With Signing Day on Wednesday and the Longhorns' 2009 class essentially complete, it's time to look at each individual prospect.
Name: Mason Walters
Position: Offensive tackle
Speed: 5.0 40-yard dash
High School: Wolfforth Frenship
Rating (Rivals): Five out of five
It's probably starting to sound tired now, but versatility defines Walters the same way it defines the other lineman in the 2009 class. Despite having the size, feet, and all-around skills to play left tackle, Walters played center in high school ($) to help deal with talented nose tackles and help his team put their best blocker against the other team's best defensive lineman. Walters more than held his own at the position, allowing only one sack all season (and the only of his career), while registering ($) 32 pancake blocks and 46 knockdowns in helping Frenship to a deep run in the playoffs, grading out at 93% or better in each game of the season. Walters is one of the best offensive lineman in the country, ranking ($) as the second-best run blocker and third-best pass blocker in his class by Rivals, while rating as the best center prospect in his class and also one of the best tackle prospects.
Even though Walters didn't gain experience working at the outside position he's expected to eventually hold down at Texas, he was responsible for making all the line calls and leading the offense. Frenship coach Brad Davis on Walters:
He's very smart and intelligent. Having played two years at center, he knows scheme. He is the leader of the offense and understands scheme. Knowing scheme and line calls will help him greatly regardless of where he plays on the line in the future.
Besides being versatile, Walter is also an exceptional athlete ($). His agility and feet allow him to reach block effectively and to reach the second level and use his balance and body control to block linebackers. Walters can pick up blocks on the second level whither getting off an initial double team to attack his second assignment in the zone blocking scheme or pulling from the center position. Brad Davis once again ($):
For a guy that's 6-7, 300 pounds, the best part of his game to me is how quick and agile he is off the ball for such a big kid. He moves around like a smaller lineman and when he gets to you he's got the size and the feet and the strength to really move people around.
Walters isn't a top national prospect on the line because he's only physically talented. Earning a reputation as a hard-nosed and tough player, Walters displays the toughness and tenacity to maximize his physical skills. He isn't just a tough second-level blocker because of his feet and agility -- it's his relentless motor and aggressiveness that allows him to be such a dominant road grader in the blocking game. Walters also uses his hands consistently and violently, helping him especially when dealing with spinning defensive players.
It isn't easy for such a tall guy to play center and take on shorter, much stouter nose tackles. That's why so few centers are nearly 6-7. Walters does his job on the interior of the line by firing off the ball with proper leverage, getting under the shoulder pads off the opposing defender and knocking them off the ball. Impressive flexibility and knee bend help Walters
As the center, Walters also has the added responsibility of needing to snap the ball before commencing with his blocking duties, moving as well from the shotgun formation as he does when the quarterback is under center.
Walters was physically the most impressive lineman at the Under Armour All-American game, but did have some struggles ($) in going against 6-foot defensive tackle Jaccobi McDaneil, probably in the country at his position. However, Walters quickly adjusted his pad level and began holding his own against the Florida State commit.
About the only real weakness for Walters is that his intensity sometimes gets the best of him. He says he is working on staying calm and focused, a sentiment his high school coach echoes:
Mason does not like to be wrong. He likes to do things right all the time, which is a good attribute to have as a football player. When he does things wrong, they tend to bother him and he tends to get upset about it. When he harnesses that energy and tries to make a positive out of the next play, he's as good as anybody who's ever put on a uniform in high school.
So there ya go. The only weakness he has will eventually be a strength. Yeah, this guy is good.
Walters will probably compete for playing time in his true freshman season at guard and center, but there seems little doubt that he will eventually end up outside, probably after Tray Allen and Aundre McGaskey graduate after the 2010 season, respectively. While it's not out of the question that Walters could unseat either one of them, their extra experience not only in the program, but also at that position, makes it likely Walters stays inside for his first two years. Walters has made his preference known that he would like to play on the outside, but isn't making any demands on the coaches and will play inside without complaint. Regardless of where he ends up, Walters is already on campus and his early enrollment will allow him to break the rotation somewhere as a freshman.
Walters has the versatility to succeed in any blocking scheme the Texas coaches decide to employ during his time on campus, but Brad Davis believes he has the skills to succeed particularly in the zone blocking scheme currently employed on the 40 Acres. The experience at center will significantly aid his success, since wherever he ends up on the line, he will still have the ability to read defenses, important in the zone blocking scheme since he has to understand whom to double team and then which of the blockers is supposed to get to the second level.
Some schools, notably Texas Tech, were trying to sway the local product by using negative recruiting tactics against Texas. Those efforts backfired when Walters came to Austin and realized that those people had been feeding him a stream of mistruths and straight-up lies. The Texas coaching staff treated him with the respect it shows to both recruits and current players, while not threatening to pull his scholarship if he didn't commit on the spot, as many Tech fans told him. Too bad Tech, maybe if you weren't a second-rate program you wouldn't have to lie about other schools to recruit local players.
Mason Walters Highlights Jr 2007 (via footballfan2009)
Highlights of OL Mason Walters, #17 on Takkle/SI's Top 200 (via takklesquad)