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Morning Coffee Talks Recruiting Once Again

Horns_bullet_mediumHughes unable to dominate against Notre Dame. On Monday night as part of the Kirk Herbstreit Texas High School Series, Klein Oak and California's Notre Dame High School faced off at Jerry World. The visitors from California won the game handily, 37-7, on the strength of their quarterback play and several extremely small, extremely fast players that the Klein Oak defense simply couldn't keep up with.

For Longhorn recruitniks, the player most worth watching was Klein Oak defensive end Nathan Hughes, a player on the short list of 2011 prospects the Longhorns may offer at that position. Much of Hughes' reputation stems from several monster performances last season ($), notably against Westfield when he recorded nine tackles, seven quarterback hurries, two sacks, and two tackles for loss. In the playoffs, Hughes then took his game to another level, notching 17 tackles, four quarterback hurries, two tackles for loss and one sack the week after making 13 tackles, hurrying the quarterback five times, stopping two plays behind the line of scrimmage, and sacking the quarterback once. Impressive performances, for sure, and it's not a stretch to think that many college programs took notice.

After gaining 25 pounds during the offseason and playing this season at 6-5 and 240 pounds, Hughes is expected to continue turning in dominant performances. Against Notre Dame, however, that was not the case for most of the game. Unofficially, he did register a sack and made another stop behind the line of scrimmage and showed a strong motor by pursuing nearly every running play to the whistle, but Notre Dame left tackle Ben Gottschalk (6-5, 260), a three-star prospect by Scout with offers from Iowa State, Colorado State, New Mexico State, San Diego State, and UNLV -- not exactly a who's who of college football -- was able to hold Hughes mostly in check during the game with the exception of a disruptive first series for the Klein Oak defender.

Hughes generally plays as a defensive end in Klein Oak's 3-4 defense and didn't always get much push against Gottschalk, who generally stymied him on running plays and on the rare occasions that Hughes tried to take the edge, Gottschalk was able to move his feet and push Hughes upfield and well past the quarterback -- edge rushing will probably never be a strength for Hughes and his reported 4.8 speed. To the credit of Hughes, he wasn't getting blown off the ball on running plays and mostly held his ground against Gottschalk, allowing his linebackers the freedom to make plays -- I didn't see him once get knocked down or pushed back much.

Certainly not a performance on level of those two playoff games last year from Hughes, but against a good offensive lineman, it's probably unreasonable for expect Hughes to be in the backfield disrupting every play. The major question mark besides his pure speed is the fact that he didn't display a lot of lower-body strength, as he doesn't have particularly beefy legs -- it would be interesting to see his squat numbers. In college he projects as a 3-4 defensive end or power end with has the ability to slide down to defensive tackle when needed, as his frame can still add a significant amount of weight to his current 240 pounds, as much as 30 pounds or more.

On his highlight film from last season ($), it looks like Hughes made a lot of his plays by pursuing running plays from the backside after remaining being unblocked -- his motor is excellent and from all accounts he is a hard-working kid. However, it would be nice to see more film of Hughes using his strength to get off blockers and make plays. It would also be nice to see the film of his sacks to see if some speed off the edge shows up, or just how he manages to get to the quarterback -- the numbers from last season are pretty impressive, as he registered six sacks and 17 tackles for loss.

Hughes is a strong candidate for a Texas offer if he does receive one and most recruiting insiders consider the offer pretty much a no brainer, in large part because of his work ethic and potential. His performances in the playoffs last season indicate that strong upside, but his performance against Notre Dame seems to put him much closer in talent to a Dominique Jones than a Reggie Wilson. His motor and versatility up and down the line of scrimmage are certainly intriguing and even though he does have some limitations as an edge rusher, he does look like a solid take for the 2011 class.

Horns_bullet_mediumDoes Brown fit the Texas running scheme? There's no question that Cibolo Steele's Malcolm Brown is an extremely talented running back. In his first game ($) against San Antonio East Central, Brown ran for 138 yards on only 13 carries and three touchdowns, He followed that performance up with an even stronger game against San Antonio Stevens, Brown was even more successful, carrying the ball 24 times for 214 yards and four touchdowns. As those numbers attest, there's certainly no doubt that he is also a workhorse back capable of running people over.

The problem, as Vondrell McGee (nicknamed the Bulldozer in high school) has discovered, is that being able to run people over in high school doesn't always translate to the college game. Like McGee, Brown doesn't have elite-level speed, failing to take the corner on several plays early in the game against Stevens. Like McGee, Brown ran the ball much better out of the I-formation, going downhill.

While the Texas offense may certainly change over the next couple of seasons as it morphs to fit the skills of Garrett Gilbert and large backs like Chris Whaley and Traylon Shead, the scheme may come to suit Brown a little bit more. Right now, however, it seems like a stretch to think that Brown can successfully transition into the gun-run scheme that Texas runs. His size doesn't raise any concerns about his ability to pick up the blitz, but he doesn't have much experience as a receiver and doesn't return kicks for Steele, missing parts of Brown's skill set that limit his versatility.

All this isn't to say that Brown won't receive an offer, because there is a strong chance that he will receive an invite to the first Junior Day in February of next year and an equally strong chance that he will receive an offer at that Junior Day. But the more I think about it, the more I feel like Malcolm Brown could end up experiencing the same struggles at Texas that have kept Vondrell McGee from truly being an impact player in Austin.

Horns_bullet_mediumSims could be a much better fit. There is a player out in West Texas who does have the scheme versatility to fit in at Texas -- he returns kicks, catches the ball out of the backfield, and runs the ball extremely effectively. His name is Herschel Sims and he has displayed all those skills in spades already in his first game -- a strong enough performances to leave Geoff Ketchum feeling a little twitterpated. On the first play of the season, Sims let himself quickly be known, taking the kickoff 97 yards for a touchdown against Darius White's Fort Worth Dunbar squad. By the end of the game, Sims had racked up 111 yards rushing and 77 yards receiving on three catches.

He's listed at 5-10, 190 pounds, but probably isn't quite that tall, so the biggest question about him in college will be his ability to pick up blitzes. The fact that he's already ripped helps allay those concerns and his reported 4.43 speed looks legit on film ($). He also has incredible feet and extremely impressive acceleration -- he might not be quite as good as Aaron Green, but he's certainly not far off.

The best news is that unlike Bradley Marquez and Aaron Green, who seem to be leaning elsewhere early in the process, Sims actually likes the Longhorns ($) and may end up being the best back in Texas who will give the Longhorns a serious shot in what could end up being a disastrous recruiting class for the Longhorns if they aren't able to secure a commitment from one of the many (I hate the word "plethora") talented running backs in the 2011 class. Especially if Aaron Green continues to look mostly at Nebraska, USC, and OU, with Texas a distant four or fifth option, Sims may be a more than adequate alternative.

Horns_bullet_mediumTerrell fits in nicely at flex tight end. Some of the most encouraging news about any of the players in the 2009 class has to be the revelation that Claude Mathis and the DeSoto coaching staff are using Darius Terrell at the flex tight end position. IT's Jeff Howe questions Terrell's ability to become a 250-pound tight end ($) who lines up in a three-point stance on the line of scrimmage, and that's certainly an easy concern to understand in looking at Terrell's frame.

Where Terrell does seem to fit well is at the flex tight end position -- through two games ($) this season Terrell has caught 17 passes for 246 yards and three touchdowns, not all from the flex position, but many of the catches have been and included against those 17 catches are several of the spectacular variety:

Polite's passes were on the money all night, and when they weren't, Terrell often made a sliding or one-handed catch. His best catch of the night was a 38-yard touchdown late in the second half that gave DeSoto a 31-7 lead. Polite lobbed a pass down the right sideline, and Terrell outjumped Plano cornerback Kelton Reed for the ball, snatching it out of the air with one hand before bolting into the end zone.

I included that quote in the Week 1 Wrap, but it makes me so excited that I just had to link to it again. Terrell is 6-3 and catches the ball well in traffic with his excellent leaping ability and that makes him a perfect candidate to play the flex position and catch balls across the middle. According to Howe, Terrell is also doing better at catching the ball away from his body and looks like his quickness has improved with his hard work over the summer.

As mentioned with my evaluation of Dan Buckner's work in his first game at the flex position, players have to block well there, too. Howe says that Terrell did well in that aspect of the game as well:

Probably more than anything, because he is expected to slide down to tight end when he gets to college, I came away feeling very good about Terrell as a blocker. At split end he did a very good job of getting his hands on guys, but inside he was outstanding at initiating contact at the line of scrimmage with his shoulders square and was able, easily at times, to get his man turned back inside. From a technical standpoint he figures to transition well to the tight end position.

Increasingly it looks like a good comparison for Terrell is Dan Buckner, and increasingly it looks like being compared to Dan Buckner is a very good thing.

Horns_bullet_mediumFrom the Land of Miscellany. As reported unofficially for some time, Jordan Hicks oficially set his visit to Texas ($) for the October 9th game against Colorado. In his first weekly conference call ($) this fall, he also acknolwedged that he really likes Will Muschamp and that his mother stays in contact with Mad Dog, for whom she worked while at Colorado -- good news for Texas. Hicks also said that he is undecided about graduating early, as he is probably reluctant to miss his senior season of basketball, his first real love...Fast-rising 2010 hoops prospect Jeremy Lamb visited Texas last Friday ($) and the Longhorns remain in the mix for his services...One of the top prospects in the 2010 class, combo guard Josh Selby of Baltimore, will receive an in-home visit ($) from Rick Barnes on September 11th. Selby and his parents reportedly contacted the Texas coaching staff expressing their interest in the program...Michael Cobbins, of Justin Mason's alma mater, Amarillo Palo Duro, a player who surfaced on the Texas radar but probably did not receive an offer from the Longhorns, reportedly committed to Oklahoma State (scroll down) over the holiday weekend...The Longhorns will not receive an official visit from California prospect James Johnson, leaving DeSoto's Keith Davis as the most likely big man for the Longhorns to add to the 2010 class...In a bit of strange news, Swedish-born big Enes Kanter, who grew up in Turkey, will not step onto the court at Findlay Prep, instead playing his high school ball at Mounstain State Academy in West Virginia and leaving on what Findlay assistant Todd Simon called "good terms" after "unforeseen circumstances" arose. Given his connection to Dogus Balbay, Texas is expected to have a shot at landing Kanter, a member of the 2010 class, though playing with Tristan Thompson at Findlay probably would have helped the Longhorns -- overall this is not good news for the Longhorns.