June 1, 2009

The Ticket City Locker Room Report

Q: (fear_the_cow■) - What is your best estimation at this point, of the carry load split next year; between Vondrell McGee, Fozzy Whittaker and Cody Johnson? Who walks out there first in game 1? Which guy is the biggest threat as a receiver out of the backfield at this juncture? Pass blocking?

A: If Johnson can stay healthy and he puts together a consistent set of fall workouts, he's my choice as the favorite to emerge. The staff has high hopes for Johnson, but he's yet to prove that he can stay healthy for a full 12 game season as the main guy. Once you get past Johnson, I'm not sure that there's a true leader between McGee and Whittaker, and I think both players will see snaps early in the season in an effort to sort out which should be on the field more than the other. Whittaker might have been ahead last fall, but McGee had a very good spring and really played with purpose in those 15 workouts. That doesn't mean he'll be a difference maker, but it does mean that he's got a new lease on life with the staff.

The wild card in the mix is going to be true freshman Chris Whaley. I know that Mack Brown has often hesitated at playing true freshmen, but it seems very clear to me that the staff has strong intentions of finding out exactly what Whaley can do when he officially arrives for his first set of team workouts in August. If he's as good as they think he is, he's going to be a factor for snaps as well, and perhaps a major one.

I'd guess Johnson walks out as the day one starter, but that's only if he can stay healthy. He'll probably handle the ball 10-15 times per game early on, with another 15-25 carries being distributed among the rest of the backs.

Overall, there's probably not a true replacement for Chris Ogbonnaya as the dominant pass receiver, but Whittaker would seem to have the most upside because of his ability to make things happen in space. All of the backs need to improve their blocking.

Q: (eman21) - Do recruits really hope to only get an offer from a school just to say the received one? What pro comparisons would you give to Cody Johnson and Chris Whaley? Those two are my favorites.

A: Yes, recruits love to build there offer lists and there have been a number of guys over the years that have held up their commitments in hopes of accumulating as many big-time offers as possible before they take themselves off the market.

It's not something that I think is rampant, but there are some prospects and parents that care more about that stuff than others.

As for the comparisons, I think Johnson reminds me a little of former Texas A&M running back Jamar Toombs in that he's a big, strong running back that is more tailback than fullback. Whaley reminds me some of a young T.J. Duckett.

Q: (In Stink) - The defensive tackle depth really appears to be the 2009 team's Achilles heel. By all accounts, Tyrone Higgins participated in spring practice. Is there any word on where he's at as a potential contributor? Does he still have any hurdles (academic or doghouse) to cross to be able to play in the fall, other than being good enough? What does he weigh now?

In a worst-case scenario, let's say Texas enters the Oklahoma game without one of its starting defensive tackles, or both. What does Will Muschamp do?

A: No, I really would not anticipate Higgins being a factor at this point because he's probably not ready to assume that kind of role for a program like Texas. While he had some academic issues and is now a non-scholarship player, he probably needs another year or two in the weight room before he can emerge as a factor. On the school's official site, Higgins is currently listed at 255 pounds.

I'm not sure that the situation at tackle is nearly as dire as you suggest. Lamarr Houston is expected to compete for All-Big 12 honors and the duo of Kheeston Randall/Ben Alexander give the team a minimum of three players that the Longhorns feel good about in the rotation. If either Calvin Howell or Derek Johnson can emerge as freshmen contributors, the Longhorns will probably sport more quality depth than most Division I teams.

Don't get me wrong - all of the players we're talking about have some issues or have had some issues in the past, but talent is not the key issue. If the Longhorns suffer some injuries and/or the young talent on campus doesn't develop quickly, the Longhorns might have to play more three-man fronts, which is something they'll experiment more with in year two under Muschamp, regardless of the tackle depth because of the staff's desire to be as versatile across the board as possible.

Q: (DHORN) - In your opinion is the Ahmad Dixon de-commit that big of a deal? It's obviously never a good thing to lose a great player to another program in your conference but given the number and quality of DBs on the roster it all seems over done to me. Secondly, would it be a good idea to offer Rashad Favors or Dominique Sanders (or both) to further entice Darius White to commit?

A: There are a couple of layers to the Dixon discussion. Any time you lose a kid with five-star potential, it's a big deal because those types of difference makers are hard to find. That being said, the Longhorns have recruited ridiculously well at defensive back over the last few seasons and there won't be any shortage of top-level defensive back candidates to fill his spot. That fact probably had a lot to do with his decision to switch to Baylor. If his goal was to not only play, but star as a true freshman, there's no question that the path is easier in Waco than Austin.

Second, without connecting my answer to the players you're discussion, I think it's important that every coaching staff stick to its guns when it comes to scouting evaluations. If you reach a conclusion that a player is not quite good enough to offer, then you need to stick to that evaluation because it's never a good idea to give away spots in the 85-man rotation. In most instances there's a better shot of the big-name prospect being a bust than there is of the side parts of the package being surprise contributors. Every time this question pops up, I'm reminded of Mike Clay signing with Missouri in 1998 because four or five of his teammates were given scholarships, despite many of them not being Big 12 caliber prospects. Clay ended up washing out at Missouri within a year and all that was left was a bunch of buyer's remorse on the side of the MU staff.

Based on what we know of the other Dunbar players, the initial evaluation of Favors and Dunbar indicated that the staff didn't believe they were on the same level as the other kids that they decided to offer. If that opinion changes after seeing them in the spring or after scouring them again in the fall, then you pull the trigger and offer, but unless that happens, I think you have to say no.

Q: (Bman25) - Would Mack take Ahmad Dixon back if he changed his mind again in the fall? Is Mack forgiving like that or is it a fool me once type thing with him? It seems unlikely that he would switch again, but what if Colt McCoy won the Heisman, the Horns won the championship, and Earl Thomas and Chykie Brown won the Thorpe? Are the coaches keeping that possibility open?

A: I think you probably never say never, but I would be shocked if Mack Brown took back Dixon at this point unless he was completely convinced that there was not a chance that he would change his mind again. It would mean Dixon would likely need to come to Brown and not vice versa because the Texas staff won't be played twice.

Also, please understand that Dixon made his decision based on a number of factors that were really out of Texas' control. Baylor has a close family-like connection, is closer to home and has more early playing time available than Texas.

Q: (iluvdahorns) -After the de-commitment of Ahmad Dixon there were some rumors floating around on the board that he may not be the last to go. Do you know if there if there are any other current commitments thinking about re-opening their recruitment or possibly de-committing altogether? If you are aware of somebody who's keeping the door open but you don't want to reveal the specific player at the risk of jeopardizing your relationship with that recruit could you specify offense/defense or position?

To what extent do the coaches dictate who gets the majority of the reps during summer 7v7? For example can the coaches insist that Garrett Gilbert, Barrett Matthews and Chris Whaley get a certain number of reps in 7v7's despite being true FR?"

A: No, I don't think there are any current commitments that are on the verge of switching like Dixon had been for much of the month of May. There was some talk that Alief Taylor defensive tackle DeAires Cotton might be looking around, but he snuffed that out pretty quick when we asked him about it a few weeks ago. Of course, history suggests that there might be another defection to the commitment list at some point, but there's nothing on the radar that's imminent IMO.

Second, the coaches don't determine the rep count at all in the seven-on-seven workouts. All of those workouts are player controlled, with the quarterbacks dictating most of the action and personnel groupings on offense. Over on the defensive side of the ball, the players work with the personnel packages they believe will be on the field together during the season.

All of those freshmen will get work, but they'll be worked in slowly in the beginning and as they pick things up, they'll begin to get more reps in those sessions.

Q: (NLTexasHookEm) - Please make me feel better about the DE depth situation going forward.

2007: Sam Acho (stud) and Russell Carter (potential, but 0 career tackles)
2008: none (Dravannti Johnson to full time TE)
2009: Dominique Jones (could move to TE), Kyle Kriegel (could move to DT), Tevin Mims (could move to DT), Alex Okafor (stud)
2010: Reggie Wilson (stud), Greg Daniels (could move to DT)

Could Mims go on the Lamarr Houston plan and play DE for 2 and then DT for 2? Jackson Jeffcoat is obviously a wild card, but even if he commits that could still mean thin depth, a consequence of 10 TEs on the roster.

A: Ok, let's look at the defensive end depth heading into the 2010 season.

Acho figures to be a returning starter and a potential NFL player, and he'll likely be joined by Okafor in the starting line-up, which would potentially represent as good of a tandem as you'll find anywhere in the Big 12.

They'll be joined by senior Eddie Jones, who also could emerge as a starter and a potential NFL player if he can stay healthy. He's absolutely proven that he can make plays when he's on the field. As far as Carter is concerned, let's keep an eye on him because the coaches are very high on him and believe the only thing that's been holding him back is a strong depth chart full of older players.

Also, that 2010 group does not include players like Keenan Robinson and Tariq Allen that are developing at the "Buck" position and will be factors as pass rushers in pass-rushing situations.

It's also important not to think of players like Mims as either a defensive tackle or defensive end. He's a hybrid lineman that can play up and down the line of scrimmage, much like a Lamarr Houston or Aaron Lewis.

Therefore, when the Longhorns arrive at the 2011 season, they should have a combination of players that includes Okafor (in his third season), Carter (in his fifth season), Dominique Jones (in his third season), Mims (in his third season), Wilson (in his second season) and a combination of others like Robinson and Allen, which will contribute as pass-rush specialists.

Keep in mind that this group could also include current five-star Jackson Jeffcoat when it's all said and done.

Q: (meroney04) - What, if any, impact will the TE position make on next year's team? If we see little production from the position, how much will it actually affect the offense? There seems to be little concern about the status of the passing game, but will there be any fall off in overall production given the question marks in the run game?

Can Sergio get some snaps in at TE?

A: Unless D.J. Grant stays healthy and really develops or one of the incoming freshmen surprises, the tight end position could have a very limited impact on this team, at least in the passing game. The hope is that players like Greg Smith and Ahmard Howard will help get them through on the run blocking side of things, but when they are on the field, the Longhorns lose a playmaking threat in the trade-off.

No, Sergio Kindle will not be playing tight end. He's far too important to the defense for that.

...More... To continue reading this article you must be a member. Sign Up Now!