The 2009 Texas Longhorns recruiting class was a disaster

Darren Carroll

What follows is not for the faint of heart.

It's no secret that the Texas Longhorns have struggled in the depth department over the last two years, a big reason why they played more true freshmen than anyone else in the country in 2011 and 2012.

All told, the Kansas St. depth chart at the end of the regular season featured 30 players on the two deep who were true freshmen, redshirt freshmen, or sophomores.

With the announcement from the school on Sunday evening that offensive guard Thomas Ashcraft, defensive tackle Kyle Kriegel, and tight end Trey Graham will be giving up their final seasons of eligibility, the book has basically been written about the 2009 group, which will feature only offensive guard Mason Walters, center Garrett Porter, and defensive tackle Chris Whaley next season.

All told, the only other three players from the group to have exhausted their eligibility at Texas so far are safety Kenny Vaccaro, defensive end Alex Okafor, wide receiver Marquise Goodwin, and tight end Barrett Matthews.

Of the 21 players in a class ranked third in the country by ESPN and fifth by Rivals, the Longhorns got only four starters or significant contributors, an absolutely incredible bust rate. And high team recruiting rankings come about because of a large number of four- and five-star prospects -- Texas had three five-stars (Garrett Gilbert, Mason Walters, Alex Okafor), and 11 four-star prospects. Nearly 75% of the class were players basically considered can't-miss prospects.

Let's go through player by player and see what went wrong:

Tariq Allen, Irving Nimitz linebacker

Accolades: US Army All-American, Prep All-American, two-time All State, member of ESPN150

Notable offers: Texas A&M, Oklahoma

Ranking: 4* (Rivals 5.8)

Allen redshirted his freshman season and then left the team before making a single tackle in his career. A brief stint back at practice in the fall of 2011 never resulted in anything and Allen's football career now appears to be over without ever contributing anything anywhere.

Verdict: Be careful about taking slow-footed middle linebackers best suited for the Big 10 or SEC as a team in a spread league.

Thomas Ashcraft, Cedar Hill offensive lineman

Accolades: Under Armour All-American, Prep All-American, fifth-best guard prospect nationally by ESPN, Rivals250 and ESPN150 prospect

Notable offers: Nebraska, Oklahoma, Oklahoma St., Texas A&M, Texas Tech

Ranking: 4* (Rivals 5.8)

Regarded as a relatively athletic interior line prospect, Ashcraft was highly considered by the recruiting services and other schools coming out of high school, but he was never really in shape at Texas and failed to crack the rotation.

His most memorable play came during the Alamo Bowl when he tackled an Oregon St. punt returner. In fact, it was his only memorable play and greatest contribution to the program in his four years before the Longhorns announced on Sunday that he has given up football.

Verdict: Be extremely careful about recruiting pear-shaped offensive linemen. Better yet, don't recruit pear-shaped offensive linemen.

Eryon Barnett, Euless Trinity defensive back

Accolades: Member of the Rivals250

Notable offers: Miami, Oklahoma

Ranking: 4* (Rivals 5.8)

Multiple injuries kept Barnett's career from ever getting off the ground. As a freshman, Barnett played in several games before going down with a season-ending injury. Then in 2010, he missed more time with an injury and then missed the 2011 spring and fall with another injury.

By that point, he was serious attrition fodder and finally left the program for good last spring after an arrest for public intoxication. But he was still around for a while though, managing to become the fourth member of the Pizza Trio, during which he played the starring role as John Doe, the player who refused to identify himself to police.

Barnett ended up at Montana St., where he spent the 2012 season, though stats and his level of contribution are difficult to ascertain.

Verdict: Some insights into Barnett's character haven't exactly told an appealing tale, so he might not have been successful at Texas even had he been healthy, though it's clear that injuries were the overriding factor in derailing his Texas career.

Marcus Davis, League City Clear Creek defensive back

Accolades: US Army All-American, Prep All-American

Notable offers: Florida, Florida St., Nebraska, Oklahoma, UCLA, Texas A&M, Texas Tech

Ranking: 4* (Rivals 5.9)

As a freshman, Davis had a promising start to his career, playing in a handful of games, recording 10 tackles and a sack, and flashing the ability to excel as a nickel corner under former defensive coordinator Will Muschamp.

Instead of going on to a successful career as a Longhorn, however, Davis was arrested the spring after his freshman season, having made the mistake of driving around a flat tire while intoxicated and carrying a controlled substance on his person. Brilliant.

Davis subsequently transferred to Oregon after he was suspended indefinitely by Mack Brown, but only spent the fall there before washing out of the program in early 2011 and then falling off the map.

Verdict: Davis wasted a great deal of talent due to personal issues, making him one of those tragic football stories.

Garrett Gilbert, Lake Travis quarterback

Accolades: Virtually every player of the year award around, Under Armour All-American

Notable offers: Arizona, Nebraska, Stanford, Texas A&M, Texas Tech

Ranking: 5* (Rivals 6.1)

This one is pretty simple -- Gilbert was a flat-out bust, as bad at SMU last season as he was at Texas for his two-plus seasons in burnt orange. Perhaps it was the hitch in his delivery or the benefits of playing under Chad Morris in high school, but Gilbert never had what it took to play the position at a high level, despite his numerous accolades coming in.

Besides waiting to anoint players at the most difficult position in sports at which to excel, the major lesson from the whole escapade was that Texas could not afford to pass over a year of recruiting at quarterback in order to place all future hope on one player.

Verdict: Quarterbacks are incredibly hard to project from high school to college and from college to the NFL. Take a quarterback every year.

Marquise Goodwin, Rowlett wide receiver

Accolades: Won the 2008 World Junior Championships in the long jump, won the 2009 US Championship in the same event, among other track and field achievements

Notable offers: Nebraska, Oklahoma, Oregon, Texas A&M, Washington

Ranking: 3* (Rivals 5.7)

At the time that Goodwin enrolled at Texas, it wasn't clear if he would ever contribute to the football -- he was taken primarily as a track and field athlete in the long jump, though he's also run a 10.38 100m before. Somewhat unexpectedly, Goodwin contributed as a freshman, finishing third on the single-season reception list at Texas for a freshman with 30, one of which went for a huge touchdown against Oklahoma in the Cotton Bowl, where Goodwin made several big plays.

In the end, the bigger question was probably why Goodwin didn't receive the ball more after making huge plays against both Ole Miss and Oregon St. when he was fully involved in the offense. Against Kansas, the game didn't truly change until Goodwin took a push-pass jet sweep and scampered 41 big yards.

Verdict: Given Goodwin's track abilities, anything that he provided the football program was always going to be a bonus. In that respect, he was one of the best takes in the class. If Rivals was to rank Goodwin again after his career, he probably would have been significantly higher than no. 63 in the state, where the service placed him after his senior season.

Trey Graham, Waco Midway tight end

Accolades: Two-time All State selection, ranked in the top 10 nationally at his position by ESPN and Rivals

Notable offers: TCU

Ranking: 3* (Rivals 5.7)

Like Barnett, Graham's career at Texas never really got started, missing the 2010 and 2011 season with right knee injuries after redshirting. Never the same, Graham spent the 2012 season on the roster, but opted to give up football instead of using his final season of eligibility and never caught a pass at Texas.

Verdict: Injuries, plain and simple.

Calvin Howell, SA Warren defensive tackle

Accolades: US Army All-American, Prep All-American, Rivals100

Notable offers: Missouri, Nebraska, Oklahoma, Oklahoma St, TCU, Texas A&M, Tennessee, Texas Tech

Ranking: 4* (Rivals 6.0)

Known as the player who called out Jamarkus McFarland at the 2009 US Army Bowl, Howell was expected to become a leader in the program. A concussion slowed his development in 2010, but in 2011 he started seven games and made some plays, including a forced and recovered fumble in the Holiday Bowl.

Instead of going back to work and preparing for a breakout junior season, Howell instead was arrested in San Marcos in late January of 2011 on charges of possession of marijuana. Several days later, Howell announced his decision to transfer, raising questions about whether he had failed drug tests in the past, as such an arrest is not normally enough cause for a player to leave the team.

Like Davis, it is not clear where Howell is now.

Verdict: Howell could have had a shot at the NFL had he kept on improving from his sophomore to his junior to his senior season, but a poor choice (likely preceded by other poor choices) appears to have ended his football career.

Derek Johnson, Hoxie (AR) defensive tackle

Accolades: Prep All-American, Offense-Defense All-American, third-best player in Arkansas

Notable offers: Arkansas, Ole Miss, Oklahoma

Ranking: 4* (Rivals 5.8)

It didn't take long for rumors of Johnson being homesick to start. It seems that he had a child before he left for Texas, which was surely a major reason for those feelings. After his redshirt freshman season, Johnson decided to transfer during the summer of 2010.

Johnson has a bio on the Arkansas St. site, which listed him as making two tackles in five games in 2010, which means that he must have been granted a hardship waiver. He was not listed on the 2011 or 2012 Arkansas St. rosters, so he apparently washed out of the Red Wolves program or suffered an injury that ended his career.

Verdict: Johnson and his personal reasons for leaving probably reinforce why Mack Brown is hesitant to go out of state to recruit.

Dominique Jones, Kilgore tight end/defensive end

Accolades: Nothing particularly significant

Notable offers:

Ranking: 3* (Rivals 5.6)

Jones moved to tight end shortly after arriving on campus and managed to catch two passes in 2010 and then started five games as the primary blocking tight end before being declared academically ineligible for the Holiday Bowl and never making it back with the team.

It does not appear that Jones played football anywhere in 2012.

Verdict: Perhaps a little bit of a reach, Jones could have been the blocking tight end in 2012 and filled a valuable role had he been able to stay eligible.

Paden Kelley, Lake Travis offensive tackle

Accolades: Under Armour All-American, Prep All-American, starter on back-to-back state championship teams

Notable offers: Oklahoma St., TCU, Texas A&M

Ranking: 3* (Rivals 5.7)

At a position where the Longhorns have had innumerable flops, Kelley actually looked poised to contribute in the tackle rotation heading into his junior season after starting a game as a redshirt freshman and then appearing in all 13 games in 2012.

Kelley instead decided to quit football before the 2012 season.

Verdict: It's a little bit disappointing to find a rare offensive line prospect actually able to stay at tackle at Texas and then find out, just when the team really needed him, that he didn't even like football.

Kyle Kriegel, Elysian Fields defensive end

Accolades: Nothing particularly significant

Notable offers: Oklahoma St.

Ranking: 3* (Rivals 5.5)

It's unlikely that Kriegel ever would have broken the rotation at defensive tackle, but the move he made in 2010 to offensive line before moving back to defensive tackle in 2012 probably ensured that. The high school defensive end posted his only career tackle against Ole Miss and participated in four other games.

Verdict: Kriegel basically sacrified his chances of contributing to help the team, but certainly appears to have been a questionable take.

Barrett Matthews, Galena Park North Shore tight end

Accolades: Under Armour All-American, Prep All-American, Rivals150 member

Notable offers: Arizona

Ranking: 3* (Rivals 5.7)

Matthews could have benefitted from a redshirt season and an early move to H-back, but his upside was always limited after he proved that he couldn't catch the ball during the 2010 season. Always a strong blocker, Matthews was undersized to play the in-line tight end position and was reduced by spot duty by the end of his senior season. He finished his Texas career with only three catches in his last two seasons.

Verdict: In any other class, Matthews wouldn't be a disappointment as a multi-year contributor, but the other busts in the class raise the standard, and by that standard, the fact that Matthews couldn't catch the ball or find a larger role as an H-back or fullback is disappointing. Also, don't count on tight ends to catch the ball in college if they never had a chance to in high school.

Tevin Mims, Round Rock Stony Point defensive end

Accolades: Ranked as the 16th-best prospect in the state by Rivals

Notable offers: Arizona, Texas A&M, TCU, Texas Tech

A late addition to the class, Mims saw his stock blow up after a growth spurt and a big-time senior season for a strong Stony Point squad. As a freshman, Mims flashed against Wyoming with two tackles, including one behind the line of scrimmage.

Mims has now turned into a solid contributor at South Florida after a year at Navarro College, the school to which he transferred after having academic difficulties in Austin, and registered 35 tackles, 3.5 tackles for loss, two sacks, and a forced fumble in a starting role as a junior for the Bulls.

Verdict: Perhaps the academic issues should have been anticipated based on his high school years, but the evaluation of Mims and late take were not a mistake, as Mims has proven by becoming a collegiate starter.

Patrick Nkwopara, South Grand Praire linebacker

Accolades: Ha

Notable offers: Ha

Ranking: 3* (Rivals 5.5)

Listed at a generous 5-11, Nkwopara was the first take by former defensive coordinator Will Muschamp at Texas. He never recorded a tackle at Texas in five games on special teams as a redshirt freshman and left the program in 2011 to focus on academics.

Verdict: Just a bad, bad take. What were you thinking, Coach Boom?

Alex Okafor, Pflugerville defensive end

Accolades: US Army All-American, Prep All-American, Parade All-American, nation's top strongside defensive end by Rivals

Notable offers: Auburn, Nebraska, Oklahoma, Stanford, Texas Tech

A prospect who would have probably compiled an even more impressive national offer list had he not ended his recruitment in March of 2008, Okafor absolutely lived up to his five-star expectations at Texas, turning in one of the best performances by a defensive lineman

Even the move inside to defensive tackle in 2010, where he played at 260 pounds, was a black mark on his career -- despite being undersized, Okafor always played hard and there were never any rumors about him complaining or being a poor teammate.

He finished his Texas career as a two-time All-Big 12 selection and 2012 Big 12 Defensive Player of the year by CBSSports.com, having led the team in sacks (8.0), quarterback pressures (18), tackles for loss (12), and forced fumbles (3).

Verdict: Texas gets a lot of heat for busted five-star prospects, but Okafor absolutely lived up to his billing and should have a long and productive NFL career.

Garrett Porter, Odessa Permian offensive tackle

Accolades: US Army All-American, Prep All-American

Notable offers: Arizona, Texas Tech, Virginia

Ranking: 4* (Rivals 6.0)

What's that? An offensive tackle prospect recruited by Texas who was never able to play on the outside, and in fact never contributed at all?

At least Porter isn't alone in that regard, having failed to significantly crack the rotation or steal playing time from a younger, smaller center in Dominic Espinosa who has had some bad moments against big, strong nose tackles.

At least Porter seems to have had fun playing in his band, which is about the only thing he ever tweets about. No word on how a football player in college can have time for a band.

Verdict: Bust. It's not clear why Porter is still occupying a scholarship.

Greg Timmons, Aldine Eisenhower wide receiver

Accolades: US Army All-American, Prep All-American, ranked as top wide receiver in the state by Rivals

Notable offers: Texas A&M

Ranking: 4* (Rivals 5.9)

After redshirting in 2009, Timmons appeared in six games in 2010, but never caught a pass for Texas and transfered during the summer of 2011 amid reports of poor work ethic. It does not appear that he has played football since.

Verdict: Bobby Kennedy was not very good at his job.

Kenny Vaccaro, Brownwood Early defensive back

Accolades: Nothing particularly significant

Notable offers: Florida, Oklahoma, Stanford, TCU, Texas Tech

Ranking: 4* (Rivals 5.8)

From punching a law student in Gregory to the Pizza Trio incident, Vaccaro was not always the most mature player on or off the field, but he was one of the best that Texas had, turning in an outstanding career that provided further evidence as to why Texas is DBU.

Vaccaro's Superman-like leap over Cal running back Isi Sofele remains as one of the single greatest individual plays in the last several years of Texas football. All told, the Brownwood native finished his career with 257 tackles, a selection as a 2012 All-American by Pro Football Weekly, as a two-time All-Big 12 first team selection, and received numerous awards from his teammates at the December football banquet.

Whatever else he was off the field, Vaccaro was a good teammate on the field and played the game with recklessness and intensity.

Verdict: A tough football player and one of the few saviors of the class, Vaccaro should have a long and productive NFL career if he can stay out of his own way.

Mason Walters, Wolforth Frenship offensive tackle

Accolades: Under Armour All-American, Prep All-American, Parade All-American, EA Sports All-American, ranked as ESPN's top center

Notable offers: Arizona, Notre Dame, Oklahoma St., Stanford, Texas A&M, Texas Tech, USC

Ranking: 5* (Rivals 6.1)

When Walters got to Austin, virtually everyone thought that he would be a future offensive tackle, probably the franchise left tackle protecting the blindspot of Garrett Gilbert during his glorious era leading Texas to conference and national titles.

Instead, Walters has started the last 37 games at right guard for the 'Horns, a number that seems impressive, but belies a performance level that has always left fans wanting a little bit more. At this point, Walters may be what he is heading into his senior season -- an okay starting college guard who is far from a standout.

Verdict: Walters has become a solid contributor, but has never emerged as the difference-maker expected when he showed up on campus.

Chris Whaley, Madisonville running back

Accolades: US Army All-American, Prep All-American, member of Rivals100, ESPN150

Notable offers: Florida St., Nebraska, Notre Dame, Oklahoma, Oklahoma St., Texas A&M, Texas Tech

Ranking: 4* (Rivals 5.9)

The Longhorns passed up on a number of other running backs in the 2009 class, most notably Stepfan Taylor and Christine Michael, all because Mack Brown had told Whaley he would be the only running back taken in the class. After all, why take another running back when Brown considered Whaley to be the best in the country?

The only problem was that Whaley was listed as 230 pounds coming out high school and was probably up to around 260 or so by the time that he was done redshirting. Whaley never carried the ball at Texas after moving to H-back before the start of his redshirt freshman season, eventually moving to defensive end by his sophomore year and then sliding in to defensive tackle.

Whaley is now an extremely athletic 290-pound defensive tackle who has an outside shot at making an NFL roster if he can make the leap as a senior he was expected by some to make as a junior.

Verdict: Don't let Mack Brown evaluate running backs.

****

First of all, apologies for driving everyone to drink. Second of all, it's absolutely astonishing all the different ways that this Texas class fell apart.

Of the 21 players in the class, only five of them have become starters, if one chooses to include Whaley in that group (he started nine games as a junior). It is likely at this point that only two will become NFL players. More amazing is the fact that only seven will complete their eligibility with Texas, assuming that Porter is with the team in the fall.

Here's how the 14 others break down -- four transferred (Allen, Gilbert, Timmons, and Johnson), two had legal problems (Davis and Howell), two left the team because of grades (Mims and Jones), two had multiple major injuries (Graham and Barnett), and four just gave up football, either because they weren't good at it (Kriegel, Nkwopara, Ashcraft) or because they didn't like it (Kelley).

In some ways, the class was probably a perfect storm of players who had character issues and should not have been at Texas, players who should have not have been recruited by Texas, and perhaps even, in terms of the three failed offensive linemen, guys who never developed under Mac McWhorter (or Stacy Searels). More significantly, though, the class was a sign of the institutional malaise that had crept over the program.

In the whole class, the only overachievers have been Vaccaro and Goodwin, and Okafor the only one who truly lived up to his prep hype.

The other 18 have been disappointments in some sense, leaving plenty of blame to go around among the Texas coaches on the staff at that time, though much of it ultimately falls on head coach Mack Brown as the ringleader. And that many disappointments have essentially made it a lost class -- no wonder Texas hasn't been able to compete at a conference championship-level.

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