2010 quarterback class complete. Before various sources started telling Texas recruiting services that Connor Wood gave his commitment to the Longhorn coaching staff on Tuesday evening, I had written a section for this Morning Coffee about other potential quarterback targets, notably Nick Montana, son of Joe and visitor to Austin this week. So much for that.
What does Connor Wood mean for Texas? Most obviously, it means that the quarterback position, assuming that Wood redshirts and then stays four more years, is set until the 2015 season. Think about that for a minute. It also means that Garrett Gilbert is unlikely to redshirt, as the coaching staff would want to separate Gilbert and Wood by the widest margin possible -- two years.
There is another storyline here as well. A few weeks ago, a rumor made the rounds that Thidodaux, LA's Trovon Reed was planning to transfer to Houston Second Baptist next season to play with Wood. Reed, of course, is close friends with Lache Seastrunk, with some talk that the two may attend the same college. While Wood's commitment doesn't guarantee anything from the other two players, it increases the possibility that Reed and Seastrunk could also find themselves in burnt orange.
The final interesting storyline concerns the turf war between Texas and Oklahoma for recruits. As the tide turned on the football field, it has also turned on the recruiting front, with the exception of Jamarkus McFarland. Even with OU offering earlier playing time and quite possibly a cushy Big Red Auto job, Wood still decided to stay in Texas -- a major loss for the Sooners, who are scrambling to find a replacement for Sam Bradford. Too bad, Stoopsie.
To offer. Or not to offer. Indeed, it is the question. While the first Junior Day seems like Christmas with offers going out to the best of the best in Texas and the intrigue surrounding if any big-time recruits will commit early, the second Junior Day looks mostly at the second-tier players and players who couldn't make the first Junior Day (like DeMarco Cobbs, certainly not second-tier, even nationally). Nearly every player at the first Junior Day received an offer, but a much smaller percentage will receive an offer at the second, with a higher percentage probably committing shortly in the days following. By the end of the first week in March, Texas should have around 15 commitments or more, leaving mostly the elite players waiting to make decisions.
One player invited to the second Junior Day on February 29 falls into the category of a player on the borderline of receiving an offer. With outstanding offers to wide receivers Darius White, Trovon Reed, and DeMarco Cobbs, the coaching staff has serious decisions to make about how many more receiver offers go out and to whom, especially since each of those players is a national recruit and Texas is unlikely to give any a deadline to make a decision, even a soft one.
Skyline's Mike Davis is one of the few who didn't receive an offer at the first Junior Day. A receiver coming in for the second Junior Day about whom offer speculation swirls is North Shore's DeAndrew White, a 6-0, 170-pound speedster (4.4 40) in the mold of a guy like Trovon Reed, with similar speed, lateral quickness, and outright elusiveness. Since the Percy Harvin-type is all the rage and I'm becoming infatuated with the triple option, Texas coaches would make a serious mistake by not bringing in a smaller, elusive receiver in the class to provide the versatility to carry the ball a few times per game and balance out larger, outside receivers like John Harris and Darius Terrell (who, of course, may switch to tight end). Already with an Alabama offer, White calls Texas his "dream team ($)," which might make a commitment imminent following an offer. The question is whether Texas decides to only offer one smaller receiver in Reed and miss out on White. Stay tuned.
To offer. Or not to offer. Part II. Like receiver, running back is a position that the Texas coaching staff may wait on. The problem is that the lone current offer is out to Lache Seastrunk, and he may not make a decision until late in the process. Do the Longhorns go after a bigger running back then, like Traylon Shead (who now reportedly has an offer) or Aldine's Dontae Williams, a big talent who has little film from his junior year because of Hurrican Ike and injuries.
Perhaps for those reasons Williams doesn't yet have an offer ($), but his grainy film does looks impressive. Even if the major programs haven't yet given him a lot of attention, Rivals sees something impressive, ranking him as the seventh-best prospect in Texas for 2010. Williams has the perfect size for a running back, at 6-0, 205 pounds, which allows him to play with good pad level and balance, while showing the burst of an elite back. Texas and LSU occupy the top two positions on his wish list for offers. It almost hurts the Longhorns that they have helped to accelerate the recruiting process to such an extent that waiting to evaluate the senior film of players who missed their junior season is too late except for guys who really fall through the cracks, like Tevin Mims and DJ Grant.
Wherefore art thou, tight end of 2009? Defensive end is a position of serious concern for the 2009 season because of attrition from graduation. Tight end is a little bit different -- it's a position of concern because of attrition, but that attrition took the form of devastating injuries to every pass-catching tight end on scholarship: Blaine Irby, Josh Marshall, and Ian Harris.
First, the bad news. Relatively. Mack Brown and company are holding out that Irby will make it back for the Tech game on September 19, which seems optimistic considering Irby isn't even running yet. And more bad news. Converted receiver Marshall won't be fully healed until later in spring practice, likely close to the game on April 5.
The good news is that Greg Smith won't see the field to run uselessly into the flat. Bill Frisbie, in what has to be a joke, noted that Smith duties last year were only "run-blocking in jumbo packages." Um, no. Unfortunately, that wasn't the case, particularly in the first half of the Tech game, when Greg Davis' sphincter tightened considerably, leading him to insert Smith into the game to drop passes in the flat and fail to block Tech defensive ends. Mack Brown says the tight ends need to block better, since they gave up five sacks last year. Yes, they do, particularly those tight ends who are basically offensive lineman. Thankfully, Smith should rarely see the field next year.
Hopefully, DJ Grant will have a lot to do with that. The coaches want Grant to get up to 230 if possible, then use him flexed out as a receiver and in tight to block occasionally. The receiving part shouldn't be a problem, but the question will be how well he run blocks. The Texas running game needs serious help, but a tight end who consistently missed blocks won't help that and shouldn't see the field an h-back option like Barrett Matthews.
What Grant can do is stretch the field up the seam. It's a statement that seems like a cliche coming from the Texas coaches -- they use it that often. What is the importance of stretching the field vertically with the tight end, anyway? Most importantly, it threatens to draw a safety, particularly since most linebackers can't cover converted receivers like Jermichael Finley or speedy tight ends like Blaine Irby. With a safety forced to help, that opens up single coverage either on the split end (Malcolm Williams next year) or on both of the receivers lined up on the strong side of the formation (Jordan Shipley and Collins/Kirkendoll).
The Texas offense needs a versatile tight end to make sure the offense remains multiple, making tight end one of the most interesting positions to watch going into the spring game.
On the question of a point guard. Much has been made of the insertion of Dogus Balbay into the starting lineup a little more than a week ago against Oklahoma State. The move paid immediate dividends, with Balbay pushing the ball in transition to score the first basket of the game. While Balbay's aggressiveness is heartening, the three-game stint as a starter has put into sharp relief his current faults.
The most commonly-known problem is Balbay's inability to shoot from the perimeter, evidenced by his (I believe) three made jump shots on the season. That's a problem. His problems at the free-throw line seem to be a general lack of touch rather than an issue with mechanics, but he does struggle from the field with his balance, often drifting on his shot, which he needs to work hard to correct in the off season. Fortunately, Balbay's quickness still allows him the ability to get into the lane, particularly in the open court, where few players can match his quickness.
A more significant impediment to his playing time is his inability to stay out of foul trouble. Besides the occasional foul in transition trying to contest a lay up, almost every other foul on the defensive occurs far away from the basket. It's enough of a problem that I've begun joking to my friends that Balbay must lead the country in the average distance from the basket that he commits his fouls. It's probably somewhere around 20 feet.
Balbay has the strength and the lateral speed to generally stay in front of players (besides a stretch in the second half against Oklahoma State when Byron Eaton abused him), but he struggles with his body control and often picks up cheap fouls. Those type of plays accounted for two of his four fouls against Texas A&M and limited his time on the court. Ball pressure between half court and the three-point line is a high-risk/low-reward game right now for Balbay. Instead of forcing turnovers, he generally either gives up dribble penetration or commits a foul far from the basket. If Balbay can't pressure the ball without fouling, Rick Barnes is going to have to ask him to back off.
The other issue concerns Balbay's struggles finishing around the rim, despite his extraordinary athleticism. It appears to be an issue of knowing how to use the backboard. He often lofts the ball up without any touch or spin, sometimes even failing to use the backboard at all. Several shots around the rim have gone in after hitting the side and heel of the rim and bouncing in. Since he often likes to attack the rim directly and use a finger roll, it could be that Balbay has little experience using the backboard. The finger roll is a relatively low percentage shot around the rim because it has only two results -- it goes in or hits the heel and bounces out. There isn't much room for it to bounce around and go in.