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Afternoon Brewsky Gears Up For Fall Practice

Horns_bullet_mediumFranklin still torn over decision. Marshall linebacker Aaron Franklin almost made his decision without ever being able to sit down with Mack Brown and company and tour the Texas campus. Almost. After a last-minute change of heart on taking a trip to Austin in an effort to give the Texas coaches a fair chance ($), Franklin got a ride to campus from his high school principal, a UT graduate no doubt intent on helping his alma mater.

Since the Longhorns didn't begin recruiting Franklin until they saw him work out at the first summer camp in June, Franklin never received the normal treatment for a coveted recruit -- an invite to at least one of the Junior Days and a chance to see the spring game. Coaches are not supposed to talk recruiting at the summer camps, so Franklin never toured the campus and never spoke directly with Brown, Will Muschamp, and the rest of the support staff. Needless to say, that all finally had a chance to happen ($) on Friday, as Franklin also spoke with several Longhorns from the east Texas area and spoke with Ken Rucker and his wife (among others), who recruited the area for many years at Texas.

Franklin's comment about giving the Texas coaches a fair chance makes it sound like he was ready to become a Sooner, but, combined with his childhood love for the Longhorns, this trip undoubtedly made up a lot of ground for Texas. There's no leader at this point, said Franklin after returning home, but the depth chart should help the 'Horns as well: Oklahoma took four linebackers in the 2009 class and Texas only took two. Furthermore, the Longhorns are losing all three starting linebackers (including Sergio Kindle) after the 2009 season, providing plenty of opportunities for young ilnebackers to get quality early playing time. Though Franklin is still far from a lock to become a Longhorn, the likelihood is now much, much higher than it was on Wednesday night.

Horns_bullet_mediumYet another 2011 running back on the radar. Yes, this statement is now becoming incredibly repetitive: The 2011 running back class is extremely deep. Further proof, as if it's needed, is LD Bell running back Kenneth Farrow, a personal favorite of Gerry Hamilton. Like all the other running backs on the radar, Farrow had a successful sophomore season, running for more than 1,300 yards (6.5 yards per carry) and scoring 16 touchdowns. However, of all the top backs in the class, Farrow has stayed under the radar much more than the others for reasons that are not entirely clear.

If there's a major complaint about Farrow, it's that he doesn't have the explosiveness of a player like Aaron Green, with a reported 40 time of 4.52 seconds and a video (below) that clearly shows some lack of top-end speed. Farrow makes up for it with a no-nonsense running style slightly remiscent of Malcolm Brown in his desire to stay north-south and punishing demeanor that he illustrates by throwing his shoulder into would-be tacklers at every opportunity. He also plays in a shotgun spread offense often similar to what Greg Davis runs, so he wouldn't face the same issues of transitioning from a power-running team like Vondrell McGee.

Farrow gave himself positive reviews ($) about the Texas camp he attended, relating that the Longhorn coaches had him demonstrate several drills. Along with performing well in those drills, Farrow said that the Texas coaches told him that they would continue to evaluate his play as a junior. That last part is key, as Farrow needs a spectacular junior season to draw anywhere near the attention of backs like Aaron Green and Malcolm Brown and, honestly, he may not deserve mention with those players. What Farrow does undoubtedly represent, however, is a solid back-up plan in case the recruitments of the more highly-touted players go poorly for Texas.

Kenneth Farrow 2008 Sophomore Highlights (via bell21791)

Horns_bullet_mediumWhaley peformance slipped through the cracks. For a nearly 250-pound running back to slip through the cracks, the crack was probably more like a gaping chasm. Yet, that's what happened with Chris Whaley's performance at the THSCA All-Star game a week and a half ago. My bad. As the players gear up for the start of fall practice, it's worth returning to the performance to glean any insights about how much Whaley can contrinbute this season.

First, the bad news. Whaley has always been a big running back, playing at around 230 pounds as a high school senior. However, that 230 pounds has now turned in 245 pounds, raising questions about his ability to keep the weight off enough to remain at running back. There are defensive ends who have shown up at Texas weighing far less than Whaley (Brian Orakpo comes to mind). To his credit, Whaley has said that he wants to lose 10-15 pounds ($), which is probably necessary to maintain the speed that made him a track star in high school and so attractive to the Longhorns in the first place.

IT's Jeff Howe offered the following observation ($) of Whaley's play:

In the game he lacked the burst through the hole that he has shown in the past and he looked a step slower. The game was noticeably void of the talent that has been seen in the summer classic in the past with Whaley being the biggest star, so heading into the contest it was widely expected that Whaley would dominate.

As Howe goes on to mention, Whaley hardly dominated the weak competition, gaining 52 yards on 14 carries. Much of the problem was that Whaley looked hesitant in attacking the holes, showing an indecisiveness that will not work well at the collegiate level whether he's taking handoffs with a head start or moving laterally from the shotgun. Perhaps even worse news is that the indecision in the game drew the first (and probably inevitable) Henry Melton comparison ($) from Geoff Ketchum. That comparison should scare any Texas fan concerned that Texas didn't recruit any other running backs in the class because Mack Brown was convinced that Whaley would be a future star.

Of course, a meaningless All-Star game will not define Whaley as a player and Jeff Howe was notably reticent about making his own Henry Melton comparison. Ketchum also noted that Whaley looked more comfortable out of the I formation, which Texas may use more often this season to better highlight Whaley's size. Losing weight  and running behind his pads better are the top priorities for Whaley going into the season, who will receive every opportunity to prove that he is indeed a running back. If the THSCA game was any indication, he may not contribute quickly this season and certainly doesn't look like he's ready to compete for a starting job.

Horns_bullet_mediumFrom the Land of Miscellany. Defensive tackle Derek Johnson is still expected to be back in time for the start of fall practice...Colt McCoy is drawing comparisons to Vince Young in terms of his leadership during 7-on-7 drills...John Chiles is down about 10 pounds...The nickel package right now has Aaron Williams on the slot receiver and Curtis Brown taking over his cornerback spot, with Christian Scott and Earl Thomas as the safeties, though Blake Gideon is reportedly playing well...Brandon Collins reportedly has the best hands on the team...Expect the silence from Jackson Jeffcoat to continue throughout the high school football season. If pressed, I would ticket him for USC given their connections to the Cowboys in linebackers coach Ken Norton, Jr. and the presence of Devon Kennard, former offensive lineman Derek's son...Keep on eye on 2011 Lufkin defensive Darrell Thomas-Kelly ($), an edge pass rusher who runs track for Lufkin and reports a 4.52 40. He needs to bulk up a bit (currently 220 pounds), but that speed is truly unique for a kid his size.