To kick off Signing Day festivities, I sat down for a solid chat with BON's resident recruiting writer, Big Roy. Read on for thoughts on the class of 2009, top targets for 2010, and some of Roy's thoughts on present day recruiting coverage.
PB: Happy Signing Day, sir. I assume you took in a big breakfast and have your binoculars handy, ready to stake out the Belmont Hall fax machine?
Ghost Of Big Roy: Some tasty breakfast tacos. You miss those in the Midwest? This is the day all the 2009 recruits become official. Shouldn't be any surprises with de-commitments like OU has suffered (to Tech!), but Jarvis Jones and Dre' Kirkpatrick will be making their decisions.
PB: I live in between a Wal-Mart and a Target, in perpetual snow, with no breakfast tacos for 200 miles. This is my so-called life. This may also explain why I live vicariously through sports. And on this particular day... through teenagers! God bless America.
So what about Dre Kirkpatrick and Jarvis Jones. Both are deep in SEC country, both have not ruled out Texas because of Will Muschamp, and landing either would -- it seems to me -- be a nice upset. Your take?
PB: Signing days in Austin are generally uneventful affairs. Kids who choose 'Texas' seem near universally to make the decision well before signing day. You can almost count on any decision that comes down to signing day not being a Texas commit. Christian Scott's two days before signing day announcement was as close as Texas has been to a signing day commitment. Which is fine by me. I know some folks find the drama good entertainment, but I just want to know about the players who sign up to play. So let's start there. First question: You've studied this class as closely as anyone out there. Who's your favorite commit in the class of 2009?
Ghost Of Big Roy: That's a tough question since there are so many talented players in the class. The obvious answer is probably all-everything Garrett Gilbert, but he won't contribute this season without a catastrophe occurring. With that being said, I think Alex Okafor is my favorite, just because of his ability to disrupt the backfield, whither it's putting pressure on the quarterback, destroying passing lanes, or blowing up plays from the backside. He might be more of a situational player than an every-down contributor at first, but I don't think any Texas fan doubts Will Muschamp's ability to maximize a player's talent.
PB: I'm singling out S.A. Warren defensive tackle Calvin Howell as my boy. For starters, he's a vital recruit on the interior of the line. But also I love him for his dig at Jamarku$ McMama at the Army All-America Game.
Ghost Of Big Roy: That's a great story. There are some stories of which I just can't get enough -- like Randy Moss saying "Straight cash, homey," when asked how he would pay his fine for fake-mooning the Green Bay fans -- but Howell definitely ranks up there. For anyone who missed it, Howell called McFarland out in front of both squads and coaching staffs because the OU commit repeatedly showed up late for practices and dressed by himself, probably to avoid being questioned by media or teammates. Howell reportedly asked the coaches to notice that the Texas players were ready to practice, but the OU player had barely made it out of the dressing room. Kid's got a big-time smile, big-time personality, and a game to back it all up.
PB: Reminds me of one of the Longhorns I've always listed in my top five favorites of all time -- Casey Hampton. Let's hope Howell can eat blockers even half as well. Moving on, are there any recruits in the class that you thought a little odd? Guys who you had to look at closely to see what the coaches see?
Ghost Of Big Roy: Longhorn recruitniks usually find a guy every year to criticize, normally a recruit taken late in the process. This year, the late player taken was Tevin Mims, but he had such an outstanding senior season and was such a physical disruptor -- probably more physical than Okafor even, who uses his hands well for a high school kid -- that his late commitment was a great get by the coaching staff. The other guys who come under criticism are the less-regarded players taken early, like Kyle Kriegel and Dominique Jones. I consider both those players worthy scholarships considering the lack of depth at the position. The other reach might be Patrick Nkwopara, but he was the first recruit approved by Will Muschamp and like I mentioned in his Spotlight, Nkwopara fits the mold of the new safety/linebacker hybrid needed to combat spread offenses. All told, I think this is a class with incredible depth in quality.
PB: You reviewed this in Tuesday's Morning Coffee, but highlight for us the big needs in the 2010 class, which will be filling up before we know it.
Ghost Of Big Roy: Linebacker is a huge need, with all three starting linebackers graduating in 2009. Fortunately, the linebacker position has the most depth of any position in 2010. The main targets will be Skyline's Corey Nelson and Cedar Hill's Aaron Benson, cousin of Cedric. Since the Longhorns will probably take four linebackers in the class, other targets include the talented Ohio product Jordan Hicks, Shaun Lewis from Hightower, McNeil's Kurt Killens, and San Antonio Madison's Kris Caitlin. That's the position of the biggest need, but cornerback is another position at which the Longhorns need depth. DeSoto's Adrian White is the best lockdown corner in the state and most of the other top defensive back prospects are safeties, but Carrington Byndom, a former teammate of McFarland, is another highly-regarded cornerback, as is Toney Hurd, Jr., who has significant talent and could end up another Ryan Palmer, as he's only about 5-8.
PB: Good stuff, Ghost. You've done a whale of a job on the recruiting beat this winter. So let me ask you: What's something you think you've learned -- about the process, evaluations, expectations, whatever -- that you don't think you'd have picked up on had you not dove into this beat with full force?
Ghost Of Big Roy: I think I really began to recognize the importance of seeing a recruit not only at their best, but also at their worst. I think Bill Walsh commented in one of the recruiting articles out recently that he wanted to see a recruit's ten best and ten worst plays. The frustrating thing about recruiting services is that they mostly only provide highlights of the best plays, without providing the bad plays for context. And context is really important, since it doesn't mean much to see a potential recruit at defensive end running past a horrible tackle. The level of competition makes a huge difference, which is why All-Star games, particularly practices, deserve more credit than usually assigned.
Anything to get film of a high-level recruit going against another. Some people complain about so much worth being ascribed to combines and workouts, but those drills that pit the best prospects against the best prospects will yield the most conclusive results -- I think that just has to be common sense.
PB: Those are all good points. And as we wrap this discussion up, how about a few words on the recruiting services. What's your take on the quality of their evaluations? Are they all created equal? All saying the same things?
Ghost Of Big Roy: I think the problem with recruiting services is that most of the time the articles that you get are superficial conversations about how the recruit liked this and that visit and those articles don't say anything substantial about the skill set of the recruit. For all the evaluation that goes on behind the scenes, there don't seem to be many articles detailing those in-depth evaluations. Honestly, I think Bobby Bragg in his short time at BOB has done the best actual published analysis of recruits, but even that at times leaves much to be desired. I think the most valuable thing I strive to provide with my Recruiting Spotlights is the kind of comprehensive analysis that really isn't provided by the recruiting services. The big picture coverage that you love, PB, is lacking, and that's where I tried to break down each prospect's chance of playing next season and down the road.
Just remember that we are non-writers, though... Maybe someday.
PB: It's a labor of love, amigo. And besides, it's snowing outside again. What else am I gonna do?