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Phil Steele Review, Part One: Positional Rankings

The venerable Phil Steele's annual preview guide is out, and I got my grubby hands on a copy. We're not ready to start talking nationally just yet, but it's never too early to talk Texas.

If you've ever read Steele's guide, then you know how packed with information the thing is. We couldn't possibly review his Texas section with just one post, and won't try to. This is the first of a series, and we'll start with his national positional rankings.

Positional Rankings

Not surprisingly, a healthy number of the Longhorns projected starters find themselves ranked among the nation's best, but there are some surprises. Steele's positional rankings include the following Longhorns:

Brian Orakpo (#40, DE)

Eddie Jones (#47, DE)

Aaron Lewis (#54, DE)

Frank Okam (#2, DT)

Roy Miller (#5, DT)

Rashad Bobino (#11, ILB)

Robert Killebrew (#12, OLB)

Sergio Kindle, (#29, OLB)

Cedrick Dockery (#11, OG)

Tony Hills (#18, OT)

Adam Ulatoski (#57, OT)

Colt McCoy (#22, QB)

Jamaal Charles (#6, RB)

Jermichael Finley (#18, TE)

Limas Sweed (#1, WR)

Billy Pittman (#35, WR)

Quan Cosby (#54, WR)

Projected Texas starters not ranked: Charlie Tanner, Dallas Griffin, Marcus Griffin, Drew Kelson, Deon Beasley, Brandon Foster. (We'll grant Steele that he believes Kindle, Bobino, and Killebrew will be the starting LBs.)

Commentary: These rankings illustrate both why a national preview magazine is inevitably going to miss a little bit, as well as why if you're going to buy just one of these national books, Steele's is the one.

On defense, Steele is appropriately enthused about Okam and Miller, but leaving Lokey off the list altogether will (in this blogger's view) prove to be something Steele regrets... Steele's Defensive End rankings look fair, and he's insightful to slip Jones up ahead of Lewis. I see that coming to pass before '07 is done... Listing Robert Killebrew as the 12th best OLB in the country is borderline criminal; he was a giant disappointment last season... If he stays healthy, Roddrick Muckelroy may be All-Big 12 before this season is done - Steele's going to regret not listing him anywhere... I can't say I disagree with Steele's decision not to list any member of Texas' secondary in his rankings. Where the Texas DBs are experienced, they are flawed. Where they are uber-talented, they are young and inexperienced. It's going to be a(nother) interesting year.

On offense, Steele's offensive line rankings fall in line with the conventional wisdom of Longhorn fans: Hills and Dockery are strong players, but beyond that, there are big questions... Colt McCoy at #22 looks low to me, but Steele may be hedging his bets to some extent here. McCoy does have durability issues following the stinger injury. Still, my view is that this offense is going to be focused on Colt and the receivers as the primary weapon. (Oddly, in the Texas section, Steele notes that he likes McCoy to improve on his ridiculous freshman numbers. Doesn't seem totally consistent with his QB ranking, unless it's an injury hedge... Cosby and Pittman should be reversed in their rankings. Pittman's a very talented receiver, but Cosby and Colt have a silly connection building. I wouldn't blink if Cosby approached a Texas single-season receptions record... Finley at #18 will prove to be a mistake. He's about to take a Big step forward, and is practically unguardable already.