August 3, 2008

Ketch's Inside the Locker Room Report

Q: (fear_the_cow) - Which player is most likely to get an opportunity to return punts besides Quan Cosby? Who will get a look for kickoffs besides Cosby and Jordan Shipley? Which freshman returner is most likely to contribute?

Is Blaine Irby going to be able to replace the production of Jermichael Finley? Who is the going to get the majority of no. 2 snaps at TE and will they be a significant contributor?

Who is our next great kick blocker? Also, will Desean Hales play this year and what do you think the extent of his role is likely to

A: The roles within the return game are still under consideration and I think you're going to find that the staff will be taking a long look at a lot of young players, both in the punt and kickoff return games. When you look at the roster, you'll see a lot of young kids that have tremendous upside in the return game. Curtis Brown, Malcolm Williams, James Kirkendoll, Brock Fitzhenry, Hales and D. J. Monroe are just a few of the young players on the roster that were recruited with roles in the return game in mind. Williams got a long look in the spring and he returned the first kickoff in the spring game, but I think the staff is going to be tempted to test Monroe, especially after his scintillating performance in the THSCA All-Star game this week. Believe me when I tell you that the entire staff noticed what he was able to in San Antonio.

As for the Texas tight ends, I would look for the Longhorns to rely less on their tight end for production in the passing game this year. In talking with people close to the team, none of the players are ready for that kind of role, which means that the pressure on guys like Malcolm Williams, Brandon Collins and James Kirkendoll to emerge at wide receiver is intensified. The No.2 tight end spot will probably be a split role with Peter Ullman and Josh Marshall, with Ullman serving as the primary blocker and Marshall will be the receiver type.

Finally, look for Aaron Williams to be the next special teams star in the mold of former star Michael Griffin. He was a kick-blocking machine in high school and he has the potential to be a special player for the Longhorns. I wouldn't be shocked at all if he introduces himself on the big stage with a play on special teams.

Q: (Marka1) - Hey Ketch - I thought John Chiles changed the dynamic in the Nebraska when he came in. ASU had a tough time stopping him and their defense looked confused when he came in. Now it seems like he has fallen to the third string because of his lack of progress in the passing game. Do you think he will get a series or two a game if nothing else just to give the opposing defenses a new look? Also, how is the team chemistry this year?

A: First, Chiles might not have worked as much in off-season workouts as the other quarterbacks on the roster, but it might be over Mack Brown's body before he drops to third on the depth chart because Brown sees Chiles as a game-changer and one of the few known factors on the offensive side of the ball. The issue for Chiles is whether his development as a passer has reached a level where he can come in be something besides a run-game threat. If he can't, he's going to be somewhat limited in the amount of ways he can be used. I think Brown wants to play him a lot, but his faith needs to be rewarded by Chiles. As far as team chemistry issues, I think they are much better now than they were a year ago, but this team is still trying to find itself post-2005.

Q: (Texfan0611) - First time to submit questions for the locker room. I love the site, love the radio show, and couldn't be happier with addition of Chip. So, here it goes:

1) We've heard over and over again how some of the young kids in the secondary need to "step up" this season. During these reports/updates, rarely (if ever) has anyone mentioned Ishie Oduegwu. What gives? Is Ishie really that poorly thought of? Or, are the freshman that highly regarded? Is Ishie injured? Ishie looked like he made huge strides last season and now he's not even mentioned in the depth-chart. What am I missing?

2) How has James Kirkendoll looked during seven-on-seven drills this summer? As an alumnus of Round Rock High School, I pay extra attention to the Dragons that make it to the forty acres. I was ecstatic about the fact that, in interviews during Spring 2007 workouts, Kirk' was singled out by Coach Brown for his talent. This year he looked great in the Spring game. Therefore, what role do you believe Kirk will play this season? Where will he fit into the depth chart and do you have any information that will tell us, if used, how will GD use him?

3) What are your thoughts on Texas' chances of landing any of the top out-of-state recruits? (To be upfront, I am extremely pessimistic after the past few years.) While I see Texas being mentioned by some great recruits, does the coaching staff have what it takes to close any of the deals? Are the coaches really even motivated enough to make a push?

4) Speaking of recruiting, how will it look if the Ags end up landing (as rumored) Christian Michael and Craig Loston? If we can't get the out-of-state recruits, shouldn't Texas at least be able to get the best in-state talent? I know another team's recruiting class shouldn't be a measure of our own, but considering that Texas didn't even take a shot at these guys has me a little worried of the trend that the staff is beginning to follow. I understand the whole, "we're only taking one running back" argument but I am a big believer that (like Darrell Royal) Texas should go out and get the best talent; addition through subtraction.

5) My girlfriend bought me Texas Football season tickets for my birthday. She can tutor even the savviest fan on the difference between a 4-3 defense and 3-2-5 defense. She graduated top of her class in law school. And, as a bonus, she's smoking' hot. So, simply, have I found the perfect girl? (please ignore the fact that she attended a small catholic school in Indiana known for an overweight coach and a carrot-topped leprechaun.) Sorry, but considering my elatedness over the tickets, I had to ask.

A: First, let me start by saying thanks for kind words and I'm glad you decided to submit a Locker Room question or five.

Oduegwu is recovering from a knee injury that kept him out of the spring and he hasn't been able to participate at full strength in the summer workouts. Mack Brown did not mention Oduegwu's name when going over the medical report, so that might be a sign that he's ready to give it a go again. In his first season as a contributor last year, Oduegwu was a solid player against the run, but he really needs to make some progress in coverage or he's probably not going to be suited for a full-time role in Will Muschamp's defense. He's the only safety on the roster with an ounce of experience, so he's going to be a factor in the two-deep, but he needs as much improvement as any of the inexperienced freshmen.

If the season were to begin today, Kirkendoll would likely be the fifth receiver and the primary back-up, along with Brandon Collins, behind veterans Cosby and Shipley. In talking with people that were able to watch the team this summer, Kirkendoll has a reputation for having some of the best hands on the team and he can make people miss in space. He must continue to improve his route running and overall consistency to create a big role within the offense this year.

As far as out of state recruiting is concerned, it's not really one of the programs strengths and it could probably be classified as a weakness. Unless there's a connection with the prospect or the prospect is committed to visiting the school early in the recruiting process, the Longhorns simply aren't as aggressive as their recruiting counterparts and it does leave them a little behind the eight ball when they try to get involved with a prospect that has built stronger relationships over time than the Texas staff. The Colorado staff used the fact that Texas didn't start recruiting him in earnest until the fall against the Longhorns in their own recruitment of Darnell Scott and it definitely had an impact.

Moving on to your fourth question, if the Aggies can lock down those two kids it will give them a little star-power to a class that really needs it. They currently have one commitment from both the Lone Star Recruiting and Top 30, which is just atrocious. Mike Sherman's staff won't arrive as recruiters and real factors in this state until they can steal a big-time prospect away from Texas in a true head-to-head battle. When you consider that Loston has never liked the Longhorns and Michael might still commit to Texas in a heartbeat of they offered, it's hard to call anything they've done this year in recruiting as forward progress. Right now those A&M classes look a lot like what John Mackovic used to pull in when he was coaching the Longhorns, except the out of state recruiting isn't nearly that strong yet under Sherman and they aren't even getting as many in-state blue chips as he did.

Finally, is her family crazy? There's a lot more to these decisions than football. That being said, if she looks good in nothing but your favorite team's jersey, you need to buy a ring.

Q: (MCB0703) -Regarding 2010 recruiting…I understand Lache Seastrunk is at the top of the list, but are there any others that have been listed as a "must have" recruit for Mack & Co? Connor Wood looks like a 5* QB…from your information/sources, will he give UT a strong look? Or does this look like another Matthew Stafford scenario? Would Jackson Jeffcoat be rated as high as Seastrunk for Mack & Co?

A: There's still a lot of evaluation that will take place in the fall, but I think the following players are just a few of the prospects considered very important for the 2010 class: Seastrunk, Jeffcoat, Dallas Skyline defensive end/linebacker Corey Nelson, Haltom defensive end Reggie Wilson and DeSoto cornerback Adrian White. Wood looks like the early choice at quarterback, but he's not likely going to be a national top 50 prospect and there are a number of other players that compete for the UT staff's attention.

Q: (sundance7) - Do you think that Will Muschamp has full authority over the defense? This includes making decisions on who are the starters, the defense they play against the various opponents and how the defense is conducted from beginning to end.

A: Yes, I think Mack Brown is probably going to let Muschamp do his thing, but there have been times in his career in Austin when Brown has had more control over the defense than others. For instance, I don't think there's any question that Greg Robinson had complete control of the personnel and the schemes, but I'm not sure that was the case in the last couple of seasons. In my opinion, part of the problem on defense the last few years is that there's a belief that not everyone on the staff was in agreement over those issues. Muschamp comes to Austin with the kind of background that suggests Brown will get out of the way, but we've got to see what happens when the lights are on for sure.

Q: (In Stink) -With the team reporting, the word has been that John Chiles did not make the progress with his passing over the summer that had been hoped for and that he is not ready to run Texas' full offensive package. Since Chiles insists on playing quarterback and seems reluctant to get snaps at any other position, what exactly did he do, or not do, to work on his passing since spring practice? Russell Shepard knows he needs to be a better passer to play quarterback in college, and he made weekly trips to Austin to work with Jeff Blake. It just seems that a great athlete with a strong arm like Chiles, who insists on playing quarterback, could make necessary progress in his passing over the summer with concentrated effort. Why didn't he? What happened, or didn't happen?

A: In talking to a few sources close to the team this summer, the reason that we were given for his missing several off-season workouts was an upper-body injury. His development is the hot-button topic on the offense heading into camp and everyone will be watching. Have the off-season reports about his lack of development in the passing game been off-point? We'll know very soon and the answers will determine the overall direction of this offense this year.

Q: (Rafa) - I'm not sure if this would be a good question for the world famous OB Locker Room…but I wanted ask if the players below had given any indication of their decision / commitment time frame. Are any of these expected to decide before their senior season? Enroll early? Or most likely to wait until NSD?

JaMarcus McFarland
Devon Kennard
Dre Kirkpatrick
Jarvis Jones
Gabe Lynn

A: Actually, this is a very good question for the Locker Room. I don't think anyone really knows what McFarland is going to do and when he's going to do it. I think the process might eventually get to be too much, but I'm starting to think the Longhorns need this to drag on for a while, so Longhorn fans should probably cross their fingers and pray he doesn't get overwhelmed at an LSU home game.

Look for the rest of that group to take their official visits and make their decisions in the final two months.

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