July 23, 2009

The Ticket City Locker Room Report

Q: (WynnS■) - I am a lifelong college football fan but a relative infant when it comes to following recruiting and just how it all works. Can you describe what the "typical" process is for a young HS player desiring to play major college football? Who initiates the relationship between player and university? Does the HS coaching staff have a responsibility to get their kids names and films out to the recruiters or the recruiter's job to know the talent in their area and request these films? A little insight would be helpful

A: Let's start at the beginning and acknowledge that every recruitment is like a snowflake in that none are ever exactly the same. Also, the process is still evolving so much (see the continued transformation of early recruiting) that I'm not sure that I know what the typical process is any more.

Historically, the first contact usually involves a school contracting a prospect, but the lines have really blurred in the last decade, as recruiting has become so much more high-profile and the showcases for the talent are far more readily available. A lot of times that initial contact will be initiated with the help of the high school coach.

Overall, high school coaches are hit and miss in terms of their importance to the process. While some coaches are very involved, others either turn it over to their assistant coaches or don't involve themselves at all. In the situations where the head coach is not heavily involved, there are times when it bleeds over into the swiftness of a recruiting tape/film being made/distributed and it can be much harder on young kids to get recruited.

It wasn't that long ago when prominent 5A schools with major talent pools were holding their kids back from getting into recruiting until after their senior seasons. When some of those seasons ended in December, it didn't leave a lot of time for the kids in that senior class to really explore those opportunities. That attitude doesn't exist as much these days, as more kids and their families have become pro-active.

Q: (mobilehoma) - Do you see John Chiles playing a significant role in the offense this season?

Does the switch to field turf provide an advantage or disadvantage to a team with the Horns style of play?

A: I cannot put my finger on what the reception distribution is going to look like within the offense this year. I think a healthy Jordan Shipley is going to catch in the neighborhood of 100 passes and I expect Brandon Collins, James Kirkendoll and Malcolm Williams to be key pieces to the puzzle. That being said, the staff has a real soft spot for Chiles and the playmaking abilities that they perceive him to possess. After hearing about the improvements he's made at the position this summer, I fully expect him to be a guy they make an attempt to feature at least three or four times a game. So, yes, I expect Chiles to have a significant role if everything goes according to plan.

As for the switch to field turf, I do think it's an added competitive advantage for the Longhorns. Mack Brown's team is one of the fastest teams in the nation and the Longhorns usually have a significant advantage over their opponents in that regard. Well, the old natural grass surface was one of the slowest in the nation in my opinion and somewhat neutralized that advantage, but I think there will be a subtle (but noticeable) difference, especially on the defense side of the ball.

Q: (Eric_mattson2000) - I know you have been asked already but I'm going to ask again! Who do we finish with? Out of the rest of the Staff's 2010 targets, who do YOU think we get when it's all said and done? Thanks!

A: This question was asked last week and I think I need to make a few changes. I'm not sure there's anyone on the board right now I can pick for Texas to finish with. Jackson Jeffcoat is impossible to call at this point and the Longhorns aren't definitive leaders or even close to that with a few of the remaining guys on the board.

PS: I know everyone is going to ask about Ohio linebacker Jordan Hicks, but until he visits again and we can get a better read on his true vision of Texas, he can't be a predicted yes in my mind.

Q: (coolhandfish) - If Texas is fortunate enough to be winning by a substantial margin at the end of the 3rd Quarter against teams like Texas Tech, Kansas and Baylor (the three schools I really want to run the score up on), do you see Mack putting in the entire second team and handing off or do you see Texas running the full offense with the second team, really trying to score and stretch the lead?

A: This is one of the questions that I don't even think Mack Brown can truly answer at this point. When it's all said and done, running the score goes against everything Mack Brown professes to stand for, but with this weak schedule, he might need to win bloody every week and 45-21 or 35-7 might not be enough this season if the team finds itself in another tie or three-way tie situation.

My gut is that he won't be able to compromise his ideology and he'll call of the dogs at the start of the fourth quarter of blowouts. I wouldn't be surprised to see them let Garrett Gilbert try to make one good march down the field for another score and then it will be a lot of the same running plays to the back-up running backs.

Q: (jamimer) - Would like to see you do a comparison of Garrett Gilbert coming in versus Chris Simms coming in to their first year on the 40. How is Gilbert like Simms and how is he different, and how are the expectations for Gilbert different than they were for Simms?

A: Both have ridiculous, over-the-top expectations (I might be fault for that with Gilbert) coming in, but with the ability to use hindsight we can probably rank the players pretty well.

Simms had the stronger arm by a mile coming in, but I think he trails Gilbert in just about every other measurable category, with the exception of leadership skills and possible work ethic (Simms was a very hard worker, but so is Gilbert). The thing about Simms that nobody could have ever guessed when he was recruited is that he wasn't nearly as college-ready as everything thought. The truth is that competing against terrible private school football in Franklin Lakes, New Jersey did nothing to prepare him for the speed and talent he'd face while playing quarterback at Texas.

We didn't know that when he reported, but we learned it pretty quickly. On the other hand, Gilbert has faced much better competition ay the prep level and has is much more prepared for the tasks in front of him. I also think he has a better natural feel for the game.

Q: (Hook'em200) - 1) Which current Sooner commit would Texas have the best chance of turning to the good guys, ala Roy Miller?

2) Other universities have had some occasional 2 sport stars (Julius Peppers @ UNC, Charlie Ward @ FSU) and Martellus Bennett played basketball for A&M. For somebody like Jackson Jeffcoat, what is the UT coaching staff's reaction when an athlete expresses a desire to play Football and to try to walk on the Basketball team? Do the coaches see that as a potential lack of commitment to football or as a potential selling point for an uncommitted high schooler, or something else entirely?

3) Rugby kicks - fad or kicking style that is here to stay?

4) Married freshmen football players (Quan & now Derek Johnson) are they required to live in the athletic dorm or can they live off campus?

5) Flashback to 2005 - UT is close to getting Fred Rouse, Martellus Bennett and/or Ryan Perilloux (all 5 star guys) to play for UT. We miss on all of them, Rouse & Perilloux turn out to be problem children that don't make meaningful contributions to their teams. Bennett is a contributor, but arguably not better than Jermichael Finley. IF Mack had never recruited Rouse and especially Perilloux, and gone through those experiences, what is the probability that Mack would still be recruiting Lache Seastrunk? 0%, 50% or 100%.

A: First, I'll give you three Oklahoma commitments that would probably peel off to Texas with an offer - West Orange Stark's James Haynes and Trey Franks, as well as Cedar Hill offensive lineman Adam Shead.

Second, I think the staff simply looks at a situation like Jeffcoat's on a case-by-case basis. A lot of times they won't mind if a guy plays another sport IF he can actually compete at the other sport at a reasonably high level and it doesn't interfere too much with the development on the football side of things. In most cases the eyes are bigger than the stomach, which means that most players think they can play two sports and they rarely can, at least at the level of stage that the Texas athletic programs perform on. Jeffcoat is a kid that can play a little bit of hoops at a big-time school, but he might find it tough to pull off over the course of four years. The bottom line for the coaching staff is that you have to bend the lines a little bit when it comes to a player like Jeffcoat. If he wants to play basketball, you let him. If the No.3 defensive tackle in this class wants to do the same, you tell him to get real or go find another place to call home.

Third, the rugby kicks will be emphasized even more in 2009, as sophomore Justin Tucker has worked on being able to kick with either foot, while rolling out to either side. The coaching staff believes he has a chance to be a strong weapon in the kicking game.

Fourth, I'm pretty sure that all freshmen live in the dorms during their freshman season. That's the deal. I've never known any freshman player to be allowed off campus as a freshman because of his marital status.

Finally, that is such a great question. I really think that the Perrilloux/Bennett/Rouse trio burned Mack Brown in such a way that things will never be the same. I'll go so far as to say that I'm 100% sure that the Seastrunk recruitment would be perceived differently if those three players from the 2005 recruiting class had never been on the radar.

Q: (homerjay_570) - you wrote that you expected Robert Griffin to have a sophomore slump because defensive coordinators have all season to prepare for him and he doesn't have the element of surprise this year. How much of the offensive success for Texas last year was the element of surprise after Greg Davis was forced into the 4 receiver set? And do you have any concerns that defensive coordinators will be better prepared this year?

2. I have several street agent questions…

a. can you shed some light on the impact of the recruiting process for the class of 2010 compared to last year, 3 years ago, 5 years ago, as examples?

b. and how do you see this trending for 2011 and beyond? c. has Texas ever won a recruiting battle with a street agent involved? d. how can we follow the recruiting process as fans without knowing who is engaged with a street agent? And since I assume our success rate will be very low with street agent recruits, it'd be nice to know as soon as possible so we don't have to ride the 'roller coaster.'

A: Teams will obviously make some adjustments to combat the Texas team strengths from a season ago, but that's part of the give and take each year. Texas benefits greatly from the experience of Colt McCoy. At this stage of his career he's been able to see just about everything he can see at the collegiate level and the game has slowed down for him. For younger quarterbacks it's a little more complicated because in a lot of ways they enter their sophomore seasons with a false sense of security. The truth in a majority of cases is that it's a bit overwhelming at the start of their sophomore seasons because every little flaw in their game has been exposed through the off-season and it's impossible to tell how quickly they will be able to adjust to the new schemes coming at them.

As for the second set of questions, I think the involvement of street agents or whatever you want to call them is much more prevalent today that it was five years ago. We should have known that some of the same sleaze balls that involve themselves with college basketball recruiting would eventually sliver their way over to the football side of things. There's simply too much money and too many willing dance partners for it not to have gone in this direction.

Moving forward, I would expect it to become a bigger problem for schools like Texas, at least until the NCAA really decides to get serious in trying to control their business. In my opinion, 90% of the prospects in a state like Texas are not controlled by anything close to a street agent, but that number might have been 98% three years ago.

The Longhorns are also are not likely going to win any of these players that are involved with the street agent types. As for the fans and how they should follow things, I'll be honest when I tell you that it's hard. When we're talking about this stuff, there's a 99% chance that there won't be any factual evidence that could be used in a court of law to back up the accusations, which makes some of the innuendoes very dangerous. The mere discussion of it in a public forum is asking for a potential compromise in that player's recruitment. All of the rumor-swirling with Lache Seastrunk was a real turn-off for him and I think he eventually worked it in his head that anything on the Internet involving the Longhorns was not his friend. I asked him this spring for a specific example of something that bothered him from any post he'd seen on Orangebloods because I wanted to be able to cut some potentially troublesome stuff off at the pass if possible, but he couldn't name anything specific. Everything was being painted with a broad stroke after a year's worth of rampant wild speculation. This was one case when being the home-state team was not a true advantage. The discussion on the Auburn or USC site isn't anything close to the one taking place on a board where there are true ears on the ground when it comes to a big-time recruit living an hour from campus.

Q: (ajlorino) - There are obvious similarities between the '05 Longhorns and the '09 Longhorns: both teams are deep in talent and experience; veteran, spectacular QBs; experienced O-lines; both teams coming off a dramatic BCS bowl win against a Big 10 power to cap a 1-loss season and top-5 finish; both teams will enter the season ranked #2 (in all likelihood) behind a "team of the century" type, with Florida playing the role of USC and Tebow playing the role of Leinart and Bush rolled into one; and on and on it goes.

(a) If you had to pick a 1st team offense and defense that was comprised only of players from the '05 and '09 Texas teams, who is on the team?

(b) The '05 secondary was ridiculously talented. How do you think the '09 secondary compares? They are lacking the experience to some degree, but it seems to me that the talent is comparable...agree?

(c) What does the '09 team do better than the '05 team and vice versa?

A: Love the first question, but understand that I have to make my decisions with the 2005 team based on what I knew about them coming out of the 2004 season and into the start of the 2005 season. I can't use the extra year because it creates an uneven playing field.

QB: Vince Young (05)
RB: Jamaal Charles (05)
RB: Selvin Young (05)
WR: Jordan Shipley (09)
WR: Limas Sweed (05)
WR: Brandon Collins (09)
TE: David Thomas (05)
LT: Jonathan Scott (05)
LG: Kasey Studdard (05)
C: Lyle Sendlein (05)
RG: Michael Huey (09)
RT: Justin Blalock (05)

DT: Rod Wright (05)
DT: Lamarr Houston (09)
DE: Sergio Kindle (09)
DE: Tim Crowder (05)
LB: Rod Muckelroy (09)
LB: Jared Norton (09)
LB: Keenan Robinson (09)
CB: Cedric Griffin (09)
CB: Aaron Williams/Chykie Brown (09)
S: Michael Huff (05)
S: Michael Griffin (05)

P: Richmond McGee (05)
PK: Hunter Lawrence (09)

Also, I completely agree with you about the 2009 secondary. I think this year's version actually has a deeper pool of players to worh with than the 2005 group, which was limited to five sensational players, but didn't have a lot of strong depth behind them. I think the Longhorns are running eight-deep in quality, winning defensive backs this season.

Finally, I think the 2005 team was just a flat out more dominant team, especially on offense because of their big-play explosiveness, but I do think the 2009 team has a stronger passing offense. The advantage on both lines would go to the 2005 group, especially in terms of ruggedness at the point of attack. The overall speed and skill in the back seven is greater among the 2009 group because of the significant speed/talent boost among the linebacker unit, which was the weakest aspect of the 2005 team coming into and throughout the season. The special teams were also a major question mark coming out of that Rose Bowl against Michigan and in the first couple of games from 2005, while the 2009 special teams units are expected to be among the best in the nation in every capacity.

Q: (TheMarbleMan) - On a possible 3-4 defense for the Horns. Who knows if Will Muschamp will actually throw one out on the field, although we do hear him say he wants to be multiple, but it's often discussed on the boards. Kindle has to stand up and be an OLB there, yes? Is Lamarr Houston big enough to play NG? Or would you prefer Ben Alexander there and sliding Houston to a DE? How would you use the defensive personnel in a 3-4 look?

I watched a Robert Griffin highlight reel yesterday and noticed that Blake Gideon ran him down from behind. Could Gideon beat Teddy Lehman in a race?

Barring injury I think most assume to see an OL of (L to R) Ulatoski, Tanner, Hall, Huey, Hix. Where do Snow and Allen fit in? Do you expect to see rotation there? Are those the top 7 OL? Who's next on the depth chart? Is Mason Walters going to crack the 2 deep this fall?

Who will be the assistant coach from the current staff to leave UT for a promotion? Giles? Major? (Don't say Muschamp.)

A: I do think that Houston can probably handle the nose-guard position in most games because the Longhorns just don't play a lot of powerhouse running games that could exploit his weaknesses. The funny thing with Houston is that he's versatile enough that he could easily slide over to DE in a 3-4 and not skip a bit. He's definitely got a little Jay Ratliff in him. Of the players Texas currently has on the roster, I think the players that are probably best suited to play at end in a traditional scheme are Houston, Calvin Howell, Alex Okafor, Sam Acho and Russell Carter. Those guys could hold up against the run enough, while giving you enough athleticism and pass rush ability.

I think more times than not the 3-4 looks we're going to see will involve an extra end coming onto the field and the Longhorns using Kindle as a moveable part in a standup position, much like the San Francisco 49ers used to do with Charles Haley in the elephant position.

Second, I think you already know that Blake Gideon couldn't outrun Teddy Lehman in a race and it wouldn't matter if he was allowed to run downhill with a jet-pack. Some things just can't be done and that's one of them.

Third, you've got a pretty strong read on the offensive line situation heading into camp. Look for Snow to mix in at both guard and center. He's a guy they feel like they need to get on the field a lot in some capacity. As for Allen, I think that's a little bit of a wait-and-see situation, but he's likely going to be the primary left tackle back-up, first and foremost. With Walters it's probably too soon know. Let's see how things go in August, but if the coaching staff thinks he can start ahead of Allen in 2010, look for Walters to play in 2009.

Finally, I think the guys most likely to leave is Applewhite, only because he's a guy that's going to have some major opportunities come his way over the course of the next few years. Outside of Applewhite and Muschamp, I'm not sure anyone else has a real urge to leave Austin and head anywhere else. There was a time when Duane Akina was entertaining other opportunities, but I think he's settled into a comfortable place as a Texas coach well, which means he's not looking to take another job.

Q: (SouthPaugh) - 1. Expanding on your ten thoughts, would you explain a little about how negative recruiting against Texas has changed in the last 11 years. Is there more of it or less of it? Are more schools now taking part meaning that Mack and Co. have to defend on more fronts? Which schools are the worst offenders as it relates to Texas?

2. With the experience in the back 7 on defense (and inexperience in the interior up front), do you think we will blitz more or less this year? Did Muschamp change anything from year 1 to year 2 at LSU or Auburn (I know the defense at LSU wasn't really his)?

A: I think negative recruiting is pretty common in college football if we're talking about schools simply trying to point out the weaknesses of other schools while making their own sales pitch. It's not really something that Texas does a lot, but I would guess that 99% of the other schools from around the country point out the flaws of the competition, while showcasing their own strengths at the same time.

Of course, Texas is going to be forced to deal with questions about young players not playing early or the academics being too hard for marginal students - that's on the opponent's playbook… page one. I don't know that it's any worse than it's ever been before - it's just part of the deal and every school deals with it. The idea that you won't talk about them and they won't talk about you is beautiful in theory, but it's not something that we see play out in the real world nine out of ten times, especially in a sales job situation.

As for year two in Muschamp's defense, I think the Texas defensive coordinator feels like he'll be able to the gloves off with his playing calling (which includes exotic blitzes) this season for a number of reasons:

1. The players are infinitely more comfortable with the principles, terminology and demands of the scheme. That's a big deal and we haven't seen much of that since Bull Reese left way back in 1774. Gosh, has it really been that long?

2. Experience. The Longhorns return starters throughout the back seven, which means that far fewer players are learning their game-action lessons on the fly this year

3. Talent. He has a plethora of pass rush types, raw athletes and skilled cover guys to work with. That will allow you to explore limitless possibilities with game-plans.

Q: (drag worm) - 1) How is Cody Johnson progressing after having to end his spring practice sessions early due to injury?

2) We heard a lot about how Vince was the off-season ringleader during the championship season when he called players to extra practice sessions with the now famous "meet me if you want to beat Ohio State" invitations. It seems that now is the time to forge a new championship. Which player(s) are driving his team mates to make their extra practice contributions this summer.

A: Based on the reports that I've received this summer, Johnson should be 100% when fall workouts begin next month.

I think the answer to your second question begins and ends with the quarterback. This is Colt McCoy's team, just like that 2005 group belonged to Vince Young.

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