Brownwood WR Jaxon Shipley is one of 22 Texas commits for the 2011 class (photo by the author).
Name: David Ash*
Speed: 4.6 40-yard dash
High School: Belton
Rating (Rivals): Three out of five (5.7)
Texas Top 100: 47
*Ash is an early enrollee and will participate in spring practice.
Scouting report (from the Austin High game):
Going into the game, the two main things I was looking for with Ash were his leadership and his ability to go through his progressions and make good decisions. On the first count, it was more of the same -- Ash receives a lot of praise from his coaches and those who have closely observed his career for being the type of kid who does everything right, from working hard in the classroom to working hard in the film room to working hard on the practice field.
However, for better or worse, he's just not a vocal leader at this point. He leads by example and spends most of his time on the sideline standing by himself. As the quarterback at Texas, and one who will probably start for a season or two, Ash will have to grow into a more vocal leadership role and Garrett Gilbert, naturally a fairly quiet person himself, will be a good role model for the Belton signal caller.
Even after his spectacular touchdown run late in the game, Ash was low key coming off the field, seemingly only allowing himself to crack a smile a few minutes later when talking about it with several of his teammates, one of his few interactions with them all evening.
Throwing the football, Ash's mechanics didn't look as clean for some reason as they did during 7-on-7 this summer. Instead of keeping the ball high, Ash was often dropping his elbow in the early part of his release and his mechanics weren't always consistent throughout the game. At times, he was able to zip the ball, but mostly showed off his touch and accuracy, with only one or two poorly-thrown passes all night -- which is amazing considering he threw the ball at least 40 times.
The decision to throw the ball across his body at the end of the game was his only really poor decision on the night, an improvement from the summer when he often tried to fit the ball into tight windows. Part of that may have been improved decision-making and part of it may have been the fact that he threw to a lot of wide-open receivers. However, he had just thrown a pass on the previous play that was dropped by his receiver in the end zone, so it never should have come to the interception that he threw. Not to make excuses for Ash, but he gave Belton a chance to win in overtime and his teammate didn't come through.
If there was one thing that Ash could have done better besides cleaning up his mechanics, a bit, it was to put more velocity on the ball at times, especially on the last play. Though he doesn't possess a canon -- his arm strength is more comparable to, say, Garrett Gilbert than Matthews Stafford -- Ash can rifle the ball if he wants to, he simply seems to prefer to throw a more catchable ball with touch. As windows increasingly close in college, Ash may need to reach back for that little bit extra a little more often.
As a runner, Ash is underrated as an athlete. Not as fast as Colt McCoy, Ash probably runs in the 4.7 range at this point and has solid feet. So he won't run away from anyone, but he makes good decisions about when to run with the ball and when to scramble to pass and has good pocket presence. Several times he pulled the ball down and picked up positive yardage -- he had 50 or more yards rushing on the night and several other times he was able to show off his combination of strength and balance to get out of the grasp of would-be tacklers and make plays downfield. On one, Ash broke a tackle from a defensive lineman while knocking over a referee, reversed field -- he probably ran 50 or more yards on the play -- and still was able to keep his eyes downfield and deliver a strike to an open receiver.
Overall, Ash looks like he is making much better decisions than he was last season, when highlight reels from players in the area showed quite a few poor plays a a junior. Right now, even though his leadership perhaps leaves a little bit to be desired, his combination of accuracy, above-average arm strength, and good athleticism makes him a strong candidate to be a solid to good quarterback in college, even on a big stage like Texas. So even though he's probably not a top-15 talent in the state, Ash has a lot of good things going for him as he nears the end of his high school career.
The big question with Ash long term is really what happens in front of him with Connor Wood and Case McCoy. With the quarterback competition declared open this spring, if Wood wins the job this spring or in 2013, then Ash is looking at a long wait to get a chance to start as a senior.
Given his physical tools, however, and the fact that he's further developed than Wood was coming out of high school, it's not outside the realm of possibility that Ash could beat out Wood if Gilbert manages to hold onto his job for the next two years and the position becomes truly open for competition again.
Whatever the case down the road, Ash is an excellent passer with some sneaky athleticism that will allow him to make some off-schedule plays and, most of all, fit well into the Harsinwhite offense, no matter whether it ends up being more on the Boise State-style multiple end of the spectrum with a lot of work from under center and play-action passing with some quarterback runs built in, or more spread like the offense Applewhite ran at Rice.
To sum it up, almost every school in the country has to be jealous about the depth that Texas has at the quarterback position heading into the future. Transfers could change the landscape somewhat, but if Ash sticks in Austin, there's a strong chance that he could be a well above-average starting quarterback when he finally gets the chance.
Name: Malcolm Brown
Speed: 4.44 40-yard dash
High School: Cibolo Steele
Rating (Rivals): Five out of five (6.1)
Texas Top 100: 1
What if. What if. What if Major Applewhite can't coach running backs? What if the running of Alabama is an appeal to Cibolo Steele RB Malcolm Brown? What if Texas will never land another top tailback prospect in the history of ever? What if Brandon Williams is AD v. 2.0 and the love affair is again from afar? What if there are no native Texan roots to keep Brown in Texas?
Not if, now. Texas. Malcolm Brown to Texas. Gimme. Got.
Quiet the insecurities. Pacify the fanbase. Set aside thefiasco, failed evaluation. If not five years of failure in recruiting at the running back position, something either closely approximating it or as yet unresolved, undecided.
A savior? No. An answer among many. Quarterback. Scheme.
WestermanFlowers Greenlea Cochran Hutchins Doyle Espinosa Hopkins. Matthews and Bergeron. McFarland.
The ability to impose upon the opponent the will of the offensive line, the running back, the ticking clock and fatigue.football. Will Muschamp football, too.
So maybe not a savior, but what looks like the final piece of the puzzle in the narrative. An end to calls about Applewhite not being able to recruit the position. Of failures in scheme trickling down to the recruiting landscape. Of what happens in 2012 with Johnathan Gray supposing a failure with Brown.
There is no failure, no need for Plan B. Mack Brown and the staff were all in with Brown and it worked.
Instant scouting report:
Let's get this out of the way at the start -- this scouting report does not read like the unrequited love affair so many voices in this Longhorn bandbox have sounded for Brandon Williams (Mr. Physical Upside). Me included.
Instead, the toughest question is Brown's physical upside. And here the cynicism of the Texas S&C program rears it's head. A physical dominance that will exist to a much lesser degree in college. No surprise, but still a concern.
Worst case: Is Brown Bulldozer the Second? Vondrell McGee again? In the broken arm tackles perhaps, not in the overall expectations or the talent level but most particularly a fit in the offense moving forward. A fit in the offense never described McGee.
Now to the hype. National top-10 rankings in all the services. Consensus top running back in the country. All the accolades. Production.The ideal back moving forward for Texas moving more downhill. Like I said, I'm not going to mention that other back.
If Brown's not ready to run over a member of the opponents' second level, there is still enough explosiveness and good enough feet to solve the other problems in high school. I was about to mention that name again -- reminder, this is about Malcolm Brown. And all this discussion almost presupposes the worst case because otherwise Brown will be a star.
As Scipio Tex mentions, he's not a superstar at running behind his pads, but he's no Chris Whaley either. Sorry, Mack. It's mostly mass (210 pounds or more) times acceleration (top speed at the third step or so) and a strong core just behind the shoulders.
Balance -- related to that core strength. Like, elite balance.
Toughness, an aggressive mentality with the football.
Quick through the hole, no nonsense. No jukes, just downhill. Still, underrated feet.
A snug fit for the new scheme.
The question that Scipio Tex is posing is one of whether Brown has physically maximized his talent. The answer seems like no. It's hard to believe that there isn't a little bit more burst waiting for a college S&C program to realize itself. A stiff arm and more runs behind the pads.
In this case, the national rankings speak so strongly about Brown's value that the only criticisms are left for whether he will be able to outrun Iowa State's secondary versus being able to outrun Texas A&M's secondary. Not a big difference, but an important distinction.
Will it be the distinction between good and great? Good and average? Given the whole array of talent, that seems unlikely.
2011 Texas RB Commit Malcolm Brown v AHS (via ghostofbigroy)
The bottom line is that Brown fills a major need for Texas and there's no question that he's extremely talented and has an opportunity to turn in a productive career in Austin. Bryan Harsin and Major Applewhite should put him in a position to succeed schematically and Joe Bergeron will hopefully become Will Matthews to Brown's Cedric Benson.
All that remains is for Brown to maximize his speed, run behind his pads a bit better, and for Stacy Searels and Bennie Wylie to do some work with the offensive line. Not exactly a simple or easy task, but that's what has to happen.
Name: Joe Bergeron
Speed: 4.45 40
High School: North Mesquite
Rating (Rivals): Three out of five (5.7)
Texas Top 100: 63
In some ways, the commitment of Joe Bergeron is about much more than acquiring the services of a true fullback. It's about luring running backs like powerful Malcolm Brown and shifty Aaron Green, who has repeatedly stated that he wants to play in a "pro-style offense." It's hard to tell exactly what that means, but it's safe to say that it probably includes a lead blocker and a head start from seven yards deep instead of next to the quarterback.
The proliferation of spread offenses has almost removed the fullback from the high school game in Texas, making Bergeron a rare find. A lifelong Texas fan, Bergeron was considered a Texas lock throughout the process and became one of the first commitments on the morning of the first Junior Day. Like many other prospects who are locks throughout the process, Bergeron isn't a sexy take in a class with limited numbers, but he will be a crucial part of Longhorn success on the ground in the coming years.
Instant scouting report:
It's been some time since the Longhorns have had a legitimate fullback. Former Marine Ahmard Hall was the last and the Longhorns didn't use a fullback often in the 2005 season. The last fullback to play extensively was Cedric Benson's personal lead blocker, Will Matthews, in 2004. As the Longhorns attempt to resurrect the running game, Bergeron will be a major part of the effort as a fullback, H-back, and possible short-yardage specialist.
At around six feet tall and 230 pounds, Bergeron has remarkable feet for a large back and quickness similar to Cody Johnson. Watching him run, it's hard to believe that he is a 230-pound running back because he moves like someone much lighter. Timed at 4.6 in the 40 at the NUC ($) before his junior season, Bergeron drew interest from power-running teams like Tennessee, Wisconsin, and Michigan State and will be able to play a variety of positions and even split out as a receiver to take advantage of his solid speed and soft hands. Described as a solid blocker by his head coach ($), it would be interesting to see some film on Bergeron as a blocker because his highlight film does not include any tape of him as a lead blocker.
He's also incredibly strong, reporting a max bench press of 375 pounds and a squat of 560 pounds. After dropping some weight during the last year, Bergeron has a college-ready body and could contribute during his freshman season, though having a player like Barrett Matthews in front of him on the depth chart could keep him from playing right away.
Overall, versatility is the name of the game for Bergeron and he provides with the capability to play numerous positions at a high level.
For a three-star commit, it's hard to overestimate just how much Bergeron means to this class. Texas hasn't had a true fullback on the roster since Ahmard Hall left for the NFL (sorry, Antwan Cobb) and Bergeron's versatility fits Bryan Harsin's offensive vision perfectly.
In addition to his roles at H-back and fullback, Bergeron will give Texas the ability to run some two-back sets and hand Bergeron the football -- his feet, speed, and vision should all translate to the next level. And, as long as Texas can find someone to lead block for him, he should also be effective as a short-yardage specialist because he's stronger right now in his lower body than Malcolm Brown, though Brown could certainly pick up some yardage running behind Bergeron and whatever defensive tackle Texas can find to lead block.
For all those clamoring for a downhill running game at Texas, Bergeron could be just as important toward that end as Malcolm Brown and that should be exciting for Longhorn fans.
Name: Jaxon Shipley
Speed: 4.55 40-yard dash
High School: Brownwood
Rating (Rivals): Four out of five (5.9)
Texas Top 100: 9
The tight numbers at the receiver position in 2011 just got a little tighter with the most unsurprising commit of the 2011 class -- Jordan Shipley's little brother, Jaxon. With only two or three projected spots for receivers, if Miles Onyegbule receives an offer and commits this weekend as expected, Texas could be virtually finished at the position, barring the decision on whether to offer and target Whitehouse receiver Trey Metoyer, an elite talent who probably has more upside than Onyegbule.
The major -- and quite tired, thanks to endless comments from "analysts" calling Texas games -- story here is that Jaxon will join Case McCoy at Texas and yes, they will be roommates. It's a story that will become increasingly irritating, but in the end it will be worth it because Shipley has the potential to greatly impact Texas football. He may not challenge his older brother for the title of one of the most productive receivers in program history, but there's little doubt that he will be an excellent football player.
Instant scouting report:
Jaxon isn't exactly a clone of his older brother, as he's a bit taller and doesn't quite possess the same elite burst, quickness, and change-of-direction ability that defined Jordan in high school. However, it's clear that he benefits greatly from being a Shipley in terms of his understanding of the position and route running. If Mike Davis was the most polished receiver from the 2010 class, Shipley will be the most polished receiver in the 2011 class, regardless of who else commits.
Besides his route-running ability, the younger Shipley has excellent speed, but what stands out the most is his ability to elevate and high point the football in traffic. As a result, he should have the opportunity to come in and earn some early playing time, even with the large group of receivers in front of him -- he's that college-ready, even as a junior.
Without seeing more film on Shipley, it's hard to make judgments based on one play, but he did lose a fumble against Graham because he was carrying the ball loosely and away from his body. The comparison to Davis again could be made, but Shipley's ball security is probably quite a bit better than the former Skyline star, who often carried the ball in high school like it was a loaf of bread.
The only other negative about Shipley is his strength -- he will need several years in the weight room before he even begins to approximate the strength of his older brother, which could impact his ability to fight off press coverage. That may or may not be a factor in his early playing time, depending on if he ends up at flanker or in the slot, as the slot receiver normally plays off the line of scrimmage, making it difficult for opponents to use press coverage in those situations.
Shipley7on.mov (via ghostofbigroy)
2011 Texas Commit Jaxon Shipley v Llano (via ghostofbigroy)
At this point, like any commit who hasn't yet made it onto campus, Shipley is still all potential. However, he's so refined and such a hard worker that barring injury he's about as much of a sure thing as there is in recruiting. Sure, his speed is not elite, but his route running, hands, and ability to go up and get the football are elite. Kid is a flat-out stud.
Even if it didn't say Shipley on the back of his jersey, he would still have been a no-brainer offer for Texas. The name on the back of his jersey just made his recruitment extremely easy for the Texas coaches.
Will he be as productive as his older brother? Those are huge shoes to fill. At the least, Jaxon will do everything possible to make his big brother proud.
Name: Miles Onyegbule
40 Time: 4.54 0-yard dash
High School: Arlington
Rivals Rating: Three out of five (5.7)
Texas Top 100: 55
Much like the three players who committed on the evening of the first Junior Day, the first commitment on the Saturday morning day of the Junior Day proper, there was little suspense surrounding the talented pass-catcher's decision -- it had been crystal clear for some time that if Onyegbule received an offer, he would commit on the spot. As far back as last June, Onyegbule had the Longhorns atop his list ($) and never wavered from that stance over the following eight months until his commitment. Afterwards, Oneygbule let it be known that he has been a Texas fan his entire life ($) and often discussed playing for the Longhorns with his brothers growing up.
Clearly a personal favorite of Bobby Kennedy and Bruce Chambers, who recruit the Metroplex for the Longhorns, Oneygbule received one of what will likely only be two receiver spots in the class, along with Jaxon Shipley. Before the Junior Day, news broke that Trey Metoyer, arguably the top receiver in the state, and Texas were heading in separate directions, no major surprise because Metoyer grew up an Oklahoma fan and the Longhorns appeared to have significant ground to make up throughout the process.
What isn't clear is whether the coaching staff chose Oneygbule because it was going to be easier to recruit him or if in their evaluations they simply rated the Arlington receiver higher. After viewing the film on both, Metoyer appears to be a better playmaker than Onyegbule and may possess slightly better speed, but isn't exactly a burner himself. Since taking Onyegbule meant that the staff did not seriously pursue Metoyer, it's safe to say that the two will be linked for some time and if Metoyer turns out to be significantly more productive in college, there will be plenty of second-guessing about taking Oneygbule without a major run at Metoyer.
At this point, it's probably only worth saying that the two talented pass-catchers will write that narrative themselves in the near future.
Instant scouting report:
Texas wide receivers coach Bobby Kennedy has long had an infatuation with big receivers. The value of big receivers is obvious -- they are more effective blocking downfield in the wide receiver screen game and running game, they are better vertical threats because of their size and (usually) their ability to high point the football against smaller defeners, and they can use their body to become effective possession receivers because it's simply harder for smaller defensive backs to get around them.
Onyegbule fits all of those categories and his average of 12 yards per catch indicates that he was indeed a possession receiver last season for quarterback Matt Joeckel, a 2009 A&M commit, and seemed to raise some warning signs for some, but a look at Onyegbule's film ($) gives perspective on why Oneygbule wasn't more of a big-play threat. Like the Longhorns, Arlington throws a lot of short hitches, most likely a sight adjustment between quarterback and receiver based on how far the cornerback is playing off the ball. In and off itself, the fact that opposing teams often were not willing to press Onyegbule indicates some concern for his ability to make plays down the field.
Arlington also used Onyegbule extensively on slip screens, a type of screen normally reserved for smaller, quicker players. It may have partly been out of necessity, with no better candidates for those plays, but Oneygbule consistently demonstrated one of his top attributes on those plays -- some shake in his hips and his ability to make defenders miss in space. In fact, it probably reminded Kennedy, who recruits the Dallas area and was therefore probably the first Texas coach to see Onyegbule play, of 2009 commit John Harris, another big-bodied receiver who excelled as a junior in turning short passes into longer gains.
Many of Onyegbule's touchdowns seem to have come on shorter throws in the red zone, where the big receiver could use his body on screens, fades, and other throws utilizing his height advantage -- he should continue to be a red-zone threat at the next level. Those plays indicate on willingness on his part to catch the ball in traffic and over the middle without concerns about being hit.
Overall, Oneygbule has adequate straight-line speed, good balance, above-average feet and shake in his hips, but most of all he knows how to use his big body to use advantage and how to adjust to ball in the air, as Joeckel would often intentionally underthrow the ball. Another major positive is that Onyegbule has large, sure hands. An article from the OU Rivals site last summer compared him to a young Malcolm Kelly ($).
At 6-4, 200 pounds, Onyegbule already has a big frame and could easily reach 220-230 pounds at Texas. Though he has said that the coaches see him as a split end and not a flex tight end, he could play inside if Texas keeps the twins look debuted in the national championship and has said himself that even he's not sure how much weight his frame could add. His older brother, Maxwell, played defensive end at Kansas and showed up to campus at a similar weight has his younger brother currently carries around, though it's hard to say without being able to compare pictures from the same time frame if Miles has the frame to add 40 pounds, as his older brother did at Kansas. At this point, with the Texas coaches projecting him as a split end, working on his speed will be more important than adding bulk, as Oneygbule probably runs in the low 4.6 range at this point.
Onyegbule is a great candidate for a redshirt next season so he can refine his route running and continue to learn the intricacies of playing WR at the collegiate level. Plus Texas will already have plenty of returning option and Jaxon Shipley likely to get very good playing time as a true freshman. WR's that aren't highly athletic, fast, or are big time gamebreakers are frequently incorrectly labeled possession receivers. But Miles is not really what you'd call a possession receiver because he does have some shake and bake post catch and can make some plays with the ball in his hands. He won't be going Mark Clayton on you though. I'm not really sure where he'd play at UT because his skill set is somewhat non-traditional. He could probably play both the Z and the slot positions. Will be interesting to compare his career with Metoyer's to see whether UT made the right decision in not pursuing Trey in favor of Miles. Probably won't be a dominant player here but he can certainly contribute in the short passing game and in the blocking realm.
Name: M.J. McFarland*
40 Time: N/A
High School: El Dorado
Rivals Rating: Four of five (5.8)
Texas Top 100: 26
*McFarland is an early enrollee and will participate in spring practice.
It sounds like an exaggeration, but his ball and post-catch skills really evoke images of San Diego Chargers future HOF Antonio Gates. Like Gates, McFarland isn't an absolute blazer and uses excellent athleticism, smart route running ability, and ridiculous hands to torch receivers. Neither are refined blockers.
Personally, I think McFarland has more of a chance to be a star TE than anybody we've recruited since Jermichael Finley. Hes got everything you want in a young player as well as having plenty of room to grow. Definitely a sleeper in the class that I don't think enough people talk about.
That said, with the sheer quantity of TEs ahead of him on the roster I'm not sure I can see M.J. contributing as a true freshman, despite the fact that he's probably the most talented of them. What really works in his favor is Bryan Harsin's penchant and love for using multiple tight end sets in various productive ways. Rumors are flying that TE coach Bruce Chambers will take a job with DISD and that former TE coach Tim Brewster will replace him. Nothing substantive right now on that point but Brewster would be a huge boon to McFarland's development if he turned out to be the guy. Regardless, whomever is coaching TEs next year for Texas will get a huge talent boost with M.J. coming in.
Name: Josh Cochran
High School: Hallsville
Rating (Rivals): Four out of five (5.8)
Texas Top 100: 21
Cochran has a ways to go physically to contribute at the next level -- his Rivals page lists his bench max at 280, which isn't particularly impressive, though it's hard to tell how recently that was the case. However, he's absolutely vital to this class and to the program's future becauase he's the only one of the five 2011 OL commits who looks like a true left tackle prospect, perhaps the biggest need Texas has at the moment.
That simple fact alone is enough to make him extremely valuable to the class, but melding together his feet, frame, and attitude produces a prospect who doesn't rate as among the best in the country because he doesn't have the strength or technique. All the tools are there, Stacy Searels and Bennie Wylie just have to come together to mold them and if that's successful, Texas is looking at a guy who could start at left tackle and play at a high level there for at least two seasons. And as the current search proves and a look at teams around the NFL on Sundays as quarterbacks get mauled by edge rushers proves, good left tackles are hard to come by at any level of the sport.
Name: Taylor Doyle
High School: Lake Travis
Rating (Rivals): Three out of five (5.7)
Texas Top 100: 74
Scouting report (from the Aledo game):
While PB's take above was quite scathing, Doyle had a better second half than he did the opening frame. After being beat on the edge in the first half and looking slow and immobile trying to get to the second level, Doyle at least increased his aggressiveness after the intermission. On one play, he pancaked his opponent, then followed up by driving the Aledo defensive end -- admittedly not a college prospect by any stretch -- 15 yards downfield. Soon after, Doyle set the edge for an important Lake Travis first down, pinning his man inside.
There are several considerations here -- the first is that Doyle may not be fully healthy or in top condition after his injury in the state championship game. Both of those factors could have contributed to his poor kick step and inability to change direction in space.
However, the accurate assessment is probably that Doyle was a questionable take at this point -- he doesn't have the feet to play outside in college and the fact that he can't make plays in space doesn't bode well for his ability to pull as a guard, either. Keeping his feet moving and chopping when he latches onto an opponent would help him as well. The bottom line is that Doyle has a long way to go to contribute at Texas.
As one of the few three-star commits in the 2011 class, Doyle's scholarship is bound to come under question for that reason alone. The fact that Doyle is now ranked 78th in the last 2011 LSR -- and this by a guy who is obviously biased towards the Longhorns -- doesn't help things.
The major concern is that he won't recover the athleticism that he had before his ankle injury, the athleticism that made him an appealing guy because there was a chance that he could play outside in college, greatly enhancing his value. At this point, it looks like Doyle will have to play guard and may not even be particularly useful pulling into space or getting to the second level and making blocks in the zone scheme Texas will continue to employ. A redshirt year is certainly in the offing.
Those are some serious question marks for Doyle and the result is that he's one of the more questionable takes in this class. Was he Texas good as a junior? Probably so. Was he Texas good as a senior? He certainly didn't look like it at times. The bottom line is the guy has a lot to prove when he makes the short trip down to Austin to enroll in classes this summer.
Name: Sedrick Flowers
Speed: 5.0 40-yard dash
High School: Galena Park North Shore
Rating (Rivals): Four out of five (5.8)
Texas Top 100: 14
The top offensive line prospect in the state, it's a shame for both Flowers and Texas that he doesn't have the height to play outside because that's where the major need is for the Longhorns. Unless Trey Hopkins or Mason Walters move outside in 2011, Texas is probably mostly set on the inside, even though Flowers is arguably the most ready to contribute of the five linemen in the class.
As the offensive line seeks to lose the soft label attached to it the last several years, aggressive, athletic players like Flowers, Garrett Greenlea, and Josh Cochran will play a large role role in that transformation over the coming years and Flowers projects as a guy who could not only be a multiple-year starter, but an All-Conference type of player as well as long as he improves in pass protection.
Name: Garrett Greenlea
Speed: 4.9 40-yard dash
High School: Klein Collins
Rating (Rivals): Four out of five (5.8)
Texas Top 100: 22
Greenlea was an important take in the class before the de-commitment of Christian Westerman and Westerman's decision made him almost invaluable as the only true tackle in the five-man class besides Josh Cochran. Had Greenlea decided to commit elsewhere, the offensive line class as a whole would be considered a serious disappointment because the tackle position is such an urgent and critical need for the future of the Harsinwhite offense.
Greenlea probably doesn't have the feet to play left tackle and still needs quite a bit of work on his pass protection before he can contribute in college, as Klein Collins was a run-based offense. Besides his ability to protect the quarterback, the other concern about Greenlea is the ACL tear that he suffered at the beginning of his senior season. It's not a concern in terms of recovering, as such procedures are now routine, but it is a concern in terms of lost repetitions and in terms of his overall conditioning. There aren't any recent pictures of Greenlea, so it's hard to tell if he maintained his weight while rehabbing his knee. The good news is that he should be recovered enough to work out with his teammates when he enrolls in June.
Along with Flowers and Cochran, Greenlea should form the nucleus of an offensive line down the road for Texas that has a much nastier disposition in the running game, a fantastic fit considering that Bryan Harsin is a proponent of a new-school power-running game that should feature their strengths. With Greenlea's frame, strength, and ability to move, he should be effective in both man and zone-blocking schemes, giving Harsin and Applewhite plenty of schematic flexibility as the offense moves forward.
Name: Marcus Hutchins
High School: DeSoto
Rating (Rivals): Three out of five (5.6)
Texas Top 100: 92
If Josh Cochran's Rivals video was a maulfest, the video of Hutchins can best be described as stoning smaller, less agile players in pass protection. For most big-time high school offensive linemen, there's plenty of film of 6-0, 200-pound defensive linemen getting railroaded -- it's pretty much what highlight films end up encompassing for the most part. Strangely, with Hutchins there are few highlights on running plays and on most of those highlights Hutchins is simply walling off the defender rather than displacing them downfield. It's a concern.
Hutchins is almost certainly an inside guy at Texas because his height is questionable to play on the outside -- he may be closer to 6-3 than the 6-5 he's occasionally listed at -- though his feet are good enough for him to have a shot at tackle. He projects as a guy who will continue to play well in space and would work well as a pulling guard and in the zone scheme where he could combo block and get to the second level quickly.
After losing Christian Westerman, it would have been nice to have another guy in the class who could project at tackle besides Josh Cochran and Garrett Greenlea and the odds are against Hutchins in that respect, a disappointment for the class overall. The upside is there with his athleticism and he's worth taking a chance on, but did he cost Texas a chance at Aztec, NM OL Matt Hegarty, a much better prospect he can play tackle? It's possible and that's disappointing as well.
40 Time: 5.0 40-yard dash
High School: Westfield
Rivals Rating: Four out of five (5.8)
Texas Top 100: 12
Unlike a lot of players UT has brought in at DT or moved to DT, Jackson's body is already near his optimal playing weight and composition. This will give him an excellent chance to play early and often despite the large quantity of players ahead of him in seniority, especially if Alex Okafor moves back to DE like I believe he should to improve depth. If none of the defensive tackles step up, much like we saw last year, Desmond has an outside shot at eventually starting as a true freshman next to entrenched star Kheeston Randall if he comes in hungry and in shape over the offseason.
40 Time: N/A
High School: SA Sam Houston
Rivals Rating: Four of five (5.8)
Texas Top 100: 16
Defensive tackle is an extremely hard position to recruit, possibly the hardest of any position on the field. It's also a position close to the action, where everything that happens is fast and furious, dramatically increasing the risk of injuries sustained by stepping on someone's foot or having an opposing lineman take out a knee intentionally or unintentionally.
The point is that even though the Longhorns took three defensive tackles in the 2009 class (with Tevin Mims spending some time as a three tech), three defensive tackles in 2010, and received an early commitment from Desmond Jackson, the top defensive tackle in the state in 2011, Texas had such a string of bad luck at the position over several years that depth had been a major concern -- the freshness of that memory almost makes overcrowding.
San Antonio Sam Houston defensive tackle Quincy Russell was the last of the three defensive tackle commits to surface on the radar and it wasn't only the Longhorns who eventually took notice of the athletic interior lineman -- Russell received offers from Oklahoma, Nebraska, Alabama, Auburn, and Stanford, among others. What initially looked like an easy recruitment for Longhorns drew itself out as Russell explored his possibilities to look for the best fit.
It was in that frame of mind that Russell made his way to Austin for the spring game. His visit confirmed his previous feelings for Texas, described as his leader "all along," and Russell decided to make his commitment official ($) the day after the spring game. It turned out that the Texas offer was just too good to pass up and the proximity to his home in San Antonio helped make the decision easier and keep Russell close to his family.
However, the saga did not end there. His decision ended up leading to one of the strangest days in Longhorn recruiting -- Russell decided that he wanted to take more visits to ensure that Texas was the best fit within 24 hours of making his decision, followed by Christian Westerman's commitment several hours later. The high-profile nature of his recruitment, including more than 20 offers, also factored into his decision to open up his recruitment after getting swept up in the emotions of the Texas spring game.
After Texas quickly cut ties with Ahmad Dixon when he de-committed in the spring of 2009, the obvious question after Russell's decision was whether or not the Longhorns would continue recruiting him. Ultimately, different circumstances around Russell's de-commitment helped keep him on the Texas radar, with the most prominent factor being his honesty about why he was making the decision and about his intentions moving forward.
Russell took several visits over the course of the spring, camping at Texas (where he did not workout), Nebraska and Texas A&M. He largely went silent during that period, declining to name favorites, but expressing a desire to stay close to his mother in San Antonio.
Given that desire and the fact that no other teams established themselves are serious options opposed to the Longhorns, it came as little surprise on Sunday evening when Russell once again committed to the Longhorns following a day of rumors swirling about a possible decision.
Russell joins all-around stud Desmond Jackson as the committed defensive tackles in the class and Texas is almost certainly done now both at defensive tackle and possibly along the defensive line with 22 commitments, leaving only two or spots still available. Though Oklahoma commit Marquis Anderson also received an offer, the Longhorns seemingly backed off in his recruitment, meaning that both of the top targets on the Texas board committed in 2011.
Instant scouting report:
Part of the appeal with Russell lies in his ability to play nose tackle, a position at which it is more difficult to find big, impact players. In comparison, it's easier to find three techniques, especially if the coaching staff is willing to spin down larger defensive ends in pass-rushing situations, a tactic Will Muschamp commonly employs and will likely do so again this season.
At 6-3, 280 pounds and possessing a thick frame, Russell projects as competition for Derek Johnson (if he manages to stay in school), De'Aires Cotton, and possibly Taylor Bible to play over the center. However, Russell has plenty of athleticism to also play the three technique and spend time shooting gaps into opposing backfields. A talented basketball player who received some interest on the hardcourt, Russell was also a sprinter in junior high school.
For a defensive tackle, Russell's stats are striking -- he tallied 87 tackles as a junior, not an unheard-of number for a defensive tackle, but one that speaks to his consistent motor and ability to separate from offensive linemen.
One notable aspect of his film is his ability to play cut blocks -- several teams running the triple option tried to cut Russell repeatedly and the big tackle simply used his hands to discard the smaller players and attack the ballcarrier. The big defensive tackle has the quickness to get into the backfield and pursue plays down the line of a scrimmage, no surprise given his high tackle totals. It's truly remarkable how well Russell moves at his size, a testament to all the time he's spent on the basketball court.
The most important factor in his development at Texas will be his ability to play with better pad level, as well as to more consistently use his hands with violence and proper placement. Known as a raw athlete, it's remarkable that Russell is able to make as many plays as he does while often standing straight up at the snap. As Russell gets stronger and adds muscle to his formidable frame, he could become the type of gap-control tackle every team needs in the middle because he possesses such unique raw strength -- since he plays basketball, Russell has not had the time to fully commit himself in the weight room.
By comparison, Marquis Anderson might be slightly quicker off the ball, but he doesn't possess ideal lower body strength/thickness, limiting his upside and making Russell a more ideal fit next to the athletic Desmond Jackson, a a three technique in college all the way. But don't sleep on Russell's athleticism, either -- the big guy is quick and changes direction well for someone with his mass, two skills that allow him to make plays down the line of scrimmage.
It will likely take him a year or two to develop the strength and technique necessary to compete at the highest level, but Russell has created a positive national reputation throughout the spring and, along with defensive backs like Charles Jackson, Tevin Mitchel, and David Jenkins, is one of the fastest-rising defenders in the state and on the national scene.
Russell is a great pick up for Texas and I'm glad he decided to quickly reaffirm his commitment to UT after wavering for a day or so. A redshirt year to touch up his physique a bit and add some more weight and strength would do him well and you probably shouldn't expect too much of an impact until at least his redshirt sophomore year due to all the players in front of him. Could play the Kheeston Randall do-everything-DT role at Texas as both a 3-4 or a 4-3 defensive tackle that could occupy the line or play gap assault if he's paired with a guy like Taylor Bible that could hold the line (Toto). Or you could pair him with Desmond Jackson or (hopefully) Malcom Brown and have a couple of gap busters in the middle against a more spread-based team. Really great to have all these diverse players in this class for Manny Diaz, a guy who loves blitzing and ingenuity.
40 Time: 4.8 40-yard dash
High School: Cleveland
Rivals Rating: Four of five (5.8)
Texas Top 100: 23
The consensus top-ranked defensive end in the state, Reed timed his announcement for April 23 to honor his deceased mother on her birthday, choosing to become the 20th commit in the 2011 class for the Texas Longhorns, a decision that Orangeblood's Jason Suchomel reports was made some time ago. Over the last month, Reed ended his visits with trips to Austin and College Station for the school's respective spring games, experiences following several other trips to both campuses.
His experience at the first Texas Junior Day stood out to Reed, who said that the Longhorns helped create separation when he received his Texas offer in person from Mack Brown. Like the great majority of attendees at that event, Reed noted his comfort with the coaching staff, the quality education at Texas, and the facilities as other major causes of separation.
Reed narrowed his finalists essentially down the A&M and Texas from a offer list of more than 20 schools that included Notre Dame, Alabama, USC, and Oklahoma, a distant third. The Aggies made up some ground late in the recruiting process with the appeal of early playing time and some rumors about his father preferring the Aggies, perhaps for that reason.
It may perhaps be simplistic to narrow his decision down to a willingness to face competition versus a desire to essentially be handed a starting spot upon commitment, but a major part of the decision-making process for Reed had to have been how much confidence he had in himself to earn playing time over other exceptional athletes.
The appeal of being a Longhorn and willingness to face that competition overweighed everything else. Oh yeah, and Reed may also have noticed the recruiting momentum Texas has been building, particularly on defense, and told Jeff Howe that the ability to play for a national championship impacted his decision.
Even though the defensive end position at Texas has a great deal of depth at the moment, Reed fills a need as a high-upside strongside defensive end. Concerns about Reggie Wilson's height kept him from getting his fifth star from Rivals and may keep him from playing that position in college, despite early projections of him playing there opposite Jackson Jeffcoat. Greg Daniels is an excellent athlete as well, but Reed is more highly ranked at this point in the process and provides a stronger combination of versatility and upside that makes him a major get, no matter the relatively low level of need in this class.
The Longhorns have one other outstanding offer to a defensive end, Shreveport Evangel's Jermauria Rasco, but are likely done with recruiting at the position due to having no more than five spots left in the class and likely no more than three with needs still at running back and cornerback. Much like Texas has done with Marquis Anderson and Anthony Wallace, expect for the coaching staff to fall out of contact with Rasco.
Instant scouting report:
Reed is widely considered the best defensive end in the state because of his projectable frame and unique athleticism for his size that allows him to excel at defensive end, tight end, and on the basketball court for Cleveland. Last season, Reed had 11 sacks and 88 tackles, while dropping 20 and 10 on his opponents on the hardwood.
Currently tipping the scales at 6-6 and around 245 pounds, Reed still has plenty of room left on his frame, leading to speculation that although Texas A&M recruited him as an outside linebacker/stand-up pass rusher in the new Aggie defense, he could end up playing at an athletic 275-280 pounds. Reed could become an impact player at defensive end in a four-man line or five tech defensive end in the 3-4 or move inside to play a three tech in passing situations or permanently.
While Nathan Hughes has the ability to play the two inside positions, it's Reed's upside as an edge rusher that likely resulted in Texas evaluating Reed as a better prospect, though the LSU coaching staff apparently disagreed, seemingly a minority opinion.
Without seeing more film, it's difficult to say just how good Reed is off the edge -- his 11 sacks is not a monster number, but pure sack total don't tell the tale of how often he managed to pressure the quarterback and Reed likely faced double teams every week.
The normal statements about needing to work on shooting his hands better and using them more consistently and playing with better pad level all apply here as they do to most high school defensive ends not named Jackson Jeffcoat, but Reed has the raw physical tools with a quick, if not elite first step -- he is 6-6, 245 remember. He moves extremely well for his size and has some ability to change direction. His long arms will make it difficult for tackles to get into his body at the next level.
Overall, Reed's ability to play in college anywhere from 260-280 pounds, possibly more, and still be able to retain most, it not all of his athleticism makes him one of the top prospects in the state and gives him a great deal of upside due to his versatility and ability to play a number of positions. Cedric Reed is a multiple type of player who will play for a coach who loves to be multiple on defense. Mike Sherman wanted him to be a cornerstone of the rebuilt Wrecking Crew, but will instead add to the insane number of weapons Muschamp will be able to deploy for the Legion of Boom.
Reed is in a somewhat suspect position as a UT recruit—he'll be expected to be able to come in and at least give garbage time minutes and possibly more from the outset due to UT's thin DE rotation. But he's a player that would benefit hugely from a redshirt year. Ironically, while many defensive recruits need the year to improve their body type, Reed really needs it from a technical standpoint, as well as getting accustomed to playing against athletes of his own size, strength, and agility. I would love to see us move Big Oak and even Greg Daniels back to DE, play Dravannti Johnson some there in pass rushing situations, and be able to RS Cedric, but I just don't see it happening.
Name: Steve Edmond
40 Time: N/A
High School: Daingerfield
Rivals Rating: Four of five (6.0)
Texas Top 100: 4
Boom. Texas added another physical, hard-hitting linebacker to an already-impressive group that now consists of elite athletes like Tevin Jackson, Jordan Hicks, and now Steve Edmond in the 2010 and 2011 classes. It's a testament to the competitiveness of Edmond that he is willing to take on what is now a loaded depth chart to compete for playing time with some of the best linebackers in the entire country coming out of high school and a greater testament to the recruiting ability of Will Muschamp. It's the Texas defensive coordinator and linebackers coach selling the vision to these kids of how they will fit into the system and it's clear that the top players are buying what he's selling. And why not? He's selling a chance to maximize their talent and give them a chance at fulfilling their dreams by having a shot at playing on Sundays.
The combination of Muschamp, Mack Brown, and the inherent appeal of the program to Texas high school football players and only a matter of hours after telling Orangebloods that he was planning on waiting to make a decision until the end of the month and that he did not want to rush into a decision, on the afternoon of February 23th, Edmond could wait no longer, not even until the end of his next class. So, in between classes ($), Edmond telephoned the Texas coaching staff to let them know that he was intent on becoming a Longhorn.
It ended a process that sounded all but over in the days before his decision ($), as Edmonds indicated that he was "like 100 percent sure" that he would commit to Texas because of his high comfort level with the program. His Junior Day visit greatly increased that comfort level, as Edmond said before the trip ($) that he wasn't sure about going to Texas because of the depth chart and competition at the position. Apparently those feelings changed after his visit and Edmond decided to join his teammate Chris Jones in Austin.
Instant scouting report:
Against 3A competition, the numbers don't tell as much of a story as they would in a larger classification and stronger district, but they still tell a helluva story -- 182 tackles, 34 tackles for loss, five interceptions (two returned for touchdowns), five sacks, seven forced fumbles, and seven fumble recoveries. Those numbers are staggering for any player at any level in any classification. In two separate games as a junior, Edmond had 15 or more tackles.
Playing in the Daingerfield 3-3 stack defense, Edmond has plenty of opportunities to play downhill, shoot through the A gap and stuff the running game, which he does with sure tackling and remarkable physicality. Like Tevin Jackson, when Edmond hits a ballcarrier, they don't fall forward to pick up extra yardage -- they go backwards. However, Edmond had a thicker overall frame than Jackson and isn't as lean as the mean Garland product and 2010 commit and probably doesn't have quite the speed either, but he has plenty of range and ability to play from one sideline to the other and also possesses elite feet for a 225-pound linebacker.
It's that 225-pound frame that has may predicting that he could end up at defensive end in college, a position he played out of need for Daingerfield as a sophomore. In fact, his coach says that he expected Edmond to grow into a defensive end already and it's possible that he could play some on the line of scrimmage as a Buck end. A spin down to that position would not occur out of necessity, but rather because Edmond has the ability and frame to play the position.
In my opinion a better prospect than the highly-regarded Skyline star Anthony Wallace because of his feet and explosiveness, Edmond looks like a natural inside or middle linebacker in college and has a college-ready body. Basically, Edmond can afford to maintain his current weight and focus on maximizing his explosiveness. Edmond is probably a borderline candidate for an elusive five-star rating from Rivals, but he is easily a top-10 talent in the state and perhaps the best player in all of East Texas in the class.Muschamp is building the Texas defense in his image and that image is of linebackers like Jackson, Hicks, and Edmond, guys who will make it an extremely long and bruising 60 minutes for opposing players. Boom.
There's definitely an argument to be made that Edmond is the both the top prospect in Texas' recruiting class and the top linebacker in the country. He's a borderline 5* prospect and you have to be crazy to not be extremely excited about him. He's probably a middle linebacker from the day he steps onto the campus and has a great chance to be a second stringer next season. Edmond's got all kinds of upside and a real chance to be an All-American at Texas. He's a beast.
Name: Chet Moss*
40 Time: N/A
High School: Cedar Park
Rivals Rating: Four of five (5.8)
Texas Top 100: 34
*Moss is an early enrollee and will participate in spring practice.
A piggyback ride was all it took ($). When wide receiver Kwame Cavil put a young Chet Moss on his shoulders and took him into the offensive huddle during practice, Moss was sold -- from that moment, he wanted to become a Texas Longhorn. In the early evening before the first Texas Junior Day for the 2011 class, the Cedar Park linebacker received his Texas offer and committed on the spot, fulfilling his lifelong dream and ending the recruiting process virtually before it even started.
For Moss, the moment was surely a relief as well, as other teams no doubt backed off in their recruitment of the area product, knowing his affinity for the Longhorns. So even though Moss publicly maintained a relatively neutral stance and open mind, had he not received his Texas offer, it would have been difficult for him to regain the attention of schools that had basically given up on recruiting him.
It's the danger that a handful of Texas targets face every season, particularly if they make their feelings for Texas known publicly early in the process. Loving Texas football with all your heart can be a heart-breaking proposition for numerous Texas high school football players every year. But for Moss, everything worked out as planned and he will play football for the only university he's ever wanted to attend.
Instant scouting report:
Moss is known for being a downhill linebacker at the high school level who also has adequate speed to play in a base 4-2-5 that places an emphasis on linebackers having to range to play sideline to sideline. With that being said, Moss does not have the pure speed of spread linebackers with Aaron Benson and Corey Nelson. As a result, Moss must make up for his lack of elite speed by reading and diagnosing quickly and taking strong angles to the football. All indications are that he does both of those things well.
On film, Moss shows a remarkable playmaking ability -- he looks like an Acho brother with his abilty to separate the ball from a ballcarrier and does so without giving up his ability to make tackles, while also showing a remarkable ability to find himself around the football and secure it. If former Westwood star Princeton Collins, a Utah commit in 2010, doesn't have nightmares about Moss it would be a major surprise, as Moss separated him from the football once late in the season and recovered another fumble, while generally appearing to make life miserable for the opposing running back.
Moss is comfortable playing in the middle close to the line of scrimmage and doesn't mind taking on blockers and fights well through the wash -- he's a physical kid and it shows in his tackling. He's not exactly Tevin Jackson in terms of bringing the wood every time, but he's not an arm tackler and he uses his lower body well to explode into ballcarriers.
Even though Moss does well taking on and shedding blockers, as he learns to better use his leverage and shoot his hands with more violence, he will be extremely difficult for opposing offensive linemen to deal with at the second level or at the line of scrimmage. On one third-and-1 play against Westwoo, Moss absolutely destroys the fullback to make a play in the backfield.
In terms of criticism, Moss at times looks stiff at times in coverage and will have to work on his overall flexibility and the fluidity in his hips, but the good news is that he has a frame that is almost college ready at this point at around 220 pounds, so he won't need a great deal of time in the weight room to add bulk to hold up at the point of attack.
Similarly, Moss isn't an exceptional athlete, but he has enough short-area quickness and downhill burst to play linebacker at the collegiate level and contribute. He's not exactly destined to be a star, but a strong comparison might be Dustin Earnest, another linebacker who was considered something of a reach, but who worked his way into contributing last season as a junior and even payed a major role in the second half of the national championship game replacing an injured or ineffective Roddrick Muckelroy.
Even in the age of spread offenses, there are still power running teams out there and when the Longhorns face those teams in the future, Chet Moss could well become an integral part of the defensive gameplan with his physicality at the point of attack and that's why he wasn't a reach in this class. The sexiest linebacker? No, but a large part of that is the fact that it's been common knowledge for almost a year that he was essentially a Texas lock.
Chet is a middle linebacker all the way and a true downhill enforcer that Texas really hasn't had here in a while. Hell I can't even remember the last guy UT had that people were afraid of coming to fill gaps for them at LB. It might take two or three years for Moss to get on the field because there are some phenomenal players and talents ahead of him and in his same class, but once he retools his body into a weapon I have little doubt Chet will see quality time backing up the guys already on campus and getting some good run when UT goes 3-4. His run stuffing skills will be crucial against teams like OU and A&M that like to pound it up the middle when UT is weak there.
Let's not forget to give Moss his propers for helping the coaches hold the 2011 recruiting class together. Guys like Steve Edmond and Kendall Thompson were wavering for less than a day thanks to Chet giving them a good talking to about how Texas is still Texas with or without Muschamp. GoBR is way better at finding quotes than I am, but I'm sure he can throw a few up either as an edit to this page or down in the comments section that epitomizes how much this guy loves being a Longhorn. He and Quandre Diggs get the golden ball when it comes to convincing their teammates to stay true to their commitments and showing mad love for the program. So thanks to both of those players for everything they've done and said in that regard.
Name: Kendall Thompson
40 Time: 4.7 40-yard dash
High School: Carthage
Rivals Rating: Four of five (5.8)
Texas Top 100: 17
The debate with Thompson is all about whether or not he will end up at the Buck position in college and that debate mainly exists because his body is essentially college-ready entering his senior season of high school at around 6-2 and 225 pounds, with the frame to reach 240 without a problem. The thing about Thompson is that he's fluid and quick in coverage and has experience at Carthage as a middle linebacker who can make plays down the seam in Cover-2. Like Edmond, he's a flat-out playmaker on Friday nights and 200 tackles isn't out of the question for him either as the Bulldogs seek to win their third consecutive state championships.
I guess I'm of the opinion that when it's this astoundingly hard to find something wrong with a guy's game and he has ideal height, athleticism, frame, and speed, it doesn't really make a whole lot of sense for him to not be ranked higher. Kendall will likely come in a contribute as a true freshman somewhere, even if it's only on special teams. I think he projects as an OLB at Texas, but will probably play various positions within the multiple defense that Diaz will likely employ. Expect him to be one of those guys that commentators love to say "causes havoc" throughout the entire game and is "lined up all over the field." Great player and a fantastic talent that can be a game changer on defense and special teams.
Name: Quandre Diggs*
40 Time: 4.4
High School: Angleton
Rivals Rating: Four of five (5.9)
Texas Top 100: 5
*Diggs is an early enrollee and will participate in spring practice.
The great mystery of the sparsely-attended second Texas Junior Day at the end of February was the expected offer that never materialized for Angleton athlete Quandre Diggs. While the program certainly prefers to recruit players with connections to the program, Texas doesn't offer a scholarship to every legacy -- witness the grayshirt offer for the talented Lake Travis quarterback Eryon Barnett's younger brother Chris, who never received a Junior Day invite and subsequently committed to Oklahoma.or near-complete lack of interest in
Within that context, then, it was no surprise that Brown opted to take more time to evaluate the defensive back class in 2011 and Diggs in particular. However, within the context of Diggs' prodigious talent and the fact that former Texas great Quentin Jammer is his brother an offer for Diggs seemed like a no-brainer throughout the process. As it turned out, the coaching staff lost contact with Diggs after the national championship game and then declined to extend an invite to the first Junior Day and an offer at the second, as Brown informed Diggs that Texas would continue to evaluate all the defensive backs in the class.
That all changed when Major Applewhite called him on the evening of March 9th and told him that he would be receiving his long-awaited offer, the Texas coaching staff having apparently finished their evaluation of Diggs not even two weeks after the second Junior Day. The smart money says that the staff finally had a chance to sit down together and decided that Diggs was simply too strong of an athlete to pass up in the class as clearly the top remaining in-state option at defensive back.
We'd been in communication since the junior day. When I talked to Major, he emailed me (on Tuesday) and said they had good news. He told me to take a day or so to talk about it with my family and coaches. I called him last night and told him that's what I wanted to do, I wanted to be at Texas. It's always been my dream school. I want to keep the Texas tradition in my family.
Many of the early commitments grew up as Longhorn fans and Diggs did as well, but his circumstances were a little bit different -- he actually spent significant time around the Texas program:
I've grown up around Texas my whole life. Every time I go to that campus, I fall in love again. I've grown up bleeding orange. I bleed orange to this day. When I told my family, they all said hook 'em, that's where they wanted me to be. That's where I wanted to be.
I grew up around Shaun Rogers, Casey Hampton, Roy Williams - I wanted to be a Longhorn, keep that tradition going.
Of course, those former Texas stars have long since departed for the NFL, so it's the coaches that have stayed who continued to build a strong relationship with Diggs -- particularly Mack Brown and Duane Akina, the latter of whom will likely be the position coach for Diggs in college. The trust built over years and the fact that the staff knew Diggs growing up undoubtedly played a strong role in the coaching staff eventually deciding that they did want Diggs on board.
Even though he had over 20 offers at the time of his commitment, tracking his quotes over time reveals a common progression for athletes intently interested in becoming Texas Longhorns -- at the beginning, he was effusive with his praise and love for the program, but over time turned towards more vague comments about keeping his options open and considering every school equally. Not entirely sincere, of course, but almost all of these players eventually realize that they are best served by publicly keeping on open stance on the process.As a versatile athlete in the secondary, Diggs fills a major need as the Longhorns put the finishing touches on a defensive back class that already includes the top cover corner in the state in Leroy Scott and the ultra-talented Sheroid Evans, not to mention another athlete in Mykkele Thompson who probably projects as a safety. Though Diggs was told that he is being offered as an athlete by the coaching staff, Diggs effectively makes the fourth defensive back in the class, with room for only one more commit in the defensive backfield.
Instant scouting report:
A perfect example of the best athlete on a high school team ending up at quarterback, Diggs looks like a more solidly built DJ Monroe with his hands on the football, showing elite-level burst and quickness when turning the corner or exploding through a hole. In addition, he shows excellent hands, several times handling poor snaps without panicking or risking losing the football, even scooping and scoring on a field goal attempt he blocked. Tasked with running the Angleton option offense, Diggs shows an intuitive understanding for getting defenders out of position with shoulder fakes. At the end of runs, Diggs finishes with aggressiveness and a clear desire to pick up extra yardage.
On the defensive side of the ball, Diggs splits time at cornerback and safety, showing a willingness to come up in run support as a safety, while also looking comfortable at the line of scrimmage taking on blockers on occasion and sifting through traffic. A hard hitter who often puts every ounce of his 5-10, 190-pound frame into collisions, showing an understanding of when to form tackle and when to uncoil and explode into the legs of an opposing player.
At cornerback, he uses his quickness to get into and out of his backpedal quickly and with the same elite-level burst that characterizes his play on offense. While Diggs doesn't have the preferred height for a Will Muschamp cornerback, he has every other skill required -- explosiveness in his first step, leaping ability, and good hands. It's difficult to evaluate his backpedal and how well he flips his hips on his highlight tape, but if his overall athleticism in other parts of his game is similar to that particular aspect of his game, he should be able to transition seamlessly to the position in college.
Though Diggs could certainly fill a role on offense similar to that of DJ Monroe in the jet series, he is on record as saying that he wants to play defensive back at the next level, a nod to his unselfishness and also likely to the realization that his future in football most likely lies on defense. With his toughness and explosiveness, the lack of pure size should not negatively impact his collegiate career, as Diggs is roughly the same height as the departed Earl Thomas, whose height never kept him from finishing plays at Texas.
If there's one surprise about Diggs, it's that he didn't have much of an impact as a junior in the third phase -- on special teams. The Angleton star only returned three kickoffs and nine punts on the season, averaging only four yards per punt return and picked up only 35 yards on his first two kickoff returns before taking the third 96 yards in the final regular-season game against Manvel.
It's remarkably little production for a player who appears to have the skillset to contribute on special teams in college -- it's possible that teams kick away from him, but he wasn't much more productive as a sophomore, either. It may also be the case that the stats on Maxpreps are not complete, so don't count Diggs out as a potential kick or punt returner at Texas.
Even if Diggs never contributes on as a return man for Texas, he still has the skills to become an excellent defensive back with his fluid hips, recovery speed, and a strong ability to high-point the football for his size. For his part, Diggs also says that his understanding of the quarterback position helps him read and react as a defensive back. it's difficult to tell at this point whether Diggs will play cornerback or safety at Texas, but he has the skills to play either position and may end up safety where his lack of elite height won't be as much of a factor by reducing the number of one-on-one jumpball situations he will face.
There's also an outside shot he could see some time on offense as well, but if Diggs has the desire and pedigree to play defensive back, Mack Brown surely won't stand in his way.
In case you couldn't tell, Quandre is one of my favorite players in the class. This isn't just because of his high talent level either, it's because of how much he loves being a Longhorn and the pride he takes in his commitment. He routinely Facebooks with other commits like Onyegbule, Shipley, and Greenlea about their future plans at UT and how excited he is to be in Austin for the next four years. I also loved his post the day that Christian Westerman decommitted about how Texas is going to win with or without him. Badass. He was another guy, like Chet Moss, who never wavered on his commitment and did his best to keep the class together in the wake of the coaching changes.
As a football player, he has a really great chance to play as a freshman, especially since he's enrolling early. With the youth and almost complete lack of experience at CB, Diggs could definitely get some early run at the Nickel and certainly will at least see time on special teams.
Name: Sheroid Evans (pronounced like Sherrod)
Speed: 4.35 40-yard dash
High School: Fort Bend Dulles
Rating (Rivals): Four out of five (5.8)
Texas Top 100: 25
Track stars don't always work out on the football field, but there is enough evidence to suggest that Evans is more than just a speed guy with pads on to lessen those concerns. And considering that he has, once again, world-class speed, offering him was basically a no-brainer. Duana Akine is regarded in the industry as one of the top molders of defensive back talent and helped turnfrom essentially a track star to a Thorpe Award winner and a physical football player.
So while there's a chance that Evans won't fulfill his potential, it's no more than any other player coming out of high school. In fact, given his unbelievable speed, it's much less than other players and really the worst-case scenario is that he becomes a safety with the speed to always have an angle on virtually anyone in the country. Best-case scenario is that he becomes a lock-down corner and a first-round type when the NFL draft comes calling. Basically, the kid's ceiling is unbelievably high.
Name: Leroy Scott
Speed: 4.4 40-yard dash
High School: South Houston
Rating (Rivals): Three out of five (5.7)
Texas Top 100: 53
Scouting report from his high school coach:
Leroy can play off, he can play bump and run, he's solid on the run force and he does a whole lot of things from the outside. Leroy had some big hits this year. Big hits and cornerbacks are a rarity these days. I feel like he's a complete corner. All of the intangibles are there. He's still constantly working on technique. He has the raw ability. He's doing much better with his bump and run press coverage and that is what he likes to do. The different things technique-wise are what he needs to work on. The athletic ability is there, the body is there and the speed is there.
Much like DeSoto's Adrian White last year, who was tabbed as the state's top corner early in the process before dropping down to a three-star ranking despite a strong performance in the Under Armour All-American game, Scott burst onto the scene early and then had his recruiting ranking drop by the final evaluations. The question is whether he dropped because of what you might call exposure fatigue -- the fact that he had been on the radar for so long and there was so much time for his weaknesses to get picked apart everyone soured on him a little bit, or whether he simply matured early before hitting a plateau in his development.
Like White, Scott has questionable ball skills at times, but has all of the physical talent necessary to succeed in college as a lock-down corner. The thought here is that the services downgraded him significantly both because of exposure fatigue and because of his lack of ability to finish plays limits his upside.
On the positive side, Scott's a strong tackler, so he won't have to go through the same learning process as guys like Curtis Brown before he will play physically in run support -- Scott is already a strong tackler and that's an excellent sign for him as he enters the program.
With both Browns and Aaron Williams leaving the program, Texas is going to have a lot of new faces at cornerback in 2011 and there's a good chance that one of the freshmen will have a chance to earn some playing time in the competition with guys like Carrington Byndom, Bryant Jackson, Eryon Barnett, Kenny Vaccaro (nickel), and White. Quandre Diggs has the jumpstart on the rest of the 2011 class because he's already on campus and Scott figures to be in the mix with Josh Turner as the other two most likely to contribute as freshman, even if it's only on special teams.
Name: Josh Turner
Speed: 4.45 40-yard dash
School: Oklahoma City (OK) Millwood
Rivals ranking: Four of five (5.8)
Oklahoma Top 25: 1
Josh Turner wasn't even on the radar at the time of the first Texas Junior Day, but vaulted to the top of the Texas board at cornerback with his visit for the spring game and became a major target because of his ability to contribute early -- Turner will enroll at Texas shortly after the departures of Curtis and Chykie Brown and possibly Aaron Williams, who could forgo his senior season.
Whatever imperfections his stint as defensive coordinator exposed, Duane Akina's reputation for developing athletes into NFL-caliber defensive backs represents an incredibly appeal for high school athletes who want to play at the next level. Names like Aaron Ross, Michael Huff, Cedric Griffin, Michael Griffin, and Earl Thomas resonate with young players and have helped provide the Longhorns with a reputation as DB U.
It may largely have been that appeal and a desire to get out of the state of Oklahoma that led Turner to become interested in the Longhorns. As a relatively late appearance on the radar and one of the top prospects at his position nationally, it seemed almost impossible that Texas would stand a strong chance of stealing a top prospect out of Oklahoma for the second straight year, an area in which the coaching staff does not expend significant resources recruiting.
As they often do in such circumstances, things began to fall into place for Texas in Turner's recruitment. Though he was not able to attend the second Junior Day due to basketball commitments, the Longhorns took the rare step of offering him without having met him in person and the fluid cornerback did make it down for the spring game, coming away extremely impressed and moving the Longhorns to the top of his list as co-leaders with Miami, his childhood favorite. However, the distance to Coral Gables and a remarkable lack of interest on the part of the Hurricanes eventually removed Miami was consideration, leaving Oklahoma and Nebraska vying with Texas for Turner's services.
Visits to Oklahoma and Nebraska kept Turner from attending the second Texas camp two weeks ago, but if the results are any indication, those trips served only to confirm to Turner what he had known deep in his heart for some time -- that he wanted to become a Texas Longhorn. Choosing not to wait until visiting Austin again, Turner called Mack Brown on Saturday to inform the head coach of his decision.
Originally slated to make a decision some time in June, Turner had pushed back his timetable to take more visits, but after sitting down with his family, decided to put an end to the process ($):
I felt like it was time. I figured, why wait until the end of summer, when I've kind of known where I was going to go? I felt like it was the best fit for me.
The normal combination of the coaching staff, the facilities, and the general atmosphere in Austin all contributed to his commitment, but it may have been a player who helped Texas the most -- fellow Oklahoman Demarco Cobbs. When Turner visited for the spring game, it was Cobbs who spent time with Turner, most likely helping him to understand the consequences of being a Longhorn in Sooner country and dealing with the pressures of leaving the state.
All told, the visit made a strong impression on the young man:
When we first pulled up to the stadium I was like, ‘Wow is this real?’ You only see it on TV. It was great. Coach (Duane) Akina gave us a tour around the building and at night we were accompanied by Demarco Cobbs.
He [Cobbs] seemed like he loved it down there. We talked to some of the other players – A.J. White showed us the dorms. We went over some schemes and stuff like that.
Overall, it was a great experience.
According to Millwood offensive coordinator/recruiting coordinator Kevin Cox, Turner is a Mack Brown type of kid:
He's a kid that is never going to do the wrong thing. He knows especially now with the kind of podium he's on, he knows people are looking at him from every direction. He'll just keep doing what he's been doing, doing the things that got him to where he is.
When all the offers started coming in, he never lost his composure. He's kept a level head and he's worked his tail off.
Turner was a leader for the Millwood track and basketball teams that won state titles this past season, and he's a player the Millwood coaching staff uses as an example for its other student-athletes.
Texas is getting a kid that is 17 years old, but handles himself like he's 24 or 25. He's all about family, he does things the right way. He's a great example for his brothers, and a great example for his teammates. When we have a kid not doing things right, we tell them to go hang out with Josh and do what he's doing.
If his coach is correct, Turner should not have any struggles adjusting to the environment at Texas and the increase in competition level, both important factors considering that securing commitments from cornerbacks who could contribute early was a major need in the class. Prospective defensive backs like Mykkele Thompson and Quandre Diggs are not yet locked into a position and Sheroid Evans could play safety or cornerback, leaving Leroy Scott as the only other pure cornerback in the class. Turner provides the Longhorns with another pure cornerback who could come in and contribute early, no doubt part of Texas' appeal to the Oklahoma City prep sensation.
Instant scouting report:
A two-way star on the gridiron for Millwood, Turner also lead his high school to state championships in track and basketball this spring -- the kid is a flat-out all-around athlete and winner. Ranked as the second-best cornerback prospect in the nation by Rivals, Turner lacks ideal experience at the position and hasn't received a ton of coaching there, but possesses all the attributes to become a lockdown corner at Texas and earn himself a shot at playing in the NFL.
Turner's Onto the Radar post described the attributes that made him such a sought-after recruit:
Like the great majority of future collegiate cornerbacks, Turner plays both ways for Oklahoma City Millwood, starring as a receiver and cornerback. His speed is apparent in all three phases of the game, but what stands out about Turner with the ball in his hands is that he has exceptional balance and willingness to take hits and pick up tough yardage. His balance is reminiscent of current Texas cornerback Curtis Brown, who has renowned in high school for being able to keep his feet in extreme circumstances, while his toughness recalls another current Longhorn, DJ Monroe.
Turner's frame is much closer to Brown than it is to Monroe, as both Turner and Brown are about six feet tall and possess lanky builds, though Turner may have even smaller wrists, elbows, and knees -- his Rivals page lists him at 185 pounds, but there's no way that Turner goes any more than 160 at the most and probably won't be able to add a great deal of weight to that frame in college.
However, his aforementioned toughness with the ball extends to the defensive side of the ball, where Turner shows enough to allay any concerns about his tackling ability. Turner doesn't have the frame of a kid like Avery Walls, but he shows an ability to use good tackling form to impart force on ballcarriers, using his momentum and knee bend to wrap up opponents and drive them to the ground -- a young Curtis Brown he is not. Basically, Turner probably won't have to add much mass to tackle well in college because he understands how to use the mass he already possesses.
The physicailty is a nice benefit for a cornerback, but it's speed, explosiveness and fluid hips that make a top-notch player at the position and Turner appears to have those qualities on film. On offense, his explosiveness makes him a big-play threat whenever he has the ball in his hands and on defense it does and will allow him to run with eite receivers on deep routes. Turner's film doesn't show him flipping his hips a great deal, but he does look fluid when he has to and shows elite-level recovery and initial acceleration -- he clearly gets to top speed in less than three steps, allowing him to break on routes and helps make up for any mistakes he might make. Once he gets himself into the vicinity using his speed, his ball skills carry over from the offensive side to the defensive side, allowing him to finish plays with interceptions.
It's his ball skills and capability to break big plays after interceptions or in the kicking game that helps make Turner a top prospect. While fellow commit Leroy Scott has all the tools to become a lockdown cornerback, Turner rates more highly by most services because of his ball skills and ability to finish plays with interceptions, increasingly a point of emphasis in recruiting for the Longhorns and an area in which Turner excels, while Scott sometimes fights the football.
In watching his film again, Turner does struggle at times with his tackling form, often attacking the ball carrier with his knees locked, keeping him from imparting any force on his opponent. However, he does show enough flashes of physicality both as a receiver and as a defensive back that he shouldn't have the same problems Deon Beasley faced of seemingly not wanting to be a presence in the secondary as a tackler.
And while his technique at cornerback may leave something to be desired, Turner is known for learning quickly at camps and will receive tutoring from one of the best in the business in Duane Akina. His pure talent should help him contribute early and since he is already locked into a position at cornerback, he could see significant playing time as a freshman and could pass a player like Eryon Barnett on the depth chart if the tall cornerback doesn't have a strong redshirt freshman season.
Name: Mykkele Thompson
Speed: 4.5 40-yard dash
High School: SA Stevens
Rating (Rivals): Four out of five (5.8)
Texas Top 100: 30
For a school that selects more than it recruits, it's often easy to identify players because they spend so much time on the recruiting radar, often emerging as the top players in the state during their sophomore seasons. Thompson is proof that at times the Texas assistant coaches can actually do a good job of evaluating and finding underappreciated talent.
Ultimately, Thompson's value will rest on the position at which he ends up. At cornerback, he could be extremely valuable because of his height and ability to contest jump balls. However, there are a ton of question marks about whether he can play that position and the fact of the matter is that there are few cornerbacks with his height -- he's just not the prototype.
As a safety, Thompson has less value because it's easier to find players to fill that position and while he could still be a strong contributor there, the contribution just isn't worth as much. There's also a chance that he could end up on the offensive side of the ball at receiver, a recent development since the staff changes. The word from Thompson is that the staff will have a discussion about where he starts.
Given the need at the cornerback position and how difficult it is to find cornerbacks with Thompson's height, it makes sense to start him out there and if he sticks, then the Longhorns have a major find on their hands. If not safety is a fall-back option. Playing him on offense seems like a long-shot because of the depth at the position, so it only makes sense to move him there if some attrition happens in this spring, otherwise he'd likely get buried on the depth chart, a possibility at safety as well.