Top five commitments so far. With 10 players having already verbally pledged to attend Texas, but little news in the last two days, it's time to start making lists. Everybody likes lists! Here's my list for the top five commitments already. Feel free to chime in with your own.
Taylor Bible, defensive tackle, Denton Guyer - Jason Suchomel mentioned the other day during an installment of AMP ($) that Bible could end up as one of the top several defensive tackles not only in the state of Texas, but also in the country. Watching film on Bible and seeing his rare explosiveness for a defensive tackle, Suchomel's statement falls far from hyperbole. Add in the difficulty of finding defensive tackles and Bible's commitment is huge, not only removing that painful drama, but also providing Texas with needed depth on the interior of the line.
Ahmad Dixon, safety, Waco Midway - Scout's Baron Flenory has lots of good things to say ($) about Dixon, giving a preliminary five-star ranking to Dixon, which should make every Texas fan extremely excited about his commitment. Big-time talent. He doesn't have the size of Craig Loston, but he does hit hard and will immediately become the most physical safety on the Texas roster upon enrollment, along with Christian Scott. Longhorn fans can only hope that he picks up the scheme more quickly than Scott.
Aaron Benson, linebacker, Cedar Hill - It's common knowledge now that the linebacker class in the state is as deep as it has been in a long time and Benson is right near the top. With three starters graduating after the 2009 season, replacements are in order and Benson has the range to play against spread offenses, making him a perfect fit. Texas really needed to land one of Nelson or Benson, so getting Benson guarantees the quality of the 2009 Longhorn linebacker class and helps secure the future of the position.
Tevin Jackson, linebacker, Garland - In the first couple of days after his commitment, there wasn't any film available on Jackson, or much information in general, making evaluation difficult. Well, the film is up ($) and Jackson is a physical presence in the middle of the field, significantly more physical than Benson, though he isn't ranked as highly as the Cedar Hill product or Skyline's Corey Nelson. Yet. A big senior season from Jackson could vault him up the recruiting lists and watching him strike opposing players makes that a distinct possibility. Dude lays the wood. When Jackson makes a tackle, he has the size and leg drive to move the pile with great consistency. Not just a little bit either, but usually several yards. That's the kind of physicality that translate well to college -- his film is very impressive. It also shows Jackson used a lot as a blitzer, leading his coach to speculate ($) that Will Muschamp could use him as a situational defensive end a la Sergio Kindle.
- Adrian Phillips, athlete, Garland - Like Jackson, there wasn't any film available for Phillips in the first days after his commitment. Evaluating him as a defender is next to impossible since there aren't any defensive clips, but the offensive clips ($) made he re-evaluate his eventually position at Texas. I thought he would be a defender at first, but looking at him on offense changes that view. He doesn't have elite top-end speed, but he accelerates with alacrity and has excellent lateral movement and vision, making him hard to bring down. If the Longhorns don't land a smaller, fast, slot receiver like Trovon Reed or Tai-ler Jones, Phillips could well get a look there.
Another list! Even with so many early commitments, many of the top targets remain uncommitted. Here's my top five, a list that was hard to trim down with so many great players still out there, like DeSoto's Adrian White or Houston Second Baptist's Connor Wood, just to name a couple. Once again, feel free to chime in with your own lists.
- Lache Seastrunk, running back, Temple - Playmaker. Home-run threat. Dangerous whenever he has the ball. All those descriptions fit Seastrunk like the Temple "T" he wears on his helmet. One of the top prospects in the entire nation, Seastrunk would give Texas the gamebreaker at running back desperately needed after the early departure of Jamaal Charles. If the Longhorns miss out on Seastrunk, there isn't anyone who even really cares, so it's pretty much Seastrunk or bust at the running back position. There are other nice players, but Seastrunk clearly exists in another realm entirely.
- Darius White, receiver, Dunbar - D-Money's position second this list could be debatable, but I'll give you the justification -- early in the recruiting process, White seemed almost a lock, but has now decided to take more time than expected. The Longhorns are still in good shape to get his commitment, but White will likely make or break the receiver class in 2010. He is a must-have with ridiculous talent, evidenced by his ability to return punts and operate in small spaces at 6-4. Not many guys can do that, drawing comparisons to former high school greats like Roy Williams. Unlike John Harris and Darius Terrell, White actually has speed to burn, along with great feet and leaping ability. He's not overly polished running routes, but besides that, he's the complete package.
Jackson Jeffcoat, defensive end, Plano West - One could make a convincing argument for Jeffcoat at the top of this list. He's that good. The reason he isn't at the top is the perception that Texas has ground to make up with him, making him more of a bonus commitment than a must-have, like White. As things stand now, Jeffcoat is the type of player who could put the class into contention as one of the best in Texas history. There isn't a lot of positive talk out there from Jeffcoat about the Longhorns, so hopefully that changes quickly. Don't hold your breath, though.
- Reggie Wilson, defensive end, Haltom - Despite the fact that they play the same position, Wilson and Jeffcoat could end up being complimentary players, with Jeffcoat eventually playing the quick end and Wilson playing power end. Of course, that supposes that both commit, which is extremely unlikely, but getting one doesn't necessitate losing out on the other. Wilson was athletic enough to play soccer a sophomore (kept in mind he's now 6-4, 240) and hasn't played football long, so he still has significant upside and could improve more than Jeffcoat, who is already technically sound.
- Jake Matthews, offensive lineman, Elkins - The offensive line isn't a big position of need -- witness DeSoto's Evan Washington being the only invite to the first Junior Day, and a late one at that. Jake Matthews, however, is a player so good that even if there isn't a need, offering him a scholarship is a no-brainer and Texas finally offered ($) Matthews this week (the only new offer to report). With his family connections to A&M and USC, conventional wisdom has landing Matthews as a long shot, but the good news is that his coach said this week that Texas could be his No. 1 ($) now after receiving the offer. His coach also shot down the rumor that Matthews had already giving USC a silent commitment, a rumor that perhaps explains the relatively late offer from the 'Horns.
Thompson and Hurley butt heads, Thompson loses. Strange news out of New Jersey on Tuesday, as 2010 basketball commit Tristan Thompon is no longer a member of the St. Benedict's basketball team. It's a strange story, as Thompson reportedly "said something under his breath," according to 2011 commit and teammate Myck Kabongo, after coach Dan Hurley removed him from the game for not hustling back on defense following a made jump shot by Thompson. Hurley began yelling at Thompson, who exchanged words with his coach and left the court, to later return in street clothes to watch the remainder of the game. Citing "public insubordination," Hurley dismissed Thompson from the team.
The story doesn't end there, as Hurley made some interesting statements to ZagsBlog's Adam Zagoria:
That's the state of basketball. The kid came here as an unknown kid with potential and as an intelligent kid who is very likable. The problem in our sport now is that as kids get better and as their ranking rises, the people around these kids ruin them (emphasis mine).
By Hurley's admission, Thompson is a good kid, and it's important to note the present tense of the verb there, but Hurley is clearly taking a thinly veiled shot at someone around Thompson. Could it be his AAU coach, Bo Russell? Characterizing the relationship ($) between Thompson and Hurley as having a "lack of chemistry," Russell says that this wasn't the first time that the two didn't see eye to eye and that the player-coach relationship went downhill this season, no doubt exacerbated by the team's first two losses of the season in the last eight days, one a 26-point loss to St. Patrick's (that Hurley termed the "most embarassing of his time at St. Benedict's") and a 12-point loss to top-ranked Mater Dei last weekend caused in part by Thompson's two early fouls.
Hurley is known as a stern disciplinarian, sort of like an autocratic Rick Barnes, who isn't afraid of demanding concerted defensive effort of his players and holding them accountable when they don't. A better comparison might be former Rockets and Knicks coach Jeff Van Gundy, so famously edgy and miserable when coaching that he's almost better off as a broadcaster. Like Van Gundy, Hurley has a sarcastic sense of humor, but also becomes positively morose when coaching, leading to this description from headmaster of St. Benedict's, Father Edwin Leahy: "If there's a gloomy side to find, he'll find it." Hurley freely admits as much himself:
My glass is definitely half-empty. For 3½ months during the season, I don't know if you can be more miserable, more edgy, about how your team is going to perform.
The conclusion here is that Hurley often coaches in a style best described as consistently angry, a trap into which Rick Barnes falls when the team doesn't perform well and it truly is a trap -- riding a team to the extent that they lose confidence or turn you out or become resentful, as happened with Thompson. There has to be a balance there and Hurley doesn't seem to be striking it after a week that included two tough losses for a previously undefeated team. Is it a coincidence that Hurley is angry and the Thompson situation got blown out of proportion? You tell me.
Since Thompson is generally known as a good kid, for what that's worth, it seems like Hurley is the intractable one, particularly after making his crass comment responding to a question about Thompson leaving school:
That' s not my concern. That's the concern of his family and that's the concern of the headmaster. I just know that I'm not going to be his coach and that's about it.
Hurley is right -- it isn't really his concern now, but he doesn't have to sound like such a d**k saying it. Saying something like, "That decision is up to Tristan and his parents," sounds much more palatable and diplomatic, but then Hurley isn't know for being diplomatic in the least. The first reaction in a situation like this is to look to assign blame, which is natural, if slightly misguided, and Hurley isn't doing much to make himself look like the bigger man. As a coach, you can't let players undermine your authority, so kicking Thompson off the team may have been the only option. However, Hurley could easily strike a less harsh tone.
There is much more to the story, a fact to which Russell alludes, and the whole truth might not ever come out, but for Texas fans the concern is how it will affect Thompson's decision to attend Texas. It won't, reportedly, nor will it affect Kabongo's decision, although he could end up following Thompson when he leaves St. Benedict after the spring semester. Interestingly, Russell says that Thompson's next school "could be another high profile private school in the U.S that I'm involved with." That comment certainly makes one wonder about the nature of those relationships.
That only leaves the question of to whom Hurley was referring when referencing the negative influences around Thompson, which may well be overstated by an angry coach. In another interview, Hurley used the term "grassroots influences," an interesting choice given that the name of Thompson's AAU team is "Grassroots Canada." Those negative forces could also be the representatives of sneaker companies or people otherwise affiliated with the myriad summer camps and games or hangers-on at the school or in Thompson's group of friends.
Stay tuned for further developments in the story, as Thompson will have to make a decision about another school to attend, as well as any breaking news about why Thompson and Hurley didn't get along and the identity of the negative influences around Thompson.
McCoy to Shipley, redux. As if the McCoy-Shipley connection needed any more fodder for conversation, just wait, there's more. Case McCoy's weekend commitment (only announced on Monday, Rick Cantu) is now leading to more speculation that everyone could be in for endless stories about the close connection between the families. This could seriously become at least annoying, but potentially nauseating by the time Jaxson Shipley gets through the program, were he to commit (which Dr. Saturday describes as "almost without question").
Just to add some spice to the whole conversation is news that the elder Shipley (now moving to Brownwood) and McCoy (still at Graham) could reunite, this time as coaches, to let their sons play together. Of course, that possibility is solely speculative and extremely unlikely, but hey, this whole McCoy-Shipley thing seems to have some legs. About six pairs highly athletic or formerly athletic legs at that. Early word is that the Longhorns are also at the top of the list for Colt and Jordan's children, yet to be conceived.