Smoke and fire
You know the cliche. On Friday, Texas commit Ahmad Dixon, the 2010 safety from Waco Midway, officially confirmed what had been believed for several days -- he was set to become Baylor commit Ahmad Dixon ($). After planning to call the Texas coaches and inform them of his decision on Monday and Tuesday, the news broke Wednesday on the subscription services that Dixon was having second thoughts about his verbal commitment to Mack Brown and company. After passing up the chance to tell Duane Akina in person on Wednesday what he had been telling those around him, Dixon finally pulled the trigger and switched his commitment, phoning Will Muschamp and the Baylor coaching staff.
The issue of playing time
On Thursday, I cited three reasons why Dixon was thinking about going to Baylor: 1) early playing time after being bombarded with negative recruiting about Texas' safety depth, 2) his friendship with Levi Norwood, the son of Baylor's defensive coordinator, and 3) the possibility that his parents pressured him into becoming a Longhorn.
Highly credible information will likely never exist about the third point, but quotes from Dixon indicate that he did become worried about the depth chart he would face at Texas with Earl Thomas, Blake Gideon, and Christian Scott all entering their junior seasons in 2010.
I compared the two rosters and Texas had a lot of good guys and a big amount at safety. I felt I can go to Baylor, help them win the Big 12 championship and hopefully get the National Championship as a freshman at safety. But to me, playing time is not that big of a deal as long as I'm helping the team win.
The first and third statements may be somewhat contradictory, but waving the depth chart at Dixon no doubt paid off for Art Briles. For the Longhorns, it's a relatively unsurprising result of stockpiling talent at the position. For Dixon, the chance to be a part of the change he sees Art Briles perpetuating at Baylor may also be a major draw, as evidenced by the following statement and the comment about Baylor competing for a national championship, a comment not nearly as ridiculous now as it would have been before the hire of Briles,.
For one, I wanted to be a part of a humongous change that Baylor is about to have in the next couple of years. I wanted to go down as one of those guys in history to go down with these great teams that Baylor is about to produce. It's close to home. I'm happy. This is where I wanted to be.
No doubt the highly-considered Dixon will be a part of that change quickly, but just ask Jordan Lake and Joe Pawelek how much difference even two, all-conference selections can make without surrounding talent. If Dixon truly wanted to wait his turn to have a chance at a national championship, he would have done it at Texas. As it is, the Baylor defense has a long, uphill battle before it will ever position a team to compete at that level. This is about playing time more than actually having a shot at a national championship, especially as a freshman.
No hard feelings
Besides the questionable rationale and expectations, it's hard to fault a high school kid for changing his mind. If anything, as recruiting moves earlier and earlier, more kids may begin to re-think quick, emotional decisions made at 16 or 17 after having the privilege of sitting in the office of a highly successful head coach and receiving an offer.
Mack Brown makes it abundantly clear that he doesn't want players making it onto campus if they don't want to be at Texas, so it's safe to say that he doesn't begrudge Dixon's decision or worry about this becoming a trend -- it's simply a hazard of the current state of recruiting, and a necessary one.
The only fault that can be found with Dixon is his lack of communication with Duane Akina. He may have been wavering about his decision or simply lacked the maturity to give Akina bad news, but whatever the case, it's ultimately a small faultand easily forgivable -- who hasn't been in a situation where they didn't want to deliver bad news?
Even though Dixon is extremely highly regarded by observers of Texas high school football, his loss comes at the position the Longhorns can most afford to have attrition int he 2010 class -- safety. Dixon's concerns about playing time are real and any time a recruit leaves because they don't like the depth chart in front of them, it won't be immediately crippling. If there is any major fallout, it would come during the 2012 and 2013 seasons when Dixon would likely contend for a starter job and only if players like Kenny Vaccaro, Eryon Barnett, Bryant Jackson, and possibly Adrian Phillips don't develop. Observers don't rate the others as highly as Dixon, but they are all talented players capable of replacing Dixon's likely production.
In terms of the class as a whole, the relative lull in recruiting over the last several months has resulted only in the extension of several high-profile recruiting battles, as the major concern over that time has been the lack of available scholarships. The transfer of Montre Webber and Aundre McGaskey probably will not be the only attrition over the next year and a half, but Dixon's decision does open up another available scholarship in 2010.
One possibility if the Longhorns decide they want to add another defensive back is Lancaster's Tyler Stephenson, a player who attended the second Junior Day in February. However, given the number of defensive backs on the roster and the fact that playing time had such a large impact on Dixon and his decision, the offer may go out to a defensive end or linebacker. Aaron Franklin doesn't sound like an immediate possibility, as he and his coaches both say that an offer doesn't appear immiment to the fast Marshall linebacker, though Frankline has 14 or 15 offers now and may make a decision before Corey Nelson and Jordan Hicks. The thinking with no Franklin offer probably revolves around the continued focus on Nelson and Hicks as the major targets at the position.
Dallas Jesuit defensive end Chuka Ndulue is even less of a possibility at this point, as he committed to Oklahoma late last week, leaving players like Jefferson defensive end Clarence Lee and Mansfield's Femi Awe as players who could receive an offer. Lee, who attended the second Junior Day and has offers from Kansas State and Missouri, would be a perfect candidate for the "Buck" position, as his speed allows him spend some time at linebacker. Jackson Jeffcoat is so talented that the Longhorns will wait until the end of the recruiting process for a decision from him, so any other offer to a defensive end would be a result of the Longhorns wanting to stockpile defensive ends.
It may be that the Longhorns simply wait as they still seriously pursue Darius White, Jake Matthews, Corey Nelson, Jordan Hicks, Lache Seastrunk, and Jackson Jeffcoat after DeMarco Cobbs and Trovon Reed fell off the radar as coaches focused on White. With 20 commitments, that would leave five likely spots open for six players.
Losing commits to Baylor is an extreme rarity and will probably continue to remain that way even if Briles does manage to elevate the program anywhere near the aspirations of Ahmad Dixon. As one of the top committed talents in the class, his loss hurts, but occurs at a position the Longhornscan afford to lose a player, if such a thing is possible.