January 31, 2010

The Ticket City Locker Room

Q: (Kettler) - Riddle me this riddle me that, if you had to put our OOS prospects such as Jordan Hicks and DeMarco Cobbs in the LSR, where would they rank?

And while we are at it where would Christian Westerman, James Vaughters, Matthew Hegarty[/db], Jaumauria Rasco and Nick Waisome rank in 2011 LSR list?

A: Let's start with the 2010 prospects that you asked about. Hicks would definitely rank in the top five, while Cobbs would probably rank somewhere between 10-20.

As for the members of the Class of 2011 class, Westerman is going to be in the conversation for the best offensive lineman prospect in the country, which would make him a certain top five prospect in the state of Texas and a candidate for the title of best player. He's that good.

Vaughters looks like a solid four-star prospect that brings a lot of versatility to the table, but he would probably rank behind Anthony Wallace and Steve Edmond on the current LSR list based on the limited amount of film I've seen of him. Likewise, I'd probably rate Hegarty and Rasco in the same area, which means that they'd likely fall somewhere in the 15-30 range.

Waisome is a guy that I really like on film and probably has national top 50 game, but he's a little undersized at 5-9 1/2 and maybe 170 pounds soaking wet, so he doesn't have the elite physical package to go along with his big-time play. He's probably rate as one of my higher 5.9-level players, which would likely land him in the 10-20 range.

Q: (Pondpusher) - With all this talk about Junior days, can you tell exactly what Junior Days are? Are they open to the fans to watch? How long do they last? What do juniors do at Junior day? Are the juniors by invitation only? Do the kids pay their own way? How kids come for each Junior day? Etc.

A: Think of it as a grand tour of the entire school. In addition to meeting with Mack Brown and the rest of the coaching staff, much of the purpose for the event is to introduce prospects to the campus, academic programs and facilities. The coaches also set up player- and parent-panels that will allow the visiting players and family the opportunity to ask any questions that they might have without the coaches in attendance. Depending on the day, there's also the possibility that the players will have a chance to watch one of spring practices, which allows the prospects to see how the team interacts up-close.

It's not an event that's open to the public and the event usually begins around 8AM and concludes in the late afternoon. It's an invitation only event that usually features around two to three dozen kids, with each prospect and his family holding the responsibility for all costs and transportation because the trip counts as an unofficial visit.

Q: (Golfpr3145) - I noticed only two offensive line invites for Junior Day. Is the staff comfortable with only taking a couple of OL for next year, or are they looking at some OOS prospects? What are your thoughts on the strength of the OL class for next year? Since a lot of the high schools have gone to the wide open passing attack, does that weaken the crop of linemen as far as the run game is concerned?

A: As I type this, we've confirmed that four offensive line invites have gone out and you can rest easy because the position is definitely a top priority heading into 2011, maybe even the No.1 priority. The fact that Christian Westerman is one of the four invites, while New Mexico product Matt Hegarty is considering a possible junior day visit, is an indicator that the Longhorns are exploring more than their in-state options, which is a good thing because I don't believe the class in-state is nearly as strong in 2011 as it currently is in 2010. That's not to say that the 2011 class is substandard, but it does mean that the 2010 class is much stronger than normal years.

As far as the current trend of high school offenses playing out of the spread, there's not a lot of evidence that the talent coming out of the high school ranks has taken any kind of a dip, as the position continues to rank as the top producer of NFL talent, along with defensive backs. Perhaps it's too soon to draw any conclusions, but a number of All-America linemen, all-conference-types and high NFL draft choices have emerged from the Texas high school ranks in the last few years. Considering the amount of talent available in the 2011 class - one of the best offensive line classes in the last decade - I'm hesitant to paint a bad picture with a lot of broad strokes.

Q: (dropshot_7) - Hey Ketch, let's pretend that Garrett Gilbert enrolled early last spring, and went through the full series of spring practices. What impact would that have had on his situation in the NC game? What would have been different about his performance?

2) There's some speculation that the offense will shift to more of a pro-style attack, and will affect how we select our o-line recruits. What does that mean exactly? Kyle Hix, Michael Huey, Garrett Porter, and Tray Allen were all 300+ lbs in high school, and judging by their film, they were maulers. What's going to change?

A: You ask an interesting first question about Gilbert, but I don't know that I can give you a tangible answer. So much of what happened in that game was about the suddenness of what happened and the way he was inserted into the game - it was completely unexpected. I'm not sure that those extra 15 practices would somehow translate to more reps in bowl workouts or more actual quality playing time during the season, which is what really would have prepared him for what he faced in the first five minutes of the national championship game. There's no question that he would have been a better player for having gone through the spring, but would it have been enough to change the outcome of that game? Maybe, but that might be reaching a little bit, especially when you consider that it wouldn't have changed the fact that his rep count in the season wouldn't have been impacted at all.

I think it remains to be seen just how much the Longhorns will move towards a non-spread based attack in 2010. Although I expect the Longhorns to play under center a little more in 2010 than they have in the last half-decade, it's possible that the Longhorns will need to rely on the right arm of Gilbert to carry them if the running game remains stagnant. I don't expect the coaches to get away from their strengths when push comes to shove, which is why this is such an important off-season. If there's going to be definitive offensive changes, much of the heavy lifting will need to take place in the off-season. There hasn't been any real verification that schematic changes will take place in the off-season, which means that many of the players you mention simply need to get better. Players like Huey, Hix and Allen need to realize the potential that the staff has been waiting on for three years.

As it relates to the offensive line, I think there's a genuine hope that fresh blood in the line-up will finally give this group an edge that it never generated with Adam Ulatoski, Chris Hall and Charlie Tanner spearheading the line. Although all three players were good players that helped the program win a lot of games, the line has been missing an it factor for years. The 2009 recruiting class was one of the nation's best and the coaches are hopeful that the likes of Mason Walters, Garrett Porter and Thomas Ashcraft can give this line a little more nastiness and power up front.

Q: (Corbo) - Ketch, is there any change we see a larger focus on the run this year? I just don't see any of our backs being able to make a major impact without a meaningful opportunity.

A: I expect the staff to make a strong effort in the off-season to improve the balance in the offense with an improved running game, but we've heard that talk before. There's a feeling from some out there that they'll believe it when they see with respect to any big talk about the running game.

The running back situation could hinge on the developments of redshirt freshman Chris Whaley and sophomore D.J. Monroe. We know that Tre Newton is going to give this team some solid production, but the team lacks a true standout player at the position and the only two players that project as possible difference makers might be these two. Monroe is a guy that scares the hell out of every team the Longhorns face, but the coaches need to figure out how to better incorporate him into the offense because he's probably not an every-down back. With Whaley, it's just impossible to tell at this point if the Longhorns have a guy that can change the landscape of the position.

Q: (Jonusn44) - With signing day around the corner, can you tell us which recruit affair was the biggest debacle, maybe throw in a back story of guys like Ryan Perriloux, Albert Hollis, Jamarcus McFarland, Darrell Scott or any recruit you might think makes a good story?

With the latest recruiting stories - the Georgia Linebacker and Nick Waisome out of Florida; is Coach Boom starting to recruit the kids he wants due to his impending reign?

A: Wow, the biggest debacle? Obviously, a ton of recruits have gone off the reservation in their recruitments over the years, but if we're talking about things going haywire after the Longhorns were able to get a prospect on campus, I doubt anything will top what happened in December of 1999 when the Longhorns hosted the California duo of D.J. Williams/Albert Hollis. At the time of the visit, the Longhorns led for Williams (nation's top overall prospect) and Hollis (California's top-rated running back), but things changed dramatically in the 48 hours they spent in Austin.

On the very first night of the visit, Hollis told starting running back Hodges Mitchell that he had better watch out because he was going to take his job, which infuriated starting cornerback Quentin Jammer, who let Hollis know in no uncertain words that he had insulted a respected player and it wouldn't be tolerated. In fact, Hollis probably killed any chances of becoming a Longhorn on the first night because a number of players went to Mack Brown and alerted him of the situation and the fact that they were not fans.

Williams' issues didn't really hit begin until the next night when he held a discussion with his own host (Cory Redding) about where the two would spend the remainder of their Saturday evening. As it stood, Redding had every intention of staying with the majority of the team, which had found a nesting spot downtown. Meanwhile, Williams (the son of a former MC Hammer video dancer) wanted to go somewhere where he could dance - really dance. At one point, Redding told Williams, "At Texas, we practice together, we play together and we party together." Eventually, Hollis and Williams left the team and went on their own to a club downtown that would allow Williams to dance. From that moment on, the two weren't seen the rest of the night and eventually they walked back to the hotel at the end of the night without anyone from the school with them.

If the Longhorns were a heavy leader for Williams coming in, they weren't when he left, as it was clear that he just didn't quite fit in with the city or the team. On the other hand, Hollis still wanted to be a Longhorn pretty badly and he actually recovered fairly nicely after his incident with Hollis and got along with the members of the team, but his decision to leave the team and join Williams on his dancing quest ended his chances of being a Longhorn. Texas head coach Mack Brown informed Hollis that the school was offering him a scholarship, but not as a running back prospect, which sent the needed message that he should probably find another school.

As far as the increased out-of-state recruiting that we're seeing from the Longhorns early in 2011, I'd take a deep breath and allow for some of the drama to unfold before drawing too many conclusions because I think a lot of the out-of-state names that the Longhorns will flirt with early on are a bit of fool's gold. Yes, Muschamp's influence is recruiting is being felt, but I don't know that it means that the Longhorns are in the middle of sweeping changes in recruiting that Muschamp is making because of his HC-in-waiting position. The majority of the class will continue to be comprised of Texas-talent and if any of these out of state prospects really want to take a long look at the Longhorns, they better be pro-active and aggressive in their own pursuit. More than anything else, I think the presence of the out-of-state names serve as a reminder to some of the in-state prospects that have offers that their names can be replaced in this class with similar talent if they don't get on board. The commitment of Hicks probably will give the Longhorns more confidence that they can go out of state and have success, but there's probably a little too much talk about Muschamp's influence in recruiting at this point because the show still belongs to Mack Brown.

Q: (fivehundred) - I have three questions:

This was my first year to really follow Longhorn recruiting closely. I really enjoyed watching the recruitment of Jeffcoat, Hicks, Darius White and Seastrunk unfold.

Question 1 -- What names will we hear about almost daily over the course of the next recruiting class?

Question 2 -- Who are the Jeffcoats, Hicks, Wilson etc for next year? (Blue chip, impact recruits.)

Question 3 -- This one is a bit more subjective -- Of the recruits you think the Longhorns should / will be targeting, which of them do you feel are the most important for the program? IE -- address a position of need, or will show up and contribute significantly early in their careers?

A: All three of your questions are intertwined to a degree. First of all, there's no question that 2011 is the year of the big-time running back prospect, which means that every step that guys like Malcolm Brown, Aaron Green, Herschel Sims and Brandon Williams take will be analyzed and compared against his peers. Their recruitments will likely dominant the headlines next year and even after they all settle into their commitments, we'll continue to hear discussions about whether the Longhorns got the right/best players from the group that's available. It'll likely be very similar to the Garrett Gilbert/Russell Shepard discussions from 2008-09. As we get started in earnest with the 2011 guys, it seems pretty clear who the headliners in the class early on are.

That's not to say that the running backs are the only impact prospects in the state because the 2011 class looks very deep on paper early on. You can look at anyone in the current top 20 of the Lone Star Recruiting rankings and make a case that they deserve to be a top 10 prospect and among the top group of players at their position across the country.

More than naming single prospects, I'll give you the three positions that the Longhorns need to own in recruiting in 2011 - running back, offensive line and defensive back. It doesn't matter who they sign, but Mack Brown and his staff needs to hit home runs at all three positions because the success of the class will be determined by the work done there.

Q: (Principle) - Which 2 class combination will be stronger. The 2009 class and the 2010 class, or the 2010 / 2011 class? I realize this requires speculation on the 2011 class.
I also realize you have enough knowledge about these 2011 players to project to some degree.

A: With all due respect to a 2009 class that ranked among the nation's top five, I think the 2011 class has a chance to rank right up there with the 2010 class when it's all said and done. While that 2009 class would have an obvious edge at quarterback, I'm not sure that the 2011 class can't sweep the board at the rest of the positions, although the 2009 class was really strong along the offensive and defensive lines.

Q: (SportsagentJDMBA) - Texas has been criticized in some circles for not recruiting another offensive lineman for the 2010 class. Early indications are that Texas will take 4-5 offensive lineman in the 2011 class, with Garrett Greenlea, Sedrick Flowers, Spencer Drango, Josh Cochran, Marcus Hutchins, and Christian Westerman garnering most of the attention. Where would Greenlea, Flowers, Drango, Cochran, and Westerman rate if they were in the 2010 class? How do they compare with '09 classmates Espinosa, Hopkins, Matthews, Klinke, Ogbuehi, and Washington, and Joeckel?

What are the projected positions for Garrett Porter, Thomas Ashcraft, Mason Walters, and Paden Kelly?

A: While the depth of the 2011 offensive line class might not be as strong as it was at 2010, some of the talent at the top is as good as it gets. Flowers projects as a possible five-star prospect and might rank as the top overall prospect if we combine the two classes. Greenlea is a guy that projects as a national top 100 player and he'd likely rank as a top 10-15 prospect in 2010. Meanwhile, Drango and Cochran are both four-star prospects, with Drango probably ranking in the teens or early 20's, while Cochran would slide somewhere between 25-40. Frankly, their positions probably wouldn't be much different than where they are currently slotted in the 2011 rankings. On the other hand, Westerman might be the best prospect of all and he'd certainly challenge for top player in Texas status.

As for the current Texas offensive linemen that you asked about, the long-term positions for each is still fluid and under consideration. Walters was recruited with the hope that he might be able to play left tackle, but he projects as an inside player in 2010. The team has hopes that Ashcraft and Kelly can play tackle, but it's possible that they could all end up inside when it's all said and done.

Q: (jasondire10) - The secondary has been a strength of the Longhorn's D over the last 2 years. However, with Earl leaving for the pros, along with Curtis and Chykie moving on after next season as well as the possibility of Williams turning pro, who do you see as the guys who have the ability and potential to step up next season and contribute as well as fill the void left by these departures after next year?

A: That's one of the million dollar questions, isn't it? As strong as the secondary was in 2009 and projects to be in 2010, there are some glaring holes at cornerback that will need to be replaced. The good news is that the back-end of the secondary should be extremely strong in 2011 with the likely return of seniors Christian Scott, Blake Gideon and Nolan Brewster.

Say what you want about the cloudy cornerback situation, but the safety position will be as strong as any in the nation with these three returning and that doesn't even include the development of players like Kenny Vaccaro or any number of players in the 2010 class. As it stands at cornerback, there's not currently a lot of young depth at the position once you get past the top three on the depth chart. The Longhorns really need Eryon Barnett to come back strong from his knee injury because he's one of the few young players currently on campus with corner pedigree. That means that the players in the 2010-11 classes will play huge roles at the position beginning next season.

Q: (youknow) - Your thoughts on a possible position change for any current DE moving to DT? I keep hearing rumors of Eddie Jones possibly making this move. Does he have the frame to take on more weight? I know we have solid depth at this position (including incoming recruits) but I like having two senior DE (Jones and Acho) ready to start next season. Any other position changes across the team would be greatly appreciated.......

A: I wouldn't look for Jones to make a full-time to defensive tackle, but he is a guy that is able to move inside on passing downs. The versatility of the linemen on campus gives Will Muschamp a lot of options with personnel groupings. I would expect Jones to serve as the team's No.3 end (behind Acho and Alex Okafor), while filling inside in certain situations.

As far as possible position changes outside of Jones, there's not currently a lot of scuttlebutt heading into the spring about position changes. Redshirt freshman defensive end Dominique Jones is a young player that the coaches have high hopes for, but he's always been a player that I've felt like could be an option at tight end at some point. I think you have to ask if there are any candidates from the offense to help out at cornerback, but I'm not sure anyone on that side of the ball jumps out to me as a defensive prospect other than Jeremy Hills, who I think has the skill and make-up to make a potential switch. Overall, I think the team is pretty much in place the way the staff would like to see them heading into the spring.

Q: (Ridgetopper) - What do the rotations at Defensive Line (both DT&DE) for Texas project to be in 2010? Will this be a weak link in this next defense?

Do you think Texas will truly be able to run more 2 TE formations in 2010? Is Blaine Irby still trying to come back?

A: I would expect the defensive line to be a weakness for the Longhorns at all in 2010, unless there's a rash of injuries. The defensive end trio of Sam Acho, Alex Okafor and Eddie Jones will probably rank as high as anywhere I the nation and when you factor in incoming superstar talents Reggie Wilson and Jackson Jeffcoat, it's pretty clear to see that this team is going to have plenty of depth off the edge next season because we're not even factoring in the possible contributions of Russell Carter, Dravannti Johnson or Tevin Mims as situational players at end.

The situation at tackle isn't quite as strong, but I don't think there's any real reason for concern. The Longhorns simply need to have some young players step up and the coaching staff seems very confident that that will happen. Junior Kheeston Randall will be the top starter next season and he really started to emerge at the end of the 2009 season as an impact player for the defense. He's got a chance to be an All-Big 12 type of player. Meanwhile, the coaches feel like second-year players Derek Johnson and Calvin Howell will be ready to step in as frontline players, with Johnson slotted for a possible starting position at nose-guard. Throw in an improving Tyrell Higgins and a possible movie inside from Mims, along with the help that guys like Eddie Jones and Okafor can give on pass rushing downs, and you've got a position that has talent and options. Also, we're not yet including the possible contributions that incoming recruits Taylor Bible, Ashton Dorsey and DeAires Cotton might provide.

I wouldn't look at the defensive line as a weak line on the defense at all. Far from it, actually.

Finally, the Longhorns probably would like to have the option of running more two-tight end sets in 2010 and the numbers should allow for more opportunities, but I still think this is going to be a team that runs a lot of its offense out of its 11-personnel (one back/one tight end). As for Irby, few people expect him to make a return and it's possible at some point that he has to take a medical scholarship.

Q: (babyshoe) - What's the geometrical meaning of the central extension of the algebra of diffeomorphisms of the circle?

A: Georgia.

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