Nelson picks the Aggies. Two days ago, Skyline linebacker Corey Nelson confirmed what many had anticipated for some time -- that the Longhorns had little chance with the rangy linebacker, as Nelson chose to become an Aggie ($). Rated as the no. 3 outside linebacker by Rivals, Nelson has a combination of sideline-to-sideline speed and striking ability that is highly valued in these days of the spread offense. If there is one criticism of Nelson it's that he doesn't have prototypical linebacker size at this time and looks more like a safety. However, with another year of development and a scheme that keeps him from having to fill gaps and take on offensive lineman in the hole, Nelson should be able to contribute early and often.
Though the Longhorns do have a Skyline alumnus on the roster (Christian Scott), it has been an extremely difficult school for Texas to recruit for the past several years, with some speculation that members of the coaching staff don't particularly care for the state's flagship program. While the coaching staff may not have impacted Nelson's decision at all, things started off poorly for the Longhorns in the recruitment of Nelson when he was spotted in Norman throwing the "horns down" gesture. He later played it off as being caught up in the moment, but the writing was on the wall early.
Given that Will Muschamp his own self recruited Nelson personally, how did such a talented player end up an Aggie? While it's not as incomprehensible as some Texas fans might think (or outsiders think Texas fans think), Nelson related the scene of his commitment to head coach Mike Sherman and explained his decision in his own words:
He was telling me that I was the centerpiece of what they wanted to do on defense. He wanted me to be a leader of the rebirth of the Wrecking Crew. That got me pretty excited and I was ready to do it.
Some players want to join programs already on the verge of competing for championships and others like the appeal of a wide-open depth chart and the ability to resurrect a once-proud program. Sherman played on Nelson's ego to some extent, but that's the nature of recruiting. It also helped the Aggies that Nelson's high school teammate, fellow linebacker Dominique Patterson committed to A&M during the spring.
Those are the knowable factors. The unknowables include the possibility that Nelson just didn't like Austin that much. It's not uncommon for players coming from more conservative families to dislike what they perceive as a hedonistic culture in the capital city. Nelson's father is a minister, and though that doesn't mean that the family is conservative or that the younger Nelson is personally, it is possible that the family doesn't care much for Austin and it's vices.
Nelson's decision leaves two linebackers on the radar for the Longhorns: Aaron Franklin and Jordan Hicks, with no pressure on either one to make a decision because of limited spots. Franklin still doesn't have plans to visit Austin before he makes a decision in the next month or so and has similar speed and build as Nelson. Since he didn't play his junior season, it's possible that Franklin could prove himself just as talented as Nelson. Hicks now says that he doesn't have any official visits planned besides one to Ohio State for the USC game, but Austin is a likely destination when he does firm up his plans.
The name of Rashod Favors continues to surface among fans as a possibility, but he would need to answer significant questions about short-burst quickness before the Longhorn coaches would seriously consider him. After Franklin makes a decision, the coaches may consider looking at other linebackers if the Marshall product heads elsewhere, but probably wouldn't pull the trigger until after the football season as they have a chance to evaluate any rising prospects during the fall.
Until any new names surface on the radar, it's down to Franklin and Hicks at the position with the loss of Nelson to the Aggies, the first player with a Longhorn offer to commit to another school. The word on Jake Matthews after a visit to USC recently is that he's essentially down to the Trojans and Aggies, so the number of recruiting victories by A&M over Texas this year could double in the near future.
Stephenson back on the radar. Little more than the two early de-commitments from the 2010 class and the commitment of Nelson to A&M has gone wrong for the Longhorns. Sure, Seastrunk looks like he's headed elsewhere and Darius White still hasn't made a decision, but everything else has gone almost perfectly, and, if anything, the two de-commitments have opened up the possibility of another offer or two going out late in the process. Certainly adds some drama, no?
So far, Aaron Franklin is the only player to have received an offer after the Junior Days in February, contrary to early beliefs that predicted another defensive back or wide receiver offer to replace Ahmad Dixon and Ross Apo. If another defensive back does receive an offer, the most likely candidate is Lancaster's Tyler Stephenson, a player who has impressed with his pure speed in workouts (4.4) and is regarded as being a top cover corner in the state (along with Adrian White and Carrington Byndom).
He made the trip to Austin almost two weeks ago to visit with Duane Akina, exactly the type of pro-active move that Texas coaches appreciate and contributed greatly to Dominic Espinosa's offer. It's a pro-activeness that results from a deep desire for an offer from Texas ($). At the end of June, before he scheduled his visit to campus, Stephenson indicated that he would probably accept a Texas offer, which he might have received had he been able to attend the second Junior Day he was invited to in February.
An offer probably won't soon be forthcoming for Stephenson, however. Texas doesn't particularly need another corner in the class after losing Dixon, who is a pure safety -- each of other four commitments who might play in the defensive backfield could well end up being corners (White, Byndom, Jackson, and Phillips). Certainly, safety will be a priority in the 2011 class, but how important is another defensive back in the class?
Surprisingly, only Montre Webber and Aundre McGaskey transferred during the spring, a number certainly was expected to be a little higher (um, hello Philip Payne?). Defensive tackle Michael Wilcoxon has now become the third Longhorn this year to leave and one or two other players could decide to leave before the start of the season. The most likely candidate now is safety Ben Wells, who looked terrible in his backpedal in giving up a long touchdown last year to Baylor and is now buried on the depth chart behind players with more eligibility remaining.
Basketball players enrolled. All three 2009 recruits are on campus and taking classes for the second summer session, despite rumors about Jordan Hamilton not making it through the Clearinghouse. Early word had Hamilton putting in impressive performances in his early pick-up games, which still include Royal Ivey, DJ Augustin, and Kevin Durant, three NBA players on campus this summer taking classes.
J'Covan Brown is still in the Clearinghouse, so he isn't taking summer classes, but he has been in Austin off and on throughout the summer and has reportedly looked strong playing pick-up games. Those strong performances probably indicate that he has worked through the conditioning issues he had during the spring. In fact, observers say that Brown has looked stronger than Avery Bradley attacking the basket, as Bradley has settled mostly for the mid-range jumpshot and looked a little shaky with his ball-handling, which isn't a surprise considering how right-hand dominate he appeared during the spring.
The Johnson/Wilcoxon fall-out. There's a reason that the Fulmer Cup exists -- about the only news during the summer in terms of football is bad news. While no Longhorns have been arrested this summer (knock on wood), Sergio Kindle did have his encounter with the wall of an apartment building and yesterday the news broke that not only was freshman defensive tackle Derek Johnson heading back home to Hoxie, Arkansas until fall practice, but that sophomore defensive tackle Michael Wilcoxon was leaving the program due to an apparent lack of playing time.
It's probably not worth speculating too much about what's going to happen with Johnson, but the Wilcoxon case deserves mention. Known as a project when he was recruited in 2007, Wilcoxon saw the field in several games last season and was expected to have a chance to contribute this season due to the lack of experienced depth on the defensive line. However, Wilcoxon must have had some indication that Calvin Howell and/or Johnson (and possibly Kyle Kriegel) were set to pass him on the depth chart and made it nearly impossible for him to crack the rotation.
Wilcoxon certainly had time to develop into a solid, if unspectacular, contributor for Texas, but if he couldn't hold off kids fresh out of high school at a position that often demands significant time in a college weight program, there was probably little chance that he would ever be useful. In other words, Wilcoxon leaving may help the Longhorns by providing more guaranteed playing time for a player like Howell and open up a needed scholarship for a player who can actually contribute on the field. Playing in a 3-4 defense more often should help assuage the loss of depth -- Will Muschamp's ability to throw different looks at an offense should more than make up for the loss of a player barely expected to contribute.