July 1, 2010

The Ticket City Locker Room Report

Q: (Dropshot_7) - I'm having a hard time with the numbers at RB. Counting D.J. Monroe, and incoming freshmen Traylon Shead and Demarco Cobbs, we have 9 scholarship running backs going into the season, with Vondrell McGee being the only senior. How is this going to shake out? How are the coaches selling the depth chart to Aaron Green and Malcolm Brown? Again, how does this all shake out? Transfers?

A: I think the elephant in the room in this conversation is that something will almost certainly have to give at some point. In my mind, this is a pretty big year at the position because the running back spot is going to get a super infusion of talent before its all said and done from the 2011 recruiting class, and those guys are going to play as true freshmen in 2011.

You can take that to the bank.

That leaves a pretty big group of players at the position fighting to separate themselves from a very crowded pack. When I look at the junior class of running backs, I see three players (Jeremy Hills, Foswhit Whitaker and Cody Johnson) with two seasons of eligibility remaining and the trends in college football suggest that there's no way that all three players are going to play out the string while ridding the bench. I'm not trying to put pressure on those three players because I think the pressure is pretty evenly spread out among every guy on campus that plays the position. They all know that this position has missed an impact player the last two years and every guy that is returning understands that there isn't a back that is currently a serious rung above the others.

For a guy like Chris Whaley and Shead, I think it's pretty important to make an impact as soon as possible because there's been a whole lot of average among this group for a while and that's going to change, as it's not always going to be a desert on the depth chart. You either eat or you get eaten in 2010 because the cavalry will be on the way soon.

When you look at Brown and Green, the coaches only need to sell to them that there's a very real shift in the offensive philosophy, from a wide-open passing game to more of a pro-style attack, and they appear to have done that successfully. The depth chart couldn't be better positioned in terms of making a pitch to a high school senior. Admit it, when you play with the Longhorns in college football on your Play-station, who is your starting running back for the 2011 season?

I pretty much view the presence of Monroe for the long-term as a bonus right now because I just don't know what he's going to look like academically from year-to-year without a little more of a track record of success from him. Also, if he is on the field and ready to go, I'm still not sure that I know what position/role the coaches will carve out for him in the future, although I think he has to be on the field in some capacity. This offense doesn't have so much explosiveness in it that it can't create more for one of the most explosive athletes in a UT uniform I've ever seen.

Finally, I know that a lot of people are getting excited about Cobbs as a running back, but I'm still not convinced that he's a definite running back for the long-term, although I think they'll certainly give him a chance to show something in the fall. That being said, I would bet against him making a big impact this season because of the logjam at the position heading into the first game. The fact that he'll be so new to the details of the position (see pass protection) make it an uphill climb for 2010. If he's that guy, then it won't matter, he'll rip it up and never look back. If he turns out to be a guy that needs some time to develop, he'll face many of the same questions the other backs we've discussed will face. The difference between many of those other players and Cobbs is that he has the athletic upside to play numerous positions on either side of the ball.

Q: (Golfpr3145) - It seems to me that we are taking a larger number of recruits this year than was projected. Are there some current players that we aren't aware of possibly not returning next year? Also, concerning defensive tackle recruiting. Is there a chance that Texas might open communication with more prospects that were thought to out of the picture? If that were the case, would the coaches go out of state for some quality recruits?

A: There have been a few players currently on the roster that have been in the transfer rumor mill, but nothing has happened officially and I've received mixed reports on the each guy discussed in the mill. I expect there to be a name or two that is currently on the roster that won't be in September because there always seems to be a dose of summer attrition each year.

As we look ahead towards 2011, it doesn't take a huge leap to see where taking 25 players can fit into the 85-man limit fairly easily. With 17 scholarship seniors and a possible early NFL departure or two, it won't take a lot of abnormal attrition before the numbers match-up evenly, and there's a feeling that the depth of young elite talent arriving in the program could end up persuading some older players to transfer for playing time reasons.

Finally, I don't anticipate any new defensive tackles offers in the current class at this time, but if some of the rotten luck that seems to follow that position like the plague (see Brian Ellis, Andre Jones and Jarvis Humphrey for starters) continues, it could be something to keep an eye on, but the smart money would have the Longhorns looking national in 2012 only if the in-state talent isn't at the level where they hope it would be.

Q: (THE NUTT) - 1. What goes on behind the scenes on transfers? I do not believe Mack Brown forces kids to transfer but there has to be some communication ahead of time or how else does the staff know how much attrition to plan for in recruiting.

A: It's not brain surgery most of the time. If a kid is unhappy, the coaches usually know and I think the Longhorn staff has always done a pretty fair job of not only helping kids in these types of decisions, but also maintaining open communication with kids about their positions/roles in the program. One thing you don't see a lot of is Texas athletes leaving the program and setting fire to all of the bridges on the way out of town. A big reason for that is that Mack Brown has a reputation for helping guys get set up at their next stop, if a player actually wants his help. Mack also has a very strong reputation for helping former players that have left early once their football days are over. You get the sense that Mack can never completely cut the chord from any player he's ever invested personal feelings towards, which obviously speaks volumes about the kind of man he is.

Q: (UTexUHouFan) - Obviously, the Texas offense goes up against one of its toughest opponents of the season every week in practice. Could that lead us to be tentative or over-respect some opponents rather than lighting them up (even more)? What are some of the pros and cons of practicing against such a great defense?

A: Perhaps if this were something new you might be concerned, but the competition you describe in Texas practices has been occurring for years. Over the years, the players in the program have fed off of the competition in practice and everyone will tell you that there are only a few games on the schedule that can match it. Really, I don't see it as an issue in 2010.

Obviously, the biggest positive from these uber-competitive workouts is that the Longhorn offense won't see anything in a game from a talent standpoint that will top what they'll face in practices, which means that the games should be easier than the practices in most cases. The biggest negative is that a great defense can hurt an offense's timing and rhythm, which is something that I felt like happened to Colt McCoy and Co. last season.

Q: (jthhorn00) - I've seen you mention that you went to bat for Aaron Williams regarding his national ranking with the national guys, and it has me curious... what other guys over the years have you fought for to be moved up in the national rankings?

How do the assistant coaches get assigned their recruiting areas?

A: Good questions. There have been a ton of guys over the years that I liked very early that eventually watched their national ranking catch up to their LSR rankings. For instance, Michael Griffin is a guy that I rated as a top 10 prospect before anyone else, but he was eventually ranked as a nationally elite prospect, so I didn't have to campaign hard for him. In the spirit of the question, I'm guessing that you are asking about guys that I argued with the national guys over all the way until the release of the final rankings Some of the guys that I can remember campaigning for over the years include Rashad Bobino and Ramonce Taylor in 2004, Brandon LaFell, Ciron Black and Charlie Tanner in 2005, Vondrell McGee and Britt Mitchell in 2006, Keenan Robinson and Kyle Hix in 2007, Williams, D.J. Grant, Ryan Roberson and Blake Gideon in 2008, Alex Okafor, Garrett Gilbert, Tevin Mims and Barrett Matthews in 2009.

As far as the assistant coaches and their recruiting areas are concerned, it really depends on the situation. Usually, coordinators are given areas closest to the campus out of consideration to their other duties, but that isn't always the case and the Longhorns do so much positional recruiting that there really is quite a bleed over from area to area. For instance, Greg Davis has the Austin area as his recruiting area, but he's eventually going to wherever the quarterbacks are in the grand scheme and if there's a linebacker at Stony Point or something, he'll serve as a major liaison in the recruitment, but it'll have a lot of support from defensive coaches.

For the Longhorns, the Dallas, Houston and East Texas areas are so important that the staff's best recruiters are slotted to work those areas. Wide receivers coach Bobby Kennedy was hired (in-part) to help the Longhorns start winning against in the Metroplex.

Q: (Forever Orange'08) - As we transition into Fall camp, what is the early word regarding which freshman are likely to play a lot, which freshman are likely to play a limited role, and which freshman are likely to redshirt in 2010?

A: It's still really tough to project an answer for a question like this because we won't truly know how ready a player is until he puts the pads on and plays against older men. For instance, I would have never guessed that Marquise Goodwin would have been ready to play from the jump as a true freshman at the same time last year.

That being said, let's walk our way through the incoming class.

Quarterback: Neither Connor Wood or Case McCoy is ready to play, but Texas is only an injury away from possibly being pressed into playing one of the kids. In a perfect world, both players will redshirt, but if UT gets an unlucky break, the smart money is on Wood to get the first dose of playing time based on conversations I've had with people who have watched them this summer.

Running back: Look for Traylon Shead to red-shirt as he makes the adjustment from Class A ball to major college football while competing in a crowded backfield. DeMarco Cobbs is a total wildcard at this stage.

Wide receiver: It's another very crowded position entering the year, but I expect a couple of players to see early playing time, with Mike Davis, Darius White and Chris Jones representing the best candidates at this stage IMO.

Tight end: Darius Terrell is one of my sleeper's in this class and it wouldn't shock me if he played as a fish, but the smart money is still on a redshirt.

Offensive line: Unless the veterans just can't get the job done, I expect Dominic Espinosa and Trey Hopkins to redshirt.

Defensive tackle: This is a position where the Longhorns could use a boost and unless they simply aren't ready to play, look for Taylor Bible and Ashton Dorsey to play right away in back-up roles. My guess is that DeAires Cotton redshirts, but anything is possible given the need for more depth at the position in the immediate.

Defensive ends: Jackson Jeffcoat and Reggie Wilson have already opened eyes and I'm expecting them both to play.

Linebacker: Jordan Hicks is going to play right away and it wouldn't shock me if by the end of the season he's playing a lot, but I think Aaron Benson and Tevin Jackson could be headed for redshirts, unless they can find a spot on special teams, which is certainly possible.

Defensive backs: All hands are on deck and all of them could play this season.

Kicker: If Will Russ can come in right away and bang a few balls through the end zone, he could emerge as an impact freshman that can take some pressure off of Justin Tucker.

Q: (updownallaround) - For several years, it seemed like high school football in the state of Texas had a dearth of talent at the linebacker position. Now, we have what seems to be two recruiting classes in a row with a considerable increase in Division 1 prospects. To what would you attribute this increase in talent? How much better are the current crop of linebacker prospects than those from the previous several years? Is this a trend that is likely to continue?

A: Talent runs in cycles in a lot of instances and I think that might be the case with the in-state linebacker talent over the years. There's really no rhyme or reason for a state like Texas to experience a run of down years at the position that we witnessed at various stages of the last decade, but every once in a while you are going to have some strange anomalies going in both directions. There have been years when I haven't truly seen a big-time linebacker prospect, and this is a state that will produce almost 400 college signings on a yearly basis. I think the recent production at the position is probably in line with where it should be in a state of this size. There's no question in my mind that the talent in the linebacker pool the last few years is a significant upgrade from almost the entire last decade and you should cross your fingers that the trends continue to swing in the same direction. The good news is that 2012 looks like another plus-year.

Q: (rhendon) -First, hopefully the last question on realignment, but is there a chance the Big 12-2 breaks up next year after Colorado/Nebraska pay? Are people being so greedy to wait around to just get a few more dollars and try again next year?

Second, we are now up to 22 recruits. We are good with Malcolm Brown, and Austin Seferian-Jenkins. Then there are Aaron Green, Jamauria Rasco and Anthony Wallace. Depending to who you talk to, we are in the running for them as well. That makes it 27. I'm sure I'm forgetting one as well. How is this all going to work? I know how to get around the 25 limit rule, but the 85 one seems to be looming very great. I thought we were looking for 20 in Feb and now we are well past that going for another full group. Is it just that we are able to get the more talented guys now that past classes were missing? Are we banking on next year not being as good?

Third, can you explain to me or put to rest, why if A&M was in the SEC they would get a boost in recruiting? I kept reading this all the time and I read it again the other day regarding OU too. I just never thought that conferences mattered that much to the majority of recruits. If it was the case, the SEC would already be getting a foot hold into Texas because they are that great. ESPN already constantly shows SEC stuff on a regular basis and we had to live through last year with Tebow, Florida and the rest of the super SEC pumping. If that mattered to recruits, then UT wouldn't have pulled in back to back classes so strong, so quick and even grabbed an out of stater that Florida was trying to recruit as well. I just never saw how OU or A&M going to the SEC would pump their recruiting up so much and bring us down. If we go down, it is because where else is there to go for us in recruiting after what we've hauled in lately. How much more up can we go? In the end, recruits have always wanted to play for winners and good coaches. They don't always care so much about tradition or conference affiliation or strength of schedule. If they are in a program that will help them succeed in whatever way they want, then they want to go there. We have that. OU has part of it. A&M is lost in it all. Conference affiliation be damned.

A: First of all, the next round of the Big 12 Missile Crisis could begin at any moment and most involved seem to agree. It's a matter of when and not if we'll hit DEFCON 1 in a few years. The current Big 12 has as much stability as a couple that meets and marries each other in the same night. Yes, the Big 12 is Stu and Jade from The Hangover.

Second, the Longhorns are currently sitting at 85 scholarship athletes heading into the 2010 season and that doesn't take into account any attrition that might take place this summer and as I mentioned previously in this article, there's almost always two or three guys that are announced as departures before the end of each summer. The Longhorns currently have 17 scholarship seniors that are set to depart this season, so the 2011 class starts at 17 and can go up in numbers based on the number of departures (for whatever reasons) that take place in the next 14 or so months that don't involve members of the 2010 senior class. For instance, if Sam Acho transfers to Juilliard before the season, the numbers wouldn't change at all because he's already counted in the 17. However, if Garrett Gilbert transferred to Juilliard, it would open a scholarship because he's not scheduled to depart until after the 2012 season (Class of 2013). The bottom line is that the staff is projecting some attrition based on their numbers - probably somewhere between 7-10 players from right now through the end of the 2011 summer, and that number is probably not inconsistent with what they see on an annual basis.

Third, that was a hell of a rant. I'm afraid that you might have caused me to lose a few readers with the length of it, but I just couldn't leave any of it out. When Bluto is on a roll, you have to let Bluto stay on his roll.

Frankly, I view the subject as rhetorical question at this point, which is one of the reasons why some A&M fans are so caught up in the move. We can't prove one way or another how anything would unfold, but everyone has a theory. If we focus our attention on a few facts, it might help us at least have an understanding of the current climate and how the changes might potentially impact it.

No matter how you look at the SEC's influence in the state of Texas' recruiting right now, that league's impact is pretty minimal. Two-thirds of the state's top 100 players have already committed to schools eight months out from National Signing Day and only one thus far has committed to an SEC school. Understand that SEC schools are doing everything they can to make a dent in this state in recruiting, but they have had problems gaining footing and a lot of that centers around the fact that they don't play schools or games against Texas on a regular basis, which impacts how often momma can conveniently watch her son play on a weekly basis.

If that dynamic were to change, it's impossible to know what kind of impact it might have, but the smart money is that Texas would not be greatly impacted at all. It's hard for me to imagine that a school that is currently turning away a number of elite kids because they have too many wanting to join the program will simply be overrun by a conference that has currently landed more one more top 100 prospect than you and I have from the 2011 class.

For A&M, it's a chicken and egg argument. In order for them to be an impact player in recruiting (regardless of their conference), they will need to stop festering in sub-mediocrity at some point. If they can't do that in the Big 12, it's not going to happen in the SEC, which means that there's always going to be a ceiling that they bounce their head up against. Winning can cure a lot of ills and a little bit of consistency in that department will do more wonders for their recruiting than a conference change.

It really is amazing how not losing 62-14 to Kansas State can impact the way kids view that program.

My opinion is that an A&M move to the SEC would give them a little bit of a bump with kids in the second tier, but the impact they are hoping for isn't going to come until they establish a better brand of football of football on the field. My gut tells me that an SEC affiliation with A&M would make schools like LSU, Arkansas and Alabama a little stronger in Texas. Translation: they go from signing almost no impact players each year to possibly signing a couple or several. Their presence might be similar to the way we currently view Nebraska before their switch to the Big 10. At the end of the day, with only A&M representing the state every year, the only change for those SEC schools is that the mommas of those recruits will be able to see a single game in Texas every two years or so at best.

Again, it's an impossible question to answer and those appear to be the ones that A&M fans love the most.

Q: (gjeace) - It seems that every season, early or throughout the season, a couple previously unknown walk-ons get some solid playing time for whatever reason (to push more talented players to work hard, doesn't make mistakes, etc.) Also, a good number of special teams walk-ons (deep-snappers especially) most always make an impact at some point in their careers and sometimes make a huge impact (Ryan Bailey against Neb)

If you have heard anything about any of the non-scholarship players either incoming freshmen or otherwise, fill us in on a few who might see the field for Texas in the future.

A: Honestly, I haven't heard a lot of conversation this summer about walk-ons, at least not as it relates to contributing in any role unrelated to special teams. The talent base has never been higher, especially in regards to young talent, so it's going to be pretty tough sledding for a walk-on to crack the line-up, and I don't see any Ahmard Hall's or Marcus Griffin's out there currently in the competition.

That being said, there are some notable walk-on's to keep an eye on:

• Senior John Gold is probably the most impacting walk-on in the program at the moment and it won't surprise me if he gets placed on scholarship during his senior season in 2010.

• Junior defensive tackle Tyrell Higgins is a former scholarship athlete from the 2007 class that had a solid spring, but it remains to be seen what kind of role he'll have with the team this season or in the future because he really has stood out from the pack at any point.

• Red-shirt freshman Cade McCrary possesses some skills at receiver, but that might be the deepest position on the team right now, so I'm not sure where or when he cracks the line-up on offense.

• Junior fullback Aaron Smith is a guy that contributed on special teams, but you likely won't notice him much.

• Sophomore Jamison Berryhill is a back-up fullback that lettered last year and will likely see reserve snaps again this season.

Q: (ColtforHeisman) - Fill in the blank - Aaron Green will sign with _____ in February?

A: Texas

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