Matthews ready to maul. Even before the unfortunate ankle injury to DJ Grant sidelined him for the rest of spring practice late in the week before Spring Break, Barrett Matthews stood as perhaps the most important 2009 commit not on campus for the spring. And yes, that includes Garrett Gilbert -- Matthews is more important because the tight end position desperately needs the help, especially with Josh Marshall only involved in non-contact drills and Ian Harris supposedly slowed by stingers and neck problems still, not a good sign for a guy expected to block to earn his job.
Matthews is important not only as a potential tight end, but for his versatility as a guy who could play fullback, h-back, the flex tight end position, or flexed wider as a receiver, all positions the coaches have spoken with him about playing ($). In fact, that diverse skill makes him the most versatile player on the roster. Greg Davis loves the schematic flexibility that a player like Matthews provides -- he can play in a base personnel set, but line up nearly anywhere on the field. The only limitation on how Greg Davis uses Matthews may be the creativity of the Texas offensive coordinator. Of course, that isn't known as his strong suit, but Matthews will get a significant opportunity in the fall, if only out of necessity.
Perhaps the most important attribute that Matthews provides is his blocking. While he's undersized for a true tight end at slightly less than 6-2 ($), Matthews blocks with a fierceness and tenacity indicating a significant nasty streak, firing off the ball with excellent pad level and strong hands. That nasty streak is borne of necessity, at the least:
If you can't block, there's really no point on being on the field if you're a tight end. That mean streak has to stay with you. You can't go out there and be all nice. That's my passion. I love to block. I love to open gaps for running backs.
Matthews has the strength to block with such viciousness because of his hard work and dedication in the weight room -- he's already significantly developed physically for someone who hasn't even graduated from high school yet. Even though he isn't yet enrolled in school, the team can give recruits specific workout plans after they sign, with Matthews focusing on explosion using high reps, a plan that already has him up to 220 pounds from 215.
The focus on explosion isn't to suggest that Matthews isn't already fast, as Rivals ranked him as the fourth-fastest tight end in the country ($), but for the North Shore product to make sure that he can stretch the field in the Longhorn offense -- a skill the coaching staff values nearly as much as blocking.
Matthews is adjusting to not running track for the first time in his high school career, choosing instead on his weight lifting, conditioning, and route running, a decision that bodes well for early contributions, especially the route running, as North Shore predominantly ran the football while Matthews was there.
More to follow as spring turns into summer on how specifically Matthews can contribute to the offense...
North Shore teammate working hard, too. The combination of long arms and athleticism made Trey Hopkins appealing to many teams. However, the knock on Hopkins in terms of his fit into the Texas recruiting class was that he projects as an interior lineman in college, while conventional wisdom held that the Longhorns needed to take a tackle in this class.
As a high school junior, Hopkins is still growing ($), gaining 10 pounds and a half inch in height to reach 6-3.5, putting him right on the margins of being able to play right tackle in college -- of course aided by his long arms. As a back-up center for North Shore, Hopkins provides a tremendous amount of versatility and the line-call knowledge required of a center, as well as significant intelligence, as he ranks fifth in his class of more than 900.
As Hopkins works this spring, he has specific areas for improvement in mind:
I want to continue to get better in every aspect this spring. I don't want to settle now that I'm committed, but keep getting better. I need to continue to get my pads lower and lower. I've been told that I play with my hips back too much at times, so I need to become more powerful using my hips.
In Hopkins, the Longhorns may have ended up with more offensive lineman than they had planned on, in a very good way.
The Wright stuff. The last time I wrote about Texas basketball strength and conditioning coach Todd Wright, there was little information about him circling the interwebs, and particularly egregiously, no feature article by the Statesman or any other news source. Apparently, the Statesman got the memo last week about Wright being, kinda, you know, good and stuff.
Of particular interest is the revelation about Wright's beginnings in the business -- pushed out of bartender by the bar owner and encouraged to seek a job in the industry. Fifteen years later, Wright is entrenched at Texas and ranks as one of the best, if not the best, in the business. Perhaps more than simply the desire to continue his education at Texas, former star Kevin Durant heads into town to work with Wright on his strength. Drawing from numerous sources, Wright has honed a program that also trimmed the likes of DJ Augustin, Justin Mason, and, of course, Dexter Pittman.
Though Pittman isn't expected to declare for the NBA Draft this spring, the decision could ultimately come down to his close relationship with Wright after losing his best friend AJ Abrams to graduation. Even more than his fitness program, Wright has served as friend and motivator to Pittman, to whom the big man credits his college career, no small statement. With Big Dex so close to stardom in college, likely only another off season of hard work to lose a few more pounds and work on his explosiveness, Wright may be the deciding factor that keeps Pittman in Austin for another season.
Seastrunk speaks. One of the great mysteries of the 2010 recruiting process are the feelings of Lache Seastrunk, no other introduction needed. An absolute star since his sophomore season, Seastrunk is notorious for giving few interviews and often providing remarks of dubious value and truthfulness when he does. Given the increased pace of recruiting, Signing Day heartbreaks, and lack of information, Longhorn fans are left wondering about Seastrunk's attitude, as conveyed through the pictures taken of him, which often include him posing with a look that may best be described as "self-consciously hard-ass."
Such speculation remains just that -- speculation. Making inferences from pictures may not be the best way to determine someone's character, but Longhorn fans can't seem to help themselves. Is Seastrunk a "bad" kid? There isn't any substantial information to suggest that beyond a few flippant comments, which are hard to begrudge a 16-year-old kid. I haven't heard any rumors of him being in trouble with the law, certainly not any actual incidents to report. Until proven otherwise, Seastrunk seems to deserve the benefit of the doubt about his character.
In a rare interview last week ($), Seastrunk gave the usual responses about academics coming first, followed by wanting his mother to be comfortable with the school he attends. None of that is exactly a revelation, as Seastrunk says nothing more than the usual cliches attending such interviews (hey, that's why people pay $100 bucks a year for Orangebloods -- the cliched interviews!). Of course, taking him at his word would seem to indicate that Texas is in better shape than normally thought, since academics and comfort are two qualities in which Texas normally excels. In addition, Seastrunk adds that he "loves everything about Texas."
Of more interest is his tentative schedule for the Texas spring game, an event that will include most of the 2009 and 2010 commits -- a chance for current commits to work on Seastrunk, particularly Connor Wood, close friends with Seastrunk's close friend, Trovon Reed. Seastrunk says he will make the trip if he mother is able to get time off work, a comment that is sure to entice more speculation and his potential future absence would cause even more.
In lieu of that speculation, take another gander at what all the fuss is about:
Lache Seastrunk Highlights (via TexasPreps)