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March 28, 2009

The Ticket City Locker Room Report



Q: (tylerrose2 ) - Ketch- on the text alert regarding Reggie Wilson, it called him a five-star despite Rivals having him as a four-star. Do you see him getting that fifth star anytime soon?

A: I keep making the mistake of calling Wilson a five-star because of his current position on the national rankings. Unless he tumbles in the rankings from the position he's currently in, he's already slotted in an area that translates to eventual five-star status. I'm not sure when the national guys are going to update their rankings, but Wilson is obviously a guy that will be watched very closely for the next 10 months. I would bet on him being a five-star by the end of the spring.

Q: (Hornrush) - If the Horns wind up signing 23 or more recruits for 2010, whom do you expect to be asked to give back their paper to make room?

Also, speaking of plethora, if Darius White signs up, we will have a "plethora" of receivers. Do you expect them all to stay and if not, who do you see as the most likely to be the odd man (or men) out?


A: First, the staff hasn't historically been a group that yanks scholarships from existing scholarship players for the sake of getting under the 85-man limit. That being said, there is always a group of guys that will leave for a variety of reasons, whether it be academically or playing time related. It's probably not appropriate to discuss the names in this forum, but some of the potential transfer candidates aren't hard to figure out because of the magnifying glass that is the public interest in the program.

As for the wide receiver position, it's important to note that the staff is recruiting to replace a group of receivers that will include Jordan Shipley, Brandon Collins, James Kirkendoll and possibly even Malcolm Williams in the next two seasons. The staff could have elected to spread out their needs over the course of the next two classes, but this is an extremely strong year at the position and waiting a year would ensure that the some of the players being counted on to replace the sudden void on the depth chart in 2011 would have zero experience in the system. The Longhorns will have the pieces in place in 2011 to make a run at a national championship and the last thing anyone wants is an offense that is breaking in inexperienced receivers in the prime of Garrett Gilbert's career.

Finally, there will likely be some attrition at the position, but those decisions likely haven't been sorted out yet because so many young players are just starting to sort out their place on the totem pole. That's exactly why this spring is such an important time for the players at the wide receiver position. Without Quan Cosby and Jordan Shipley to take reps from them, all of the young receivers have been able to take advantage of the extra snaps. If there are any departures at this position down the road, the likely suspects will probably emerge in the fall.



Q: (California Horn ) - How has Sherrod Harris looked this spring? Beyond just a general impression, how does he play, what style of offense would the coaches use if he came into the game in a meaningful situation, and what are his strengths and weaknesses? How do you think the offense and the team would perform overall with him at QB? Thanks.

A: It might be too early to completely write the book on Harris because he's made steady progress this spring and he's showing some flashes that we haven't always consistently seen from him before. The chance at unlimited reps because of the move of John Chiles to wide receiver seems to have invigorated Harris and he understands that it's now or never for him.

If pressed into action, Harris is going to have more success in the short and intermediate passing game than anything else. He's a good athlete that can certainly extend plays with his feet, but he's not an explosive athlete and he's not always an instinctual playmaker. Overall, I'm not sure I can say how the team would perform with Harris at the helm because I've never seen him given the opportunity in game action. I remember hearing John Mackovic say that James Brown was the worst practice quarterback he's ever had the week before Brown's start against Oklahoma and I remember the hand-wringing over the lowly-rated Major Applewhite replacing senior Richard Walton in the line-up in week two of the 1998 season. Those guys ended up being pretty good, so I'm going to excuse myself from saying too confidently what he could or couldn't do in game situations until he's given a chance to show us all.

Q: (Vinsanity12) - Considering that we have most of the defense returning and an extra year under Will Muschamp, how do you see this years defense stacking up against last years? Do you think we will fair better or worse in the following statistics....Rush Defense, Pass Defense, Takeaways, Sacks, and overall Scoring defense

A: Let's start with the stats that Muschamp probably cares the most about - takeaways and scoring defense. The Texas coaching staff has been stressing the need to create more turnovers and Muschamp might actually have a stroke if they get into the season and aren't more of a big-play defense. As this group moves into its second season under Muschamp, the stakes are being raised because the staff feels like the players can play more instinctually and without the pause that comes from experiencing so many firsts a season ago.

Along with turnovers, Muschamp would love to get the scoring defense down from the 18.8 mark they posted last season and that could be a possibility when you look at the schedule and consider that Texas returns so much experience at every position, with the possible exception of defensive tackle, but even that position features two veteran players. If were to guess, look for the run defense numbers to take a slight hit, but there could be growth everywhere else.

Q: (Newfroid) - As a boxing fan, I've been intrigued to observe how an undefeated fighter can lose his confidence as the result of a single loss, or even a single devastating punch. You see a guy go 20-0, or 30-0 and he is utterly fearless. Then he takes a beating in the ring, and he's never the same afterward. Next thing you know his record is 23-4, and he's done.

Have you ever observed similar phenomena with a great young football talent? Can a guy get derailed as the result of a single vicious hit, or due to getting unexpectedly dominated by an opponent?


A: Great question and I had to stop and after really thinking about it, I can't really think of anyone off the top of my head. There have been a million injuries that robbed players of their ability, but I'm really struggling to think of anyone that couldn't come back from a single vicious hit or dominated performances, at least not at the college level. In a way, Henry Melton's running back career ended with that failed fourth down against Texas A&M in 2006, but that's not exactly what we're talking about.

Q: (Andrew Sauer) - Ketch, can give us an estimation when you think Mack Brown retires? Also, who do you foresee Muschamp appointing as coaches? Do you think he will try and keep the same core guys around? Do you think Mack retiring will impact recruiting? Lastly I would like to thank you guys for doing such an excellent job. Y'all have a lot of class and a great work ethic. Special kudos to baby oil for the work last week.

A: I've always said that's probably best that to get through Colt McCoy's senior season in 2009 and we can start taking it year-by-year. I think it's important to note that Mack Brown is no longer assuring recruits that he will be there for the full tenure of their career and I think that's an important mental barrier that Brown likely had to cross, which makes me think that there's a master plan for his departure, even if only a few know of it.

As far as which direction Muschamp plans to go with the staff once he takes over as coach, I think it's really impossible to say. That's not exactly the kind of thing that he would likely discuss with anyone at this point, but I'm sure that continuity would be important because this is hardly a staff that's broke as it's currently constructed. I think everyone would guess he'll have a few guys that he'd like to bring in, but those things will sort themselves out.

The recruiting aspect of the transition is tough to measure because I don't think anyone should underestimate the role that Mack Brown plays in recruiting. I'd guess that everything will be just fine, but you can't dismiss what kind of impact the departure of the Mack and Sally Brown might have. Filling their shoes won't be easy.

Finally, it's not "baby oil". It's "Babyoil" because they are a team.

Q: (Bman25) - I'm trying to gauge the in state talent over the last few years so I was wondering what order you would put the recent 5 star guys....RJ Washington, Jackson Jeffcoat, Alex Okafor and Reggie Wilson. Who will have the best college careers? NFL? Does a D-Line get much better than the guys we got in 09 and 10 (I don't think so)?

Also, if you had to pick right now who is the more special running back in 2011, Malcolm Brown or Aaron Green? Who fits UT's needs better? Are we in good shape with each?


A: Your first question is really tough to answer, but if pressed to give an answer, I suppose I'd go: 1) Okafor 2) Jeffcoat 3) Washington 4) Wilson

That being said, it's too early to say how all of their college careers, let alone pro careers, are going to go. The Longhorns think Okafor is a future star and the Sooners are high on Washington after his first season in the program, but that as much as we really know at this point.

I also think the recent haul by Texas along the defensive line is as good as they've ever recruited when you consider the depth at both positions. If they find a way to get Jeffcoat, there's no question that there should be some elite defensive fronts on the horizon, baring injuries or someone unforeseen.

Finally, the running back derby in 2011 should also include Odessa's Bradley Marquez, who was all the rage last season as a sophomore out in West Texas. In fact, there are a lot of people that think Marquez might be the guy Texas targets next season, although they've already had Brown in for a couple of camps and they'll likely evaluate all through very closely this spring. As it stands, Brown and Green are claim to be fairly wide open and we'll soon have an update on Marquez that should explain his frame of mind as the recruiting process heats up.

Q: (Sean C Keliher) - My question for you is about the LT situation for the Longhorns. Right now UT has senor Adam Ulatoski and junior Tray Allen at left tackle for the next two years. Who do you think will be next LT after those two leave? Also is there any way that they would move Allen inside at LG and slide Mason Walters out to LT for the 2010 season?

A: At this point, it's probably too soon to project past that point. Redshirt freshman Luke Poehlmann is probably the first candidate once Ulatoski and Allen depart because of the two things: seniority and the coaches really like his upside. That being said, he still needs to continue to fill out physically and it might be 2010 before we really know what he's capable of as a player. Mason Walters is an obvious candidate, but the staff has him working inside this spring and it's tough to forecast what they have in store for him. I would look for the staff to move Allen inside any time soon. The depth at tackle already took a hit at right tackle this spring with Kyle Hix recovering from shoulder surgery and Allen held up fairly well in some extended action last fall, so he's not likely moving. If the light switch starts to come on, he's going to be a key piece of the puzzle for this team.

Q: (regger13) - I read posts about staff members going to a player's high school in
order to touch base with them about their recruitment. How do you coordinate these meetings? Did Howell call Darius White ahead of time to arrange a time to talk to him or was he just that creepy older guy stalking DW in the hallway? Does the staff catch the kids in between classes or are the kids allowed to step out of class for a few minutes? Whatever they're doing, keep it going because the updates are great.


A: Almost 100% of the time, we'll coordinate our visits with the head coaches at the school and we'll meet up with a prospect before or after school, or during their athletic period.

Q: (Yosemite69) - I know this is debated ad nauseum on the boards, but I'd really like your take on Mac McWhorter's O line schemes, its impact on recruiting, and its impact on our running game. It seems like we consistently get 5 star linemen so they're buying into what he's selling, but we haven't pulled in a big time RB recruit since McWhorter's been here. Are those recruits concerned about his scheme or just concerned about our recent pass first spread strategy? Or is it something else entirely?

And we seem to have our pick of the best O linemen in the country. Do we really have to choose between O linemen that are either great pass blockers or great run blockers? Are there not 3-5 guys every year in Texas that can develop into solid players for both pass and run blocking?

And any chance we'll see that TE shovel pass that Myer used so beautifully to open up the running game against Blow U? I'd love to see that to Ian Harris or one of our athletic TEs, but that seems way too creative for GD or MB. And you guys do amazing work. Keep it up


A: Boy, there's a lot to discuss. Let's start off with acknowledging that this is a big year for McWhorter because he does have a lot of players in his group that everyone in the Longhorn Nation is still waiting on to reach their potential. Entering last season, the offensive line was being touted by none other than Mack Brown as the No.1 strength on the team. That didn't even come close to happening. On some level, we're waiting on every returning player to take a forward step from pretty good to very good.

That being said, McWhorter is essentially working on his second cycle of linemen since he took over as the full-time offensive line coach in 2003. His first cycle of linemen included the likes of Justin Blalock, Lyle Sendlein, Jonathan Scott and Kasey Studdard, but in almost all cases it took two or three years for the light switch to come on for each individual, which meant that the group really didn't start to completely come together until the 2004-05 seasons.

The heart and soul of that group departed following the 2006 season and the Longhorns have spent the last two seasons trying to get back to the level of play that became the standard when this team won its only championship. Michael Huey, Kyle Hix, Tray Allen and Adam Ulatoski were all forced to play as true freshmen and all are entering their third and fourth seasons in the program. If you look at the amount of experience returning in 2009 along the offensive line, you'll see 13 years of combined play under their belts. I think it's only fair to see what these guys can do this year when they should begin to hit their peaks as players, which everyone is banking on being this season.

The scheme isn't the issue as much as the current players have not yet turned the corner from being good to very good to great as individual players. They've just been solid across the board, but they haven't been as strong at the point of attack as they need to be. The scheme was not an issue in 2006 when the middle of the Texas offensive line pile-drived the Oklahoma defensive line seven yards off the ball on a quarterback sneak. They just had an edge to their game that this current group is still looking for.

Overall, I think you can have a good debate about the type of linemen that the Longhorns have chosen at times under McWhorter because the Longhorns have not had a lot of truly elite players come through the offensive line ranks in a while. Outside of Justin Blalock, the Longhorns haven't had a lot of top-level NFL prospects under McWhorter, although most of the 2005 line is playing in the NFL.

As far as the running back recruiting is concerned, I think it's been much better than you'll probably give it credit for. Jamaal Charles and Vondrell McGee were both national top 50 prospects in 2005 and 2006. The real questions that some have had center on the decisions made in 2007 and 2008. Of the group that consists of Fozzy Whittaker, Cody Johnson, Jeremy Hills and Tre Newton, none were considered elite prospects in the eyes of the recruiting services. It's not that that group won't turn out to be full of big-time performers, but none have at this point and none of them came in with a huge national reputation. The Longhorns didn't miss out on a bunch of guys. Those are the guys that they hand-picked and each was an early commitment. The staff got the guy they wanted in 2009 with Chris Whaley and we're still waiting to see what happens in this 2010 class.

Finally, I think you'll see a lot of spread teams copy that formation this season and I wouldn't be shocked if we see the Longhorns use it because they certainly have the personnel to do some things with it.

Q: (SouthPaugh) - 1. Take your pick of an offensive/defensive/special teams unit each from any year in the Mack Brown era and assemble the best team. Who are you taking?

2. What impact has moving Ken Rucker to his new position had on the program? We have all noticed fewer players involved in trouble. Any details on what Coach Rucker is doing? Bed checks at 1 a.m.? Does he keep an off-field file on each player?


A: Love the first question. Here goes:

QB - 2005 (Vince Young)
RB - 1998 (Ricky Williams and Co.)
WR - 2008 (Quan Cosby, Jordan Shipley and Co.)
TE - 2004 (Bo Scaife and David Thomas)
OL - 2005 (Jonathan Scott, Will Allen, Lyle Sendlein, Kasey Studdard and Justin Blalock)
DT - 2000 (Casey Hampton and Shaun Rogers)
DE - 2008 (Brian Orakpo, Henry Melton, Sergio Kindle and Co.)
LB - 2004 (Derrick Johnson, Aaron Harris and Co.)
CB - 2005 (Cedric Griffin, Aaron Ross and Tarell Brown)
S - 2005 (Michael Huff and Michael Griffin)

PR - 2003 (Nathan Vasher)
KR - 2005 (Ramonce Taylor and Quan Cosby)
P/K - 2004 (Richmond McGee and Dusty Mangum)

As for your second question, Rucker serves a lot of roles. Yes, he's there for bed-checks and classroom attention, but he's also a father figure to a lot of the guys on the team. A lot of players have told me that they feel like they can talk about things with Rucker that they couldn't to just about anyone else. I think having a specialized position on staff to focus on the life needs of the players was really a very clever and successful decision.


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