June 16, 2007

The Locker Room Report

Q: (mcalk2) - Please give us what you think the depth chart will be this year with the tailbacks, and how they looked in the spring workouts.

A: First, I think it's fairly obvious that junior Jamaal Charles is the top guy headed into the fall, but I don't think the coaches are totally sold on him as a definite go-to-guy this season. For all of the rhetoric that has come out about Charles dedicating himself to football and his great desire to become a great running back, there are still some very real concerns that the staff has about Charles and they won't begin to know the answers to those questions until the season is knee-deep. Most of the concerns are in regards to durability and toughness. Last year, Charles allowed little nicks and pains to have a big impact on his mindset and words alone can't change that. Therefore, the staff will be keeping a close eye on Vondrell McGee and Chris Ogbonnaya, as they are the next two guys on the depth chart. Both players had strong springs and both are in line for significant playing time this season, especially if Charles proves that he's not a guy that can handle the ball 18-20 times per game for an entire season.

Q: (Naches) - Will Mack try for another offensive lineman if Bryce Givens stays with Nebraska? Also, do you think Ryan Roberson could possibly see the field at linebacker.

A: I think there's a good chance that the Longhorns will make a run at another offensive lineman, but I don't think they feel like they must have someone else. It really will depend on who might become available. Paris, Texas offensive lineman Stephen Good is always a player to keep an eye on, especially if the Sooners get more than a slap on the wrist from the NCAA. It's an unlikely situation, but it's something to keep an eye on. As for Roberson, I think it's a 50-50 deal right now as to whether he ends up on offense or defense. Personally, I think you start him out at linebacker and watch what he can do. The fullback position has been one that has become de-emphasized in recent years within the offense and is usually manned by players that have already filed at another position. With Cody Johnson arriving this summer, the future at that position might already be filled, so why not let Roberson start out somewhere where he can make a potentially much bigger impact.

Q: (Hilltophorn) - Duane Akina has often talked about wanting his DB's to show the ability to play all four positions. With the departure of Joseph, what are the odds we see either Curtis Brown or Chykie Brown cracking the two-deep at safety? Is it possible to have the nickel back also logging time at back-up safety? It appears there will be more rotation this year in the D-line; will anyone get enough snaps to make a legit run at a double digit sack year? Finally, if you had to pick one second year player to emerge as a real difference maker this season, who would it be?

A: First, I don't think you're going to see Curtis Brown or Chykie Brown playing anything other than cornerback for the immediate future. Both players are among the most talented cornerback prospect that Akina has ever worked with, so he's going to want them to succeed at the position. It would really take a complete disaster at the safety position for them to start tinkering with those kinds of moves. Keep an eye on Ben Wells in August because he could work himself into the mix and he would give Akina that size/speed/athleticism combo that he loves to have back there. As for the questions about the defensive line, I think Brian Orakpo has the ability to be a double-digit sack guy, but he's the only one on the roster that you can project that kind of sack total for at the moment. There are others like Eddie Jones that have that kind of potential, but they are still unproven commodities. Finally, if I'm picking one and only one second-year player to make a big impact this year, I'd probably take Chykie Brown.

Q: (mbecker327): With the signing of DeSean Hales, and for arguments sake let's assume Jeff Fuller accepts his offer, we have an impressive incoming WR class. The same can be said for the incoming DB's with Aaron Williams, D.J. Monroe and Nolan Brewster. Combined with the young positional talent already in the program (and a few athletes searching for a position) we appear to have tremendous talent and depth in both areas for the next four years. Do you foresee these units performing at elite levels at some point? How long do you think it would take to get there? Do you see an elite PR/KR in the group?

A: I don't think there's any question that the wide receiver and defensive back positions have been loaded up for the future, but it's because of the combined recruiting efforts from 2006-08 more than any one class. Its one thing to land commitments from players like Williams and Monroe and it's another to do it one year after you signed Curtis Brown, Ben Wells and Christian Scott. Add fellow youngsters like Brown and Beasley from that 2006 class and you have a ridiculously good line-up of young players. The same can be said for the wide receiver position. As good as this class in 2008 is and might become, don't forget that young playmakers like Malcolm Williams (Class of 2007) and Montre Webber (Class of 2006) are going to be in the mix as well. I wouldn't foresee there being any talent related issues on those sides of the ball for years. If you're asking me how long it will taker those young kids to get to an elite level, I'd project that it's going to take a couple of years. It certainly did for players like Michael Huff and Cedric Griffin. As for your final question, look for Hales and Brock Fitzhenry to have a big impact as return men on special teams.

Q: (CGarcia89) - 1. With having to replace 3 starters in the OL and now the dwindling depth stuff due to transfers, how concerned is the staff about the running game which needs improvement as well as trying to protect Colt? Do you think the backups will get more playing time early on?

2. Who will be the #2 TE? I remember talk about Josh Marshall possibly moving to TE to help with depth. Or will it be Blaine Irby's job now that he is on the 40 acres?

3. Do you feel that the coaching staff is a little concerned with all the off the field stuff that has happened this year? The transfers due to grades and the legal stuff with Joseph and Melton have left the team a bit thin at spots? Do you expect Melton or anyone else to transfer here over the summer?

A: 1. How concerned is the staff about the running game? Well, when you consider that the overall prospects of this season might very well hinge on this very issue, I'd say that it's a major concern. Frankly, this team needs a few good bounces to go there way this season. For instance, Cedric Dockery must be fully recovered from his knee injury. While he might be a better player than ever, there's certainly no guarantee that he will be all the way back from that injury. Meanwhile, everyone is taking a huge leap of faith that the other guard spot will be fine, but no player has stepped up to the point that they can be counted on in a definitive role at the position. Really, there's a question mark with every single projected starter on the line this year. I would expect that the Longhorns won't play a true two-deep rotation like they have in past seasons. Look for Mac McWhorter to try to find his five best players and if he can spin out two or three solid reserves, he's going to be a happy man.

2. Man, you are full of questions without definitive answers this week. I really think true freshman Blaine Irby is going to be a player that sees immediate playing time in some sort of role, but there's no way of knowing for sure where he fits in until the pads come on. Josh Marshall could give them a little something as a receiver, but that's not really what they need at the position, which is why I think Irby has a chance to be a vital first-year performer.

3. Does a bear crap in the woods? Of course, the coaching staff is concerned about the off-field issues, but I don't think it's reflective of the overall environment that they've created in Austin in any shape or fashion. College athletes have been getting into trouble for decades, so it would be unfair to say one school has a monopoly on the situation. I don't think the staff feels like the 2007 season is in any kind of danger because of a few stupid decisions by a few players, but he knows that every similar headline that comes out from this point on will be seen as the continuation of a trend. Therefore, you better believe that Brown will be looking to cut off these issues in the future. I'm really not sure how you do that, but that's why Brown gets paid the big bucks.

Q: (quanseeker) - I think many of us were a little worried about our secondary being green this year even before the loss of Robert Joseph. Where do we stand right now in the safety position and how well do you think Ben Wells (or someone else) can step in to a starting role? Does this affect Curtis Brown at all and what is the likelihood that Brown sees any significant playing time this year?

A: First of all, I think it's almost a foregone conclusion that Marcus Griffin is one of the starter's at safety. That will likely leave seniors Drew Kelson and Erick Jackson to battle it out for the other spot. Kelson struggled some this spring with the transition back to safety, but we'll know more in August about just where he is as a player there. As for Jackson, he probably had the best spring of any player at the position, but consistency and heath issues still remain heading into the fall. I think Wells will play this year, but I think he's going to be hard-pressed to push a couple of seniors out of the way. As for Curtis Brown, I don't think the stuff at safety impacts him whatsoever, unless someone else gets moved from corner, which would mean one less player to beat out for playing time. But, he's staying at corner, even if it means his playing time is limited in 2007.

Q: (McGuapo): Since we are all turning more of our attention to next year's recruiting class, can you give us a breakdown of what Texas' needs might be at each position and how many we are likely to recruit? Class size? Also, according to recent reports, QB looks to be a loaded position next year in recruiting. Can you rank what positions appear to be the strongest in state next year? Thanks.

A: I don't know that the Longhorns will go into the 2009 recruiting year with any drastic needs because of the recruiting success of the last three years. Look for Texas to take a smaller class (15-17) and the goal will be to load up on as many difference makers as a possible across the board. Obviously, the quarterback position will be the most talked about position in 2009 and it seems pretty clear at this point that Russell Shepard will be heavily involved. He's the top guy in the state at the moment at his position, but with two years left to play, it's too soon to get into the order of the quarterbacks in that class. We should know more after this season, but Shepard, Garrett Gilbert, Jacob Karam and Casey Pachall are all viable options to say the least.

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