February 13, 2008

Inside the Locker Room

Q: (Srtncū) - Handicap the Russell Shepard sweepstakes?

A: That's the million dollar question right now for most Longhorn fans, but it's probably not one that can be answered by anyone other than Shepard. The only issue keeping him from committing on Sunday appears to have been the one that deals with his future position at the next level. Only Shepard knows how much of a deal breaker this issue really is when it's all said and done. Does Shepard believe that he has serious NFL potential at quarterback or does he believe that he'll eventually have to witch positions to realize those dreams? There can be very little debate in my mind that he has the potential to be an elite-level college quarterback because of his ability to create plays with his feet, but he still has quite a bit of ways to go before we could speculate on his NFL future at the position because he has had so few reps in the passing game through this stage of his career.

At the end of the day, Shepard's view of himself is going to be paramount. Of course, Texas could change their minds about giving him a look at quarterback, but that line of thinking might not materialize until the conclusion of the spring. So, we're just going to have to wait and see how things play out a little because there are just too many questions without answers at this point. One thing does seem certain and that's that opposing schools will use the Texas staff's position on the quarterback debate against them.

Q: (Stampedingsteerū) - Your breakdown of the current scholly players indicates 83 with 12 of those scheduled to depart leaving 14 schollies for 2009 - how many more schollies do you project based on players leaving early for either NFL, transfer for more playing time or grade casualties.

Compare Chris Whaley to Vondrell McGee, Jeremy Hills and Tre Newton. With the miss on that other kid from Cali., would you say our running back stable is still solid?

When is the Spring game - date and time?

A: I think it's fairly safe to assume that over the course of the next 18 months of so, the Longhorn football program will likely suffer some attrition which will create the opportunity for the Longhorns to give in the neighborhood of 20 scholarships this season at a minimum.

If we're comparing the running backs that you listed, I think you'll find that all four players possess different strengths and weaknesses as players/prospects. Whaley probably possesses the biggest set of tools to work with because of his combination of size and athleticism. Depending on how his body develops over the course of the next few years, he could eventually develop into a prospect at a number of different positions. With the other players, you're talking about. As far as the other three players are concerned, I'd view McGee as the best pure running back prospect and a guy who is probably the strongest between the tackles, while Hills has the most big-play pop and Newton is probably the most well-rounded of the quartet we're discussing. None of them possess the rare combination if size and athleticism that Whaley possesses, which is why he's such an intriguing prospect. Overall, the Longhorns have a lot of parts, but not one dominant candidate to carry the full workload in my opinion.

Finally, per the UT SID office, no exact time and date for the spring game has been set

Q: (Andrew Sauer) - How do you see the quarterback situation playing out during the spring? What has to happen there for Russell Shepard to commit? Also, who do you see stepping up at receiver?

A: I don't think anyone can sit down right this very second and attempt to project with any kind of success what will happen in the spring. We know that junior Colt McCoy is going to be the starter, but the competition behind him will be intense. Can John Chiles give the team a throwing option to go along with his skills as a runner? Can Sherrod Harris show enough to warrant moving him ahead of Chiles and potentially stunting the growth of a player that has at least shown flashes of big-play ability. Where does G.J Kinne fit into all of this? Is he developed in the passing game to such an extent in comparisons to the other two back-ups that he will rise above both on the depth chart?

All of these questions will factor in to what eventually happens and whether a potential discussion about position changes might take place. In order for the staff to change their vision of Shepard as a prospect, it might take one or two of the three young players behind McCoy to fail in developing, which would make the need for another quarterback prospect important. For instance, if Harris moved to defensive back and/or Chiles moved to wide receiver, the numbers at quarterback would look dramatically different than they currently look.

Finally, I think the young receivers from the 2007 class (James Kirkendoll, Brandon Collins and Malcolm Williams), along with those in the 2008 recruiting class will play a very large role this season in the offense this season.

Q: (crg5698) - How does UT compare to OU and A&M in football recruiting the past 3 years since UT won the national championship?

How does UT compare to OU and A&M as a team in the next 3 years? Another chance for another title?

A: In comparing Texas and Oklahoma, you have to take several factors into consideration. First, the Longhorns owned the Sooners in the period of time from 2006-07, which are the years that directly followed Texas winning two Rose Bowls and one national title. The Sooners responded in 2008 with a much better type of class than they had signed the previous two seasons. That being said, the Sooners recruit well nationally, which allowed them to compensate for their high volume of head-to-head losses against Texas. As for the Aggies, they aren't really even in the discussion as far as I'm concerned, as they are considerably behind the other two when discussing incoming talent from the past three recruiting seasons. Overall, both Texas and Oklahoma have more young talent in their program than any two schools in the Big 12, while I view the Aggies as being significantly behind the other two schools. I suppose an A&M fan would point to the on-field success that the Aggies have had against Texas in the last two seasons to refute the point, but it really doesn't have anything to do with the discussion of incoming talent into all three programs.

Q: (Leonidas05) - I was wondering which quarterback DO YOU think will make the transfer or position switch after the spring? What postions do you see Ryan Roberson, Philip Payne, and D.J. Monroe ending up?

A: I'm very interested to see how Sherrod Harris performs during the spring because he probably feels like he was unfairly passed on the depth chart this season. If his opportunities are limited this spring and he doesn't begin to start making some real headway in the competition for the top back-up spot, I'm going to be curious to see what he does. As for the other players you listed, I think Roberson should get a look at linebacker, while I'd like to see what Payne can do at running back and Monroe is definitely going to be a cornerback.

Q: (texasdem32) - I've noticed there has been relatively little talk concerning the in-state linebackers this winter and I was wondering what your thoughts are on them. Are there any must-haves? How many are "Texas Good" and who are they? Do you think we can fulfill our LB recruiting needs in-state? If not, who would we take a look at OOS?

Also, there have been reports that say RS would commit if offered as a QB, and there have been conflicting reports that he has already been. I think us OBs want a little clarification on that. And if he hasn't already, what are the odds he does receive an offer as a QB, or ATH with a guaranteed shot at the job?

A: I haven't seen an in-state linebacker that I'm in love with at this point, although I think Converse Judson's Chris McAllister is the most athletic and might possess the most upside of the group I have seen. The biggest issue I have with him at this point in that he's probably a better pass rusher off the edge than anything else and I'm not sure he'll be asked to play to those strengths in college because of his size. If I'm the Texas recruiting coordinator, I'm definitely looking out of state for linebacker talent because I haven't see anything to suggest that they'll find replacements for the likes of Jared Norton, Sergio Kindle and Roddrick Muckelroy inside this state.

As for Shepard, it remains to be seen whether he'll get that shot to compete at quarterback. I'm not sure you can handicap them right now.

Q: (ut_alh) - When I think of our future running game, I keep going back to the way that Florida uses Percy Harvin. Does Texas have anyone that could play a similar role on the roster or in the '08 class? If not, is there someone in the '09 class that could be this versatile?

A: There's only one Harvin in college football right now and he plays for the Florida Gators. I think a guy like DeSean Hales has the potential to be that kind of performer, but if you look at the returning players on the Texas roster, there's nobody that you can even mention in the same type of breath as Harvin. I also haven't seen anyone in Texas from the 2009 class that belongs in the same sentence as Harvin. He's a much more explosive and rare player than you probably realize.

Q: (Slc_horn) - With spring practice right around the corner do you see any possible position changes that we should keep a look out for? What redshirt freshman do you think will make an impact next year?

A: I'm sure there are a number of position changes that the Longhorn staff would like to take a look at in the coming weeks. I'm sure that taking extended looks at Aaron Lewis and Henry Melton on the inside of the defensive line is something the staff would like to explore. All of the defensive backs on the roster will likely get some cross-training throughout the secondary and a number of players already discussed in this week's Locker Room are obvious candidates for potential moves at some point this spring.

Q: (texas8891) - It seems like we are loading up on a large number of safeties and cornerbacks, with four or five in the 2008 class and already one (with one or two more likely in 2009). Is the coaching staff projecting a number of the recruits will eventually roll down to the LB position during their Longhorn careers, or are they simply hedging their bets to make sure that enough of the recruits pan out on the field? Also, who can you see possible moving in the LB out of the newest signees or even some who have been in the program for a few years. Thanks!

A: I think the staff has taken a large number of defensive back prospects because they realize the importance of taking as many high-end prospects at the position as possible, due to the possibility of injuries, grades or any other number of issues that could deplete the program at depth. That the Longhorns have done so well at recruiting top DB prospects is a credit to Duane Akina and his success at developing players in the defensive backfield. Some of the problems the team had this year in the secondary were directly related to the staff not having enough quality options from their 2003-05 recruiting class. Akina is taking great lengths to ensure that never happens again.

As for potential spin down players from the secondary, I don't see many obvious candidates. I think it's fun to speculate on those possibilities, but I don't see many cases where it makes a lot of sense. For instance, when I look at Nolan Brewster, I see a player that is several years of significant physical development before that kind of move would even be an option.

Q: (MCB0703) - I believe if John Chiles were the starting QB, Mack & Greg Davis could/should implement an offensive scheme similar to the WVU (or new UM) offense. This would allow Chiles, McGee, Newton, & Hills to use their athletic ability & speed to help create more big plays & not rely on the passing game as much. I understand the Chiles needs to become a better passer, but allowing him to move outside the pocket & create plays gives UT more options on offense. That being said, do you believe or have you heard if Chiles will be involved in the offense more this season? I understand Colt will be the starter, but any chance we get to see Chiles play a significant role this season? Possibly sharing time with Colt? Normally, I'm not a proponent of QB's sharing time, but the different styles between Colt & Chiles could become a huge advantage, especially against OU.

A: It really remains to be seen what kind of role Chiles will have in the offense. The staff would like to see some development in the passing game and until they do, it's likely that the staff will move forward with his role in the offense at a slower pace than you'd probably like to see.

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