Moving forward with 2011 recruiting. The commitment of Josh Turner on Saturday filled one of the last two large remaining needs for the Longhorns -- landing a top-flight running back is now the focus moving forward. At this time, the only outstanding offers are to Cibolo Steele RB Malcolm Brown, San Antonio Madison RB Aaron Green, Skyline LB Anthony Wallace, Shreveport Evangel DE Jermauria Rasco, Lewisville Hebron DB David Jenkins, and San Antonio Sam Houston DT Quincy Russell. Additionally, Gig Harbor (WA) TE Austin Seferian-Jenkins is likely to receive an offer when he makes it to campus in early August.
Turner's commitment was the 21st in the class, leaving only two spots until the Longhorns reach 23 commitments, thought for some time to be the target number, and only four spots until the Longhorns reach the limit of 25. Of those offers, Wallace and Rasco are the long shots due to numbers at the positions and conventional wisdom has Wallace joining close friend Franklin Shannon in Norman; two other Skyline players (Corey Nelson and Joe Powell) committed to Oklahoma in 2010. Despite some rumblings about LSU fading with Rasco, a source close to the situation believes the Tigers are still the team to beat.
That leaves the remaining major targets on the board -- Brown, Green, Russell, AS-J, and Jenkins. Until more news emerges and Jenkins actually gives an interview, it's hard to say for certain that he even has an offer and Turner's commitment could change that offer status had the Longhorns even extended it last week. Given the tight numbers in the class, don't be surprised if Texas backs off with the rising Dallas-area prospect.
And, as mentioned in Afternoon Brewsky yesterday, Russell made it to town for the second camp, but has declined to name any leaders since his de-commitment from Texas and he may not reveal any type of list until the fall when he takes his official visits. Even though there is plenty of depth at defensive tackle, it's a tough position to fill and Russell has added value because Brenham's Malcolm Brown is currently the only 2012 defensive tackle on the radar -- it is early, but it's not a great sign for the depth in next season's class.
Seferian-Jenkins is an important target because the Longhorns have struggled so much the last couple of seasons to keep tight ends healthy and 6-7, 250-pounders who can run are extremely difficult to find. Not only that, but AS-J is more ready to play physically than the only current commit at the position in MJ McFarland, who has less experience blocking. The fact that he was barely a blip on the radar when his interest surfaced and that the coaching staff could land a commitment from him with a minimum amount of effort speaks to the incredible recruiting success Texas is currently experiencing.
Throwing Rasco in with the other five remaining targets and ranking them in order of need would like something like this: 1) Brown/Green, 2) AS-J, 3) Russell, 4) Jenkins, and 5) Rasco. The first selection is a no-brainer, but the second two positions are much more arguable and Jenkins could even slot above them, but Russell and AS-J are much more highly considered nationally and though Jenkins is making a move, he won't reach the heights of the other two. AS-J ranks ahead of Russell because the Longhorns don't have a proven game-breaker at the position and because he could contribute earlier than Russell. Rasco ranks last because of questions about his frame and limited need at his position.
The offer to Jenkins, assuming that it did in fact happen, may be the last in the class other than a possible offer to Seferian-Jenkins, as no other prospects are on the radar. It would take a monster season from a currently unknown player. A Malcolm Brown commitment elsewhere could spark interest in another running back like LD Bell's Kenneth Farrow, currently flying under the radar of many programs waiting to see if he can bounce back from an injury last season. However, at this point the likelihood of an offer going to someone other than AS-J seems remote, at best.
Thunder and Lightning, Texas version? It seems like a pipe dream, especially considering how rarely package deals actually come to fruition in the world of college football recruiting, but Aaron Green and Malcolm Brown are not ruling out the possibility of playing together in college. In fact, it's a subject they have discussed before.
In some ways, it makes perfect sense -- both players hail from San Antonio, a city not known for producing top-notch talent that has experience a boom in recent years of impact players. Pride in their city could help convince the two that playing together is an appealing possibility. And their skill sets seem complementary -- Brown is the tough, downhill runner with the ability to break arm tackles and punish defenders, while Green is the slightly smaller, jet-quick back with incredible open-field moves. "Thunder and Lightning," as Green says.
Both have narrowed their college choices, with Brown now considering Texas, Alabama, and Florida State, and Green down to Texas, Florida State, Nebraska, and California. The only two overlapping schools are Texas and Florida State, with the home-state Longhorn the prohibitive favorite if the two do end up at the same school.
However, there are some road blocks -- Green's older brother, Andrew, as most know, plays at Nebraska and the discouraging news about Brown is that he didn't grow up in Texas, so leaving "wouldn't be a problem." Brown has spent two stints in San Antonio, for two years starting in first grade and then continuously since before his seventh-grade year. Florida State has hung around because of their consistent interest and Alabama is appealing most likely because of their football tradition and success running the football with Mark Ingram.
The Longhorns are still the favorite to land Brown when he makes his decision late this summer, but it's somewhat disconcerting that he noted he is just now starting to feel more comfortable with the coaching staff. The top target at running back since early in the process, Texas, and Major Applewhite specifically, have spent a great deal of time with Brown and it's flat-out unusual for prospects not to feel comfortable around the program.
So that's the bad news -- it's time to consider Alabama a legitimate threat in his recruitment and it's not hard to see Brown at a press conference announcing his commitment to a program other than Texas and echoing Jordan Hicks when asked if he feels like he is abandoning his home-state school by saying, "I'm not from Texas." It's probably a nightmare scenario for Texas and one that can no longer be disregarded.
The good news is that Brown did make his way to campus for the first summer camp and got to see his potential future teammates work out together. Most importantly, he got a look at the fullback and offensive linemen who would be blocking for him if he decides to attend Texas. The transition of the offense from a spread-based running attack to a under-center style featuring a tight end and an H-back should be heartening for both Brown and Green. A trip back to Austin during the start of fall practice may help convince him that Texas can adequately feature him in the new offense.
As for Green, he still plans on taking his visits in the fall and waiting until close to Signing Day to make his decision. Nebraska's decision to bolt the Big 12 won't affect his decision. A positive sign for the Longhorns is the face that he plans on staying in Texas after graduating from college -- funny that he doesn't frame as "after his NFL career" -- where a degree from UT would most likely be more helpful in getting him a job than one from Nebraska, Cal, or Florida State. The major concern may be whether or not the Longhorns have a spot left at that point.
Uh, wha?!?! If the commitments of Kolby Griffin and Brandon Williams were shocking because both made decisions before visiting Austin for the second Junior Day, the decision from Rockdale LB Derek David was perhaps even more flabbergasting -- the talented player committed to Texas Tech ($) on Saturday, ending his recruitment seemingly before it even gained much steam.
One of the top players in the state, the rumor of the month was that Will Muschamp had made it known to either David or the Rockdale coaching staff that David was going to be his top target in the state defensively and that he was one of the best talents he has ever seen at the position.
An instinctive and hard-hitting linebacker with sideline-to-sideline range, David apparently ended his recruitment early to end the distraction of the process and because of a strong relationship with the Texas Tech coaches. Though Muschamp supposedly had already made him a top target, the lack of early attention could have hurt Texas -- David commented that he received much more attention when attending the second Texas summer camp after receiving little attention in a previous visit. For whatever reason, David had also dropped Texas down his top five ($) from early co-favorites to third and then to last on his list in the days before his commitment.
With so much time between his commitment and Signing Day in 2012, David's recruitment seemed far from over during the several days after his decision, especially with the high priority Muschamp has placed on the talented target. However, that may have changed with news on Monday evening that Texas Tech had secured another 2012 commitment from none other than Derek's older brother, Logan, who will spend the next two seasons at Blinn Junior College before becoming a Red Raider. Without knowing more details, it's hard to say if the two were a package deal, but his brother's commitment may end any hope of persuading David to de-commit from Tech. In addition, teammate La'Raven Clark, a talented 2011 offensive lineman who has raised his profile recently, also committed to Tech recently.
In the midst of landing their best recruiting class possibly in years, the Red Raiders are riding a surge of momentum on the recruiting trail stemming solely from new coach Tommy Tuberville and a staff now much more committed to recruiting than Mike Leach, who apparently put little effort into securing commitments from top players in the state. Though they may not often win battles for top-five players in the state like David, Tech looks like it will benefit greatly from the addition of Tuberville and trips to Lubbock could become even more hair-raising in the future as more talent heads to the South Plains. Aggy, beware.
Strong month for Daniels raises stock. So much focus has been on the disappointment of last basketball season that it's easy to take for granted just how much talent will enter the program in the next several years, particularly in the form of the 2011 class, currently standing at four players. Myck Kabongo is the most visible of those players because of his early commitment and connection to Tristan Thompson and Corey Joseph.
The player whose stock is rising the most quickly though is DeAndre Daniels, a 6-8, 180-pound small forward who will be the next great wing player at Texas, following in the footsteps of Kevin Durant, Damion James, and Jordan Hamilton. A fantastic month has put Daniels in contention for five-star status and the title of top small forward in the class.
What makes Daniels so effective is the versatility in his game -- he can shoot from distance with consistency (even featuring a step-back three ($) a la Hamilton) and has the ball-handling skills of a smaller player, allowing him to get to the rack when opponents close out hard on the perimeter. In addition, Daniels is an excellent rebounder and will show up on the 40 Acres as a better defender than his fellow Californian Hamilton.
He's also highly athletic, as the description of a put-back dunk attests ($):
Kevin Panzer's shot bounced off the backboard, the front rim and then DeAndre Daniels seemingly came out of nowhere, grabbed the ball with only his right hand and in one fluid motion had a putback dunk.
Daniels' dunk was so impressive, so athletic, that even Stoneridge players and fans smiled about it for a few minutes. Fans were talking about it during timeouts. Belmont Shore guard Cezar Guerrero said it was the best dunk he'd ever seen. It was surely a highlight-reel slam and more importantly it helped Belmont Shore win the title.
To hear Daniels tell it, though, the dunk was not his best of the season -- that honor would belong to a dunk in which he literally jumped over an opponent to slam it through the basket.
If there is one debit against Daniels, it's that he needs to improve his strength to finish around the rim and hold his position both offensively and defensively, but he has more than a year to address that aspect of his game.
Given his improvement since his commitment last summer, Daniels should step in as a freshman and ably fill the shoes of Jordan Hamilton, who will most likely turn pro after his upcoming sophomore season. And though he doesn't fill the major need of a back-to-the-basket scorer in the class, Daniels has the ability to become the latest in a growing line of perimeter stars at Texas.