Q: (ORANGEMGB) - 1. What is your take on our defensive tackle situation? The way I see it, this is a very tenuous situation. Andre Jones' situation is obviously worrisome and Brian Ellis and Ben Alexander have been extremely quiet. Not to take anything away from them, but Michael Wilcoxon and Tyrell Higgins seem to fall into more of the "sleeper" category rather than being blue chippers. It is a golden opportunity for Jarvis Humphrey and Kheeston Randall but do you see Aaron Lewis sliding inside to help out next year? I know it's not Mack's typical style but could you see him going for a JUCO transfer to bolster the interior defensive line? We will have youngsters in there but it seems that we'll have a pipeline gap between Roy Miller (stud) and the younger guys.
2. What is up with kicker recruiting? You spoke very highly of the kicker from Burnet (name escapes me) and Gerry just wrote about Dustin Hopkins of Clear Lake being the best kicking prospect he'd seen in a while. Should we have sought a commitment from Justin Tucker with so many good kickers out there and with how inexact kicking recruiting seems to be? Ryan Bailey has been a great find and beat out the guy that was recruited for that job. In your opinion should we be pursuing preferred walk-ons at kicker and letting them sort it all out on the field? If I remember correctly David Pino was a walk-on and Dusty Mangum may have been too. It's not so much that I don't think kicker is important it's just the record of hit and miss at that spot that leaves me wondering. Your thoughts?
A: There's no question that losing Jones was a huge blow to the defensive tackle rotation for next season. There's a very strong chance that he would have not only have played this year in the rotation and started next to Roy Miller in 2008. Of all the players in the 2007 recruiting class, he was the one guy that the Longhorns needed to hit a home run with because the other two tackles in the class (Wilcoxon and Higgins) are projects and could need a couple of years before they are ready for significant playing time.
I think there's a good chance you'll see the staff spin Aaron Lewis down from defensive end at times next season, especially in pas rush situations. I'm not sure that it's a move that Lewis is completely sold on right now, but he'll do what's best for the team and the staff might not have a choice. The key in all of this is probably Ellis. After a promising redshirt freshman season, there's been essentially no talk of his progression this season and he's not seeing any playing time. He has the type of talent to be an impact player for the Longhorns, but he obviously has a way to go right now. Alexander has been a surprise this year and he'll be in the mix for playing time, as will the incoming freshmen. The bottom line is that this is going to be an unsettled area heading into next spring and possibly next fall. As great as the depth is this year, it looks to be that shaky in 2008 unless a player or two get moved inside to end.
Your questions about the kickers has many layers, but let's start with the obvious - the Longhorns have not been successful at any time in the last decade when it comes to evaluating kicking prospects since Mack Brown arrived at Texas. That being said, I've talked with former Texas All-American Jeff Ward about Tucker and he believes that he's as talented as any young kicker that he's ever seen. Although he didn't perform as well as a few kicking camps this summer as he would have hoped, offering him a scholarship was a smart move in my opinion. Also, you have to remember that when the staff offered Tucker in February, Bailey hadn't yet turned it on and wasn't a scholarship player. Now that he is and still has a couple of years of eligibility, perhaps it will give Tucker plenty of time to grow into the role. I think one of the biggest problems that Texas kickers have had in many cases is the fact that they have been expected to play right away and it's probably been overwhelming for several. The hope for Mack Brown is that they'll finally get it right with Tucker. One thing seems certain, with four scholarship kickers/punters scheduled to be on the roster through 2009, the Longhorns won't likely be in that market any time soon.
Q: (Austin Ex) - With Vince Young coming to town this Saturday I'm wondering if he'll be talking to the team. Do you know if he's scheduled to meet with the team before the game?
A: You better believe that the Texas coaching staff will make sure that Young has a chance to talk to the team at some point this weekend. He's scheduled to be at Scholz's through most of the morning and early afternoon, but he'll be on the sidelines and around after his commitment there concludes.
Q: (BRHornz) - Every recruiting year, folks are abuzz about who might earn true freshman playing time, only to never hear of those kids for a year or two, if at all. Over the last three years, who are the kids (outside of the ones who have gotten into legal trouble) who have not been significant contributors but who were "can't miss" candidates? And who among the "borderline" recruits has surprised you by playing beyond what their high school pedigree might have suggested?
I like playing John Chiles, but I remember distinctly VY's first OU game. Run first, pass rarely, even when a receiver (Roy Williams) is in the end zone by himself. Costly fumble deep inside OU territory. My point is that the OU game is simply another animal; the speed of the game and brutality of the hits is unlike anything JC will have experienced before. Even if he plays against KSU, and plays well, do you really expect to see Chiles on the field in Dallas, unless it's a blowout one way of the other? Should he play in the game, in your opinion, and in what role?
A: In answering your first question, I'll focus on the recruiting from 2004-2006. Among the players that were considered can't-miss by me, I'd list Drew Kelson and Chris Brown as the two that stick out the most. You do have players like Sergio Kindle, Eddie Jones and Chykie Brown that haven't yet become impact players, but they are just second-year players and have plenty of time to develop into star performers. Kelson seemed like a sure-thing coming out of high school as the nation's top safety and he's just never been able to settle in at any position and develop. With Brown, he was such an explosive pass rusher and had such an elite burst off the edge that I thought he had the potential to be an elite edge rusher. When you consider that he was playing as a true freshman, the injury that he suffered in Waco basically ended his Longhorn career because he never got back to where he had been prior to the injury while he was still in Austin. Of course, I'm not sure that he gave himself enough time to fully recover.
As for guys that have surpassed any and all expectations that I might have had for them, the first guy that comes to mind is Colt McCoy. Really and truly, I'm not sure that there's anyone else that even comes close.
Your final question is a tough one. I would think this week will determine just how much Chiles might play in that game. I think he's going to see the field, but it's tough to project the extent of the playing time at this point. I do think the staff has been working on the "Chiles package" for a while and I think there's more to it than we've seen thus far. Look for a deception play with him in the game this weekend.
Q: (ElPasoMD) - Is there any chance at all that Sergio Kindle plays against Oklahoma? The idea that our "veteran" linebackers will have to stop Allen Patrick and Demarco Murray scares the hell out of me.
A: If Kindle is healthy, he's going to play, but I wouldn't expect to see him get a ton of snaps at linebacker. He just hasn't played enough and doesn't have enough skins on the wall at this point.
Q: (tooshybrotha) - 1 What are the Horns keys to victory against KSU? 2 What kind of involvement do you see John Chiles having in the offense this week? 3 Who do you see winning the Big 12 north?
A: The keys this weekend are pretty simple - limit turnovers on offense, limit the big plays in the passing game on defense and don't let KSU win the special teams match-up. Obviously, that's a winning formula in almost every game, but those truths will remain for this Longhorn team all season. Look for Chiles to get into the game at the end of the first quarter or the beginning of the second quarter. I think the staff has a little something cooked up with the personnel and they want to tinker with it this week. As for the Big 12 North, I'll put my money on Missouri right now. They get Nebraska at home and that might be enough.
Q: (chargee) - Through four games it seems as if we're seeing a completely different Nate Jones than ever before. What changed for him? Was it just a matter of getting the in-game reps? Is he making a name for himself with the pro scouts?
A: I think the biggest thing that happened with Jones is that he lost a lot of the bulk he's been playing with over the course of the last few seasons and it's allowed him to find his speed and explosiveness. When he first arrived at Texas, Mack Brown called him the fastest receiver on campus and yet he never emerged as any kind of deep threat. I also think he's put in a lot of time and work with McCoy to build an on-field relationship and it's showing this season with his emergence as a go-to-guy.
Q: (lsampson) - As I was watching the NFL this weekend, I noticed that several NFL players, both drafted and undrafted, came from small colleges and universities. How is it that the major colleges miss out on these good players like Colston, Romo, T.O., etc.?
A: It happens. Recruiting isn't an exact science and there are guys that will slip through the cracks. Ever seen a girl at your ten-year reunion that's ten times hotter than she was at the age of 17? The same thing can happen with football players. Some players don't start to really develop physically until after they get into college, which often means that an elite prospect will slip through the cracks. Look at California running back Justin Forsett. I saw that kid play as a senior and thought he was unreal. Even though he was on my state top 100 list, he didn't have any offers on signing day and ended up getting pretty lucky that California had an extra scholarship to offer a few months later. Now he's one of the most explosive layers in the nation, while high school teammates Lance Leggett and David Ramirez haven't lived up to their recruiting hype.
Q: (Round Rock Doughnuts) -Are we going to land any more recruits this year or is it time to start focusing entirely on 2009.
A: I can't tell you who the prospect or prospects will be, but I don't think the Longhorns are finished just yet in recruiting. It might not be a Chancey Aghayere or Lynn Katoa, but the Longhorns will find someone to add to the mix before it's all said and done, although most of the focus is currently on moving forward towards the 2009 class.
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