March 9, 2010

The Ticket City Locker Room Report

Q: (Hornmonte) - Ketch: 5 totally unrelated questions:

1) Sheroid Evans, Marquis Goodwin,D.J. Monroe who gets first, second, and third in the 40 and 100, 200 meters?

2) In order, who are the 5 strongest bench pressers on the 2010 Longhorn team?

3) Due to their lack of playing time, you think Jermie Calhoun and R.J. Washington are busts or were just over-rated?

4) Any word on why the NCAA is dragging their feet on sanctions for USC, considering Reggie Bush repaid an agent $300,000 he supposedly received as a student. I was hoping that it would affect their last recruiting class, but it didn't.

5) Have not heard anything about Mark Buchanan. Think he might push Brit Mitchell for playing time?

A: Not a bad first effort in the Locker Room mailbag. Your first question is really interesting and I'm sure it'll lead to some discussion on the boards. If we're ranking them over 40 yards, I'd go (in order) Monroe, Evans and Goodwin. If we're talking 100 meters, I might go Goodwin, Monroe and Evans. Finally, if we stretch things out to 200 meters I'm taking Evans, Goodwin and Monroe.

As for the top bench press guys, I'd probably go with David Snow and Michael Huey on offense, while Derek Johnson, Sam Acho and Kheeston Randall stand out. Last year, Lamarr Houston and Charlie Tanner both led the way with high marks of 500+ pounds.

Third, I wouldn't rush to judgment on either of the two five-star players that haven't yet taken off with the Sooners. This is a big year for both players, with Calhoun scheduled to be the top back-up at running back, which could out him in the position as the starter in 2011 once DeMarco Murray graduates. Washington's future is a little cloudier and he has the smell of a potential outright bust. Obviously, the depth at defensive end has been strong for the Sooners, but he only played in five games as a redshirt sophomore and he's fallen behind David King on the two-deep. Basically, he's a third-team player right now and hasn't been able to kick it up a notch.

Fourth, the USC program had a pretty lengthy sit-down with the NCAA a few weeks ago and they'll get the official word on sanctions in four to six weeks. Let's wait until the final word comes out before rushing to a judgment/conclusion, although I think we all feel like they'll likely deliver a very soft slap on the wrist. Frankly, there's a big game of chicken that's starting to take place behind a leaderless NCAA and the big boys in college athletics. A number of major college universities and athletic programs are already tired of the NCAA and would love nothing more than to have the "sanctioning body" take a hard swipe at their bottom line because it could trigger the beginning of a huge and messy divorce.

Finally, those inside the program have high hopes for Buchanan, but he's yet to carve out a niche for himself and there's a lot of competition on the second-team between young players pushing for playing time. The next three weeks are huge for him.

Q: (Dallashorn02) - All three of my questions are somewhat related as it looks at the identity Mack wants to create going forward and if we're trying to become a more "SEC" like team

1) How committed and patient do you think the offensive staff will be with the implementation of more under-center offense? If they struggle out of the gate in 2010, do you feel there's a chance they just revert back to what they're comfortable with and start going back to shotgun spread with 4 and 5 wides? Or will they stick thru things even if they hit some rough patches?

2) Do you get any sense that Mack Brown is almost trying to get ahead of the curve in the Big 12 by developing our offense to what we saw early in the decade to exploit defenses built to defend the spread?

3) In his pre-spring practice press conference, Mack also touched on the issue of our rush defense and his concerns facing two back offenses. Our rush defense has received high marks statistically the last couple of years, however, when defending our toughest rushing attacks in 2008 and 2009, we've been gashed pretty good (2008 - Okla.St/Ohio State, 2009 - Aggy/Alabama). Is this the price of recruiting smaller LBs to defend the spread and do you see any changes in the types of LBs we recruit?

A: 1. There are a lot of layers to the offensive discussion, but I think it seems pretty clear that the coaching staff has committed to developing a different personality on that side of the ball. That doesn't mean that the Longhorns will do away with their three- and four-receivers sets, but it does mean that the Longhorns want to be less one-dimensional. On some level the game of football is always going to be a game of down and distance, and all of the efforts to improve the physicality and versatility of the offense are aimed at controlling that very thing.

The last few years has featured an offense that conceded some ability in the running game for the sake of riding the arm of one of the most accurate quarterbacks in the history of the sport. The Longhorns have lacked bodies at tight end, talent at offensive line and above-average ability at running back, but they were able to mask all of it with a record passing game. Well, the parts that made that magic happen are gone and it would be unrealistic to expect Gilbert to assume those Herculean responsibilities that Colt McCoy shouldered the last two years.

That proverbial elephant in the room that nobody really acknowledges is that these moves in the off-season are born out of true necessity, as much anything else. At some point, the offense has to evolve once again and that's a commitment that I think the coaches are married to heading into the season. Barring an outright catastrophe, I think you're going to see this year's team make every attempt possible at balancing out the strengths of the offense.

2. I don't think there's any doubt that Mack Brown and the rest of the staff are building a program that's designed to take advantage of the weaknesses that are somewhat inherent in the Big 12 conference. Part of the reason for so many spread offenses centers is that the talent bases at the majority of schools in the conference can't match up with the true powerhouses in college football and the general philosophy in college football suggests that the spread can be the great equalizer, especially if the right quarterback is available.

The secret to stopping the spread is having a defense that has enough size, speed and raw talent to swallow the damn thing up. Seriously, there's a reason why the college spread offense doesn't translate to the next level and it has everything to do with the ridiculous amount of speed on the field that disables the basics of the offense. The same principles exist at the college level, but most Big 12 teams can't recruit the type of athletes that we're talking about. However, that's not the case in the SEC and it's one of the reasons why high-powered Big 12 offenses have struggled in match-ups against elite SEC defenses.

As much as we've talked about Mack Brown's ability to recruit over the years, the talent base on defense is currently growing to unseen levels with the recruiting in the last three classes. There's a reason why Will Muschamp has stayed away from smaller linebackers in the last few recruiting classes and seems to be trending towards more size. After a couple of go-rounds in the Big 12, I don't think there's any question that Muschamp has a better idea of what he needs at his disposal to dominate in the Big 12, while also making a concerted effort to build a unit that allows the Longhorns to remain elite again the top teams in other conferences. Think about the defensive performances in BCS games under Mack Brown - Michigan, USC, Ohio State and Alabama. None of those games produced defensive performances to remember. All of those games featured major issues on that side of the ball.

When you look at a league that's built to defend the spread, it's clear that there are some advantages to having a more physical offense that can mix in the run and the pass. With the general size of Big 12 defenses, if you can run the football and control the line of scrimmage, everything else has a chance to open up in the passing game with the level of talent emerging at quarterback and arriving at wide receiver.

3. I touched on this issue in the last section. There's no question that the staff is moving towards a personnel set that allows them to match-up with all offenses and not just the spread game in the Big 12. Look at the linebackers that have been taken in the last few years - Tevin Jackson, Jordan Hicks, Chet Moss, Steve Edmond and Kendall Thompson. All of those players bring true size to the linebacker position, which would indicate that you better be a special tweener to receive serious consideration from the Texas defensive staff in recruiting.

Q: (dragworm) - 1. With recruiting taking place at earlier and earlier ages for athletes there is an increased amount of time that recruiters need to wait to see them fulfill their potential physically. Are there any rules of thumb that recruiters use to estimate how much more an athlete will grow or develop? Have there ever been any instances where someone committed early but did not develop further physically to meet expectations?

2. I'm curious what your benefit is for being a member of the Rivals network? I know that before I joined here you had the LSR site and moved to the Rivals network. I joined the site mainly for the analysis of the Orangebloods staff and I don't see anywhere near the same value on the national stuff. Most of the members here have a strong focus on the talent in Texas and your LSR 100 list is always a much better picture of the talent in Texas. Other than being a portal to other rivals team sites, what is the draw to rivals?

A: The answer to your first question is no. One of the real potential dangers of the earlier offers is that there is certainly more of a guessing game nature to projecting frames and potential growth. Although it doesn't happen often, there are occasions when early commitments don't pan out as expected and there are a number of ways to deal with those situations if you're a college coaching staff. I think a recent case of that occurred last year with Oklahoma and Irving Nimitz safety Edrick Lofton. When the Sooners offered Lofton, they viewed him as a must-have, but when he was ready to start looking around, the feeling apparently was pretty mutual.

Second, I think your perception of the network is a little different than mine, but that's probably expected because I wouldn't expect you to have a global view of what we consider to be a vital partnership with Rivals. From a network standpoint, I'm very comfortable with the other publishers in the network, the talent and work of the national writers and those at the very top of the company.

Frankly, there's a lot to the relationship that extends beyond what you guys see on the site. I will also add that my confidence in the network's content effort is high and in my opinion we're somewhat of a victim to our exceedingly high expectations. But, that's a good thing. When you've been so good for so long, expectations deserve to be high. I don't agree with every single decision on every level, but I think the grass is not always greener on the other side. In fact, I know it's not.

Q: (bman25) - How do you see the QB situation shaping up over the next few years, specifically with regards to Connor Wood, Case McCoy and David Ash? Early reports are that Connor is a stud and is already physically prepared for college and it appears obvious that Case needs some time to develop. If Connor Wood is the successor to Garret Gilbert, is it stupid to give him the backup QB role this year? Assuming that Garret stays four years, do you see any way that we keep Connor from transferring? I just don't see Wood sitting three years to play one.

Also, will a Marquise Anderson commit to OU have any effect on Malcolm Brown? What's your vibe?

A: The questions about the quarterback positioning is a great one, but we would all be wise to avoid making definitive statements about the situation because so many unknowns exist. For instance, if Sherrod Harris can hold on to the back-up job and Garrett Gilbert can stay healthy for the entire season, this debate will remain a moot point because it'll be turn into a legit two-year battle between Wood/McCoy to position themselves as the heir apparent.

The dynamics change if Harris underperforms, or Gilbert gets hurt for an extended period of time or if one of the freshmen simply takes the back-up job by the horns and runs with it. If either Wood or McCoy emerges as that player in 2010, there's no question that it will put the other player behind the eight ball to a degree. I think all parties would prefer redshirts for both freshmen, but the world of reality can often destroy well-made plans.

Another dynamic you didn't mention is the one that has Gilbert leaving after his junior season. Yes, that's a very premature projection, but if he's the player that many of us believe he is, the possibility has to remain on the table. If that happens, and some connected to the program are whispering that it's a possibility down the road, Wood or McCoy's starting tenure might not be limited to a single season. If Gilbert is indeed a four-year player, the staff/player would have to have a conversation or two moving forward about the loss of the redshirt and what it means.

Again, let's give everyone a month of workouts before we start sending guys to the pros or to the transfer line.

As for Anderson and whether his decision will impact Brown's, it's hard to say, but the key to recruiting will always be the mom and not the friend down the street. That's why packaged deals almost never work out. Every player and his family will have a different set of needs/wants and I'm sure the depth chart by itself probably looks very different for both, at least as it relates to the Longhorns.

Q: (Classic54) - From a novice's viewpoint, it seems as though the high school football talent in Texas, as well as the nation, has improved dramatically over the past several years. 1) Do you agree with this assessment? 2) What has caused the improvement? 3) How would rank the LSR's in the Mack Brown era?

A: I don't know that the raw talent has really changed as much as the development and maturity of the talent continues to improve and evolve each year. There are a number of players in the 2011 class that have been training and preparing for this moment for three or more years. There's such an emphasis on recruiting these days that camps and combines are invaluable tools for these kids and the sophistication of the elite off-season training in a lot of Texas high school, along with the help of personal trainers, has really created better and more complete prospects.

Forgive me for not spending too much time on the ranking of the LSR lists over the years, but if I dive into this head-first, I'll spend five days researching the answer. Based on an eyeball of the top 25-50 players in each class, I'd rank them like this (with the right to change my mind later):

2002, 2009, 2010, 2011 (fluid spot), 2001, 2007, 2006, 2008, 1999, 2003, 2004, 2000, 2005 and 1998.

Overall, I thought most of the years in the middle were pretty even.

Q: (Kirby4286) - When a player "transfers" after encountering legal troubles, we all know it's basically a dismissal. How is that process handled by Mack Brown behind closed doors?

A: It's definitely one of those case-by-case situations, but it's pretty standard procedure to involve the player, parents and high school coaches in those discussions - either in person or on the phone. Generally speaking, the Texas staff goes out of its way to help a player with a transfer when they can. For instance, the Longhorns helped Buck Burnette land on his feet when a lot of people probably would have completely turned on him.

Q: (aakeys) - 1. One area that seems to puzzle a lot of us is the defensive back recruiting, and, particularly, the fact that Quandre Diggs has not been offered. Looking at his quotes on the issue, it seems that we might be missing something. Is it possible that his academics are an issue that still needs to be resolved, or are we honestly still evaluating a defensive back who seems to play at a faster speed than anyone else on the field and who hits like a freight train?

2. I am concerned that the numbers we are recruiting on the Offensive Line--five already committed, two offers still outstanding--and the decision to offer an athlete / offensive player a defensive back position could have a detrimental impact on the numbers in the rest of the class, keeping us from having enough room left for the number of true defensive backs we need. This also seems to be a great recruiting year for both defensive back talent and Texas' recruiting power nationwide, with players out there like Diggs, Charles Jackson, Nick Waisome and Avery Walls, all of whom have expressed interest in Texas. If the hard number for OLs at the beginning of the class was 5, why did the staff make some of the early offers that got them in this position, already knowing who their OL targets were, and that they had a good shot at all of them? Also, why did the staff not look ahead to the db talent available this year before taking three DBs last year, and, likewise, why were great OL talents like Evan Washington, Cedric Ogbuehi and Tyrus Thompson not offered last year?

A: From what I understand, the issue with Diggs isn't grade-related. Instead, I think the greater issue might be that the Longhorn staff hasn't completely decided which position they like him the most at and I'm not sure that he currently has a coach that's fighting for him to be in their numbers. For instance, if I'm Duane Akina and my defensive back numbers have been reduced to four, I need to make sure that the final defensive back in this class is 100% all-defensive back. I can't have my final guy turning into an offensive player, ala Ramonce Taylor. Is that Diggs? Is he the best possible corner candidate? Is there a coach, specifically Akina, that's ready to go to the mattress for him in the coaching meeting? I'm not sure the answers to those questions have been determined, which is why we're in this holding pattern.

As for your second set of questions, let's just try to address them one at a time:

1. Why did the staff make so many early offers to offensive linemen? Well, I don't think there's any doubt that a lot of it had to do with momentum… Texas wanted to build it and they just happened to have a number of their top line prospects ready to pull the trigger early on. Despite whatever reservations you might have about a prospect or two in the group, Texas feels like they landed all five of their top offensive line prospects in the state. Of course, had they known about Matthew Hegarty's surging interest a month earlier, it might have impacted their offers on the first Junior Day, but hindsight is 20-20. The bottom line is that there's no real reason to be upset because the Longhorns are too dominant in recruiting. If the biggest problem that you have is that you wish the state's top four lineman had committed instead of the top five, you need to take a moment to smell the roses.

2. Why did the staff offer three defensive backs in 2010 when they knew the depth of the position in 2011? Let me answer your question with a question - have you seen the depth chart in the secondary? True freshman Adrian White is already running second-team corner by default. Actually, the Longhorns took more than three defensive backs in 2010 (White, Carrington Byndom, Bryant Jackson and Adrian Phillips) and you can make a case that more effort should have went into going out and landing one more elite-level national cornerback prospect. For all of the fuss made over players that haven't received offers, understand that the staff viewed three defensive backs in the state as must-have, first day offers. For whatever the reason, there are reservations about the rest and there weren't any reservations last year with the defensive backs that you asked about.

3. Finally, the staff decided very early on that they were restricting offensive line numbers in 2010 and eventually I think they became so convinced that they needed to be locked on a low number that they never allowed themselves to consider the possibility that the decision was greatly flawed (like the 2009 running back decisions). That being said, two of the three prospects you specifically mentioned wouldn't have been players that I would have targeted with additional numbers. Ogbuehi is a take, but there were better prospects out there than Washington and Thompson.

Q: (dabster) - I vaguely remember Mack's statement several years ago when Ryan Palmer and Brandon Foster were in the program, something to the effect that Texas would be recruiting DBs with more size going forward. The reason I bring it up is several posters have lamented the fact that Q. Diggs has not been offered by Texas. IF Diggs was actually 5'10' or taller, would he already be the 18th commitment?

A: Yes. If Diggs were a few inches taller, he'd be a five-star prospect.

Q: (Prosperity) - Okay Ketch. Let's pull out your crystal ball and fast forward to 2018-2020. After 5-7 years, Coach Muschamp has already won two MNCs as the head coach to go along with the one that he won as the DC with Garrett Gilbert at the reins and Mack Brown going out in glory.

Does he get the NFL itch and pull a Steve Spurrier or Pete Carroll? As Texas fans, will we have to deal with the annual rumors of a Jerry Jones type owner throwing a ridiculous sum of money at Will to bolt the 40 Acres? Or do you think that Coach Muschamp is going to be a lifetime college coach, after already getting a taste of the pros?

A: You've got a crystal ball that can tell you that Texas wins a couple of national titles in the next 10 years but it can't tell you if Muschamp will leave? Isn't that a little like the X-ray vision that all of the dead dogs at Kyle Field possess? They can see the scoreboard that's on display for them through six feet of dirt, but their powers won't allow them to use the X-ray vision all the way into the stadium. It's like there are limits to the superpower.

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