April 15, 2009

The Ticket City Locker Room Report

Q: (Homerjay_570) - 1. Wanted to follow-up from last week when a couple questions were asked about potential offers left to go out for 2010 class and you responded that there weren't any needs left to recruit. Just curious why you don't view TE as a need and have you specifically addressed the potential of an offer for Nate Askew?

2. Any chance you'd be willing to add a little clarity for new people to the board and give a rival stars ranking to the supposed insiders so we can distinguish whose info you value? for example, maybe utx gets a 4 star and cujo is a 1 star. That kind of thing would be helpful.

A: Perhaps I should clarify. Yes, the tight end position could use an upgrade and if there was an elite tight end prospect available, I would certainly suggest that Texas make a play at him. That being said, the Longhorns aren't short on numbers at the tight end position, especially with Barrett Matthews and Trey Graham signed in 2009. When you look at the 2010 class, there's a feeling that Darius Terrell is eventually going to be an H-back prospect, so they have addressed that position in this class. Askew is a very interesting player because his vitals on paper are very strong and I think he's a very good football player. Personally, I'd make room for him if any room can be found.

As for your second question, I don't want to give out star rankings to posters, but I think there are a lot of posters on the board that are connected to those close to the program, including utx and cujo. There's nobody out there right now that I think is considered an insider that it entirely full of crap every time they hint that they've got info.

Q: (TEXBTP) - Is there an actual formula that Mack and DeLoss follow for out of conference scheduling? I have heard that the Ohio State scheduling was called a mistake by Mack. Should we take this as Mack never wanted to schedule a game against a top tier BCS conference opponents like USC, LSU, and Florida. I noticed that we like to schedule at least one BCS conference opponent and with games against Ole Miss, UCLA on tap it looks like we only want 2nd tier teams. Do you see us scheduling any big time opponents in the near future? Secondly have you heard anything about the scheduling of games for 2014 seasons and beyond? A timetable perhaps?

A: Here's the thing with the future out of conference schedules that makes it a tough subject to discuss with much certainty - its value is still being determined. The Longhorns have been a steady fixture in BCS national title game discussion for the last five years, so this is a subject that Mack Brown has opened up about during this time. From his vantage point, he's not sure if the value of having the tough out of conference games outweighs the risk.

When they played Ohio State in 2005, he loved the play he got from the national media for winning that game, but he hated that one of those two teams was all but eliminated from the national picture so early in the season. He's said a number of times that they have not yet totally come to a final conclusion on which direction they want to go in. As much as he'd like to be able to line up those big non-conference games, he doesn't want to risk a national championship year when he knows that there are some years when going undefeated in the Big 12 will be enough. What he doesn't know is whether that's true four out of every five years, three in every four years or possible once every other year.

In the meantime, I think they've decided to error on the side of caution in that regard. Overall, the school likes to set up match-ups with schools that have a combination of a couple of things - good academics and a good visit spot for Longhorn faithful that make the trip with the team.

Q: (MBarnett) - I was just wondering if you could give your thoughts on a few things I have noticed regarding Lache Seastrunk. He appears to be a little sensitive to criticism...do you worry this will eventually become a problem (assuming at some point that he is going to be criticized as a high profile athlete playing at a high profile school)? Two other things have stood out to me in the last couple of LS updates I have seen:

1. He seems to infer that he has been lied to at some point. Do you have any idea about what this might be about?
2. He has now said he wants to win the Heisman trophy as a freshman (a la Perriloux). This seems a tad delusional...would this worry you?

A: Fair questions. I think the first thing everyone needs to remember with Seastrunk is that he's currently under the most intense recruiting spotlight that I've probably seen from a kid since I've been in this business. With the evolvement of the recruiting process in recent years, I think Seastrunk is the first true super recruit in this new age of football recruiting when sophomores are becoming household names. Every move and comment that the kid makes is under incredible scrutiny.

The only high school player I've covered that has gone through something similar is Cedric Benson and he never truly went through the recruiting process because he was an early commitment to Texas. All of his craziness dealt with the fact that he was one of the state's most famous athletes and he was still playing high school back out in West Texas. He was dealing with real Friday Night Lights stuff. This stuff that Seastrunk is staring at is completely different in my opinion and it remind some of the kind of stuff that a guy like O.J. Mayo went through when everyone in the nation knew him as a ninth-grade prodigy.

With that in mind, I'm willing to cut Seastrunk a lot of slack if he's a bit sensitive to criticism. I can tell you that in my business there are grown men that can't stand being criticized or even hearing any kind of constructive criticism. It really doesn't bother me any more because I've had so much said and written about me in the last decade that it feels like I've seen/heard it all. But, I'm not 15 or 16 years old. I'm almost 33 years old and I cannot tell you how I would react if I were in Seastrunk's shoes. So, I really do give him the benefit of the doubt and I think he deserves it, given the circumstances. I do think Seastrunk will serve himself very well by choosing a school that is going to protect him somewhat from the heat that will follow him wherever he signs. Expectations will be huge wherever he goes and I think a school with a very strong support system off the field will be important to his success.

As for your second question, there's no question that Seastrunk has made some overtures about someone either lying or misleading him, and I'm not sure what he's referencing. My gut tells me that it's probably not related to Texas in any way because those comments have been out there for a while if I'm not mistaken and he's been to Texas twice in the last three weeks. I've said it a couple of times, but I think his showing up for the spring game is a very positive development for the Longhorns because he had already been back to the 40 Acres the previous week for a unofficial visit. For him to come back a week later when he probably didn't have to, is a big indication in my mind of the very solid footing Texas has in his recruitment. I can't tell you if Seastrunk is going to sign with Texas or not, but I'm convinced that they'll be in the final two when it's all said and done.

Finally, is it unlikely that Seastrunk is a Heisman winner in 2010? Probably. Should you be worried about his dreaming big? My answer to that is probably no more so that anyone needed to be worried about Adrian Peterson when he said he thought he could play in the NFL coming out of high school. As Bill Cosby would say, "Kids say the craziest things."

Q: (P-Mac) - It seems to me Texas has used a rifle approach to recruiting (choose your target carefully, aim carefully, hit what you shoot at most of the time) rather than a shotgun approach (aim in general direction, fire and figure you are bound to hit something). I rather assumed that any high level OOS recruit who had expressed any interest in Texas was already known to the staff at the outset of any recruiting year, and thus already on their radar (and Texas would not be wasting its time shot-gunning offers to kids w/o any interest).

In last week's LR, you suggested that with the 2010 class all but wrapped up, the UT staff look OOS and begin to "troll the halls looking for 5* talent and see if they get any traction." Do you have anyone in particular in mind? Or are you suggesting Mack & Co. try out the shotgun approach and extend offers to 5* difference makers, and see if anyone gets interested? In addition to everything else the school has to offer, the 2010 class is shaping up to be one of the nation's finest, and maybe some of those 5* difference makers who previously had no interest may have some interest now...

In the future, do you see Texas (especially when WM runs the show) taking more of a shotgun approach on a national level? Or will it continue to be limited to OOS kids who have previously expressed some interest in the Longhorns? (Like the 6' 7" TE from the northwest whose dad used to be stationed in El Paso)

A: I wouldn't expect the Longhorns to look at any more than a half-dozen guys, but they've got the time this spring to check out some select out of state guys if they want to and I have to believe that Major Applewhite, Bobby Kennedy and Will Muschamp will at least want to look around a little and they'll get that freedom. That means that the names of any potential OOS targets are still unknown, but we might have answers in the next month or two. Keep in mind that the number could end up being zero, but I doubt that's the case.

Overall, I think it remains to be seen how Muschamp will handle recruiting and whether there will be any major changes. I'm guessing that he's still trying to figure that kind of stuff out in his head, but he's not going to comment publicly on that subject because it's not his place yet. I wouldn't anticipate many major changes because recruiting isn't broke right now.

Q: (eggroll) - With our history at DT, what on earth happened to get us so thin and undermanned at that position right now. I realize we had a kid from El Paso arrested, but I'm not sure with the odds on kids from EP that he would have been a force like we are used to. We had a direct pipeline into the NFL at that position and to be as bare as we are right now doesn't make sense. Looks like OU took the top DTs for several years in a row. Can you give us some insight/reasoning?

A: There are several issues at work here. First, Jones is starting right now for this team if he never gets arrested, stays out of further trouble and doesn't get injured. In his short stint with the program, he impressed everyone greatly. That was a huge loss.

Still, the loss of Jones alone shouldn't have been enough to send the position in a tailspin, but let's look at the defensive tackle recruiting in recent years:

2005 - Roy Miller was a huge hit for the Longhorns, but he was the only defensive tackle signed in this class. Of course, they did miss on the state's top defensive tackle (DeMarcus Granger) that year and that was a big loss from a talent perspective. If you go back and look at the rest of the state from that year, I'm not sure there's a single player that deserved an offer in retrospect, so they were smart to pass on a second in-state DT after they missed on Granger.

2006 - This is a weird class because they recruited Ben Alexander and Brian Ellis to be their defensive tackles, but they ended up getting Lamarr Houston from this class as well after the Longhorns moved him inside because of depth issues. There weren't any big-time in-state defensive tackle prospects that year with Garland's Brandon Antwine being the highest-rated by Rivals that year and he was only regarded as the No.21 DT in the nation. Outside of Alexander, the Longhorns didn't really make a play for any out of state prospects in this class. Bottom line - they were content with taking two three-star prospects and one of them wasn't strong academically. Even with Houston being converted, this class is/was a big part of the problem.

2007 - Train-wreck. Before his career in Austin died, Jones was regarded as the one player in this class that Texas could ill-afford to miss on. They needed to him to be great because he was the only difference maker at the position signed at the position between 2006-07. The other two players in the class were Michael Wilcoxon and Tyrell Higgins - two players that were not highly rated and were mostly regarded as long-term projects with limited athleticism. It should be noted that the Longhorns made an effort to recruit highly rated OOS star prospects Marvin Austin and Joseph Barksdale that year, but stopped recruiting both before the end of the summer. The scary part of this class was that there really weren't any other kids in-state at the position that you wish you could have gotten in on. It's not like there was a Granger in this class that they missed. It was a pretty bare in-state class.

2008 - After taking three in 2007, the Longhorns signed two in this class and they landed the best two prospects in the state at this position. Kheeston Randall is already in a position to fight for a starting job, but Jarvis Humphrey has battled medical issues and his career is in question. Both had big expectations coming in, so potentially losing one of the two so early is very disappointing to say the least.

If you look at that four-year recruiting window that is responsible, you'll find that they signed eight defensive tackle prospects, not counting Lamarr Houston. The breakdown of that group looks like this:

Jury still out: 2 (Wilcoxon and Higgins)
Home run: 1 (Miller)
On track to be a starter: 1 (Randall)
Decent contributor: 1 (Alexander)
Arrested: 1 (Jones)
Flunked out: 1 (Ellis)
Serious medical condition: 1 (Humphrey)

It's not rocket science. Even a football novice can see that things haven't exactly worked out the way the staff would have planned. The biggest losses were Jones and Humphrey because those guys were recruited to be starters. I'm not sure that everyone that they've gone after has similar talent levels and upsides.

Here are two things that I believe the staff needs to learn from this lesson as they move forward:

1. They have to make a greater commitment in some years to go out of state. It was not an issue in 2010 because this was an unusually deep year at the position, but it's a major issue in almost every other year since 2005. The lack of quality depth at the position does not and has not warranted recruiting in-state exclusively. If it means that they have to go out and recruit like the rest of the nation (without a net) for some of the truly elite prospects at this position, then that's what they've got to do.

2. They need to stop settling for talent that's not at the level that they should be demanding. None of the lower rated prospects that Texas took between 2005-08 have panned out with any real success.

Q: (DropShot_7) - As in any business, you're going to deal with people that you hate, or just plain dislike. My question for you is, do you ever cover a recruit that you just want to slap across the face? And if/when you encounter those circumstances, do you find it difficult to write about them with an objective point of view, including your day-to-day comments about them on the boards?

A: Not really. I tend to have pretty good relationships with almost all of the kids I've ever dealt with over the years. There have been a few guys like Chris Boggas and Ofa Mohetau that might have frustrated me, but I've never really been angered to think point that I'd take a swing if I could. I can't say my patience always extends over to the message boards at all times.

Q: (Hookem83) - Some consider the DL to have to most question marks on their side of the ball heading into the season. How has Kheeston Randall been progressing? Do you think he will become a difference maker at DT this season?

Also, Eddie Jones was out for the spring. How is his recovery going? Will he be ready for summer drills? What kind of impact do you think he will have at DE in '09?

A: Randall is coming along pretty well, but we need to keep in mind that he's a true sophomore that's being pressed into a major role out of dire necessity. That's a little unfair, but it is what it is. He had a good spring, but he hasn't been as consistent as Lamarr Houston or Ben Alexander which isn't surprising because of his relative lack of experience. The kid has the talent level to eventually become a star, but there's no telling when the light switch will turn on. Cross your fingers.

Jones' rehab is coming along nicely and he's expected to be cleared for the start of drills in August. When healthy, Jones gives the Longhorns a defensive end with starting ability. The question is whether he can stay healthy for a full season and right now there's not an answer.

Q: (CHUCK8301) - 1. Over the past couple of seasons I have watched a team like Florida get the ball to its playmakers in any way possible and put up hella points on pretty good SEC defenses. I guess my question is, what is stopping Greg Davis and Co. from getting as much speed and ability on the field and letting them run away with the game ie.. Percy Harvin. There seems to be a lack of imagination and creativity in that standpoint imo. I would love to hear your opinion.

2. If the Good Guys decided to pursue this style who would or could be our Percy

A: From my vantage point, the Longhorns don't have a lot of problems on offense outside of the issues in the running game, but I'm not sure that's something that you're talking about. Sure, the Longhorns could involve younger players into the offense sooner than they have at times over the last decade, but Davis has had one of the most productive offenses in the nation throughout his career and he doesn't have the OU or big game issues hanging over his head. I think the bigger issue is that Texas just hasn't had anyone quite like Harvin on their roster since 2005, with the exception of Jamaal Charles. Those guys just don't grow on trees and the players that Texas has that might have some Harvin-like ability are young and still developing.

If I had to choose someone from the current team that has some Harvin-like ability, I'd probably do with a guy like DeSean Hales or D.J. Monroe.

Q: (Buda Horn) - I'm wondering about the scholarship situation for next season's basketball team and how you think the team will get below the 13-scholarship limit. We had 12 players on scholarship this season, graduating 2 seniors (Abrams/Atchley), leaving 10 to come back next year (assuming James/Pittman return). We have four players committed for next year (Bradley/Hamilton/Williams/Lucas), which puts the number at 14. Now there are rumors that J'Covan Brown may play for UT next year as well, which pushes the number to 15. Even if Damion James enters the draft, that still leaves us one over the limit. How is this going to work out unless Damion does go pro and someone else transfers?

A: The word going around right now is that a couple of players with families that have the means to pay for their own scholarships without much financial hardship, probably would do so.

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