Gilbert and Cavaliers stay alive in playoffs. Fans at DKR got their first look at Garrett Gilbert on the Horns' home field on Saturday (just read Alan Trubow's article for all the Longhorn connections), watching the Cavaliers trample Killeen 71-9 as Lake Travis rides toward a second consecutive state championship. Gilbert completed 19 of 26 passes for 360 yards and four touchdowns, while leading the team in rushing with 56 yards and a touchdown. It wasn't his best day protecting the ball, as he threw two interceptions and lost a fumble, but it was the first game this season that Gilbert fumbled and the first time that he threw more than one interception in a game, as he had only thrown three all season before playing Killeen.
Gilbert has increased his completion percentage each season, completing 68.8% of his passes, up four percent from last year. As his completion percentage has gone up, his interceptions have gone down, from 14 to 13 to five this season.
Watching film from the Alice game ($), in which he ran 12 times for 260 yards and five touchdowns, reinforced my impressions of his passing, but increased my respect for his running game. At 6-4, Gilbert showed off his combination of size, sneaky speed, and balance, the latter an element quite reminiscent of Vince Young against college players. Of course, Gilbert was doing it against what looked like a poor tackling high school secondary, but was still something I hadn't seen from him.
The balance results from Gilbert running behind his pads better than a lot of college running backs, making him look at times like he had a healthy portion of butter applied to his jersey before the game. Gilbert even showed off a little shake on one long touchdown run, again shaking a defender on another before taking the edge on the pursuit. Both instances showing better feet than I thought he had; still not at the level of Colt McCoy, but pretty good enough to make some plays with his feet at the college level. I suspect that Gilbert's running is something the coaches have saved mostly for the playoffs and big moments, as Gilbert has had five games of 10 or more carries, while also having seven games of six or fewer carries, including four games in which he only carried once.
He ran mostly on quarterback draws, often in five wide sets, even near the goal line, where the Cavaliers often use Gilbert as their short yardage runner. Lake Travis did mix in the zone read, but I'm still not convinced he can run it in college. Maybe with Lache Seastrunk.
Throwing the ball, his accuracy and mechanics continue to look superb, as did his ability to throw on the run. The highlight video on his ESPN page shows him repeatedly throw strikes while rolling out to the left, as he does once in the Alice highlights. Just as impressive as his ability to throw while moving is his accuracy on short and intermediate route. Good quarterbacks have the height to manufacture passing lanes in the pocket, which Gilbert possesses, but also have the mechanics to get on top of the ball to keep the passes low and accurate so the wide receiver is the only player who can catch the pass, while even a defender in excellent position can generally only knock the ball down because of the low trajectory (also relying on the receiver blocking the defender with his body; see Quan Cosby).
Poor quarterbacks don't have the proper mechanics to consistently deliver those passes, often resulting in high passes that leave their receivers vulnerable to hard hits to the ribs or sailing high over the receiver, with the potential to be intercepted by deep safeties, or deflecting off a receiver's hands, also potentially resulting in interceptions. Watching him deliver on his intermediate throws means that Gilbert's low interception totals are not a result of luck, just a propensity for accurate throws.
There is no doubt that he's a good one, folks.
Devon Kennard gets a visit. Last Monday, Bobby Kennedy, Oscar Giles, and Will Muschamp traveled to see the five-star defensive end in Arizona, visiting Kennard and his family in their home, which Kennard said went well. Muschamp no doubt put on the recruiting blitz, speaking to Kennard in person for the first time with both knowing that Muschamp will be at Texas next year and for the future. Muschamp can sell the Buck Package to Kennard, which will highlight Kennard's 4.7 speed and quickness. Expect to see more of it next year as Muschamp fully install his defense. The success of Sergio Kindle and Brian Orakpo this season should encourage Kennard about how he would be used at defensive end and it's hard to imagine that anyone could make a more positive impression on a defensive recruit than Will Muschamp.
Kennard is set to take his official visit to Austin on December 19, after seeing the Longhorns play in El Paso against UTEP earlier this season. He has already visited California, while set to take in USC this weekend, one school that has not discussed a Buck or hybrid DE/LB position with Kennard. He wants to make a decision by early January, but will wait until Signing Day if he is still undecided. Despite the sting of not playing in the Big 12 Championship game, the week off did allow the Texas staff to pay visits to Kennard and the next Longhorn target to discuss.
Moving inside. Kennard isn't the only nationally elite Longhorn target visiting the left coast. Lufkin star Jamarkus McFarland took in USC ($) and got his pitch from Pete Carroll, despite recently narrowing his list to Texas and OU in a rare interview. McFarland wanted to see a school farther from home and sounded impressed with the USC coaching staff, particularly former NFL star and USC linebackers coach, Ken Norton. Not to be outdone, Will Muschamp, Oscar Giles, Mac McWhorter, and Mike Tolleson all made the trip out to Lufkin ($) last Wednesday in their attempt to fortify the defensive tackle position next season. No word from McFarland about the visit, but Lufkin's head coach did come away impressed with Muschamp, as you might expect. McFarland remains an enigma because he speaks so rarely about his recruitment and makes it difficult to assess where Texas stands with him, but it would hurt badly right now to lose McFarland to OU.
Back to better thoughts. Nervousness will linger among Longhorn fans following recruiting until Kennard, McFarland, Dre Kirkpatrick, and Jarvis Jones make their decisions, which takes the focus away from the players who are committed to coming to Texas next fall. Pflugerville defensive end Alex Okafor is one of those players and a guy Will Muschamp will likely look at for the Buck Package regardless of whether Devon Kennard chooses the Longhorns.
At 6-5, 232 pounds, Okafor's quickness often drew double teams from opposing teams this season and helped him record 12 sacks and 54 total tackles. Looking to get playing time his freshman year, Okafor is enrolling in the spring, where he will focus on learning Muschamp's defense and adding some muscle, likely looking to add in the range of 10-15 pounds before next football season. His success led to invitations ($) to the Hawai'i/Polynesia-Mainland Bowl in Hawai'i this weekend and the US Army All-American game on January 3 in San Antonio. Joining Okafor will be Longhorn commits Tariq Allen, Marcus Davis, Calvin Howell, Garrett Porter, Greg Timmons, and Chris Whaley, as well as Jamarkus McFarland. Okafor says he will do his best to help recruit for the Longhorns at the event
Local product may get 2010 offer. Longhorn coaches don't have to travel far to get a look at McNeil's Kurt Killens (LSR #45), a junior linebacker who recorded ($) 112 tackles, seven sacks, two forced fumbles, and two fumbles recovered. His production has drawn the interest ($) of some major programs, including Alabama and LSU, with Killens also receiving attention from Texas A&M. Coincidentally, Killens was present for the beat down of the Aggies, as he was for several other home games this season.
At 6-3 and 215 pounds, the Round Rock product has the size necessary to play major college ball, while being athletic enough to run a 4.6, post a 34-inch vertical, and bench press 315 pounds. His film only shows the best plays, but he visibly closes on the ball well, looking fast to the naked eye, something that Scott Derry, for instance, could never achieve. He's not the most elite linebacking talent in the class because he doesn't possess elite athleticism and may not be on the level of Aaron Benson or Corey Nelson, but could end up filling out the linebacking class. The offer will come if Will Muschamp likes what he sees from the film Killens gave him recently and likes what he hears from the McNeil coaches when he visits the school in the near future.