July 29, 2009

The Ticket City Locker Room

Q: (BurtHorn■) - Do you see Texas taking another look at Rashad Favors now with more players off the board? Are Favors' feelings too hurt at this point for the Horns to be a favorite to land him?

Darius White mentioned to a Fort Worth reporter that all schools are still open and he isn't making any decision soon! Does that bode well for Texas or is he just all over the map?!?

Who do you see this season at RB stepping up into the primary role?

Finally, who would you take? Ali or Lennox Lewis

A: I don't think you ever say never, but I think it's pretty unlikely that the Longhorns get back into the mix with Favors. I think it's important to understand that Texas defensive coordinator Will Muschamp personally evaluated Favors, who was a heavy Texas lean early in the process, and decided to look in other directions.

Favors is a good player, but when I've watched him on film the one thing that really stands out to me is the lack of burst or explosiveness. While he's got a great frame, he doesn't turn his hips easily and he's got heavy feet. If you're recruiting him as a fullback, I think we're talking about a player that can potentially contribute at a high level. If he's being recruited as a linebacker, my fear is that his flaws will detract greatly from his strengths. Outside of the offer from Oklahoma, Favors' next best offers are from Nebraska and Texas Tech, which is a bit telling when you consider the number of elite-level schools that are recruiting White and have visited Dunbar numerous times in the last year.

On top of all that, I'm sure it would take some very delicate handling on the part of the staff to massage some of the hurt feelings that likely exist over the lack of attention in the first seven months of the recruiting year.

As for White, I don't think the Longhorns are out of it, but they've got a lot of ground to make up and they've got to completely change things up in regards to their ongoing sales pitch. The Longhorns have been beaten up by other schools over the perception that the Longhorns will not play their young players and that has hurt them with White, who is under the impression that the Texas staff will bury him behind lesser, older talents. In addition to that, I think White is a kid that probably resents the fact that so many assumed he was going to Texas based on some of his early comments about the school last year. If there's one thing that seems clear, he wants everyone to know that perception is far from reality as we approach his senior season.

Moving on to the running back position, I really think the trio of Cody Johnson, Foswhitt Whittaker and Vondrell McGee will emerge as a pretty strong unit. There might not be one guy that dominates, but all three of these players bring different strengths to the table and have the talent level to get hot on any day and carry the load.

Finally, while I have a ton of respect for Lewis as a heavyweight champion, he never looked the lion in the eye like Ali did on numerous occasions in his career. There's a place deep down in Ali's soul that he would be able to dig into to win a fight against Lewis, especially when you consider his combination of power, ring skill and knowledge of the fight game he brought to the table.

Q: (wabsh512) - Given the misses on the guys who don't commit on Junior Days and thus have more time to be recruited by other schools, I'm curious what the most popular criticisms/arguments used against Texas are and which ones, in your judgment, have had the biggest impact?

A: Here are a few negative recruiting angles that the Longhorns are consistently taking head on:

1. The academics are too tough and the support system in place won't be able to keep you eligible.

2. The Longhorns won't play true freshmen.

3. If there's a veteran on the depth chart at your position, you won't ever beat him out, even if you are a better player.

4. Of course, an oldie but a goodie is when schools use the size of the school and city as a negative selling point, especially with small-town kids, as the seed that is Austin being portrayed as a city of sin is planted

Q: (PSKTC) - Our 2010 recruiting class is filled with studs and one of UT's best in recent history. In your opinion: What do we lack in order to finish the year with the #1 class in the nation?

A: Let's forget about the No.1 ranking because the short answer is the easiest - about five more national top 100 type players. The Longhorns will probably finish with more national 250 players than anyone in the nation, but in order to be the top class in the country it's going to take some five star commitments.

More important than that is the issue of whether the Longhorns have filled all of their needs. Let's take a quick glance at each position:

Quarterback - Mission accomplished. One season after landing a true franchise prospect, the Longhorns were able to nab their top choice from the in-state talent pool.

Running back - Mission incomplete. When the Longhorns shut things down in recruiting in 2008, the biggest need at the position was a guy that could serve as a true home run threat in the mold of a Jammal Charles or Ramonce Taylor. If you look at the recruiting classes over the course of the last few seasons, the Longhorns have landed a little bit of everything, but a guy whose speed and explosiveness can put pressure on a defense with his mere presence on the field is not among them. So, that was the goal in this class - find that kind of guy. Thus far, the Texas staff has not done that.

Wide receiver - Mission incomplete. In one of the deepest wide receiver classes in the history of this state, the Longhorns have lost one commitment in Ross Apo and are holding on for dear life in the recruitment of Darius White. When you consider that Darius Terrell will likely end up as an H-back/tight end, the two-man class of Chris Jones and John Harris is not enough, especially when you consider that the Longhorns were on schedule to sign a five-man class just a few months ago. In my opinion, the Longhorns must land another big-time wide receiver from this class or they'll have left too much food on the table.

Tight end - Mission accomplished. With the idea that Terrell eventually slides over to this position, the staff can probably rest easy at this position.

Offensive line - Mission accomplished. The Longhorns wanted two interior linemen and if they had landed Jake Matthews, they'd chalk it up as one heck of a bonus. Instead, they'll take their two national top 100 guys and start getting for 2011.

Defensive tackle - Mission accomplished. The Longhorns didn't waste any time. They wanted three tackles in this class and they secured their three favorite by the end of February.

Defensive end - Mission incomplete. The mission will remain incomplete until they sign Jackson Jeffcoat.

Linebacker - Mission incomplete. This is another position that is very strong in-state this season and the Longhorns need to come out of this class with more than two players.

Secondary - Mission accomplished. Duane Akina signs another loaded defensive backfield class.

Special teams - Mission accomplished. The Longhorns don't need to offer a special teams specialist in this class.

Overall, if you look at it position-by-position, this team still needs a dynamic running back weapon and at least one more wide receiver/linebacker. Plus, there's Jeffcoat. The Longhorns might leave the running back position unsettled, but I do think they'll go after, even if it's not Darius White. I believe the same will be true at linebacker if they can't close out with Jordan Hicks, Aaron Franklin or both.

Q: (Principal) - What is the age of Colt McCoy and Jordan Shipley?
We read about them playing their senior year all the time, but never read about their actual age.

A: McCoy will turn 23 on September 5th, while Shipley with turn 24 two days before Christmas.

Q: (TXCardinal) - Here's the scenario: It's October 17, 2009. The Longhorns have dominated the first five games of the season, including last week's 52-7 crushing defeat of the Colorado Buffaloes. The defense has overwhelmed its opposition, the pass rush hasn't missed a beat, and the secondary alone has produced 13 turnovers. The offense has been less dramatic, with an improved rushing attack, less reliance on Colt's rushing yards, and a (predictably) efficient passing attack punctuated by well-placed deep passes to Malcolm Williams, who already has 6 touchdowns on the year.

It's now halftime of the Texas-Oklahoma game. Texas is leading 24-10, and the defense has played well. Unfortunately, Colt McCoy sustained a catastrophic broken leg just before halftime and is lost for the year. Predict the rest of the season.

A: The Longhorns hold on to beat Oklahoma 38-31 in Dallas, as Garrett Gilbert throws a touchdown pass to Oklahoma-killer Jordan Shipley with 3:43 left to give the Longhorns a 38-24 lead. Sam Bradford gets the Sooners to within a touchdown with less than a minute remaining in the game, but Blake Gideon recovers the final onside kick to seal the game.

The bad news is that the Longhorns get knocked off two weeks later in Stillwater in a perfect storm setting that is similar to Lubbock last year. While a healthy McCoy could get Texas out of that kind of setting, Gilbert's not quite ready.

Still, the Longhorns put the pieces together and finish the season at 11-1 and co-champions of the Big 12 South, but thanks to the head-to-head win over Oklahoma in October, the Longhorns advance to play Kansas in the Big 12 title game. Gilbert throws three touchdowns and the Longhorns defense forces five Todd Reesing turnovers, as Mack Brown wins his second Big 12 title.

Q: (unclejemimah) - 1) I watched Tevin Jackson's film and then Jordan Hicks' film back to back and did not come away with the impression that Tevin does not belong in the same area rankings wise as Jordan does. I would put Tevin in the top 100 easily, maybe the top 50. Do you see him making a push like that before the final rankings are out?

2) There may not be one person I am more excited to see this season on the field than Malcolm Williams. I could see him going for 20 yards per catch and 10 TDs. Give me your pick and what you expect to see from that pick this year.

3) On a scale of 1-10, how pissed off is Will Muschamp going to be if our DBs drop interceptions at the rate they did last season?

A: I've been the president of the Tevin Jackson fan club since the first time I saw his film. Personally, I think the guy walks around with a wallet that reads "Bad MF" and I think some of the national analysts will be coming around to my side of things before the final rankings come out near February. Frankly, I wouldn't be shocked if he's in the top 50 as soon as September after his performance this week at the Gridiron Kings event in Florida.

Second, I think Williams has big-play weapon written all over him this season and he's been flat out dominating at times in the off-season, but I just don't know if the opportunities this season might be limited because of the balanced weaponry on offense. Ten touchdowns seems like a lot.

Finally, I'll put Muschamp at a 17 if they drop that many interceptions this season. His head might actually explode.

Q: (eray7758) - What do you see Nolan Brewster's role in the defense I realize he is behind some extreme talent but he is also a very talented player...possibly a move to LB?

Also, let's say Christian Scott passes Blake Gideon on the depth chart by week 3, does the nickel package stay with Scott, Gideon and Earl Thomas covering the slot??

A: I'm not sure that Brewster has a big role in this season's defense outside of serving as a back-up at safety behind Earl Thomas, Christian Scott and Blake Gideon. While his prospects on defense might be limited, he could be a key special teams player. As far as his long term development is concerned, Brewster is going to have a tough battle on his hands if he's to earn a significant role on this team. Even if he moves to linebacker down the road with some added bulk, he's going to have to beat out some very good players - elite prospects - for playing time.

Second, don't look for any of those safeties to be off the field if Will Muschamp's plan comes together like he wants it to. Scott is going to play a lot this season, whether there are two or three safeties on the field, but when the team is in nickel - these three will be there if healthy.

Q: (Cdunagan051) - Hey Ketch, My question is regarding recruiting classes, their time at Texas, and the importance of signing early and getting to bond with the other recruits in their class. There is a recent recruiting class that I always see together, on campus and off. They seem to be very close, and there are both offensive players and defensive players in this tight knit group. They will finally all be on the field pretty much non-stop this season. But anyways, here are my questions.

1. Are members of recruiting classes becoming best friends like this is unusual? Or is it the norm?

2. Are companies like Rivals making recruiting such a big deal that this is evolving into more of a brotherhood than just a personal stake like it used to be?

3. And also, could this be a bad thing? Could certain players slack off a little bit in practice in order to make their friends look better, knowing that they are not in danger of losing their starting job? I heard it is very rare that offensive and defensive players are so close.

A: I think the bonding that we're seeing from recruits in each new recruiting class is a little stronger each year because it seems like the groups start building on the common bond that is their love for their school selection earlier and earlier each season. I don't know that it's unusual for football players to become close, but the Longhorns currently lead the nation in this category.

Second, I'm not sure I really understand the question. If you're asking if recruiting interest is reaching such heights that the recruits are clinging to each other in some sort of brotherhood of solidarity among prospects, that's probably a bit much. I do think there are more events for the high-profile kids to attend and some kids really enjoy that aspect of the always evolving recruiting process.

Finally, for your last question - I think you're reaching.

Q: (CenTex) - With all the latest disappointing recruiting news where do see us ending up in regards to total scholarships given out and is there a few recruits out on the radar that we don't know about right now.

A: I still think Texas takes a few more kids in this class when it's all said and done. If it's the right three players, I think the Longhorns would love to stop at 22. As far as players on the radar, I think the guys you know are the guys that you need to know. If anyone pops up on the radar it's likely to happen once the season begins. If you're looking for a trend - look local. Texas has landed commitments from James Kirkendoll of Round Rock (2007), D.J. Grant of Austin LBJ (2008) and Tevin Mims of Round Rock Stony Point (2009) very late in the process the last three seasons.

Q: (SouthHolland) - Going to have to peer deep into your crystal ball for this one. Its Big 12 media day three years from now; who's voted to the preseason all Big 12 team (and 2nd team if you wish) and what are the projected final standings?

A: I love the question and I have a feeling that I'll end up spending more time on this question than the rest combined. It'll be interesting to see how long it takes me to put together a 2011 All-Big 12 list that I'm comfortable with.

Note: I know you said three years from now, but I'm going to assume that you meant three seasons from now, including this seasons. If, for some reason, you wanted me to put together a 2012 All-Big 12 team… well… I'll take that on next week because it's going to require me putting my Carnac the Magnificent hat on for the complete 2010 and 2011 classes.

First-team Offense

QB: Robert Griffin, Sr. (Baylor)
RB: Jermie Calhoun, Jr. (Oklahoma)
RB: Christine Michael, Jr. (Texas A&M)
WR: Malcolm Williams, Sr. (Texas)
WR: Jeff Fuller, Sr. (Texas A&M)
WR: Kendall Wright, Sr. (Baylor)
TE: D.J. Grant, Sr. (Texas)
OT: Jeff Spikes, Sr. (Kansas)
OT: Mason Walters, Jr. (Texas)
OG: Stephen Good, Sr. (Oklahoma)
OG: Ryan Miller, Sr. (Colorado)
C: David Snow, Sr. (Texas)

First-team Defense

DE: Alex Okafor, Jr. (Texas)
DT: Kheeston Randall, Sr. (Texas)
DT: Baker Steinkkuhler, Jr. (Nebraska)
DE: Frank Alexander, Sr. (Oklahoma)
OLB: Travis Lewis, Sr. (Oklahoma)
MLB: Will Compton, Jr. (Nebraska)
OLB: Keenan Robinson, Sr. (Texas)
CB: Aaron Williams, Sr. (Texas)
S: Earl Thomas, Sr. (Texas)
S: Christian Scott, Sr. (Texas)
CB: Gabe Lynn, Jr. (Oklahoma)

Second-team Offense

QB: Garrett Gilbert, Jr. (Texas)
RB: Cody Johnson, Sr. (Texas)
RB: Jermie Calhoun, Jr. (Oklahoma)
WR: Ryan Broyles, Sr. (Oklahoma)
WR: Eric Ward, Jr. (Texas Tech)
WR: DaJaun Miller, Sr. (Oklahoma)
TE: Andrew Jones, Sr. (Missouri)
OT: Elvis Fisher, Sr. (Missouri)
OT: Marcel Jones, Sr. (Nebraska)
OG: Brandon Webb, Jr. (Oklahoma State)
OG: Evan Eike, Sr. (Texas A&M)
C: Jermemiah Hatch, Sr. (Kansas)

Second-team Defense

DE: Brandon Herald, Sr. (Kansas State)
DT: Stacey McGee, Jr. (Oklahoma)
DT: Sheldon Richardson, Jr. (Missouri)
DE: Nick Kasa, Jr. (Colorado)
OLB: Emmanuel Acho, Sr. (Texas)
MLB: Jon Major, Jr. (Colorado)
OLB: Corey Nelson, So. (Texas A&M)
CB: Daymond Patterson, Sr. (Kansas)
S: Kenji Jackson, Sr. (Missouri)
S: Trent Hunter, Sr. (Texas A&M)
CB: Anthony Blue, Sr. (Nebraska)

Note: For the record, I spent four hours answering the last question.

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