June 23, 2008

This week's Locker Room Report

Q: (lsampson) - As we all know, the DT position is very slim pickin's right now and is therefore a big question mark. Two questions in regards to the position:

1. Are there any rumblings of position changes of players currently on the roster to increase the depth at the DT spot?
2. Who are the main prospects that we have our eyes on for the 2010 class?

A: I not sure that the overall talent at defensive tackle is "slim picken's", but there is some very real concern about the young talent on campus. I actually happen to believe that there might not be a starting tandem in the Big 12 better than Roy Miller and Lamarr Houston, but I'll admit that I'm projecting Miller to finally have a big season and I have expectations for Houston that he will soon be one of the best defenders in the Big 12.

Once you get beyond those two, you've got some limited depth. Junior Ben Alexander has made improvement and will be a solid role player at the nose-tackle spot. He can eat up some snaps, but he has yet to prove he can be an impact player. Brian Ellis was a key piece of the puzzle for this team heading into this off-season, but he and redshirt freshman Tyrell Higgins have fallen off the map. That means you're going to have Michael Wilcoxon, Jarvis Humphrey and Kheeston Randall pressed into action and one or two of those guys simply has to step up and provide some depth.

Of course, the Longhorns can slide Aaron Lewis inside on passing downs and if there were injury issues, he might have to be given serious consideration for a full-time move, but that's what's available at the moment. This should have been a season where Andre Jones emerged as a starting defensive tackle and an All-Big 12 caliber player, but he threw it all away and it's caused some of the holes in previous recruiting to rear their ugly head.

As for 2010, it's probably too early to project the defensive tackle recruiting because there aren't any huge names on the radar in-state at this point.

Q: (bman25) - What do you expect from the o-line in the future? With our outstanding recruiting do you think we are going to be set for the next 4 years? Can this group ever mature to rival the 2005 line?

Can you please explain the running back and linebacker recruiting this year? All I can come up with is that the staff must really, really like Chris Whaley or they really, really don't like Christine Michael. Why only one running back? Whaley might be too big and Michael is as safe a pick as possible. As for linebackers, why take only two, especially since Dravannti Johnson might not end up playing linebacker? The numbers don't make any sense to me.

A: Mac McWhorter has done an amazing job of reeling in elite-talent and unlike some of the other positions on the roster, there's enough depth in the recruiting to cover the team's backside in the event that trouble arrives. Of course, that wasn't the case as recent as last season, but that shouldn't be a problem for the next few years, in part because of the growing pains that the team was forced to go through by playing young talent.

As far as I can tell, McWhorter might have the toughest job on the staff because determining with players are going to play as starters and which will fill roles as back-ups is going to be tough. I think it's fairly safe to say that Kyle Hix is going to be a fixture at tackle for at least the next two seasons at tackle and possibly three if he stays all four years.

You would think that Tray Allen has a chance to be a fixture on the line for the next three years, with him slotted to be the top back-up at tackle this year and a likely starter once Adam Ulatoski departs. While the talent at tackle was really thin last year because of youth, it should be stockpiled for years to come, especially when you start adding in players like Mark Buchanan and the players from the 2009 recruiting class. Put it like this, barring injuries the Longhorns won't have to replace a tackle due to graduation until 2010.

Over at guard, it's hard to think that Michael Huey isn't going to be a multiple-year starter and Aundre McGaskey might not be far behind him. Both of those guys are very good, but with the talent coming in the most recent recruiting classes, only the strongest will survive across the board. It's going to be an excellent cast and crew heading into the future and the talent is definitely there to eventually rival the best lines from the Mack Brown era.

In regards to your questions about the recruiting at running back and linebacker, I think the answer is in the numbers to a certain extent. With Vondrell McGee, Foswhitt Whitaker, Tre Newton and Jeremy Hills on the roster, the Longhorns have four running backs that will have two or more years of eligibility remaining when Whaley reports next season. The linebacker recruiting is a bit of a head scratcher for me as well, but the one thing I can agree with the Texas staff on is that there aren't any real must-have guys in the state of Texas. From what I can tell there are about five guys that are all pretty much the same and share the same weaknesses.

Of the top linebackers in Texas this year, how many of them of them aren't middle linebacker types that play great running down hill, but struggle in space and have real sideline-to-sideline/playing in space limitations? The Longhorns made the right call in my opinion on holding up offering guys like Tom Wort, Chris Williams and Austin Moss? Throw in Tariq Allen and the Longhorns needs were to get one of those four, but getting Allen, Williams and Wort in the same class limits the upgrade in athleticism that is greatly needed at the position. I'll listen to someone's argument that Texas should have offered Wort or Williams, but if that's the case, then you can't have Allen. The program simply doesn't need a stockpile of players best-suited to playing inside.

Q: (Chasenwilliam) - What the heck is going on with Jamarkus McFarland and what are our chances looking like right now?

A: Texas' chances are strong with McFarland, but it might take a while before he's ready to sort through the finality that comes with making a decision. He would prefer not to have this hanging over him heading into the season, but he also doesn't want to be rushed into making a forced commitment that doesn't follow on his own timeline. I think he'd really like to get away from the recruiting process for a while and see if that helps sort out his feelings. Right now the overall answer to your question is that nothing is going on and that's not automatically a bad thing for the Longhorns.

Q: (Leonidas05) -What's the Fullback position looking like? Where do you think Ryan Roberson will end up playing? Who do you think will be more ready to play Jarvis Humphrey or Kheeston Randall?

A: I think the fullback position is likely going to be a position in flux at the start of the year. Senior Luke Tiemann can be a contributor as a blocker, but he's not going to be on the field at all when there's a need for his place on the field to be filled by a player. Sophomore Blaine Irby is going to see some snaps here, but he's not going to be a sledgehammer in the running game in the team wants to go to a true two-back, power running attack. Cody Johnson might be a long-term option at the position, but there's not going to be a dominant player at the position this year and the staff won't make it a huge feature of the offense.

Roberson is currently working out at linebacker in the off-season seven-on-seven workouts. As for the incoming defensive tackle, the smart money is on Randall, who has shown up this summer in better shape.

Q: (DeepEddyHorn) - What is your opinion on whether Texas needs to reel in another LB in the 09 class?

As it stands, the last 3 recruiting classes will include:

Tariq Allen - 4 Stars
Patrick Nkwopara - 3 Stars

Emmanuel Acho - 3 Stars
Dravannti Johnson - 4 Stars (may be moved to DE)

Keenan Robinson - 4 Stars

A: I think your question pretty much sums everything up without me having to say anything. There should be a full-tilt national push to upgrade this position because the amount of available in-state talent isn't providing the answers. If you need a cautionary tale about what kind of results this strategy can produce, look no further than the situation in the secondary right now after the mistakes in recruiting from 2004-05. Signing only three players in those two classes left little room for error and if one or two of those five players doesn't pan out, it's going to leave real depth issues. At this point, it almost seems like they are de-emphasizing the position because the numbers don't make a lot of sense and there doesn't seem to be a feeling of urgency about the position.

There's always the chance they could spin down a defensive back or two, but how many times has that worked out for the program in Mack Brown's tenure? A position change is usually the kiss of death and nothing else. Also, at some point you can't keep robbing Peter to pay Paul. There's simply no adequate reason to explain why the best and brightest linebacker prospects that this nation has to offer shouldn't be available to the Longhorns. Am I crazy and missing something here?

Q: (centexu) - Since there has been so much discussion about the recently released rankings, who would you peg as our most underrated and overrated recruits and why?

A: I'd probably say the most underrated player in the 2009 class is Barrett Matthews, who is currently a three-star prospect and probably deserves to be ranked higher. In looking at the commitment list, I'm not sure that there's an overrated kid, but I will say that I was surprised when Garrett Porter was pegged as a national top 50 prospect.

Q: (ptrain37) - Can you settle the question of how tall Michael Brewer is? I went to the Lake Travis spring game and he looked 5-10 at best to me.

A: I think if you measured him barefoot, he's probably a shade under 6-0. It's been a few months since I stood next to him, but that's what I'd guess. You'd like to see him grow a few more inches and it's possible that he might still get there since he's just finishing his sophomore year in high school. Also, I'll be interested to see how Texas responds to him as a recruit, especially in light of the decisions not to offer Todd Reesing and Chase Daniel. Its apples and oranges to a certain extent, but height played at least some part with both players.

Q: (Rafa) - A question about 3 second year guys I haven't heard much about. Sam Acho looked very good last year, yet the pre-season magazines don't list him on the two-deep. I expect big things from him this year with Lamar Houston moving inside. Am I wrong on that? Two other guys that I haven't heard much buzz about are James Kirkendoll and Aundre McGaskey. Big Aundre is on every two deep I have seen, but I haven't heard a word about his progress. Kirkendoll played as a true freshman because he and Collins looked better early on than Malcolm Williams, Phillip Payne, and Montre Webber. Yet Kirkendoll didn't have a single catch all year. What is up with his progression?

A: First, I'm with you all the way on Acho. If it's my call, he'd be the one starting opposite Brian Orakpo and I'd bring Eddie Jones off the bench as my third defensive end and a spark off the bench. Even if you flip-flop those guys and their roles, both guys give the team the most athleticism and pressure off the edge and that's what this team needs to start getting from its ends. Go get you some linebackers that can cover the entire field and let your defensive ends wreak havoc. The three guys that can create the most havoc in my mind are Orakpo, Acho and Jones. Perhaps they aren't the three best overall players, but they provide the most raw athleticism.

As for McGaskey, I think he's very much in the picture for playing time on the two-deep this year, but he's slotted behind a few guys on the depth chart right now and he's got his work cut out for him to get to the front of the line. He's going to be a real factor in the future, but he might be another year away from really making an impact. As for Kirkendoll, it's all about consistency. He's having a good start to the summer, but he just needs to keep grinding away and his chances for playing time will greatly increase. The truth is that the Longhorns need a lot of what Kirkendoll can provide of the light switch goes off. Keep in mind that he's not a flanker and that's the position that really needs help this year, which is you're hearing more about guys like Williams and Webber. In reality, that's not who he's competing against to get on the field.

Q: (daltonhorn) - How much of a positive impact has Will Muschamp has on recruiting? Will he continue to bring OOS recruits in the future the longer he is here?

A: It would be easy to say he's been great for recruiting, but I'm not sure there's a real answer to this question. Yes, recruits love Muschamp, but how many of the current commitments can you definitively say the Longhorns wouldn't have gotten without him? At this point he hasn't really brought in any out of state prospects because Derek Johnson fits the profile of the type of out of state recruiting the Longhorns were chasing before he arrived. He was from the state of Texas, was willing to travel on his own dime and also eager to commit. Perhaps we'll know more later in the year if he's able to land a big-time out of state prospect or if he stays in Austin and becomes a reason for guys like Jackson Jeffcoat to join the ranks. However, at this point, it's hard to gauge his impact.

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