January 28, 2009

The Ticket City Locker Room Report

Q: (SouthHolland) - There was a lot of excitement about Darius White after the release of his first highlight video a few days ago. My question is simply how would you compare White to previous top WR recruits Rueben Randle and Julio Jones? Or is that comparison a little too out there? I noticed that White is very similar to Julio Jones in height, weight, forty time, and vertical.

A: I don't think there's any question that White is going to be viewed just like those guys, which means that he's going to be rated as an elite-level national prospect. Will he be five stars? I think when it's all said and done, he has a chance to be the No.1-rated wide receiver in the country, but there's a lot that goes into that and I'm sure we'll know more after the camps, combines and all-star games across the nation conclude. I've had two college coaches that recruit the state tell me that White is the closest thing athletically to Roy Williams that they've seen since 2000. I think the only question I have about White is the ability to make the transition from FWISD to major college football. His athletic tools are crazy good, but there's no way of knowing how long it will take him to make the tough transition.

Q: (Golfpr3145) - Ketch why doesn't Mack and company go after a big tight end like Jermaine Gresham? Seems like we only go after the David Thomas types. I would think that a huge target would really benefit the type of offense that we run.

A: I think part of the problem has been that Texas has been mostly unwilling to go out of state to address to address the position, unless prospects have been willing to come to them (re: Blaine Irby and Zach Pianalto). With the state of Texas not having the quality of prospects at the position in recent years that the national elite would truly covet, I probably would have made a stronger effort to go after more national prospects, especially in 2008 when the numbers across the nation were so strong. Obviously, the quality of prospects improved in-state in 2009, which will allow them to upgrade the talent at the position with Barrett Matthews and Trey Graham, but when you look at the 2010 class, the top physical prospects in the state have serious academic question marks next to their names. Finding talents like Jermaine Gresham is easier said than done, so it's hard to sit here and beat up on the Texas staff about not having a guy like that on the roster because how many schools truly have someone like that? Two? Three? Maybe. Still, there's no question that this position was too thin behind Blaine Irby and once he was lost to injury, the position was a complete afterthought because of the severe talent drop-off.

Q: (Nbhorn81) - I think we all know that we are a fan base that can place "unreal" expectations on a young man. With that said, how in the world is Garret Gilbert ever going to live up to the expectations that have already been put on him? I have heard some posters say they expect at least two MNC's! That's insane in my opinion. College football being as competitive as it is today, should we temper our expectations? Last question. You guys hiring??

A: I'm as guilty as anyone when it comes to placing high expectations on Gilbert because I've gone on record as saying I think the Longhorns will play for a national title while he's the quarterback, barring injuries or something totally unforeseen. Of all the quarterbacks I've seen this state produce since 1996, Gilbert ranks with Drew Brees and Vince Young as the best I've seen. I think the kid is the most advanced prospect that Greg Davis has ever been able to work with and when you consider the kid's make-up and the fact that Davis has a track-record of producing record-breaking quarterbacks, I just have a hard time thinking this kid isn't going to have a sensational career. Let's tame the talk of two championships because those suckers are hard to come by and you need a little luck, but I'm confident in saying that Gilbert will help put this team in a position to play for one. Meanwhile, we're always looking for talented additions to the staff, so send me your resume.

Q: (Classic54) - I was very impressed with the two-back misdirection plays that Florida ran out of the spread formation, as well as the triple option with the shuttle pass to the tight end being one of the options. As someone who is familiar with Greg Davis, do you think he will incorporate something similar to the current spread offense that Texas runs?

A: I think college football is a copycat sport and you'll likely see quite a few teams, including the Longhorns that look to borrow from that set of play-calling that the Gators used out of a variety of formations of their spread attack. The coaching staff looks at stuff like this every off-season and the key is selecting the concepts that are right for your schemes and personnel.

Q: (thebigbopper) - 1) What is one promise of improvement you believe the staff will make good upon in 2009? 2) What one out of state prospect will the staff deliver in the 2010 signing class, not counting Jordan Hicks?

A: I think you're going to hear throughout the off-season about a commitment to improve the running game. Every year there seems to be one crusade that Texas head coach Mack Brown talks about from February through the end of the pre-season and I think this is going to be it. We've already heard speculation that Greg Davis plans on using Colt McCoy a little more under center than they have in the last two seasons and I think they feel like it might help them get a little more downhill in that phase. It's a work in progress, but they are going to be committed to making improvements there.

As for your second question, keep an eye on the out of state receiver prospects, especially Georgia prep star Tai-ler Jones.

Q: (Moblack82) - I have a few questions for you. Can you give a true accurate height on McCoy and what you think he weighs right now. Also do you know if Greg Davis is visiting any other OC's in the off-season to pick up any offensive tips?

A: McCoy is currently listed as 6-3, 210 pounds on the school's official website, but I'd probably put him in the 6-1 to 6-2 range if he's barefoot, but I bet the weight is close to being spot on. Also, the schools that Davis plans on visiting have not been announced, but every OC in the nation usually makes the rounds to a couple of different places in the spring and I doubt that will change this off-season.

Q: (Stevo8222) - Do you see Tr Newton getting some playing time next year?

A: I don't think anything has been settled at the running back position, which means every guy on the roster is going to have a chance to compete for serious playing time in 2009, including Newton.

Q: (ringerads) - If you were Mack Brown and could take any 3 receivers next year (that currently are on the radar), which 3 would you choose and why?

A: Give me Fort Worth Dunbar's Darius White, Dallas Skyline's Mike Davis and DeSoto's Darius Terrell. All three are national prospects and they each bring different skill sets in my mind, but the biggest thing that all three bring to the table is the ability to make plays in the vertical passing game. White and Davis are probably the best two receivers in the state at turning nothing into something, and the Longhorns don't have enough guys on the current roster that can take a three-yard hitch and turn it into an 80-yard highlight reel play. Terrell is a big, strong, physical receiver that has the ability to climb the ladder and snatch the football at its highest point. If the Longhorns can put together a class of receivers with this kind of talent, the position within the program is going to get a major talent boost.

Q: (MCB0703) - 1. In your opinion, what's going on with John Chiles? Before the start of last season (maybe late spring), the coaches asked Chiles if he would consider a position change. After refusing, Mack Brown stated that Chiles was the #2 QB going into training camp & he stayed #2 through the season. Now we read that the coaches approached Chiles again about a position change to WR...and again, Chiles says no & believes he can/will play QB @ Texas. If the coaches have asked JC to consider this change on two separate occasions, this can only mean the coaches do not believe Chiles has developed @ QB & I'm not sure Mack Brown or Greg Davis have the confidence in Chiles to lead this team to a championship.

2. Also, have there been any developments at the WR position that should be cause for concern? First, the coaches ask JC to change positions; then OB confirms Texas is after a project WR (although talented) in Cobi Hamilton while still taking 3-4 WR/ATH for the 2010 class. It appears Montre Webber and Philip Payne have been rumored as transfers, but that would still leave 9 WR's (including Greg Timmons) on scholarship (10 WR's if DJ Grant is still considered a WR). Why the last minute need to take a player that has been playing football for about 2 years? Has something occurred within the group of WR's on scholarship that tells the coaches another is needed for this class? Or is it just the natural talent of Hamilton that may be too hard to pass up?

A: I think there are a couple of different layers to this conversation. First, Chiles believes in his heart that he has the ability to play at the next level at quarterback, but he did not have the luxury of a redshirt season and I bet if you asked him away from a recorder, he'd tell you that the extra year of seasoning would/will do him a lot of good. It's one of the reasons why I believe the possibility of a transfer is still on the table because he still has three years of eligibility to play two, but that's probably only going to happen at another school because Texas cannot afford to redshirt him at this point because of depth purposes. In my mind, this idea that he might end up at wide receiver is just fan rhetoric because that's really not something that's been on the table for a while and I don't think we'll see it moving forward. The bigger issue that needs to be addressed is the confidence level that the staff has with Chiles because it's clear at this point that they seem to believe he's limited within the structure of the current offense, especially in the passing game. This is a big next few months for Chiles because I think the progress he either makes or doesn't make this spring will determine the ultimate direction that his career in Austin takes.

As for the second question, I don't know that I would paint such a dim picture of what's taking place at wide receiver, but there are obviously some issues at the position that need to be addressed. Whether Webber or Payne (I'm hearing he will) return in 2009, neither has been able to get on the field and there doesn't seem to be a lot of hope from those inside the program that a switch is going to suddenly turn on after three seasons in Austin. Also, Monroe is going to have to work harder in the classroom this semester than he's ever worked before just to ensure that he's a factor in the fall. Add in the fact that the move of Grant to tight end appears to be permanent and Jordan Shipley will depart after his second senior season, and you can see how the numbers have been impacted in a way that the staff has gone from feeling very comfortable about them (February 2008) to understanding that the position suddenly needs to be addressed (January 2009).

That being said, the Longhorns will have Shipley in 2009, along with emerging contributors Brandon Collins, James Kirkendoll and Malcolm Williams. All three players made significant contributions in 2008 when they were called upon and one of the most important storylines of the Fiesta Bowl was the contributions of Collins and Kirkendoll in that game. If we're to take anything away from their performance, it's that the position should be in safe hands this season, even with the departure of Quan Cosby. The question mark that the staff cannot yet answer deals with the younger players in the program.

Nobody knows what Dan Buckner, DeSean Hales or Brock Fitzhenry are going to give the team, so while the short-term future looks really good, the long-term future is a bit more murky and it's the single-biggest reason why the position is suddenly has major needs. That and the fact that 2010 might be remembered as the year of the wide receiver in the state's recruiting and the staff wants to take advantage of that.

Q: (x8-1839) - Much has been made about how Brian Orakpo made himself some money against OU's celebrated Philip Loadholt. I'm curious how NFL scouts will view Rylan Reed's limiting Orakpo to 2 tackles/no sacks in our game against Tech. Was it really a dominant performance by Reed? Or did the refs help Reed by not calling holding

A: I think there are a couple of points that need to be made. First, a player like Orakpo that has played so much football against elite-level competition over the course of four seasons is never going to be evaluated off of any single performance. Second, the line splits and depth of Tech's quarterbacks make that game a tough one to gauge if you're just looking at the stats. The offense is set up in a way that allows for the quarterback to get rid of the ball with ease, even if his tackle is beaten like a drum. Third, Orakpo missed part of the game with injury, but he still showed a couple of flashes in that game, even if the stat sheet didn't reflect it. Finally, I don't think the scouts are going to be overly concerned with Reed's holding.

Q: (walk-on horn) - 1. Looking back on the running back recruitment between the years of 2006, 2007, and 2008:

(a) the Texas coaches rated Emmanuel Moody, Vondrell McGee and Michael Goodson all about the same in 2006;

(b) we really didn't go hardcore after Lennon Creer and were content with Foswhitt Whittaker and Cody Johnson in 2007; and

(c) we didn't even offer Jermie Calhoun and had the Darrell Scott disaster that left us with only Jeremy Hills and Tre Newton in 2008.

What did you think of those decisions at the time? What do you think of them now?

A: Let's go year-by-year.

2006: None of the "Big Three" at running back in 2006 have lived up to expectations, although I don't have any questions about Goodson's talent level. I really thought all three were going to be big-time college players, although I had more question marks about Moody than the other two after watching him in person during his senior season. None of these three have lived up to their advanced billing, but outside of current Texas Tech starter Baron Batch (three stars), there's not another in-state running back in this year's class that's made so much as a dent thus far with any team. In retrospect, the team should have gone out of state, but that didn't appear to be the case to anyone at the time, so it's not really a fair point to beat the Texas staff up over.

2007: Kendall Hunter is the only in-state prospect that has emerged from this class from the entire state and he was coming off of a major knee injury and there were academic concerns. It's probably too early to know what the final report is going to say about Whittaker, Creer and a guy like Texas A&M's Bradley Stephens. This was the first of three straight recruiting classes where I felt at the time that the Longhorns should have gone out of their way to go on a national search at this position.

2008: Jaquizz Rodgers was a flat out miss, but Texas wasn't the only school to miss that evaluation. Outside of Rodgers, the jury is out on the rest of the lot, so it's too soon to make any sweeping conclusions about this class. That being said, I wasn't the biggest fan of the way the Longhorns handled the running back recruiting in 2008 because there was a big need for big-play weapons at the position and the team did not do enough to address that in my mind, even with the recruitment of five-star Darrell Scott. Still, it's possible that DJ Monroe or DeSean Hales could give this team something in that regards, so we'll have to see ho things play out.

Overall, I think the biggest concern about running back recruiting is that this state is not producing enough high-quality college players for the staff to rely on it 95 percent of the time in recruiting each year. There's been an obscene amount of highly-rated busts at this position in-state within the last ten years and at some point I think you need to start drawing some conclusions about what the state's talent base is actually producing in the wake of the trending to the spread offense across the state at the high school level.

Q: (FloridaHorn) - First time long time.... I was curious on your opinion regarding the possibility that we see Colt under center in a one back or I-formation set next year. Given recent statements and our recruiting choices (i.e. bigger backs in Newton and Whaley), it would appear that this could be our direction.

A: I'm taking a wait-and-see approach to the "Colt playing under center" talk that's going around. Will we see more of that this season? Probably. Will it become anything close to a foundation of the Longhorn offense? Not likely. The Longhorns offense was really good this year out of the shotgun. They scored a lot of points, gained a lot of yards and helped win a lot of games. I don't expect Greg Davis to reinvent the wheel this year in an effort to improve the running game and they aren't going to blow up what's working really well just to make that happen.

Also, I'm a firm believer that Garrett Gilbert was born to play in the spread offense that Greg Davis is currently running. Can he play under center? No doubt. Is he better out of the spread? If we're talking about the college game and the college game alone, then the answer is yes.

The wild-card in all of this could be Will Muschamp because he has indicated that he prefers more of a pro-style offense, so at some point you'd think that the program will go in that direction when and if he becomes the Longhorns head coach after Mack Brown steps down.

Q: (A-Train #123) - There seems to be an over abundance of WR's in the 2010 class, with Mike Davis (Skyline), Darius White (FW Dunbar), DeAndrew White (North Shore), Darius Terrell (DeSoto), James Haynes (WOS), Eddie Johnson (Midlothian), DeAndre Perry (Austin Bowie), and Quentin Parks (Atascocita) all being in the Top 50 WR's in the state, what are the chances of the coaches going out of state early for WR talent? Trovon Reed (LA), and Tai-Ler Jones (GA?) are the two known candidates are there any others?

A: There's no question that the state is loaded in 2010 at the wide receiver position. It's is LOADED. The only way the out of state receivers remain strong considerations beyond February is if they are seriously interested in giving an early commitment. Unless they can't close the deal with the top in-state options, there's not any need to mess with out of state prospects this year.

Q: (Insp_Clouseau) - In this week's Sports Illustrated, they broke down where different teams get their recruits. Of all the BCS schools, Texas had the highest percentage of in state recruits of any school. I have heard that one reason for this is that Mack has a lot of loyalty to the Texas High School coaches and that because of this he wants to reward them by recruiting their players and giving them scholarships to the University of Texas.

Obviously, this has worked out well for him, but despite this, every year there are a handful of top notch out of state recruits that many believe we could have landed had we gone after them. Other schools like USC and Florida get a majority of their talent in state and then go out of state to get between 30-40% of their talent from the rest of the country. They seem to get the top notch talent in state and still are able to get a good number of five star talent elsewhere.

My question has a number of parts. Do the high school coaches notice the fact that Mack does not go out of state much and does it help us out in any way? How do Carroll, Meyer and others go out of state so much and still keep their respective high school coaches satisfied? As far as team chemistry goes, do you think there is an advantage to recruiting regionally as opposed to nationally? This year's team had outstanding chemistry. Do teams like USC and Florida have that even with their players who come from far away?

A: No, I don't believe the state's high school coaches are anywhere near as loyal to Mack as he is to them, but that's just the way that it is. Overall, Mack's been paid off in a big way for his commitment to the Texas high schools, but that doesn't man that it's matched. It's something that some coaches care about and others don't care about at all. Those other coaches that you mentioned at schools like Florida and USC recruit in different climates than Brown has to, and some of that is by design. You have to remember what the recruiting climate was when Mack took over at Texas before you can judge how it works a decade later. When he got here, the Longhorns were not winning in the urban areas of the state and were really getting raided by out of state schools. Mack's commitment to the state's high school prospects might seem short-sighted in 2009 (and it certainly does at times), but in a more complete and global view of things, you'll know that the Longhorns probably aren't the program that they are today without the strategy. From a chemistry standpoint, I think there's something to be said from the kinship that comes from a team that possesses a lot of team and state pride.

Q: (Utsaappt802) - My question to you this week is regarding official offers. Looking through the newly released LSR for players in the 2010 class today I noticed one glaring difference on each player's report card. Every school listed under a certain player has officially offered at this time except for Texas. Why is this? Do we wait until NSD is over before sending official offers out of respect for the 2009 guys or is that just the way Mack likes to do it? Also, do you see that this hurts us in any way having other schools officially offer before we do? I have read several times where a player will say that they took an interest in such a school simply because they where the first to offer them. Help explain this to a novas when it comes to recruiting and the Mack Brown way of things regarding this topic. Thanks

A: The Longhorns have not budged off of their stance that they won't issue scholarship offers until the current recruiting class puts ink to their letters of intent. In a lot of ways, they believe that the policy helps them because it brings a lot of value to receiving an offer from the Longhorns. It's certainly lends a lot of credence to the idea that it makes those that receive them more likely to give an early commitment because each prospect is made to understand that the slot is highly coveted across the state and you've they've not only been chosen as one of the select few, but there's a short window of availability because of the fact that each offer is so highly coveted. Does it have a negative impact at times? Sure it does. No recruiting strategy is ever going to work 100% of the time, but the staff seems to do a better job of staying in touch with the prospects that they truly covet than they have in the past. If a prospect isn't in talks with the staff at this point, they probably are not going to be key targets because the lack of communication is rarely an accident.

Q: (Born Again Horn) - After lasts years bowl game (AZ State), Mack made the comment the offense was going to add more "trick plays" into its arsenal. Maybe I am wrong, but outside of the Rice game, UT did not run any "trick" plays (excluding special teams). Any thoughts on why Mack shelved the "trick plays?"

A: I don't think he felt like his team needed them, which wasn't the case after the bowl game. Mack entered 2008 thinking his team was possibly a season away from national prominence, but they grew up quickly and didn't often need a lot of flash and gimmicks to put a lot of points on the scoreboard. Colt McCoy throwing the ball was enough more times than not.

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