April 13, 2008

The Locker Room Report

Q: (Sportzcaster) - Geoff, we are 1-4 vs our two biggest rivals, OU and A&M, since our 2005 MNC. We have not returned to a Big 12 Championship game nor have we been invited to a BCS game. Under Mack Brown, we have only had one Big 12 Championship and that just seems odd for a team that has won as many games as the Horns have under Mack. Do you think the types of positions recruited in the past two years, WR/CB heavy, are an indication that we are tuning up our skill sets in preparation for Garrett Gilbert's talents? Obviously, we are not interested in duel-threat quarterbacks and 3-4 WR on the field seems imminent. Do you view this as a step in the right direction for the Longhorns?

A: First of all, I don't think the Longhorns have been recruiting as a program for the last two years with the thought of building everything around one player. Each position has its own story and you have to understand the history of the positions before you can understand why the team has needed the numbers it has taken across the board at each position.

For instance, if you look at the wide receiver position you'll see that this has not been an area where the Longhorns have developed talent especially well over the course of the last three or four classes. Since landing Jordan Shipley in 2004, the Longhorns have not had a single high school-produced receiver make an impact on the field in any way. Obviously, some of that will change this season when a bevy of newcomers will take the field out of flat out necessity, but it's been slim pickings to the say the least. The fact that Limas Sweed will become the only receiver since the 2000 recruiting class to be selected in the NFL draft later this month tells you all you need to about the team's needs there. With the amount of talent that's been available in-state the last few seasons, the Longhorns appear to have finally stocked the cupboards with the talent needed, especially in light of the fact that the Longhorns do appear to be headed towards a pass-first spread offense.

The numbers issues at defensive back aren't quite the same as at wide receiver. The early portion of this decade at the defensive backfield was dominated by the players taken in the 2001-03 recruiting classes. Michael Huff, Cedric Griffin, Aaron Ross, Tarell Brown and Michael Griffin all emerged during the same time frame and their talents dominated the playing time at the position for half of the decade. The shadow that those players created limited the development of every young defensive back that the Longhorns brought in for a couple of years because the reps and playing time were dominated by one of the most talented group of players in recent college football history. For a number of reasons, including some poor tactical decisions in recruiting, the position has taken a dip, but appears to be coming back in a big way because of the 2006-08 recruiting classes, which have been stocked outstanding DB groups.

To answer your final question, I suppose the bottom line is that, yes, the Longhorns are taking a step in the right direction because the talent they have brought in from 2006-09 is significantly better than what they had landed from 2003-05. That little lull has caused the consecutive three-loss seasons and that might extend to another year, but expect a significant resurgence starting as early as this season or in 2009 because of the continued development from those classes.

Q: (MCB0703) - Do you have any updates on Sergio Kindle's rehab? Is he on track to be ready for camp in July/August & the beginning of the season? Is he expected to start @ the beginning of the season?

Also, I thought you've previously stated that John Chiles is the most talented athlete and most electrifying player on the team…however, it appears he has a long way to go to beat out Colt McCoy as a passing quarterback. Therefore, if he's not able to be the starting QB, the offense will need another player with his talents. Do you see Demean Hales being that type of player and being able to play this season? If not Hales, is there another player that has similar play-making abilities that should see more time this season? Would the coaches look at DJ Monroe on offense with his speed and play-making abilities or is he strictly defense?

Do you see Eddie Jones getting more playing time or becoming a starter this season? Would you have any updates on his performance during the spring practice and the expectations the coaches have of him for this season?

A: Everyone in the program that I've spoken with about Kindle is very excited about his prospects in the fall. His rehabilitation is reportedly right on schedule and some of the air in the entire team's balloon will go out if he's not on the field and performing at a very high level. If everything stays according to plan, he'll be on the field and ready to go when the team reports.

Yes, Hales has a chance to be a game-changer on offense, but it's tough to project any kind of contribution at this point for the immediate 2008 season. Of the receivers that the Longhorns will have at their disposal this season, I believe that Malcolm Williams, Hales, D.J Grant and Dan Buckner all have the abilities to be "game-changers", but guessing when the light switch gets turned on for each of them is impossible. I'd even throw Brandon Collins and James Kirkendoll into the same category because their issues are the same. Outside of Quan Cosby and Jordan Shipley, you can't sniff a player that has played a meaningful down of college football among the UT receivers. Also, don't look for Monroe on offense if he has a say in things because he has been very adamant about playing cornerback.

Finally, if Jones can remain healthy, he will have a huge role on this year's team. It's hard to say if he'd start, but once again, his issue isn't talent. When he's not wearing a red jersey he's the kind of player that can be a difference maker, but that's been a real problem to work through.

Q: (Bman25) - Today on ESPN Mack told the Gameday guys that this team isn't as star studded as it normally is. This comment kind of troubled me because you obviously need playmakers to win. Do you think that will change by the end of the season? Do you think he meant that this team is just bunch of solid players with no great ones, or is it a team that has incredible talent that can't be called stars yet because they aren't proven? In other words does this year's team have the opportunity to be great or just good?

A: Since the 2005, Mack has made a point to talk about the team concept and his desire to not have a team that's driven by individual star power (yes, I have considered the terrible irony in this) and he' has really led him to trying to drive that point home. It's a constant theme that he brings up weekly and I think it'll be some of the rhetoric you hear from him until he retires. In his words, "it became too much about the individual (at Texas) and not enough about the team".

That being said, the words do coincide with a talent pool that's been as meager in the last two seasons as any we've seen under his watch since very early in his tenure at Texas. Look at the starting line-up last year and look at the one from the 2005 season and show me one area of improvement by the current group when held against the new standard in Austin.

This year's team has the talent to compete at a high national level, but there are a lot of questions that remain unanswered, with most of them centered on the unknown development of young players. I suppose the answer to your final question is yes and yes.

Q: (Smilin' Jack) - Do you know which freshmen are going to enroll early this summer. I'm particularly interested to know about Jarvis Humphrey and Kheeston Randall.

A: All of the incoming freshmen will be reporting at the end of May.

Q: (HookemUK) - In your honest opinion, does the fact that Will Muschamp is today widely considered to be one of the very best (and most sought after) young coaches in college football actually lessen his effectiveness as a recruiter for the Texas football program? I mean, if we assume that his shelf-life as Texas' Defensive Coordinator will be a maximum of 2-3 years, then none of the players that he is recruiting today are likely to see the field during his tenure. Therefore, am I crazy to suggest that this undeniable reality also might actually be running through the minds of recruits - and their many "advisors" (not to mention the very creative coaches who are recruiting against us)?

A: You might think it would be a problem, but it really hasn't been over the years. In fact, I haven't heard of a single prospect that seems worried about the prospect of Muschamp leaving, even if it is a strong likelihood. Top prospects wan to play for big-time coaches and most simply assume that the Longhorns will just bring in the next Muschamp whenever it's needed.

Q: (Leonidas05) - Ketch, is Texas still interested in Brandon Mahoney or Roderick Goodlow? If we only get 1 of our 2 offered DT's is their another guy on the staffs radar? What's your take on Philip Payne?

A: I think the jury is still out on Mahoney, but it seems clear that Goodlow isn't on the radar right now. Truth be told, I'm not sure there's much public focus yet as it regards to what might be one final linebacker slot in this class. Mahoney's inability to get to Austin for either of the two Junior Days or at any other time in the spring probably isn't going to help his cause.

The Longhorn staff is looking at other defensive tackle prospects on the national level this spring. Expect to hear a name or two pop up in the next few weeks.

Finally, I think Payne needs to walk into Mack Brown's office and request a move to linebacker… but that's just me.

Q: (utdadam) - Rumor had it that Sherrod Harris and G.J. Kinne were on their way out and that Kinne had a shoulder injury that was causing him throwing problems. Now that Harris is apparently staying what is the story on Kinne? Does he really have a shoulder/arm injury? Is he still leaving? That would help explain his recent passing problems although he did well in high school?

A: At the end of the day there's a limit to Kinne's upside and he just might not be a guy that could play at an elite level, which was an issue because this team desperately needs that kind of player at the quarterback position. When Kinne was recruited a lot of teams were unsure about him playing quarterback at the next level and during the time he was here he never was able to play at a level that would ease those concerns. I've also heard that he wasn't 100% during the spring, but I have one source that's very close to Kinne and he was a very confident player coming into the spring camp because of success in seven-on-seven workouts. It just didn't work out for him and he was buried like Jimmy Hoffa on the depth chart.

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