March 15, 2008

The Locker Room Report

Q: (Lucius Vorenus) - I've been hearing about a lot of new schemes, and position changes on the defensive side of the ball, but I wanted to see how you figure some of the younger offensive guys (Jeremy Hills, Dan Buckner, DeSean Hales, etc) will figure in to the '08 scheme. Do you think with the infusion of Will Muschamp and Major Applewhite, Greg Davis will make some changes to his offensive philosophy, and allow the younger more talented players to have their respective shots at playing time, or do you think it'll be the same product we have seen the last couple of years?

A: I don't think those in the Texas program really feel like this is a big issue. While Muschamp arrives with the promise of changes on the defensive side of the ball, Davis is going to run the offense the way he has for the past decade. Of the incoming players you are talking about, it's probably just going to come down to which guys adjust to the speed of the game and lock onto their assignments the quickest. Buckner is probably the first guy that will have a chance to get on the field because he's here this spring and already showing signs of being a player that can make an impact. Hills also has that chance, but I'm not sure that the door for playing time at running back is as open as it is at receiver, especially with the development of Foswhitt Whittaker. If Hales and a guy like D.J. Grant can come in and make those quick adjustments they'll have a chance. If not, they likely won't.

Q: (Sundance7) - Has Texas ever decided against recruiting a player because they're using steroids in HS? Do you guys ever hear rumors about which HS players are on the juice?

A: This is an interesting question because of the obvious ongoing debate in professional sports over the steroid issue. Overall, this is really a topic that's pretty taboo in recruiting. In the years I've been in this business there are usually a few guys each year that you have suspicions about, but it's not something that's really discussed very much. In fact, I can only remember a couple of players in all of the years that I've been doing this where this issue has come up, at least as a concern for anyone Texas has looked at. I would guess this is an issue that's a bigger problem that we truly know, but I don't think anyone wants to be the one to ask the tough questions.

Q: (HookemUK) - In your extremely well-qualified opinion, when (or under what circumstances) is it deemed to be an acceptable practice for a football program to revoke a "verbally accepted" scholarship offer? I mean, outside of a verbally committed athlete either running afoul of the law or perhaps giving a second commitment to another program, when does a head coach find himself in a truly justifiable (and defendable) position to pull back a scholarship, especially considering that each individual scholarship offer extended represents one less available for another recruit? (Note: I don't want to confuse the situation but I am also assuming that all extended offers should be considered to be on a "first come, first served" basis until accepted.)
Anyway, as a novice to the recruiting process, I would really enjoy your perspective on this topic in terms of the impact such an action would potentially have on a football program - specifically with future recruits (and their families), high school coaches, university alumni and the various other constituencies whose interests a Division I head football coach must always consider. In fact, has this ever happened previously during Mack Brown's tenure as Texas Head Coach? If so, then what were the perceived repercussions of Mack having taken this action - if any?
Again, I would appreciate at least a glimpse into the unspoken "rules" of the recruiting game in such circumstances. But, let me guess: there are no rules - right?

A: There's definitely a code in recruiting among all of the participants that pulling an offer from a committed prospect is essentially a kiss of death. For example, if "School A" has offered a young man and he has accepted that offer, it's just understood that your school's name will be mud to the entire region if that offer is rescinded without proper cause.

The general thinking is that by the time that kid's head coach gets done calling all of his coaching buddies, there won't be anyone left that will let their kids fall into a similar trap in the future and it's why you rarely see in-state schools get caught in this situation because they know that the impact could be severe.

When you usually see this occur the most is when a new staff comes in to replace an old staff and they'll sometimes review their commitments and ditch the kids they think are spare parts. Even when that happens, you better believe that there are likely going to be some very hard feelings over the matter.

Since Mack Brown has been at Texas, there haven't been many times when he's been put into a situation where he's pulled the offer from a commitment. Jersey Village offensive lineman Abe Robinson (2000) is a guy that pops into my head, but that was based on a horrendous academic situation. Former Oklahoma State linebacker Chris Collins of Texarkana Texas High had his offer pulled because of a pending sexual assault charge.

There's a reason why Brown has the relationship with the state's high school coaches that he does, and it's because they know that Brown's word means something. When those coaches send a kid to Texas, the consensus among coaches is that their kid will be treated like gold.

Q: (RocketMan) - I've talked to a couple of fairly well-connected people in the program in the last couple of weeks and everyone seems to be talking up Chykie Brown. We've seen these spring sensations before and a lot of times they don't translate to on-field success in the fall. What do you make of his potential in the fall? Deon Beasley and Ryan Palmer are returning starters, which in the past has often meant that they will continue to start. Do you think that there's a complete empty slate with Will Muschamp's arrival? Is Brown so good that he can't be kept off the field? What's the deal?

A: It seems obvious to me that the Texas coaching staff knows exactly what they have in Brown, at least in regards to his upside. I talked to one person with the team this week that told me he thought Brown was the MVP of the team through the first two weeks of practice. That being said, his game reps have been limited and both Beasley and Palmer have played a lot of snaps. In fact, it's important to note that Beasley has been called the best corner on the team by several sources and Palmer is also having a good camp. The staff is going to want some continued consistency and as he continues to build on his successes, a real role can be determined. I do believe that Muschamp is going to have the 11 guys on the field that he wants, but I would imagine that he and Duane Akina are on the same page at this point. They both want the same thing to happen, which is to have Brown become a great player. I also have two other words for you to keep in mind when talking about the cornerback position - Curtis Brown.

Q: (Sundance7) - We all know that Jamarkus McFarland is visiting OU this week. He seemed to not be impressed with his visit to LSU when he was interviewed shortly thereafter. I know he is playing it close to the vest but what do you know as to what the staff thinks about our chances of getting him to commit? Do you really think he will play it out until this fall?

A: First, I don't think McFarland is going to take his recruitment into the fall. I think his family's diligent planning has allowed them to take all of the visits that he he's going need, so that he can make an educated decision without having to have a prolonged process. I think the Texas staff is confident and they probably have reason to be. The Horns appear to be the mother's favorite and the number one rule in recruiting will always be, "Go with the mom." Look for Texas to just sit tight and let McFarland do whatever he needs to.

Q: (BuschLeague) - 1. The light has come on for Henry Melton. What have you heard, and what do you expect from him next year? Starter? Role player? Draft pick? IsBrandon Mahoney the guy who gets the last LB spot in-state, at least, as Muschamp might look for a national stud? Where does Texas sit with him?

A: The word on Melton is that he's been rugged in practice through the first two weeks. He's been physical at the point of attack and he plays up and down the line of scrimmage well. I think there's still a question as to whether he can be an elite pass rusher, but he's been nails in camp thus far. If the season started today he'd likely be the starter at defensive end on the left side, assuming that Lamarr Houston were slotted inside.

I'm really not sure what the deal is with Mahoney, but the Longhorns absolutely need another outside linebacker in this class and unless they believe Tariq Allen can play outside (most believe he's an inside guy), then Mahoney would seem to be a guy that they are going to take a long look at. The issue might be whether Mahoney has a real interest in Texas. He's already taken two visits to Oklahoma and Texas A&M, but he hasn't been able to make it to Austin yet. The Texas staff is not one that likes to be put off by anyone, so I would guess that Mahoney will probably need to visit by the month's end.

Q: (GreatScott) - How does Kyle Kriegel compare to Brian Pickryl as a prospect? Also, do you think that Trent Richardson has a genuine interest in Texas, after all Texas has not had good luck with kids from Florida like Rouse, Xavier Lee, Brantley etc....

A: I don't think Kriegel and Pickryl are really that comparable coming out of high school. Pickryl was all arms and legs coming out of high school, but his first step was seriously good and that's why he was able to make a bit of an impact when he arrived as a young player because his pass rush skills were potentially elite. While I looked at him as a defensive end all the way, I kind of think Kriegel might be best suited as an inside player down the road. His strength as a player is playing at the point of attack, so I think if he can add the weight, it could potentially be his long-term home.

As for Richardson, I suppose this question depends on your definition of genuine interest. Do I believe that he likes the Longhorns and would like to give the Longhorns a long look? Yes. Do I believe that he's likely going to break his back to do anything special for the Longhorns that he won't do for other schools at the top of his list? Probably not. That's just not the way it usually works in Florida. If the Longhorns are going to get that kid they'll need to win an old fashioned recruiting slugfest.

Q: (Jettrink) - How has Major Applewhite impacted the following areas - recruiting, practices, overall intensity? If you can't answer this week, maybe next?

A: We've talked about this before, but Applewhite's impact on recruiting has definitely been felt. Look at the quick reaction he showed in contacting Trent Richardson once the word got out that he has a place in his heart for the program because of Ricky Williams and Earl Campbell. Darrell Scott talked up Texas for months last year and the Longhorns barely corresponded with him until the fall.

His on-field impact has probably yet to be determined but his demeanor on the field is certainly a strong contrast from that of former running backs coach Ken Rucker. Applewhite is probably not as reserved in workouts as Rucker was.

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