August 18, 2010

The Ticket City Locker Room

Q: (Golfpr3145) - With next years class almost complete as far as needs, what will be the must haves for 2012? Also, do you think there may be a change in philosophy in regard to OL recruiting? I know there has been much said about some of the weaknesses of current players, but do the coaches believe there is a need to rethink their ideas about what type of OL they need to recruit?

A: One of the best things that the coaches have done with the terrific string of classes that they've out together from 2009-11 is that there aren't a lot of holes in the numbers heading into the future. Of course, that wasn't the case heading into this class because of the urgency of the needs at offensive line and defensive back, but moving forward the Longhorns should be able to recruit with more balance.

The big question remains at running back. If they aren't able to close on Cibolo Steele's Malcolm Brown and they miss on San Antonio Madison's Aaron Green, then there's no question that there will be a bit of an apocalyptic feel to the recruitment at the position in 2012, but I'm not expecting that to be an issue. It's simply the answer to your first question.

As for the offensive line recruiting, I think the idea that they've taken a different type of linemen over the years. For the most part the Longhorns have stayed away from fat-bodied 315+ pound kids, but they've simply been recruiting the best line prospects in the state in most years, with the exception of the 2008 class, which didn't have the elite star power that the 2007, 2009, 2010 and 2011 classes possess.

The 2006 class was a disaster for a lot of reasons, but four of the last five offensive line classes have ranked among the nation's very best and they were full of a lot of players that wouldn't be confused as tweeners. I do think that the coaching staff changes over the last few years have helped recruiting in all areas because the last four or five years have been much better than the previous three or four before that in just about every way possible.

Q: (Ridgetopper) - Given the buzz of the scheduling of Notre Dame in 2015 and the fact it's hard to project the opponents level of play 5 years from now, can you try give us some forecasting of the potential quality of scheduled 2011 opponent BYU, 2012/13 opponent Ole Miss based on their recruiting and any highly touted existing players? How do those match-ups appear to align with what you anticipate UT will field those respective years?

A: Good questions. I hope you feel guilty knowing that it's 1:39 A.M. and there's no telling how long this question is going to take for me to answer because I'm not even sure how much detail I want to put in it. Let's see what kind of damage you've done to me.

Let's start with BYU in 2011. That's a team that doesn't currently have much star power at all in their current line-up, at least not as it relates to elite talent. Only two BYU players made the coaches pre-season All-MWC team and only offensive lineman Matt Reynolds are scheduled to be back in 2011, but he's really good. In fact, he might be the best lineman in his conference this year as a junior and he's a guy that could declare early for the NFL Draft.

It's very possible that the offense will be led by would-be-sophomore Jake Heaps - the nation's top pre-style quarterback prospect in 2010. His top target could be former Texas Longhorn commitment Ross Apo, who will also be entering his second year in the program as one of the top out of state skill players they've landed in a decade, but they are pretty loaded at wide receiver and they could end up brining back every receiver off this year's two-deep back again next year. Remember the name McKay Jacobson - Oklahoma fans already do.

On the defensive side of the ball, you're talking about a 3-4 scheme, so that alone makes them a unique challenge from the normal schedule fodder before we even get into their talent base. Incoming freshman Zac Stout is a linebacker that could be a key player for the defense next year. Really and truly, their front-seven could be pretty good because they have a half-dozen or so players who they think could emerge as very solid players. The Cougars have high hopes for guys like Brandon Olgetree and Romney Fuga. The secondary could be a real question mark because it's one of the biggest question marks heading into this season and not a lot of their scheduled key guys are returning in 2011.

Overall, BYU could be a pretty salty little team if the quarterback situation, along with the development of the offensive line and the entire defense comes together - maybe even a BCS bowl type team in a best-case scenario. If Heaps is the real deal, they could provide a battle of ranked teams, which would make them a strong BCS computer piece in a national title run.

Ok, now let's look at Ole Miss and at first glance it's a little tougher to read what kind of team they might look like because this year is such a rebuilding year and most of the guys on their two-deep will all be gone by the time this game rolls around. Therefore, let's just look at their recent recruiting and the young talent in the program.

On the offensive side of the ball, sophomore offensive lineman and former five-star prospect Bobby Massie will be a senior in 2012 and is one of the top young offensive linemen in the SEC heading into this season. If he's still around, he could be a big-time guy. With two other sophomores starting at center and tight end, the Rebels have the makings of a very good offensive line. Although he's not a starter now, keep an eye on would-be-senior Rodney Scott because he's going to be a factor for them this year.

The defensive side of the ball could be next to impossible to project because Houston Nutt and the Rebel program recruit heavily from the junior college ranks, which means that their future players might be enrolling in another college this year.

At the end of the day, the quarterback position could make or break Nutt, if in fact he's still the coach at Ole Miss in 2012/2013. Sophomore Nathan Stanley was projected to be a shaky starting prospect a month ago, but he's still a kid and would be a senior in 2012. However, he's been undercut by a little by the addition of Jeremiah Masoli and it's tough to say what happens with his development moving forward.

An hour. You got me for an hour.

Q: (Pramit Patel) - Ok, so what we know so far is that we have 2 OK to good TEs. One is really good in the passing game and the other is really good in the blocking game. We know that neither is good at both. We also know (at least those of us that know about football) that we need someone thats good at both for a good running game to form so we the defense wont load up the box and stop the running game. This is what happened in the years past and this is why we have gone to an "air it out" spread offense, with a "flex TE" that's really just an oversized WR, which we know will work in the big 12, but when it comes to the bowl games it doesn't work with strong defenses and teams that can run. So my question to you is how likely is it that one of these two (or possibly another player) will get their game together and excel in both so we can go into a more balanced attack? I feel as though no one will show up, which will lead us to go back to passing all day because we have a quarterback that specialized in that in high school.

A: Wow, there's a lot in that paragraph. I almost feel like I should ask if you're ok… are you ok? Just kidding… kind of. There was quite a nice little rant inside that question.

Let's start with Greg Smith. In the past he's been more of a blocking type, but after the summer success he enjoyed in seven-on-seven's and the brief glimpses of action we were able to see last week, I think he's going to be a pleasant surprise for most in the passing game. I would have never thought last year that he could be a true threat down the seam, but I think he's worked hard enough to be that kind of player. Yes, he has a chance to be a fairly complete player this year.

As for Barrett Matthews, he's a better blocker right now than he is a receiver, but he's the most athletic and explosive guy in the bunch, which makes him the most dynamic receiver among the upper-classmen. His issue is polishing off the receiving skills, while also getting healthy, as he's been banged up in camp.

The tight end position will be an improved unit in 2010, if they can avoid the injury curse.

Q: (Principal) - 1. Does M.J. McFarland bring anything new to the TE position that is not currently on campus?

2. I saw a recent picture of ASJ. He looks slim at whatever weight he currently is. He looks like he could carry 280 lbs. and play TE. What are your thoughts on him growing out of the TE position?

I think you and your crew are very good at what you guys do.

A: I think the biggest "new" thing that McFarland brings to the table is that 6-5, 240-pound kids with his kind of ball skills and natural abilities as a receiver don't grow on trees. While he's not a quick-twitch, ultra-explosive athlete, the kid can flat out go get the football and he's just natural at a lot of things. When I think of the tight ends that the Longhorns have recruited over the years, it's hard to think of anyone that truly compares to McFarland. None of the h-back/flex tight end types they've recruited have arrived with that kind of size and possible projection. From a pure physical perspective and not from a skills perspective, he kind of reminds of a young Tony Hills.

For the record, you sent your question in before ASJ made his decision, but I wanted to give one final opinion on the kid. In my mind, he's just like Chris Whaley. There's no way of knowing how his body will turn out when he gets into a real weight program. Just like Whaley, I also think he's an offensive guy that has a skill player's mentality. It'll be fascinating to watch his development.

Finally, thanks for the kind words.

Q: (CBHookem) - I just read the article on the impact freshmen players and Mike Davis popped up on several lists. My question is - what makes Davis different from other DISD players in the past? I remember you mentioning that DISD players (Sergio Kindle and Christian Scott come to mind) usually need 2 years in a college program before they are ready to contribute for a big-time D1 college team. Based on this I am having a hard time seeing him being an impact player in 2010. Am I missing something others aren't?

A: It's a great point and it's something that I've thought a lot about, especially since he's showed up and made such quick adjustments to the college game, already. He's going to play this year and I'm starting to think he might play a lot by the end of the year. It's possible that he's the exception to the rule, and it's possible that the wide receiver position is the chink in the armor for this rule because Michael Crabtree was another pretty rare exception.

Q: (William Harris) - First time asking a question. Any news on Jarvis Humphrey? Is he OK? Would like to know even if he wasn't able to play a down. Once a Horn always a Horn.

A: I'm glad you ask. I checked in with Cedar Hill head coach Joey McGuire this week and he reports that Humphrey was doing much better the last time he had seen him a few months ago. The kidney issues remain something that Humphrey is continuing to deal with and it's a major part of his life, which is really sad because this should have been the time of his life. That's a kid that should be starting as a junior this year next to Kheeston Randall, but he was dealt a tough hand with the kidney problems. Maybe there's something can do for him this season? Anyone else up for putting an event together for him?

Q: (dropshot_7) - Ketch, how does Greg Davis's game preparation change as a result of what happened in the NC game? Does the backup QB get more snaps with the 1s in practice? I realize it's a tough spot, because Garrett Gilbert needs all the reps he can get at this point. Is anything going to change in this aspect?

Assuming Connor Wood earns the backup spot, how do his strengths compare to Garrett Gilbert's?

What goes into the transition for the wide receivers when they have a new QB? Of the receivers, who has the most to gain with the combination of the shift of offensive philosophy and the strengths of Garrett Gilbert?

What are your expectations for Malcolm Williams this season?

A: First, I don't know if the Longhorns will change much based on what happened last year with Gilbert in the title game. In a lot of ways, what happened was blind, bad luck. It's always a damned if you do, damned if you don't deal with the development of the back-up quarterbacks. Greg Davis is developing a lot of young players on his roster, but he can't really afford to take snaps away from Gilbert right now. That kid needs as many as he can get early in the season. My guess is that they'll try to give both of the freshmen as many snaps in practice as possible, but it's never going to be enough.

Second, if Wood wins the job, he'll probably be able to slide into the concepts of whatever this cyrrent offense is going to be because he's a mini-Gilbert from a skills standpoint in my mind. He's got the size, the big arm and the comfort level in the pocket that you like to see. The only thing I don't know about Wood is whether he has the "it" factor that I feel like Gilbert has so much of.

Third, it's just a matter of timing and familiarity. When you look at Gilbert, he puts the balls on the money… I mean dead on the money… nine times out of 10, so if you are a receiver and you can get open, you're going to be a big winner if you can catch the ball. The fact that he can push the ball down the field better than McCoy has a chance to mean great things for players like Williams, Davis and John Chiles, who are better vertical threats than horizontal threats.

Fourth, you just asked one of the million dollar questions, didn't you? Well, let's look at Williams' stats from last year - 39 receptions for 550 yards and two touchdowns in 14 games. That translates to an average of per game of 2.8 catches for 39 yards and 0.14 touchdowns. On the surface, his game took steps forward last year, but there's still huge room for improvement. Call me crazy, but I think Garrett Gilbert is going to be the best thing that's ever happened to Williams' game. I don't know if his number of catches is going to sky-rocket, but I think he's going to be a major down-field weapon this year and his touchdown numbers will be the most dramatic change in stats.

I could see him averaging 3.5 receptions per game this year, but a higher average per reception (let's say from a solid 14.4 yards per catch to 18-20 yards per connection. Suddenly, he's totaling somewhere between 882-980 yards in a season, along with five or six touchdowns and the way he's viewed will change greatly.

My Williams prediction for 2010 - 49 receptions for 900 yards and six touchdowns.

Q: (bman25) - Gilbert or Andrew Luck, that is the question? There has been a lot of "what if" going on about if Texas had taken luck in 08. Would that have been the better move for Texas if the goal is to win national titles? I know you have said Gilbert is one of the three best qb's you have ever seen along with VY and Brees. Do you think at the end of the day Texas is better off with Gilbert over a possible #1 NFL pick in Luck? Just wondering. (btw I know its not a fair question because Gilbert hasn't had his shot yet, but what does your gut say?)

A: Luck is a sensational player…I mean a SENSATIONAL player, but I'm all-in with Gilbert.

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