June 18, 2009

The Ticket City Locker Room

Q: (Bandhorn71) - Mack Brown's rationale on why he recruits in-state is well documented. Do you think or have heard that out of state recruits are turned off by the lack of athletes from outside Texas? It would seem that if approximately only five kids on the roster are from are outside of the state of Texas that it would be a negative factor that could be used in recruiting

A: In a normal recruiting environment I think the concern you have might be a greater one than it currently ranks in Austin, but you have to remember who the Longhorns are targeting in out of state recruiting. For the most part, they end up going after players that take it upon themselves to recruit Texas and if that's the pool of players that you're recruiting from, it's likely an issue that those players will be more open to ignoring, although I don't think it's a true problem. It's certainly not like there's been a lot of out-of-state players coming into the program and learning that things are tougher for them because they aren't native Texans.

On the contrary, the Longhorns have a fairly high success rate with the players that they have brought in from out of state, which is a pretty solid selling point for them. That being said, there's no question that it's an issue they would probably have to defend against more if they participated in more normal national recruiting battles, but those situations are the exceptions and even when the Longhorns enter that somewhat foreign territory, I really don't think it's the central issue that they have to defend themselves against.

Q: (hornfan23) - Ketch- First time, long time. Thanks for the great work you and the guys do.

In this age of early recruiting, us outsiders have very little to go off of when evaluating these young recruits/commits. This is particularly true for us Texas-Exes who now live out of state and cannot attend any camps, practices or high school games like some of the fortunate insiders on the site.

I'd like your insight on some incoming guys who will play significant roles for the Horns in the not too distant future, specifically for the WR and DB groups in the 2010 class. We have piled up big numbers of quality guys in both groups but have also dealt with some heart ache (i.e. Still waiting on Darius...Just lost a good one in Dixon). Please give us some insight on the WR and DB commits in the class of '10 by letting us know what current or past Longhorn they compare to and why. You can hold off on Dixon, we'll just give him the benefit of the doubt and assume he's the next Gary Baxter since he won't be enrolling at DBU!!! Hook 'em

A: First, I'm glad you finally stepped up to the plate and sent in a question. Way to get of the sidelines and I think you sent in a question that I can handle.

Let's start with the current 2010 wide receiver commitments and then we'll work our way over to the defensive backfield.

Garland Naaman Forest's John Harris - Harris is an interesting guy because I'm not sure anyone truly knows just how good he is because of the offense he currently plays in. He's a long, lanky receiver that catches the ball very well with his hands and he has some shifty moves once he gets his hands on the football, but he's not a ultra quick-twitch athlete. Those that really love Harris believe that his athleticism is underrated and that at his very best, he can be a big, allusive playmaker. Overall, he reminds me of a poor man's Dan Buckner, but I'm really looking forward to seeing Harris as a senior because the Texas staff believes that he's vastly underrated.

Daingerfield's Chris Jones - This is a kid that has a chance to be the ultimate weapon for the Texas offense in the future because of his electric suddenness and ability to change the game in the blink of an eye. When I talked about not knowing if Harris has the kind of quick-twitch muscles to make him an explosive threat on the field in college, I have none of those concerns with Jones. Every cut and move after the catch has the snap, crackle and pop that you can usually only be found in a box of Rice Krispies. I've made comparisons to former Missouri star Jeremy Maclin, but if you want me to bring it back home for you, think Mike Adams when he first arrived at Texas in the early 1990's.

DeSoto's Darius Terrell - My man Darius has a ton of physical skill and when you consider that he's never been through a full off-season because of his commitment to basketball, it's clear that he's got a lot of upside as a player because his leaping skills, hands and ability to up in the air to get the football ranks among the best in the state. The question that everyone has had is whether he has the extra gear that will allow him to separate from elite college cornerbacks. After running in the low 4.6's at the Texas camp this month, he has eased those concerns a little, but with his size there might not be anything that can eventually keep him from an H-back position and he ought to embrace that because it'll be the fastest path to playing time he's going to find. Honestly, he might not be quite the physical beast that Jermichael Finley was in high school, but they are very similar in a ton of respects.

Ok, let's move on to the defensive backs in this class:

Lufkin's Carrington Byndom - In my opinion, Byndom is vastly underrated on the national scale, even if he does have a four-star grade. We're talking about a kid that has been an impact player for one of the elite 5A programs in the state since he was practically a baby, so his ability to play football is not a question mark. On top of that, this is a kid that is as comfortable in his back-peddle, at turning his hips, at exploding out of his cut and making a play on the football as any defensive back in the state. Plus, he's got some of that East Texas nastiness in him. If you can't already tell, this kid is one of my favorites and I think he's got a ton of Earl Thomas in him.

Sulphur Springs' Bryant Jackson - I'll admit it when I tell you that I wasn't blown away by Jackson when I first scouted him in person back in 2007, but I've really come around two years later because he's gone from being a bit awkward as a young player to an athletic monster that has comfortably grown into his body and really emerged as one of the most dynamic defensive back prospects we've seen in the last few years. He's basically the same kind of player as Carrington Byndom, except that he has a better size/athleticism combo. At 6-3, 175 pounds, Jackson reminds me of another East Texas corner - former Tyler John Tyler star Aaron Ross.

Garland's Adrian Phillips - Although he's slated for defense, this is a guy that could play in all three phases of the game. Like Chris Jones, Phillips has a ton of suddenness in his game, especially when the ball is in his hands. More than anything with Phillips, I love that he has a high football IQ, has a knack for making big plays and just seems to be a winner on the field. I swear I have a new name to compare him to each week, but his talent is a cross between Nate Vasher, Kendall Wright and Derrick Strait. Just like all of those guys had a special "it" factor, Phillips has it as well.

DeSoto's Adrian White - When you talk about White, you're talking about a kid that has all of the tools to be a star at the next level at cornerback and he has performed very well when matched up with elite talent at various combines and camps. Now we all just want to see him take it to the football field in live game action. White took one for the DeSoto team last year when he played out of his natural position at times for the good of the team, but in year two under Claude Mathis he should have a better comfort feel for the defense and what's expected of him. From a physical tools standpoint, the first guy I've always thought about with White is former Texas starter Tarell Brown.

Finally, if you can't tell, I'm a really big fan of the athletes in this class.

Q: (Principal) - Lot of good news on recruits, any news on workouts the team is doing?

A: I hope to have some more stuff in the War Room this weekend on the off-season workouts, but I'll pass along three things that I have heard that I think you'll find interesting.

1. Garrett Gilbert is mortal and does look like a true freshman early on. He'll be fine as he gets more and more reps, and really starts to settle into a comfort zone, but this is a learning process for him. He's not ready to compete for a Heisman just yet.

2. One person told me this weekend, "You know, as good as all of our defensive backs are, none of them can hold Jordan Shipley. He's that good."

3. Aaron Williams gets better and better and better with every practice. It's not a matter of if he's going to become an impact player, it's just a matter of when.

Q: (mikhailt) - 1. Where was Aundre McGaskey in his development before he transferred? Does his leaving indicate in any way that some of the young OL talent is great enough to push AM down the depth chart? How is Mark Buchanan coming along?

2. Our big non-conf. in '10/'11 is UCLA. How do think they will be in 2-3 years? Any young talent about to burst on the scene? I'm a little nervous that the Cerberus of Rick Neuheisel, Norm Chow and ample CA talent will juice that program dangerous in time for our home and home. We're slated to replace some steel pipe (Colt, Jordan, Sergio, etc) after this year, should I worry about this game in 2010?

A: Although I'm not ready or willing to say that McGaskey wouldn't have been able to make an impact in Austin had he stayed with the Longhorns, there's no question that he had not been able to create a niche for himself as he entered his third season and the threat of being passes by younger, more talented players did exist.

Overall, I think when you look at the young offensive linemen in the program, there are a couple that probably standout at this point. One of those is obviously true freshman Mason Walters, who really, really impressed the coaches this spring in his first set of workouts. He might be a year away, but his time is coming. Buchanan is another young player that is on the rise and he'll get some time this season as a back-up at guard. He's a tougher player at the point of attack and he's getting stronger. With a little seasoning, he's got a chance to be a very good player.

Of course, the other young lineman to keep an eye on is sophomore David Snow, who many believe has a chance to be one of the best linemen that Mack Brown has ever had.

As for the scheduling question, there's no question in my mind that Neuheisel will have a competitive team on the field by next season, which will be his third as the Bruins coach. Still, as much as I want to give him credit (along with Chow), he's not yet recruiting at an elite level and there aren't a lot of super blue chippers in the program that will be taking over NFL draft watch lists in two years… at least not yet. When you look at the offense, the Bruins don't have a sure quarterback of the future at this point and that will likely be the million dollar question for them. Over on the defensive side of the ball, they simply need more better athletes and that's going to take some time. This won't be a BCS bowl squad, but this should be a program that competes in the upper half of the Pac-10 and it will be a good out of conference test for the Longhorns.

Q: (Coopaloop87) - When Colt McCoy takes his first snap against La-Monroe on September 5th, what weight do you see him at? I was curious if he was as committed to adding weight this off-season as he was last off-season. Also, I know that the 'Horns have a stable of players who will see time at running back, but I want a straight answer. Do you see Colt having over 500 yards rushing under the current circumstances? Thanks Ketch.

A: Look for McCoy to play at a similar weight and size that he was at in 2008. Keep in mind that there was an emphasis on bulking his frame up over the last couple of seasons because his body was wearing out over the course of a long season, but I think the fruit of that labor has already been enjoyed and I'm sure that everyone is comfortable with his current physical condition. The big issue from the 2007 off-season (and somewhat in 2008) is not a true concern in 2009.

Also, if you're looking for a prediction, I've got one for you - McCoy will not rush for more than 500 yards this season.

Q: (Newfroid) - I have a question about the tight end position. I happen to believe that there are few offensive weapons that are more effective than a good TE. We are told that modern offenses don't want to take a speed, or 'big play' receiver off the field in favor of a less athletic TE. I couldn't agree less. Anyway- what accounts for the deficiency in the TE position at Texas. I know there are injuries, and academic issues. But there must be something bigger than bad luck that explains the lack of production from the TE position over the last few years. Once we get it fixed, I think we'll improve our ball control and run game tremendously.

A: Before we get into the meat and potatoes of your question, let's make sure we establish something that I think is very important to this conversation. On one hand you mention correctly that there are few offensive weapons that are as effective as a good tight end.

At this point I'm with you.

However, understand that in your defense of not taking a tight end off the field for a more explosive athlete in the form of receiver or running back, you seem to be assuming that the availability of a good tight end candidate with serviceable enough ball skills to at least represent a threat to the opposing defense exists at all times. That's just not the truth, at least not last season and potentially this season in Austin.. When you look at what the Longhorns dealt with last season at tight end, it's important that everyone understands that they lost their projected starter when Jermichael Finley left early for the NFL, then they lost the next guy in line (Blaine Irby) to a disgusting leg injury early in the season, and then they lost yet another player and possibly the No.3 guy in the pecking order (Josh Marshall) to more injuries.

By the time injuries and pro football were done with the Longhorns at this position last year, all that was left was a solid blocking specialist in senior Peter Ullman and a bunch of back-up offensive tackles that weren't getting on the field much, otherwise. That explains last year pretty easily, at least in my mind.

From a more global perspective, the Longhorns are currently handicapped by the fact that the state of Texas as a whole is not churning out a lot of big-time tight end prospects. In fact, Mack Brown has talked on the record about how tough it's been trying to find quality, true tight end prospects in the Lone Star State. It didn't help that the best tight end that they've probably targeted and seemingly landed in the last five classes was Zach Pianalto in 2007, but he ended up signing with North Carolina.

If Butch Davis doesn't take the North Carolina job when he did, Pianalto is starting for Texas this season - point blank.

That doesn't excuse not having better personnel because I have argued for a couple of years that Texas needs to make an even greater commitment to recruiting nationally at this position because excuses don't win championships, whether they are valid or not. If a well is dry, you better go find one with some water. It cannot be started enough just how important the pair of tight ends from the 2009 class are to the future of the program because there's not a true tight end prospect in the 2010 class, which means this position could really look like a black hole in the future if Barrett Matthews and Trey Graham aren't definite hits. I'm not trying to suggest that players like Josh Marshall or Ian Harris will never be steady contributors, but they haven't owned an awful situation and that does make me wonder about their current level of play and overall upside moving forward.

Q: (HKHORN10) - I'm not trying to blow the RB situation out of proportion at all. I get that we have some good personnel, good coaching, and are competing to pick up the best talent at the position every year, even if we've missed here and there lately.

My question is about why we've been missing on some of the more dynamic RBs coming out of high school. No disrespect to Major, but is it our RB coach? Do RBs not want to sit under a clear QB mind who's just putting in his time until he can be an offensive coordinator? Also, it seems Texas is interested in kids with the "hive mind"-- that is, they first and foremost want to be a part of Texas the collective team over their personal ambitions. And it seems most of the top RBs lately have had pretty "me" driven personalities. Are we just out of the hunt with those sorts of kids and if so, is that a better strategy in the long run?

A: This situation reminds me of the quarterback recruiting situation a few seasons ago. Remember when it stood to reason that no big-time quarterback wanted to play in a Greg Davis offense after what happened in 2003-05 recruiting? Never mind that no five-stars from the 2003 or 2004 classes were going to come within a 50-foot pole of Vince Young. It had to be a Greg Davis issue at all times for every problem, even though he landed three national top three quarterback prospects from 1999-2002.

Well, when it was all said and done, the Longhorns eventually signed Jevan Snead and Garrett Gilbert, while landing another star prospect in Connor Wood this year, which makes his track record of recruiting quarterbacks as good as any in recent college football history.

As was the case during that quarterback discussion a few years ago, there's simply not a true single script that will explain the running back recruiting woes that have occurred over the last four seasons. Yes, the switch of Ken Rucker to Applewhite at the end of the 2007 season might have hurt them with Darrell Scott's recruitment because he didn't have enough to time to establish a great relationship, but the former Alabama offensive coordinator has been nothing but an asset in recruiting since coming home to Austin.

Keep in mind that he's not responsible for a single player that he's currently coaching on the field and this is the first class that he's really has a chance to put his fingerprints on. He didn't have anything to do with the selections in the 2007-08 classes and the decision to offer Chris Whaley as the only back in the 2009 class was made before he signed on with the Longhorns. His first true assignment has been Lache Seastrunk and that's a little bit like saying that your first date was with Madonna.

When I look ahead to the 2011 class, guys like Aaron Green, Malcolm Brown and Stephen Williams have all had very high praise for Applewhite, especially after the recent one-day camp, and there seems to be strong, budding relationships across the board.

Q: (maje12) - Do you see any of the 2008 recruits, which redshirted last year, having any significant impact this year? Also, do you really see any 2009 recruits getting significant playing time this year?

A: Yes, there are a number of players from last year's redshirt class that have a chance to make impacts in 2009. The first guy that comes to mind is tight end D.J. Grant. If he's healthy, he has a chance to be an impact performer and a starter. Among the other offensive players, keep an eye on wide receiver DeSean Hales, offensive guard Mark Buchanan, tight end Dravannti Johnson and running back Tre Newton.

Over on the defensive sides of things, the only real candidate is Ryan Roberson at linebacker and he'll probably have a very limited role this season, barring injuries.

As for the true freshmen that I think will have potentially important roles, watch the following players: quarterback Garrett Gilbert (as the chief-back up), running back Chris Whaley (they are going to give him every chance to win that job, tight ends Trey Graham and Barrett Matthews, defensive tackles Calvin Howell and Derek Anderson (both will have a chance to get into the four-man rotation) and defensive end Alex Okafor (possibly the No.3 guy at the position).

Q: (memhorn) - As much as I would like to think Ben Alexander can lose a little weight and with help from Will Muschamp become a force at nose tackle, I am having trouble thinking of anyone that has essentially gone from career backup to solid contributor as a starter in his last year of eligibility. But, my memory is not very good. Can you think of some players who have made the jump from career back up to solid contributor in his Senior year?

A: Actually, there's more than realize. I think a case can be made that Ryan Palmer and Henry Melton both took those kids of leaps in the 2008 season. Meanwhile, Brandon Foster and Nate Jones are fresh in my mind from the 2007 season and that pair both played at team MVP levels after having virtually zero impact on the previous season. Obviously, these types of transformations don't happen every season, but there's a decent track record of select seniors raising their level of play in their one final season of eligibility.

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