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Morning Coffee Talks Jake Matthews

Horns_bullet_mediumAggies and Horns still on top for Matthews. Since the last update, not much has changed on the list of Fort Bend Elkins offensive lineman Jake Matthews, who possesses one of the few outstanding offers from the Longhorns. Texas A&M and Texas remain at the top ($), with the USC Trojans still a possibility, though they remain a somewhat distant third.

Again seeming tired by the process, Matthews acknowledged again that he doesn't have the same comfort level with the Texas coaches as he does with the Aggie coaching staff, mostly a result of his older brother playing on the A&M line. Since Jake's father Bruce owns a house in College Station that the elder Matthews brother lives in, all signs point to the Aggies being in the rare lead for a prospect coveted by both in-state rivals. Staying close to his Houston-area home is another priority for Matthews and another advantage for Mike Sherman and the Aggies.

In addition, Matthews like the pro-style offense Sherman runs, feeling it would prepare him better for the NFL and raising further questions about whether or not the zone-blocking scheme employed by the Longhorns might dissuade the technically-sound prospect from ending up in Austin.

For Texas to make up ground with Matthews, the coaching staff needs to get him to Austin for another visit before spring turns into summer, as Matthews would like to make his decision as soon as possible, part of the reason he doesn't have set plans to visit Los Angeles to see USC. Mack Brown rarely fails to make a strong impression on recruits, but unless Brown can create a greater feeling of comfort with Matthews, a process that would depend on a visit to Austin, the young man and his Hall-of-Fame pedigree may end up creating holes for the Aggies for years to come. Time is running out to make an impression.

Horns_bullet_mediumOlder brother connection may not be enough. After declining to take a true tight end in the 2010 class, finding a player at the position will be a priority for the 2011 class. One of the top prospects in that class has a last name that should be familiar -- Barnett. The younger brother of Eryon, a 2009 commit at defensive back, Chris Barnett is a coach's son ($) and possesses ideal size for the tight end position -- 6-5, 260 pounds. As a sophomore.

Tight end isn't the only position that Barnett could end up at, as he registered 71 tackles, seven tackles for loss, and two sacks from the defensive end position. With quick feet, good hands, and remarkable agility for a player his size, Barnett could end up being a college star at tight end or defensive end.

There's a problem, though. The younger Barnett is intent on making his own way and has Miami at the top of his list as a lifelong Hurricanes fan. Such allegiances don't always stand the test of playing time and distance, but Barnett hasn't even visited the Austin yet, instead choosing to take in the campuses at Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, and Baylor. In fact, Barnett doesn't even have any plans to visit this summer.

Sounds like the Longhorns might have to keep looking in their search for a tight end in 2011 and there aren't currently any other players on the radar at the position right now. It could be a year that Texas needs to look out of state.

Horns_bullet_mediumBible still a rising prospect. Perusing the latest Rivals100, it's surprising to continue seeing Greenwood, South Carolina defensive tackle Kelcy Quarles as the top-ranked defensive tackle, despite weighing only 240 pounds. Moving well down the list, it isn't until 41 spots later that one finds Taylor Bible's name.

Surprising because the Denton Guyer product possesses a degree of explosiveness and strength rarely found at a position that usually puts a premium on mass and leverage.

Guyer coach John Walsh provides perspective ($) on what makes Bible so special and why Texas fans can expect him to shoot up recruiting lists during his senior season.

I knew I had a good one from the beginning. The neat thing about Taylor is when he was in the eighth grade, just three and a half years ago, he was in our city track meet and he got third place in the 100. And there's a lot of speed in Denton.

If that doesn't raise expectations, consider this -- Bible is just recently learning how to put his talent to consistent use on the football field, still learning the extent to which he can dominate a game.

We knew he was going to grow and be a special, explosive player. The exact moment I knew he was University of Texas special was week nine of his junior season. He'd been good all year long, but after that point he was extremely dominant. 

Initially, Bible seemed to project as a three technique at defensive tackle, a position at which he would seem able to use his speed better and not have to face as many double teams. However, Will Muschamp told Bible that he will start out at nose tackle, but will get a look at as a three technique and perhaps even play some five technique, most likely against power running teams. Bible has experience playing different places on the line, having spent time at defensive end, as well as dropping back into coverage on zone blitzes, which his speed allows.

If Bible continues to work hard in the off-season and plays as a senior with the intensity and skill he displayed towards the end of his junior season, it would be an absolute shock for Bible not to earn a fifth star by the time he officially signs with Texas and end up at the best defensive tackle in the country.

Horns_bullet_mediumJai Lucas set to contribute. For a point guard, the nebulous term of "Basketball IQ" is often bandied about, but rarely quantified, rarely even qualified. A passage from the recent piece on Lucas illustrates perfectly what that term means:

During a team practice session, Texas was working on a play designed to feed the ball into the post, where center Dexter Pittman had re-emerged as a late-season force.

When redshirt Jai Lucas, taking his turn at the point, did not immediately acknowledge the upwardly thrust hand of the 6-foot-10 center, assistant Russell Springmann called a halt to the action.

"Did you not see him?" Springmann asked, wondering how the guard could have missed a target that without Cooley Pavilion walls could have been seen from nearby I-35.

Lucas had more than an appropriate explanation for his apparent oversight.

"He said he wanted to dribble back towards the middle of the floor to force the help-side defender to get out of there, then come back on the drag and throw Dex the ball," Springmann related.

"I'm like, 'Good answer!' Heck, I was just going to say if the big guy has his hands up, throw him the ball."

Considering the difficulties the Longhorns had entering the post last season, either because the players didn't understand how to do so or were incapable of doing so because they couldn't shoot, such an advanced understanding of how to get Dexter Pittman the ball will serve the Longhorns extremely well next season.

Yet, Lucas will help the team in many more ways. A strong perimeter shooter, Lucas will open up room for the slashing games of Avery Bradley, Jordan Hamilton, and possibly Damion James, if he chooses to return. Lucas should also allow the Longhorns to effectively run more pick-and-roll basketball, though the lack of a Longhorn big reduces the possibilities with the play.

Most of all, Lucas should bring leadership to the program that was significantly lacking in 2008-09. Who was the heart and soul of that team? Was there a strong leader? There have always been huge expectations for Lucas -- basketball is the family business, as his father is known to say. The youngest Lucas dealt with those expectations the best way he could -- by working hard and never backing down, even when training with former and current NBA players, experience that will serve him well in his transition to point guard for the Longhorns. Known for being a tremendous and fearless competitor, Lucas will provide more than just on-court acumen -- he will be what a point guard should be, the unquestioned leader of the team. After all, his father asserts that the largest muscle in his son's body is an important one -- his heart.