State of the nation. Or, state or the nation? SI's Andy Staples takes a look at the state of national recruiting in his excellent article, sparking a series of posts by Scipio Tex over at BC about the ramifications for Texas. Basically, Staples' idea is that the key to recruiting is luring players who are geographically close, usually within 200 miles, and being close to the recruiting hotbeds of California, Texas, Florida, and the Dirty South. So what does that mean for nationally recruiting? As Scipio Tex points out, even in Texas talent isn't evenly distributed across the positions every year, which causes unbalanced classes and serious talent drop-offs. As examples, think of the linebacker situation during the Derry/Bobino/Killebrew years and the lack of quality secondary play when Huff/the Griffins/Brown/Ross matriculated and left the defensive backfield bereft of playmakers.
As a result, national recruiting is necessary to fill Texas talent gaps, but how to go about it? Scipio Tex has five recommendations:
1. Stick to the in-state knitting. When the state lacks in an area, look outside.
2. The obvious place to look to explore a need is California.
3. Obviously check out OOS legacies (Kasey Studdard) and any special coaching staff "in."
4. If there's a game changer somewhere (yes, even SEC country) who expresses a consistent interest in Texas and makes the requisite effort to demonstrate this (camp attendance, unofficials), pursue them.
5. Don't throw random darts at the national Top 100 or do Dennis Franchione-style scholarship cropduster drops. California is interesting to me because it's easy. Luring a kid from Miami isn't.
With the lack of top programs in California, it makes sense to start there when nationally recruiting, that's pretty basic logic. Add in the obvious similarities between the weather in Austin and in Southern California and the incentive is clearly there.
What Scipio Tex doesn't mention about forays into SEC country is the Will Muschamp wild card. While it doesn't make sense to actively pursue players from Florida because of the intense competition, it does make sense for Muschamp to continue to use his contacts to pick several national recruits every year to go after.
Dre Kirkpatrick and Jarvis Jones are the test cases for that theory, as Muschamp had long relationships with both from his Auburn days. Neither one is expected to choose Texas, with Kirkpatrick likely staying at home in Alabama and Jones going to Florida, lending further credence to Staples' conclusions.
It may be that Muschamp should continue to go after guys he already has relationships with for the 2010 class or so, but it may not be worthwhile to start forging new relationships with recruits if his initial efforts don't net any results. In other words, there may be something there, but if there isn't, use the time and resources to pursue Texas athletes who are much more likely to commit.
The key for out-of-state recruits, as Scipio Tex says, is to pursue the kids who have long had an interest in Texas and express that interest, like Ohio linebacker Jordan Hicks, who wears burnt orange paraphernalia around his school and paid his own way to a Texas camp last summer.
Jeffcoat, analyzed. Plano West defensive end Jackson Jeffcoat has the combination of production, pedigree, and raw talent that makes him one of the top several players in the 2010 class and a top national recruit. Analyzing most high school film comes with the caveat of the talented player you're watching going against much less talented players who will never play a down of competitive football after their high school career. What makes this bit of film so valuable is that it pits Jeffcoat against serious talent -- 2009 Texas commit Thomas Ashcraft and 2010 prospect Adam Shead of Cedar Hill.
What Jeffcoat shows ($) is his elite explosiveness off the ball, more reminiscent of a skill position player than a defensive end. Using that explosiveness, Jeffcoat can run by offensive lineman and also pursue plays from the backside, much like Alex Okafor, though Jeffcoat might even be more advanced technically. He also uses his quick feet to stutter inside and leave attempted blocker Adam Shead absolutely in the dust when the guard fails to get his hands into Jeffcoat's body. In fact, he's so fast that most offensive lineman don't even have a chance to get their hands into him. For some evidence that Ashcraft doesn't have the feet to play left tackle, Jeffcoat simply runs by him after using his hands to keep Ashcraft out of his body. He also shows an impressive slipperiness when offensive lineman try to block him, as Jeffcoat almost effortlessly avoids them when the opposing player loses their balance trying to get into his body.
Despite his long and lanky frame, he shows no problems using leverage and his lower body to stand up opposing lineman and shed them while moving laterally down the ine of scrimmage on running plays. On another play, Jeffcoat stands up two blockers, keeping his outside shoulder free to tackle the running back when entering his area.
In most of the recruiting spotlights I've written about defensive lineman recently, I've talked a lot about how few high schools players at that position have anything even approaching sound technique. Jeffcoat does, undoubtedly the result of having a father who not only played in the NFL, but currently coaches those same techniques at Houston. When combined with his natural ability, Jeffcoat's incredibly developed technique makes him almost unblockable at the high school level.
Note: Jeffcoat wears #42. The film below is not the film I analyzed, but it is worthwhile to watch because it highlights his prodigious skills, in particular his ability to get up in the air and knock down passes, with one particularly athletic play where he tips the ball in the air, then finds it and makes a diving catch.
Another 2011 basketball target. Unlike football at Texas, which operates on a year-to-year basis in offering recruits, basketball works in a much different manner, evidenced by the Longhorns already possessing two commitments for 2010 and one commitment for 2011. There is another early Texas target in that 2011 class, Wayne Blackshear of Chicago, another national recruit and recipient of an early scholarship offer.
The 6-5, 210-pound shooting guard/small forward is averaging 16 points, eight rebounds, and five blocks a game this season and possesses slashing ability, rebounding acumen, and a decent stroke out to 20 feet, as well as significant blocking prowess. He has the length to be a good defender in the future, but doesn't yet give maximum defensive effort, while also needing to improve his strength ($) and work on his ball handling.
As an example of how the success on the football field can influence basketball recruiting and the cross pollination that occurs at schools successful in basketball as well, Blackshear took an unofficial visit to Austin in the fall to take in the Missouri football game. He does say that "it would be nice" to stay in the state of Illinois, making the University of Illinois a serious contender, a school he has already visited and from which he's received an offer.
2010 targets: Quarterbacks. While the number of quarterbacks taken in the 2010 class may depend on whether John Chiles decides to transfer, the Longhorns will certainly take one signal-caller and perhaps one more for pure number's sake. Foremost on the list is Houston Baptist quarterback Connor Wood, who may be more of a prototypical player for what the Longhorns ask of their quarterback than even a young Colt McCoy or Garrett Gilbert. And no, that's not hyperbole. At 6-4, 210-pounds, Wood runs a 4.6 40 and, if he commits, would possibly be the most athletically gifted Texas quarterback out of high school since Vince Young, posting a 32-inch vertical at the Scout Combine. Not to say he's Vince Young, of course, because that comparison got tired a long time ago and Wood isn't even in the same stratosphere, but Wood is a better and more athletic runner in high school than either McCoy or Gilbert.
The obvious issue, of course, is that Gilbert will be in the class in front of Wood. Working that out logically, with Gilbert expected to play next season and Wood more than likely to take a redshirt year, that means Wood would have to wait until his junior season to start if Gilbert stays all four years. Three years is a long time to wait and even though Wood seems to like Texas and will seriously consider becoming a Longhorn, he will have other big-time offers to schools where he can play much more quickly. Could be the deal breaker.
After Wood, the mostly likely candidate is the other quarterback holding a February 8 junior day invite, none other than Colt's little brother, Case, who would benefit greatly from a redshirt year to put some more muscle on his 6-2, 175-pound frame, which looks about as lanky as Colt's did when he came out of high school, while Case seems to have longer arms. Even if Chiles stays, the Longhorns could offer little McCoy and Connor Wood, with McCoy much more likely to commit. Two other quarterbacks as back-up plans include a Colordao kid named Austin Hinder who likes the Longhorns but hasn't heard much from them, and Cuero's Tyler Arndt.
The 2010 class isn't nearly as deep at quarterback as the 2009 class, with Connor Wood the only quarterback from the class likely to project as a starter at Texas, with McCoy probably a back-up (yes, I know the same was said about Colt) and the other quarterbacks mostly roster filler and emergency options in case of a series of catastrophic quarterback injuries.
Only Arkansas and Texas remain for Hamilton. The news out of Texarkana ($) is that freshly-offered 2009 wide receiver Cobi Hamilton narrowed his list down to Texas and Arkansas after taking visits from both the Auburn coaching staff and Texas coaching staff on Wednesday at his school. Hamilton will visit Austin on Friday to take his final official visit and tour the campus and facilities, expecting to make a decision next week.
With his parents Arkansas alums and his former high school quarterback Ryan Mallett at Arkansas, Arkansas looks to have the edge, particularly in need, as they will graduate the starter at Hamilton's position next year. Despite the depth at wide receiver for Texas, it's not hard to see Hamilton in a Longhorn uniform, particularly since he attends Texas High School, which sports orange jerseys not quite as burnt as the ones in which the Longhorns take the field on home Saturdays.