March 20, 2010

The Ticket City Locker Room Report

Q: (utx) - Give us your best guess on the Brandon Williams situation and how it impacts Aaron Green if he was offered and suddenly committed?

Also, how would Christian Westerman and Matthew Hegarty have fit into your top 25 OL if they had been from Texas?

Is it too early too start guessing who redshirts and who doesn't?

A: My best guess is that Williams is simply trying to gather his bearings, while trying to figure out if the rushed commitment to Baylor was the right decision. The fact that he's already visiting other schools so soon is an indicator that it was a rushed decision that might have even included some panic. The Longhorns want him to know that he's very much a guy that they covet, but they aren't trying to rush anyone - not him and not themselves. If neither of the running backs that the Longhorns have offered in 2011 make a move for Texas soon, I think the Longhorns will make a move for Williams and I have a hard time thinking he wouldn't say yes. It's just my guess, but Malcolm Brown likely has all the time he needs and if anyone were to have their offer impacted by a commitment from Williams, it would likely be Green.

If I were slotting both of the out of state offensive linemen that the Longhorns are currently recruiting into the current LSR Rankings, I'd probably rank Westerman (6.1) in the No.2 slot and I would have Hegarty (5.9+) in the 10-15 range.

Finally, good question about the redshirts because I think a large section of the 2010 class with play as true freshman. Here's how I would classify them:

Likely to play: Taylor Bible, Mike Davis, Ashton Dorsey, Jordan Hicks, Tevin Jackson, Jackson Jeffcoat and Adrian White

Could possibly play: Aaron Benson, Carrington Byndom, DeMarco Cobbs, Bryant Jackson, Chris Jones, Adrian Phillips, Will Russ, Traylon Shead, Darius Terrell, Darius White, Reggie Wilson and Connor Wood

Strong redshirt possibility: DeAires Cotton, Greg Daniels, Dominic Espinosa, John Harris, Trey Hopkins and Case McCoy.

Q: (Jwpriest) - How do 2011 prospects Malcolm Brown, Aaron Green, and Brandon Williams compare to the two five-star national running backs OU got in 2010? On the side, I have to deal with many OU family members and they are convinced that OU's emphasis on national recruiting is producing better recruits than simply focusing on Texas.

A: If you look at the national rankings, the Sooners didn't sign any five-star prospects in 2010, let alone two five-star running backs. California prep star Brennan Clay was probably their best signing as a mid-level four star prospect (5.9) and he's not only a very good player, but I thought he was one of the better players in the Offense-Defense Bowl a few months ago. Still, I wouldn't rank him on Brown's level and he's probably behind Green and Williams as well if I were to slot them. As far as your OU family members, I think you probably need to encourage them to continue to do what they've been doing the last half-decade or so because it's reallyworked wonders… for you and your mental health when being forced to deal with your OU family members..

Q: (Golfpr3145) - Ketch, as you know an offensive line has to play together for a good while in order to be effective. Given the lack of production from our OL last year, is there a group that can be effective together for the 2010 season? If Mason Walters' foot is okay, it would seem like it would take him some time in order to get back into the flow. Which guys do you think would seem to be good fit to give us the best chance to have an effective run game this year?

A: As I've said before, I think there's reason for some hope and maybe even some confidence with the inside trio of Michael Huey, David Snow and Tray Allen. Those three players seem to be playing well together this spring and there's a little more size, athleticism and nastiness in the group than we've seen in the last few years inside. If redshirt freshman Thomas Ashcraft keeps improving, he'll be the swing guard and a potentially a player that can play a lot. All four of those players can mash in the running game. The real questions are at tackle, but there's no doubt that Britt Mitchell and Kyle Hix are more naturally suited for the running game than pass protection, so if they pan out this group could come together pretty nicely. Those aren't little ifs.

Q: (Striker25) - Thoughts on this years SI swimsuit mag?

A: As if it were yesterday, I can still remember receiving the 1988 issue of the Sports Illustrated in the mail with Elle MacPherson on the cover in Thailand. Looking at women has never been the same. Every MacPherson photo in that issue was in my junior high locker from that moment forward. Yes, I'm talking about the sweaty shot of her in front of the bamboo and the solo strap shot where she covers the uncovered breast with her arm. And then there was the wet t-shirt shot. Oh, man…the…wet…t-shirt… photo…

Al Gore hadn't yet invented the Internet and magazines like Maxim and FHM didn't exist, which meant that if you were a female-crazy teenager, the SI Swimsuit issue was the event of the winter. It signaled the unofficial beginning of spring as much as any groundhog ever did.

One thing is certain - no mid-80's or early 90's swimsuit issue was to ever be thrown away.

For better or for worse, the SI Swimsuit issue has lost its way because if I want to see Brooklyn Decker, I don't have to wait for a single SI swimsuit issue to hook it up every 52 weeks or so. I can just Yahoo search her name. Hell, I don't even remember flipping through the actual issue this year because I had already seen most of the photos online before the hard copy of the magazine arrived.

It's no different than Monday Night Football. There are so many NFL games on television in this current media age and so many of them are played at night that the value of the watch just can't compare to the feelings that were generated back when I was a kid two decades ago.

Q: (TeamTexas) - We've heard that Mack and company will take 23 this year, maybe push it as high as 25. Let's assume something different and that they will only 20. One of the two slots needs to be a difference-making RB (Malcolm Brown, come on down). Based on last year's class and the guys who've committed so far, who should get the "last spot" and would there be any glaring holes if we only took 19?

A: From a numbers standpoint, I don't think there are any true glaring holes after receiving commitments from five offensive linemen and three defensive backs (not including Quandre Diggs). That being said, there are two positions I think the Longhorns still need to make sure to address in this class - cornerback and left tackle. Duane Akina has to love what they've done at the defensive back position in the last two classes, but he probably would love to have one more elite-level corner prospect to lean on, just to be sure. The biggest question mark in the entire program as far as I can tell is at left tackle - I don't know who plays it beginning next season. The Longhorns have a few players that they have high hopes for, but there's no seemingly sure-thing in the bunch. That's why I would rank Christian Westerman as the guy. No.20 has to be reserved for him because he's a left tackle, it's a huge need and he might just be the best overall prospect in the country. Case closed.

Q: (dillionaire23) - What's the work station like at Orangebloods? Do y'all have a central office you work from? Home offices? Do you crack the whip on the Jason's to make sure they don't get hammered drunk and sleep in til noon?

A: That's an interesting question, because we each currently work out of our own homes. However, Chip, Sean and Suchomel are always asking me when we're going to have a downtown high-rise office to work out of and I've noticed that Howell never brings it up. If there are no accidents in life, then you have to believe that around a year from now, Orangebloods could very well be in the market for swanky downtown property for all of us to work out of (except for Howell).

Also, if you've never noticed, there's an occasional lack of spell checking on the site. I thought it was understood that we are in fact all hammered most of the time and that we keep very unusual hours (especially Chip).

Q: (bullittx) - 1. What formation will Texas trot out on their first offensive series in 2010?

A: Take it to the bank that the Longhorns will come out with a tight end and a fullback/h-back on the first play of the first offensive series of the year. In fact, if I were a betting man, I'd guess an off-tackle run to the right side behind a motioning H-back will be the first play. Of course, Garrett Gilbert will be under center.

What do you mean you don't believe me?

Q: (red dog1) - The 2009 OL has been criticized repeatedly for their performance. We went up against Suh and Gerald McCoy, who are expected to be two of the top three picks in next months NFL draft.

What will the tougher match-ups be for our 2010 OL? Oklahoma loses McCoy and will have a sophomore step in. Seems the Ags have a good DE returning - Miller I believe.

I'd appreciate your comments regarding the expected 2010 match-ups along the OL, including our expected strengths and weaknesses. It may be too long for each opponent but maybe the top 5 or 6? Your service gets better and better each week.

A: Flattery will get you everywhere. Let's start with a quick breakdown of the Texas offensive line heading into the second half of the spring. Based on what I've seen this spring, I think the interior trio of David Snow, Tray Allen and Michael Huey has a chance to be good, if they can stay healthy (a major problem for Huey in 2009). I'm not going to go overboard with the projections or even call for any of them to be All-Big 12 players - they have to earn that. However, I think this is a bigger, more athletic and talented trio (when healthy) than the Longhorns went into games with last year and they've got a chance to improve that problem area. The big question for the Longhorns is at tackle where Kyle Hix has moved to left tackle and Britt Mitchell has assumed the right tackle position.

When you look at Hix, you see a guy that's a pretty good player, but he wasn't great on the right side, so asking him to patrol the more difficult left side seems akin to asking me to ride a motorcycle after watching me struggle to steer a bike. I might be able to make the transition, but there could be a few potential problems. As for Mitchell, he simply hasn't played much. If he was really a starting-caliber player, why in the world didn't he see more action in 2009? I have no doubts that this pair of tackles will be capable, but capable isn't the bar, is it?

The development of those two players could very well determine the success of this season for the entire team.

In addition to the tackle questions, there are potential problems in the area of depth because all of the back-ups are completely inexperienced and at different stages in their quests to become contributing players. From left to right on the two-deep, Paden Kelly, Thomas Ashcroft, Garrett Porter, Mark Buchanan and Luke Poehlmann have all seen as much game-action as we have. Ok, to be fair, Buchanan and Poehlmann played a little last year and the latter actually earned a latter. Still, you get my point.

Of curse, any of the five (or six if you include Walters) could emerge as an impact player because the talent level is certainly there, but you can't chalk anyone up as a guarantee.

As for the breakdown of the defensive lines that the Longhorns will face in 2010, you had to know that there's no way I could attack the project half-assed. Here's a look at the 12 defensive line groups that the Longhorns will face this season, working our way from worst to first.

12. Wyoming (returning starters: (2) DE Josh Biezuns and Gabe Knapton

Best player: The 6-2, 245-pound Biezuns was a 3-4 outside linebacker in 2009 and was a standout player with 65 tackles, 9.5 tackles for loss and 3.5 sacks, but he'll be making the full-time move to defensive end this spring, along with Knapton. That pair accounted for 19 tackles, 1.5 tackles for loss and a sack against the Longhorns in 2009.

Breakdown: The Cowboys are switching to a new 4-3 defense in 2010 and they'll be forced to break in a pair of new tackles, which means that the two spin downs from linebacker probably represent the strength of the group

11. Iowa State (returning starters: (2) DE Patrick Neal and DT Bailey Johnson

Best player: If senior defensive end Rashawn Parker (86 tackles and eight sacks in career) can return to 100-percent from a knee injury that ruined his season in week four, he might be the guy.

Breakdown: The Cyclones don't have a real standout, but they do have a group that's played a fair amount of football together. A healthy Parker probably makes this a decent group.

10. Florida Atlantic (returning starters: (2) DT Kevin Cyrille and DL Dino Cox

Best player: The 6-4, 275-pound Cyrille is an athletic, active player that recorded 11 .5 tackles for loss and three sacks.

Breakdown: This was a team that didn't really have an impact player in 2009, but Cyrille is an up-and-comer and could emerge as an impact-type player. There's not a lot of returning quality depth.

9. Texas Tech (returning starters: (1) DT Colby Whitlock

Best player: Whitlock has been a pain in the backside for the Longhorns over the course of the last few seasons, especially two years ago in Lubbock. He'd be a candidate for best player, even if he weren't the only player returning.

Breakdown: It remains to be seen how long it takes Tech to adjust to a new 3-4 defense or long it will take Tommy Tuberville to put the right personnel in place to have a true impact unit because I'm not sure the pieces are in place right now. Tuberville is a great defensive coach, but this team lost along the defensive end from last season and the players replacing them have little experience.

8. Kansas State (returning starters: (2) DE Antonio Felder and DT Prizell Brown

Best player: The 6-2, 253-pound Felder was a solid starter in 2009 at end, but not really a plus-player in the Big 12. The Wildcats will be looking for him to take a big step forward in 2010.

Breakdown: Kansas State is really undersized and doesn't currently feature any real standout players. Don't be surprised if a JUCO guy like defensive end Adam Davis and defensive tackle Javonta Boyd are asked to carry a heavy load and if that's the case, their ability to make a quick, impacting transition will determine this group's ceiling.

7. Baylor (returning starters: (2) DT Phil Taylor and DE Tracy Robertson

Best player: The 6-4, 260-pound Robertson was a solid player last year, but certainly not a difference maker, but his five tackles for loss and three sacks is the most returning productivity you'll find from this group.

Breakdown: Taylor was one of the nation's biggest busts as a junior when he recorded 2.5 tackles for loss and 0.5 sacks after being hailed as the greatest thing since Bubba Smith by those in Waco. Meh. Surely, he has to play better as a senior because it's a contract year, but I can't say that this group looks like much on paper.

6. Oklahoma State (returning starters: (2) DE Jamie Blatnick and DE Ugo Chinasa

Best player: The 6-5, 252-pound Chinasa is clearly the cream of the OSU crop after recording 30 tackles, nine tackles for loss and 6.5 sacks during his junior season. Although he's not an elite player, he's a very good Big 12 defensive end and his athleticism makes him a tough one-on-one match-up.

Breakdown: Chinasa is a nice player, but the rest of this group looks very suspect. Senior Chris Donaldson will be a key player at defensive tackle, but he was a total zero for the team in 2009, so they are asking for a huge leap. Sophomore defensive end Richetti Jones has a chance to push Blatnick for a starting spot and if he continues to emerge, the quality of this group will be enhanced.

5. Rice (returning starters: (3) DE Scott Soloman, DE Cheta Ozougwu and DT Alex Lowry

Best player: The 6-3, 265-pound Soloman was a second-team Conference-USA performer last season after recording 6.5 sacks as a junior. He ranks fourth on the school's all-time sack leader list (15) and eighth a loss all-time in tackles for loss (30.5) The 6-2, 260-pound Ozougwu also shouldn't be overlooked after he reached career highs in tackles (61), tackles for loss (10.5) and sacks (4.5) as a junior.

Breakdown: The Owls are an undersized group, but this shapes up as a fairly solid test for Kyle Hix and Britt Mitchell in their first start as a tandem because the Owls will bring one of the best pair of ends that the Longhorns will see in the first half of the season.

4. UCLA (returning starters (1) DE Datone Jones

Best player: The 6-4, 267-pound Jones is emerging as an impact player for the Bruins and they hope that he'll emerge as one of the Pac-10's top linemen this season. As a sophomore, he started 13 games and was third on the team in sacks (four), while ranking 12th in the Pac-10 in tackles for loss with 11.

Breakdown: The Bruins don't have a lot of experience, as Jones and senior defensive tackle David Carter represent the majority of their returning experience, but the group has a ton of young prospects that could make this group very difficult to deal with by the end of the first month of the season. Incoming freshman defensive end Owamagbe Odighizuwa was a five-star prospect in 2010 and ranked among the nation's top ten players. They also have true freshman defensive tackle Cassius Marsh coming into the fold. If UCLA's young players can slide in and perform well early, this group has a chance to be pretty salty.

3. Texas A&M (returning starters: (3) DE Von Miller, DT Eddie Brown and DT Lucas Patterson

Best player: Miller is the best pass rusher in the Big 12 and a guy that gave the Longhorns some fits in 2009. He's a candidate for Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year.

Breakdown: The Aggies have a star in Miller, but the rest of this group has a long way to go if they are going to help this defense take the next step from below average to average. Brown and Patterson are just ok, but they do have more experienced than most of the other teams on the list.

2. Oklahoma (returning starters: (2) DE Jeremy Beal and DT Adrian Taylor

Best player: The 6-3, 263-pound Beal is one of the best defensive ends in the country and will certainly represent one of the biggest individual challenges that the Texas line will face in 2010. Beal was good for 19 tackles for loss and 11 sacks as a junior.

Breakdown: Beal is a flat out star off the edge, but the rest of the defensive line is a little suspect, although there's obviously a lot of talent for Bob Stoops to work with. The key piece to the entire puzzle is senior defensive tackle Adrian Taylor, who suffered a nasty broken leg in the bowl game. Without a healthy Taylor inside, a ton of pressure falls onto the shoulders of sophomores Jamarkus McFarland, Casey Walker and Stacey McGee - a group that combined for 10 tackles in 2009.

1. Nebraska (returning starters: (2) DE Pierre Allen and DT Jared Crick

Best player: With Ndamukong Suh drawing double- and triple-teams on a play-by-play basis in 2009, Crick posted one of the more statistically impressive seasons in the nation by an interior lineman not named Suh, as he recorded 73 tackles, 15 tackles for loss and 9.5 sacks. Life won't figure to be as easy for him in 2010, but he still ranks as one of the Big 12's best interior linemen.

Breakdown: This group can't help but take a step back after the loss of the One-Man Gang. Allen and Crock give them a pair of great building blocks, but it will be the likes of Cameron Meredith and Baker Steinkuhler that ultimately determine just how good this group will be to defend.

Overall, it seems pretty obvious that this year's Texas offensive line won't have to face anyone on the regular-season schedule that's anywhere near as imposing as some of the defensive line units they faced last season. Oklahoma and Nebraska are both down from where they were last season, and the rest of the teams all have a ton of question marks. I actually came away much more impressed with Texas' own defensive line when held up to some of the hot mess the other programs are dealing with.

Q: (JJJDDS) - If someone held a gun to your head and made you predict the rest of the 2011 class, who would you say that we finish with?

A: Malcolm Brown, Brandon Williams, Christian Westerman, Cedric Reed and Charles Jackson.

Q: (Junior Bonner) - 1. Were you surprised by the move of Sam Acho to DT? I can't decide if it's a sign of weakness of our current tackles or simply a matter of putting our best four D-linemen on the field. What do you think?

2. Similar question about DeMarco Cobbs. There has been talk that he will be used at RB first, not WR or DB. Is this a sign that RB is considered a position of need, or are we merely putting Cobbs where he fits best?

3. I appreciate your post-game play-by-play breakdowns and the time it must take to put them together. However, I loved the in-game diary you did a couple of seasons ago (channeling your inner Bill Simmons) and would love to see it 1-2 times this season. Any chance?

4. Swingers Vince Vaughn or Wedding Crashers Vince Vaughn?

A: 1. Was I surprised by the announcement that Acho would start at tackle if the season started today? Yes and no. He's received a lot of work inside during the two open practices and sources have told me he's played inside and out all spring, so it wasn't a surprise from the standpoint of the naked eye could see he was working there some and he's an easy spin-down guy on obvious pass rush situations when they want to get their four best rushers on the field. I do think as we sit here in the middle of March that the remark is an indicator that the Texas coaches want/need these young defensive linemen on campus to step it up a notch or three. The staff believes Kheeston Randall is ready to be a star, but the rest of the group is constantly taking two steps forward, two steps back. Also, don't think that Mack Brown isn't above sending a message through the media to his players. I promise you that every single one of those young tackles heard that remark as they prepared to head somewhere for spring break and they completely understand that they've been put on notice.

The coaches aren't going to hand a starting position to anyone that doesn't deserve one and right now none of those guys deserve to be called starters. In my head, this is Mack's way of channeling Norman Dale sending four players on the court. His players are on the field.

2. Yes and probably yes.

3. Yes, I'll put the running diaries back in the works. I'll start with an NFL Draft diary from my honeymoon. I don't know how I'm going to pull it off, but I'll have to find a way to get three days/nights of TV time, while keeping Longhorn Babe happy at the same time. Have you seen The Heartbreak Kid with Ben Stiller? Perhaps I need to check into some food that can cause a slight allergic reaction or something. Ssssshhhh. Don't give my secret plot away.

4. Finally, interesting challenge you've given me in trying to separate two very important iconic movie characters men would most like to channel when we're at a bar.

Think about it - you're single, you're sporting your finest threads and you're scoping for cougars downtown. You've just spotted the cougar of your dreams over near a bar with nobody around. She's looking for someone exactly like you to go over and make magic happen. So, there you are, walking up with Colt McCoy swagger and as you approach her, you can see that she's digging your vibe. It's a total slam dunk and then the very first thing that comes out of your mouth is something like this… "So, what year did you graduate from high school?"

Boom. Done. Finished. There's nothing quite like watching a woman's interest in a man dissolve almost instantaneously, as he opens his mouth to utter something completely ridiculous..

Rhett Butler. Rick Blaine. Han Solo. Those are the men we wish we could be when we're in a bar.

Understand that neither of Vaughn's characters (Trent in Swingers or Jeremy Grey in Wedding Crashers) reach that that type of all-time Mount Rushmore worthy status, but you know both are the type that could walk up to that cougar and say something completely cheesy like, "Baby, I will marry you tomorrow if we can honeymoon tonight" and it would actually work.

The difference between Trent/Jeremy is that the Wedding Crashers role is actually Vaughn in his absolute peak prime. Every guy reaches a point in their life when they realized that if they could go back to 18 with the life knowledge they've acquired over 15 or 20 years of failure, we'd clean up at an all-time high level with the ladies. I'm talking action every night in a different city with a different super model. Jeremy is simply a better and more refined version of Trent and it's during a period of life when he's smack dab in his prime. He's got a career that allows him comfort, he's in good shape and his game is in perfect form.

The one thing that he hasn't done yet is start the downhill plunge that occurs in every man's life when he no longer is hip enough to completely feel comfortable in a night club unless he hears a song from his prime. Jeremy is like Fonzy from Happy Days. For a brief time in that show, every time Henry Winkler turned the lights off with his fist, it was pretty cool. Yet by season three you started to wonder why so many hot young chicks from 1950's Milwaukee were falling hook, line and sinker for the same lines and tricks. Vaughn is Fonzy in season two of Happy Days - everything is in a perfect groove.

Look at what Vaughn has done since that role - The Break-up, Fred Claus and Couples Retreat. The Vaughn that played Jeremy and approached iconic guy glory status is gone forever because he's passed through his prime and is starting to enter his old Fonzy stage.

Q: (Helmet Boy) - The late writer William S. Burroughs once said, "In the magical universe, there are no coincidences and there are no accidents. Nothing happens unless someone wills it to happen."

Reflecting back on the final months of the Jackson Jeffcoat recruitment, I think few would disagree that Texas benefited considerably from the time Jeffcoat was able to spend bonding with other Texas pledges at the U.S. Army All-American game in San Antonio. In particular, he hit it off extremely well with his roommate for the week, Reggie Wilson, whom he has reportedly discussed rooming with on a more permanent basis down in Austin.

My question: In this magical universe of Texas recruiting, did fate have a hand in pairing Jeffcoat with Wilson that week, or did someone will that to happen? Your opinion, of course.

A: I think you need to ask yourself this - who is responsible for the game? The answer is the answer is the US Army. Therefore, the only magic that might have been responsible for that rooming situation was created by America. I just don't know how you can argue with Old Glory and if you find anyone that alleges anything sinister, it sounds to me like they hate America. Bottom line - you probably shouldn't be willing to have a recruiting discussion about Jeffcoat with anyone that hates America.

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