February 14, 2010

The Ticket City Locker Room

Q: (jimbo2fly) - 1. How much do you think opposing coaches use the Orangebloods site for their recruiting purposes?

2. Do you think that Bob Stoops is withholding offers to potential players till after Texas' Jr. Day to save face, considering how bad Mackchas whipped him head to head?

3. Out of all the out of state prospects, which guy is the must have? Personally, I think the OL from Arizona - Christian Westerman - is the guy. I don't see us being able to take Matthew Hegarty and Hakeem Flowers.

A: First, I think the biggest problem Texas faces as it relates to the Internet is the fact that other schools are able to use UT's recruiting dominance against them by attempting to poison the Longhorns with talk of players not getting on the field early because of the Longhorns having too much talent. All they have to do is show them the recruiting rankings from Orangebloods or any other site. The smart money says that a guy like Miles Onyegbule has probably heard a coach or two mention Texas' flood of receivers in Class of 2010. If a kid lets a website play his emotional strings, he's probably not a kid that Texas is going to recruit for the long-haul (see: Lache Seastrunk).

Second, I think a lot of schools, including Oklahoma, have waited to see what Texas does before getting too involved and too active in the state because they don't want to waste their time.

Finally, I don't think there's any question that Westerman is the most important out of state prospect on the UT radar. Not only is he potentially the nation's top offensive line prospect, but he's in the conversation for the top overall player in the country.

Q: (Texas57) - My question is about the off-season training/ weightlifting program for the offensive line. Seeing a number of the linemen walking around after games or seeing them on "The Tanner Report" out of pads, they just don't look to have much muscle-mass. The fact that we have 300+ pound linemen who get pushed around some and can't dominate at the point of attack, made me think. By the time a lineman gets to his 4th or 5th year, I would expect them to be structured different than Chris Hall or Adam Ulatoski. Do you know what the programs expectations are for the linemen and their weight-training regimen? Could somebody try to interview Jeff Madden for some perspective? Thanks in advance!

A: There are certainly a lot of layers to this question and topic, so let's start with the obvious - the Longhorns haven't had a lot of physically dominant offensive lineman in the last three of four seasons, probably not since the departure of current NFL starter Justin Blalock. However, the Longhorns don't lack for strong offensive linemen in the program - they just haven't been able to translate it into on-field success the last few seasons. While there's no question that the line needs to include bigger, stronger and more talented players moving forward versus some of the options that we've seen the offense work with in the last few years, I'm not ready to bury the strength and conditioning program as the prime source of failure. I think it's a little more complicated than that.

Let's start with several issues that have impacted this discussion for the Longhorns before most of the offensive line prospects that have been recruited in recent years have even shown up on campus because don't think you can look at this issue through a vacuum.

1. The preferred prospect in recruiting.

This factor is probably overplayed by most (including myself) if you just look at the numbers, but the Longhorns made a concerted effort in the middle of the last decade to devalue size and strength in favor of linemen with projectable frames that have a better combination of footwork/athleticism. Gone were the days of failed prospects like Lionel Garr, Will Winston and Terrence Young, as a new era of linemen was ushered in. The philosophy itself isn't a foreign one to college or pro teams across the country, but the net results of the change in direction have been mixed at best.

Here's a look at a five-year recruiting cycle of the OL recruiting classes since from 2005-09.

2005: Chris Hall and Charlie Tanner

2006: Buck Burnette, Steve Moore, Roy Watts and J'Marcus Webb

2007: Tray Allen, Kyle Hix, Michael Huey and Aundre McGaskey

2008: Mark Buchanan, Luke Poehlmann and David Snow

2009: Thomas Ashcraft, Paden Kelley, Garrett Porter and Mason Walters

If we look at this group of players, most arrived in the range of 280-300 pounds and the majority have been nationally-elite line prospects. Guys like Webb, Allen, Huey, Ashcraft, Porter and Walters had national interest from coast-to-coast. In fact, of the Only Tanner, Webb, Poehlmann and Kelley truly fit the mold of players that were recruited with the idea that they might need two or three years of weight development before being able to contribute heavily and none of the four have panned out in a way that would warrant calling the gambles a true hit, but all of the reasons are unconnected.

In hindsight, Tanner was just never going to carry a lot of mass on his body. We're talking about a kid that was playing at 215 pounds as a junior in high school and surged to the 250-pound range before his senior year, but he's just not a guy that was going to carry 300 pounds and play with a lot of power. Many are convinced that Webb would have been a star had he not flunked out and it's too soon to judge Poehlmann/Kelley.

Therefore, while the tweak in preferred prospects hasn't helped the Longhorns in the last five years, it hasn't been the back-breaker that many would suggest. It's simply been a slight net-loss at this point, which means that roughly 25% of the players in this overall discussion fall into this category..

2. Selection of prospects

This is actually an issue within an issue, but it doesn't deal directly with the issue of the "preferred prospect". If you believe that the Longhorns select their offensive line prospects more than they recruit them, then it's important to note that the Longhorns have made some questionable calls in player selection over the years and if there's been a position that might have been impacted the most by the possible pratfalls of early recruiting, it might be at the offensive line position.

Since 2005, the Longhorns have wrapped up their offensive line recruiting by the end of the spring with most of the commitments coming during the February Junior Days. Of the 17 line prospects taken in that five-year window, six were three-star prospects and none of those six have emerged as impact players with NFL futures. Obviously, I'm not suggesting that only four-star or five-star prospects can thrive and make it into the NFL, but a case can be made that some of those three stars came in with limited ceilings, and the area of projected strength is factored into the statement. While players like Tanner, Hall and Ulatoski aren't power players and have definite physical limitations, I wouldn't suggest that they were not maximizing their personal resources in the area of strength development. However, there's only so far these guys can go before they've maxed out. Of course, I've specifically mentioned the three players that just departed, but this conversation includes Moore, Poehlmann and a few others over the years.

Still, the Longhorns have really raised their game in terms of the quality of prospects that they are landing along the line, with 11 of their last 13 signed line prospects ranking as nationally-elite prospects with at least four-star grades. The majority of those players aren't yet upperclassmen, so it's tough to gauge how much things have changed in regards to their development and the efforts made by the S&C staff, but the selection issues that might have held the development of the line back for a couple of seasons seem to have been mostly contained between the 2003-06 recruiting classes, which would explain some of the recent problems, while not automatically assuring a repeat of history in future years.

3. The lack of a strong red-shirt program

This is the program's No.1 problem in my mind when it comes to the long-term strength development of the prospects on campus. The inability to give the majority of its top prospects a red-shirt year to dedicate completely to the weight room like the majority of the starters on the 2005 national championship line were able to enjoy has had a definite negative impact. Justin Blalock, Lyle Sendlein, Kasey Studdard and Will Allen were all starters on that team that developed over five years and were really able to use their first year in the weight room with great success.

Because of the failures in recruiting from 2003-06, the 2007 class bore the brunt of having to replace the majority of the players on that title team (three of them departed following the 2006 season) with true freshmen. How different might Hix, Huey and Allen all look to us right now if they were fourth-year juniors instead of seniors? A lack of depth also forced Snow onto the field as a true freshman.

The Longhorns also have had some very bad luck along the way. Burnette was a guy that looked like a future starter before concussion issues and off-field issues sidetracked his career. He was one of the strongest kids in the program, but it never came together for him. Webb and Watts are also players that projected as possible future starters and they were lost to grades. That stuff matters and is also part of the narrative.

The good news is that six of the last seven linemen that have been recruited between 2008-09 have been able to redshirt, including the top-rated 2009 group that featured a five-star and three-four-star prospects (although Mason Walters is a forced medical redshirt).

The bad news is that the current 2011 class that the Longhorns bring in next year might feature several incoming players that will have to play right away, thus foregoing that valuable redshirt season.

I realize in a way that I haven't complete answered your question, as it relates to the job that the strength and conditioning program is doing with the offensive linemen in the program, but this is a very complex set of circumstances that all add up to create the problem we're discussing. Whether Madden and his staff do a good job or not, the lack of a powerhouse offensive line isn't completely his mess to own. It's a program issue that Mack Brown, Greg Davis and Mac McWhorter have to own pieces of as well.

That being said, I think an in-depth interview with Madden is a great idea and it's something that we'll work on in the off-season, if the school allows it. It would be interesting to see their perspective on the goal-setting and performance issues that everyone wants to ask about.

Q: (rct568) - Ketch, I was wondering if you think Will Muschamp will ever go to more of a 4-3-4 base defense? Do you think there's a chance he didn't think we were athletic enough at the LB position and that's why we were 4-2-5 in our base? Not that I didn't think Roddrick Muckelroy, Keenan Robinson and Sam Acho weren't athletic, I've just wondered about this. Thanks.

A: I've stopped thinking of the Muschamp defense at Texas as anything that really resembles a true base set, which will probably remain the 4-3 alignment, because of the multiple-nature of it. Perhaps the 4-3 is the base defense that the team uses for the depth chart, but the dynamics of the Texas schedule force the hand of the team to play in a lot of nickel looks. The thing that I think you have to love about the future is that the Longhorns are recruiting such great front seven personnel that they'll have the ability to put together personnel groups that support just about any defensive scheme Muschamp wants to employ, whether it's 4-3, 3-4 or any number of looks. The personnel is better now (and keeps improving) than it was when he arrived and that will impact how much 4-3 base he's allowed to use in the future.

Q: (Theta) - Your Predictions Please:

Which in-state players are going to get offers at the first junior day and then make us fans wait and wait and wait for them to make a decision? Like Jeffcoat, Darius White, Lache Seastrunk, Corey Nelson etc.

Which in-state players are not going to get offers and Texas fans will be asking 3 times a week on the message board why Texas didn't recruit this player? Like Christine Michael, Jermie Calhoun, DeAndrew White, Sam McGuffie, etc.

A: Coming out of a weekend where the Longhorns picked up 13 commitments, the list of players with offers that haven't committed isn't a mile long and I'm not sure that we're going to see a lot of players wait until the final months to decide in this class. Outside of the running backs that were offered, I'm not sure that the other in-state offers are going to wait around through the spring and several elite prospects mentioned on Saturday that they could announce their commitments in the next few weeks. Even Christian Westerman is expected to make an announcement before the start of his senior season. If I had to pick a couple of guys that might take a while, it would probably be Aaron Green and Jermauria Rasco, but the Longhorns might not wait it out if other options fill the slots.

As far as prospects for the 2011 class that might enter the second-guessing Hall of Fame for the next decade on the message board, the obvious answers will be whichever running backs the Longhorns can't sign because of the quality and depth at the position this year. That's probably the position that will be the toughest to sort through for the coaches this year. Whitehouse wide receiver Trey Metoyer, Klein Oak defensive end Nathan Hughes and Lake Highlands athlete Desmond Roland could be candidates as well if they never receive offers.

Q: (eray7758) - The first question deals with D.J. Monroe and his role in the offense this coming year. Obviously, he needs to become a greater art of the offense. Is the only thing keeping him from being an almost every down type of player his ability to pick up the blitz? I realize his build will keep him from being on the field every snap like Jamaal Charles was.

My second question is with the new recruiting class coming in, how does the red shirt process work? This could be a sticky situation for a recruit during his recruitment as well as when they arrive on campus. Do the players decide their own fate or do the coaches urge a player in one direction or the other.

Last question and this doesn't necessarily apply to the only the Texas staff. but have you ever known a coach or team to recruit a player that they know or think they know will never be a starter or contribute in a significant way? For example, recruiting a QB to be a career backup.

A: First, I think the Texas coaching staff is still trying to figure out what it has with Monroe. He missed last spring for academic reasons, which means that they didn't have a chance to full evaluate his ability in a way that might have led to a better crafted role for him within the offense. I expect that to be a major piece of what Greg Davis wants to accomplish this spring if Monroe can remain on the field. Monroe is as electrifying fast as any player in college football, but he's a different kind of offensive weapon than Greg Davis has utilized in the past. I would expect that we'll see a lot of Monroe next year and he'll be used in the offense in a lot of different ways.

The redshirt question that you ask isn't nearly as much of an issue as you'd think because the players and coaches do a very good job of working together on the decisions. Of course, most of the linemen and quarterbacks are going to redshirt if the options exist, but Mack Brown has realized that if a player can make a first-year impact, even if its just on special teams, he's not going to hesitate to play a true freshman if he can help win games. Most kids that sign to play for the Longhorns want to play right away if they can, but if the player is either physically not ready or if the player is dead-set on redshirting, the staff is going to force the issue.

Finally, I've never known a coaching staff to recruit a player that truly felt couldn't become a significant contributor in their program or do I have to remind about the kid from Tuscola back in 2005 that many thought was a guy that would be limited to career back-up status from the get-go?

Q: (Golfpr3145) - Are we going after any OOS TEs this year? If so are we pursuing the larger, blocking type, or the "David Thomas" type that is more of the "H-back" mold? The reason I ask is because of the QB change and less mobility from Garrett. This seems to indicate a slight change in the offense geared more toward the running game. Do you think Texas will take as many RBs as they can get or limit the number to two?

A: No, I don't expect the Longhorns to go after an out of state tight end this season, especially with the commitment of M.J. McFarland and Joe Bergeron this weekend. While McFarland is considered a true tight end prospect, Bergeron is expected to give the team some depth as a blocker in the H-back role. The numbers game is going to get tight from this moment on and I think the staff feels pretty good about what they've recruited at the position in the last three classes. Look for the team to take three backs, with Bergeron serving as the fullback. His versatility as a player is what makes him such an attractive prospect.

Q: (Seftees) - 1. What are the chance this rule about the "coaches in waiting" is really going to effect Will Muschamp's ability to get out and recruit? Do you think it will even make it the 60 or so days it has left before it is all the way instilled?

2. Do you think after Jr. day we are a lock for Aaron Green? To me he damn sure looks like a stud RB at the next level.

A: I think school officials are nervous about this situation, but I think they'll likely find a way to get around this because it clearly seems like a rule that singles out a few schools in manners that don't seem competitively fair. One suggestion that has been floated since the rule first popped up is simply grandfathering the two schools, which made the announcement before the inception of the new rule. We'll see. It's certainly not impacting the 2011 class thus far, but not having him on the roar would impact the 2012 class if he can't hit the road in the spring.

As for your second question, I think the Longhorns stand a better chance of landing Cibolo Steele's Malcolm Brown over Green, but both project as stud running backs on the next level.

Q: (Jwpriest) - OU's recruiting class is slightly below ours. What major OU recruits do you think we will regret seeing on the field.

A: Of the players from the Lone Star State that Oklahoma landed, I really think Lake Dallas offensive lineman Darryl Williams has a chance to be a guy the Longhorns regret letting pass over the Red River, especially when you consider the depth questions at tackle that the Longhorns have. Dallas Episcopal defensive tackle Eric Humphrey might also be a player that the Longhorns regret not making room for when it's all said and done, but he was a late developer and the Longhorns already had three defensive tackles. You can't take them all.

Of the out of state players, it'll be interesting to see if California product Brennan Clay can do at the running back position because he's the crowned jewel of the class, along with Kansas athlete Justin McCay.

Q: (Beaubie) - Hey Ketch, first Locker Room question, I'll keep this short and sweet. With the transfer of Marcus Davis, as well as the possible early departure of Aaron Williams and graduations of the Browns, how do you see the CB position taking shape in 2011? Do we have anyone on our roster currently who could be a lockdown corner, and if not, is there anyone in the state or outside of the state who you think could start early and make an impact as Aaron Williams did?

A: There's no question that the future looks somewhat murky beyond this season and I think it makes Eryon Barnett one of the key players that's currently under the radar within the program. Although he might not play a ton this season as the potential No.4 corner, you'd like to see him emerge as a player that the team can depend on for the future because it would lesson some of the concern heading into 2011. When you look at the depth at cornerback right now, he's one of the few young guys currently on campus that can be that kind of player in 2011. You're also going to see almost every defensive back recruited in the 2010 class get an initial shot at cornerback because the staff understands that they need corners.

If the Longhorns find themselves in a position where a true freshman has to start or contribute immediately, the staff can take solace in the fact that they've already landed the top two in-state prospects and one (Sheroid Evans) might be as athletically gifted as any cornerback they've ever recruited.

When it's all said and done, the Longhorns will be fine.

Q: (bman25) - Ketch, earlier this year you mentioned that you think Texas could have the #1 2011 defensive back class in the nation. Do you still stand by that? Is Sheroid Evans the key to this class or do you think we will go out of state if he passes?

Also, who's the last man standing in a three man cage match? Petrino, Kiffin, or Saban? Who fights the dirtiest?

A: Yes, I do think the Longhorns have a chance to challenge for that kind of class because Evans is a five-star talent and Scott will emerge as a solid four-star prospect when the dust settles. Add in a couple of other impact defensive backs prospects and you've got a top five DB class at a minimum.

Also, I don't think there's any doubt that Saban comes out of a three-man steel-cage match with Petrino and Kiffin. I fully believe that Saban might shank one of those two guys in the ring if that's what the moment called for.

Q: (TEXBTP) - With what seems to be a little more emphasis being place on OOS recruits do you wonder if we are in danger of becoming like FSU. They grew their program with home grown talent then got too big for their britches and started recruiting nationally thereby losing their identity and thus losing games.

A: No, I think a lot of these out of state recruiting names will disappear as the class continues to fill up with home-grown, Texas-talent. The same thing happened last year and when it's all said and done, only a very select out of state options will be seriously considered.

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