective. Alabama has definitely given him something to think about, but everything will turn out well for the Longhorns in the end. At least that's the way I see it.

Q: (texas8891) - I think that anyone that doesn't sport orange-colored glasses will have to admit that Texas' offensive line has under performed since the national championship season in 2005. Based upon the professional success of the 2005 group, it's clear that they were incredibly talented. Yet, I think even more importantly they had a nasty streak that made them want to dominate, and kick dirt in the faces of the defenses they faced. We have continually recruited top rated O line recruits, but the players haven't lived up to the hype once they donned the burnt orange. What's the ultimate cause for our offensive line struggles in recent years: lack of talent, scheme, attitude, coaching? Unless the 2010 group makes significant improvements, it will be difficult for Garrett Gilbert to meet expectations this season.

A: I think attitude and a flat out determination to truly evolve the running game has been missing up until this year. The offenses from the last few years have been prolific, but they haven't helped the development of the linemen in the program, many of whom seem to be stuck in neutral. The approach to the offensive side of the ball has changed and there is a commitment to improve there, which means there can't be any excuses if it doesn't get done. The trio of Mack Brown, Greg Davis and Mac McWhorter has a lot of pressure on them to get this done because you are correct when you say the long-term development of Gilbert depends on in greatly.

Q: (Golfpr3145) - With the possibility of securing a couple of needs in this class, and with the possibility of exceeding the scholarship limit, would it be feasible that a couple of kids who know they will be redshirts, to greyshirt? Wouldn't that be a way, without offending a recruit, to make room for a couple of kids that we really need?

A: I'm a guy that believes you can really only ask an injured player to grey-shirt because if the message it sends. There's no getting around the fact that if the coaches approached a young man about a grey-shirt, he'd know that he's seen as the weak link in the class. Other schools will simply jump in and sell the prospect of coming to their school and being a centerpiece, instead of the first guy they come to when they need a scholarship for someone else. Therefore, I don't really consider it a viable option, unless you're trying to lose a kid.

Obviously, there are special circumstances, but it's a tough sell. Not even a legacy like [db]Michael Brewer[db] wanted any part of it.

Q: (Dropshot_7) - Who's our guy on 3rd and long this year? Texas has really been blessed the last two years with Quan and Ship. There are a lot of question marks about the offense this year, but in my opinion, this could be the largest void left from last year.

Gimme your top 3 classic threads on OBs

A: Marquise Goodwin has a chance to be Gilbert's go-to-guy and an All-Big 12 player. Just watch.

Hmmm… top three all-time OB threads? Here are ones that stand out…

1. BigDD posts his Zoolander-like modeling photos for the purpose of landing chicks on an online dating service. It occurred on a Sunday night and not a lot of people saw the thread because he deleted it after everyone started to kill him for it, but it was the funniest 30 minutes in the history of the site.

2. The Scadaman thread from earlier this year is an all-timer. That actually went national.

3. Frank The Tank's trip to Arkansas.

Q: (jrozner) - 1st of all thank you and huge credit to the guys at Orangebloods! It is certainly the best $10 I spend every month.

My big question is around coach Will Muschamp.

Let me preface my question by saying I believe there're a couple of extremely important elements of the Longhorns program that are probably locked in over the next 3 to 5 years. Mack Brown, great facilities, excellent recruiting pipeline in the state of Texas, Coach Akina, Coach Davis, Deloss Dodds (if he doesn't retire), a great university, a great city, enough existing talent on the team to win big with. Honestly, I'd be surprised if we lost any of them.

The following are some rhetorical questions, just humor me for a minute:

1. Is there any doubt that the Longhorns defense over the last couple of years under coach MUSCHAMP has been phenomenal and getting better?

2. Is there any question that if Texas can continue to play defense like that over the next 3 years that the Longhorns could compete for a national championship in any of those years?

3. Is there any doubt that having a coach like coach boom helps us with elite recruiting prospects both in-state and out-of-state (who wouldn't want to play for a guy like this)?

4. As Texas fans, doesn't it feel truly great to have such a bad ass shut down defense and a bad ass coach as the face of the Longhorns program that not long ago some opposing coaches had no fear about labeling the Longhorns as soft?

5. Doesn't continuing to truly compete for national championships continue to ring the cash register unlike any other football program in America?

6. If you had a business that is financially the most successful organization out of more than 100 competitors, and brings in $120 million per year ($360 million over 3 years) in top-line revenue, how much of that $360 million to you think it would be prudent to spend to make sure perhaps your most important unsecured asset doesn't walk out the door?

My point with all this is I believe we need to have a plan in place to secure the services of coach Muschamp over the next 3 to 4 years. It is not at all uncommon in the corporate world to have "Golden Handcuffs" clauses in key executive contracts that include things like stock options that vest over time, or long-term retention bonuses that have a large payout in 3 to 4 years.

I know, I know it can never happen because of X., Y., or Z. reasons. Here are some of the most common ones, with responses:

* You can't pay an assistant that much, it will piss everyone else off at the University (response -many more people at the University and alumni love having this phenomenal football team, although I'm sure there's some adjunct physics professor who would rather have Larry Mac Duff)

* It'll throw off the salary structure of all coaching salaries around the country (no it won't, but it will put pressure on our 10 toughest national competitors)

* Mack Brown is all we need to win championships (I agree, but I sure like having Mack Brown w/Coach Muschamp, instead of Coach Brown with Larry Mac Duff)

* If he doesn't want to be at Texas, in Austin, as an assistant at $900,000 a year, then we don't need him (Bull-shite!, If your little brother was making $90,000 a year working for Microsoft, and Google offer him a guaranteed contract for 5 years at $500,000 a year, what advice would you give him?)

Coach Muschamp has proven his loyalty, and has done a tremendous job. There are ways to structure a Golden handcuffs clause in a contract that are not salary, and therefore do not throw off the universities' salary structures. There is no question he is going to be approached by elite universities with large multiyear guaranteed contracts to become their head coach. It also appears that Coach Brown might not be going anywhere in the next year or two, nor would we want him to. What are the chances that either the University, some big bucks boosters, or all of us little bucks boosters could find $4 million -$6 million over the next 3 years to put in a fund to retain Coach MUSCHAMP until Mack Brown is good and ready to ride off into the sunset.

Mack Brown has earned the right to stay as long as he damn well pleases. He also deserves to be rewarded with the finest coaching staff in the country to support his efforts.

Doesn't it make sense to spend .6 of 1% of the overall revenues to retain this incredible defensive coach for the remainder of the Mack Brown era?

Is it worth .6 of 1% of the overall revenues to continue to get the Jackson Jeffcoat's and Jordan Hicks' of the world year after year?

Is there any other defense of coach in the world that you would rather have? That's a better fit for the Longhorns?

A: You sold me

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