PB's discussion on the Titans use (or lack there of) of one VY (is this trademarked?) piqued my interest to see how some of his fellow Horn alumns have been doing in the NFL. It also got me to thinking about the Devon Kennard and Jamarkus McFarland discussion.
First off, several former Longhorns have had notable games recently, and a few of them are having remarkable seasons. While the Horns have cranked out several first day draft picks, as well as many others making NFL rosters one way or another, who are the ones that are standing out?
Is there a perception that while schools like Texas, USC, OU, Florida and Ohio State have top college talent, the others do a better job of turning out better NFL talent than Texas? Furthermore could this be impacting Texas' recruiting, primarily among the most coveted 5 star recruits?
Currently the Horns have 41 players on some form of an NFL roster.
Positional Breakdown: 18 defense / 21 Offense / 2 Special Teams
Cedric Benson - Cedric has managed to play in 11 games this year despite joining the Bengals a few games into the season. In week 16, Benson had his career high in rushing (171) on 38 carries with no scores. Benson has racked up 636 yards on 189 carries this season, good for an unspectacular but workmanlike 3.4 yards per. Last year with the Bears, Benson put up similar numbers through 11 games (3.4 yards/carry, 674 yards rushing). Suffice it to say, Benson has not been stellar as a pro despite being a top 10 pick, Doak Walker award winner, and a highly recruited college running back. However, Benson's Bengals will be going up against KC to close out the season, and if he manages another solid outing he could surpass his career high is single season yards rushing (674) and he may establish a home for himself next year in Cincy.
Justin Blalock - Justin has started 15 games at LG this year in Atlanta after starting 14 last year. The Falcons will be making their first NFL playoff appearance in several years thanks to a heck of a job by the new coaching staff, Matt Ryan, Michael Turner and others. This week, Blalock made a nice fumble recovery to save a game winning overtime drive. The Falcons are a top 5 rushing team, and have given up only 16 sacks this year -- good for 5th fewest in the league. Blalock has been a cog on the left side of the line, and its safe to say he'll probably be one in this league for a long time.
Tarell Brown - Brown might be remembered as the scapegoat for the 2006 loss versus tOSU, however 49ers fans may recall him as the guy that came up big off the bench in week 3 when he registered his first NFL pick and limited Mike Furrey to 2 catches. Of course, that sounded a lot more impressive in week 3 when Mike Furrey was still on a bunch of fantasy teams and the Lions were only 0-2 and not 0-15. Brown has been used in spot duty since and registered another pick to go along with 2 passes defensed last week in a comeback win versus St. Louis. We sure could have used that in 2006.
Jamaal Charles - JC has found ways to be productive at times in both the rushing game and the passing game on a horrible Kansas City team. In week 16, JC picked up 15 yards on the ground, however he racked up 102 yards on 3 catches and nearly scored on a 75 yard reception versus Miami. How the heck someone caught him I don't know, maybe Ted Ginn was playing corner on that one. However, after seeing a highlight of the play it looks like Jamaal has lost a step likely due to be nicked up earlier this season. While Jamaal hasn't been consistent in his production, he hasn't had consistent playing time thanks to Larry Johnson. He'll need to be more dependable between the tackles to become a top back, not to mention he still has a slight fumbling problem (2 this year).
Jermichael Finley - JerMike has 3 catches for 10 yards this year even though he suited up for all but 2 games. Fortunately for him, Jermichael is in a good situation with the Green Bay Packers. They love to throw the ball to their TE and have a pretty good young QB in Aaron Rodgers. Finley is buried on the depth chart though behind starter Donald Lee and back-upTory Humphreys. He didn't do much this year, but the paycheck must be nice and his future in the NFL is bright.
Michael Griffin - Griffin has had a solid year anchoring arguably the best defense in the league. In week 16 vs the Steelers, Griffin ran back an INT for 6 to help nail down home field throughout the playoffs. Griffin has 7 picks on the year, and has been dependable in every facet of his game. Funny how well Griffin plays when his coaches don't put him in the box every down to get abused on play action like Chizik did at the end of 2006. Griffin's numbers have improved steadily, and he's probably the biggest suprise as far as Longhorn alumns go this year.
Ahmard Hall - Ahmard is a feel good story for Texas fans. He's a solid citizen and served in the military prior to finishing out his career at Texas. In the NFL he's done nothing but serve up several disgusting blocks on a weekly basis as a fullback for Tennessee's strong rushing attack. You better believe Lendale and Chris Johnson take this guy out for a steak dinner every now and then.
Aaron Ross - Aaron suffered a concussion in week 16, but he's been oustanding this season. After the Giants lost both Osi and Strahan it was expected that their pass defense would suffer. However, thanks to Justin Tuck and a stingy secondary the Giants have improved. Aaron's 3 picks, 1 TD, and all-around tight defense is one of the biggest reasons why.
Ricky Williams - Just the fact that Ricky has managed to keep himself in the league this year is a success. On top of that though, Ricky has been a tad inconsistent but has shown flashes of brilliance in the Dolphins single-wing offense. For the season, Ricky has gained 609 yards, with 4 TDs and 5 fumbles.
Overall, the Horns are doing pretty well in the NFL and we should be proud of them. There are several stallwarts like Leonard Davis, Shaun Rodgers, Derrick Dockery, Quentin Jammer, Nathan Vasher, D.D. Lewis, Phil Dawson, and Derrick Johnson who I didn't mention but are also solid NFL contributors.
The only gripe we could have is that most of the success is limited to DBs, offensive linemen, and a few defensive linemen. Fomer Longhorn skill position players have not lit it up in the NFL, although several (Vince Young, Roy Williams, Selvin Young, JC, Ricky etc) are supposed to or could figure prominently into their team's offense. For whatever reason Texas WRs and RBs just haven't had the same success in the NFL as their counterparts from OU and some of the other top teir programs.
Aside from Ricky, who I firmly believe would be one of the top 5 RBs in the league if it weren't for his person issues, none of the former Horns running backs have the tools to be every down backs. Coincidentally, the Horns have had a tough time recruiting prototypical NFL backs as of late --ahem Darrell Scott-- and one Adrian Peterson. Many would argue this is a direct result of the single back scheme, that relies on the zone read and runs counters without a lead blocker.
While I believe that the goal of a program is to win championships, and not necessarily to put guys into the NFL, we all must realize that the two are inseperable. Furthermore, I would argue that having a few, prominent NFL stars as alumni only raises the visibility of your institution and no doubt helps in recruiting.
So congrats to our current NFL Horns. Here's hoping that guys like VY, Limas, and others flourish and others like Lokey, Okam, and Jermike start to see some playing time. Hook'em