February 22, 2009

The Ticket City Locker Room

Q: (Texas8891■) - I am intrigued to get your thoughts on how much better Jordan Shipley can get in this final season? Is there a receiver on the squad who will draw the level attention paid to Quan Cosby that will give Jordan the space/coverage to match his 2008 numbers? Do you see him a realistic candidate for the Biletnikoff award?

A: I think you ask some interesting questions. On one hand, I don't view Shipley like some of the other receivers on the team that will improve physically and with a deeper familiarity of the schemes and offense. Basically, there are some areas where I feel like the former Burnet star is only going to see modest improvements, with the acknowledgement that if there's a way to get better in those areas, he'll likely work as hard as possible to make them occur. On the other hand, Shipley has been waiting his entire life for this season - to be the lead receiver during his senior season with his best friend Colt McCoy leading the way towards a possible national championship campaign. Everything that Shipley has done in his athletic career has led him to this point and I expect him to perform at an elite level as the clear go-to-guy for McCoy. His versatility as a receiver will make him a difficult match-up for defenses, especially if the younger receivers can help take some of the weight off of his shoulders.

If you look across the country at the competition for the Biletnikoff Award, one of his biggest rivals will likely be fellow native Texan Dez Bryant of Oklahoma State. Both players will play on teams that will carry a very visible national profile next season, which should help both campaigns. Others that figure to be in the mix include Alabama's Julio Jones, BYU's Austin Collie, Rutgers' Kenny Britt and Georgia's A.J. Green.

Q: (bygdoy) - Hey Geoff--With the Connor Wood commitment this week, it seems like things are leaning towards Garrett Gilbert not redshirting. I know you said there were pros/cons of both ways, but isn't the most important factor going to be having a QB good-to-go at start of that 2010 season with all the talent we'll have elsewhere?

Seems like last couple years a big factor has been teams with veteran quarterback that have two or even three years worth of experience. Also, if we do decide to play him this year and have him ready...do you think coaches will actually put him in first (ahead of Chiles if he stays) and give him a full 4th quarter vs. some of the gimmee teams early in year or will they leave McCoy in for Heisman stats?

A: I think you absolutely nailed the first point, although I think it's important to also recognize that this is a national championship contending team as it heads into the season and the last thing that anyone wants is for the season to come unhinged like it did in 2006 when Colt McCoy was injured. As the team enters the spring, there's still a confidence issue with the back-up quarterback position, which is why this spring is so important for John Chiles. If there's not an ascent from him at the position, the staff really doesn't have much of a choice, but to get Gilbert ready and if he's the best guy for the back-up role, then expect the staff to take steps to get him ready.

To take that point further, if it becomes clear that Gilbert is the guy, especially for 2010, then nobody should be surprised if he's taking the first set of quarterback snaps after McCoy takes a clipboard in decided games. I don't think this is going to be a murky picture by the end of August. In my mind, we might know by April 5th.

Q: (mikhailt) - I believe in the Gospel of Muschamp, but there are many similarities between him and Gene Chizik over the course of their short careers on the 40, Chizik had a sour year two at Texas. What makes Will Muschamp's year two different?

Do we see an underclassmen lined up to return punts or kick-offs next year (a la Ramonce Taylor)?

A: I'll be honest when I tell you that I don't see a lot of similarities between the two after covering both up-close. In some ways I don't think Chizik ever truly convinced everyone in the program, from Mack Brown to some of his players, that he was not only completely in control, but that every ounce of confidence in him was deserved.

When Chizik took over in 2005, he had a veteran defense that just happened to feature one of the best defensive backfields in the history of the college game. When Muschamp took over last season, there certainly weren't veterans like Michael Griffin or Michael Huff patrolling the last line of defense. Even with a schedule that featured a murderer's row of dynamic offenses and quarterbacks, Muschamp put together a unit that scared opponents and for the first time since Mack Brown arrived at Texas, the Longhorns really brought the battle to its opponents on that side of the ball and that's why there's so much hope that he'll be able to help this side of the ball take the next step in year two.

As for the possible players to watch in the return game, keep an eye on redshirt freshmen Brock Fitzhenry and DeSean Hales on punts, while Christian Scott and Aaron Williams will be factors on kickoff returns.

Q: (auggie1) - With Coach Boom coming back and firmly settled in for hopefully a long time, will we see any noticeable differences with the defensive play and scheme? Specifically, are we now changing the recruiting tactics and the type of players we are looking for? Last year, and to some degree the next year or two, we have to work with who is on the roster. I know we are loaded with talent, and that's not an issue, but was Muschamp forced to do certain things to fit the players he inherited or did we already have the players that fit his D?

A: I think one of Muschamp's real strengths is his ability to take different sets of personnel and make something good out of them. No, he didn't have all of the talent or experience at his disposal that he probably would have preferred at all positions, but he obviously had a lot to work with and he made the most of it. I think you're going to continue to see him look for as many ways as possible to get his best playmakers on the field and there will be a greater comfort level in 2009 because of the experience now found in secondary.

As far as recruiting is concerned, this really is Muschamp's first real opportunity to control the defensive recruiting for a full year and recruit the guys on that side of the ball that he wants for his defense for the long-haul. When he arrived last year, he missed quite a bit of the evaluation process that shaped the decisions made in recruiting for 2009. As the Longhorns make their offers this year, he's seen these kids in person at camps and in games, while also having a full year to develop relationships.

Q: (ut_alh■) - Given the limited number of offers we make to out of state players, is there a chance that many/some/few try to get an offer and use it as a "status" symbol without any true desire to come to UT?

A: Yes, there are always out of state players that feign an interest in the Longhorns in hopes of receiving an offer to boost their profile.

Q: (Eric_mattson2000) - Ketch, I would first like to say thanks for the Junior Day coverage over the past couple of weeks. Your info is very much appreciated. It seems we are on a role this year with recruiting. My question is WHO and HOW many of the top 20 in the LSR100 do we get this year? Thanks!

A: The Longhorns already have commitments from four top 20 selections and that number will increase by one more when Tevin Jackson moves into that group in the next rankings update. If you put a gun to my head, I'd give the Longhorns commitments from about seven or eight of the top 20, with the smart money being on Adrian White, Reggie Wilson and Darius White, and others like Jackson Jeffcoat (impossible to handicap), Lache Seastrunk, Jake Matthews, Evan Washington and DeAndrew White serving as viable possibilities.

Q: (dnworley) - My birthday is the 2nd week of March….what will the number be for this class on the 10th?

A: I'll go with 14 or 15.

Q: (ENMUQB3) - I know you have been very busy with the 2010 recruits, but in the past I have really enjoyed your perspective on the Longhorn baseball team. That being said, what do you think of this year's team? How has Augie been since the "incident," and in your opinion, will this be the year that Texas gets back to Omaha? Thanks for all the hard work, it is greatly appreciated.

A: I think this is an interesting year in the program because it's a bit of a fresh start with some of the upper-class departures from last season. For whatever reason, the recent teams just haven't had the moxie that some of Augie's previous teams had. This team appears to have a ton of pitching depth and the issues off-the-field might end up providing the team with the kind of purpose and focus that's been missing lately. It's too early to talk Omaha, but that's the goal and this team has all of the pieces to make it.

Q: (Ringerads) - I really love Dontae Williams' film but it looks like the staff's plan is to get Traylon Shead and continue to pursue Lache Seastrunk. While I would be more than happy if we could somehow land those two, I'm greedy. Any chance we offer Williams as an athlete since he's played LB? That way we could have another RB if Lache decides to commit somewhere else at the last minute and we avoid the risk of having to face Williams on the field if he signs with a team like OU. The kid seems to have the intensity you'd look for at the position, has some experience playing linebacker, and we probably need linebackers more than running backs anyway.

A: I think the Longhorns need to evaluate Williams as a running back only because slotting him anywhere else is going to take a spot away from a more deserving selection. For instance, you wouldn't forfeit the opportunity to land Corey Nelson at linebacker because you filled up at the position with a flyer on Williams. It's not an impossibility that Williams receives an offer, but I think it's interesting that teams seem to be approaching Williams very cautiously right now. His offer list has not exploded like you'd expect for a prospect with such an impressive set of highlights. As the recruiting process continues on, Williams remains one of the more interesting prospects available because his stock doesn't seem to be as hot as a few others, including Shead.

Q: (MiamiHorn) - Can you talk a bit about the state of the linebacker position - current projected starters, impact of Sergio Kindle moving DE, any other players training at the "Buck" position, Will Muschamp's impact on player development at the LB position, and project where 2009 and 2010 (current commits and targets) LBs project to play or any position switches/athletes that were moved/recruited to play LB.

A: Jared Norton (middle linebacker) and Roddrick Muckelroy (weak-side) will be two of the three starters, but it will be interesting to see if Norton and Keenan Robinson show off the kind of pass-rush potential needed to thrive in the "Buck" position that Kindle performed so well at last season. If Norton can rush the passer as well as they hope, it will give him a greater role in the nickel and dime packages than he had last season and it will allow Muschamp to use Muckelroy, Robinson and sophomore Emmanuel Acho in those specialty sets, which often represented the team's base set last year.

Those are the players at the position that really stand out heading into the spring. If I had to bet on a freshman making an impact as a true freshman, I'd go with South Grand Prairie's Patrick Nkwopara.

Q: (tylerrose20) - I was curious how you think Connor Wood will be ranked nationally, and how many stars you think he will have?

A: It's probably too early to know the order of the top quarterbacks across the country, but I would project Wood as a certain four-star prospect in the 6.0-discussion, which means he would rank somewhere in the national top 100. We'll know more after some of the passing camps/events take place in the spring and summer.

Q: (Vinsanity12) - What recruit (committed or uncommitted) do you feel is the most important to Texas' 2010 class? Why do you feel this player is the most important?

A: Truth be told, current commitment Tyler Bible might be the most important recruit in the class when you consider how hard it often is to land an elite-level interior defensive lineman. It would be easy to say Lache Seastrunk because of his playmaking skill set that is truly missing from the Texas offense, but I wonder if the Longhorns are truly going to dedicate to a 12-month recruiting battle for him from this point forward. I'd be tempted to pick one of the two potential five-star defensive end candidates in-state, but after landing Alex Okafor and Tevin Mims, there's no a dire need at the position, although they are obviously very important pieces to the puzzle. If Darius White is really in the Roy Williams league as an athlete, then he's in the discussion as well. If forced to pick one, I guess I'll pick Seastrunk because there's no player in the UT program that can match his skill set at the running back position. If Colt McCoy had a player at his disposal in 2009 at the running back position like Seastrunk, the Texas offense would be much scarier than it already is because of the pressure his speed can put on a defense.

Q: (mobilehoma) - Hey Geoff, Marissa Tomei from My Cousin Vinny or The Wrestler?

A: I'm going to pick Tomei from The Wrestler because I'd go crazy if I had to spend more than an hour with Mona Lisa Vito. Meanwhile, I'd probably invest a handful of Andrew Jackson's for five minutes with "Cassidy". I'm convinced that the conversation would be so much better.

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