Biggest get -- Malcolm Brown, Cibolo Steele
Texas couldn't afford to completely miss out on all the in-state talent at the running back position in 2011. Aaron Green, Brandon Williams, Herschel Sims, Kenny Williams, Malcolm Brown. It's an impressive group and all have a strong shot at becoming major contributors at the next level.
It was a dicey situation for the Longhorns because Brown was the top target all along, the coaching staff couldn't afford to offer and receive commitments from other players at the position and leave no room for Brown. So the staff went all-in with Brown and basically declined to recruit any of the other backs, including Green. Had Brown committed elsewhere, Texas would have been in major trouble due to their need at that position and the lack of a back-up plan.
Most likely to contribute (offense) -- Malcolm Brown, RB
This was a tough decision between Brown and Jaxon Shipley. In the end, the difference ended up being that Shipley has a couple of guys in front of him in Mike Davis, DeSean Hales, and Marquise Goodwin who all project to improve in the Harsinwhite offense. After adding in Shipley's decision to spend the spring with his older brother instead of enrolling and Brown edged him out.
It's no secret that the Texas offense has been looking for some playmaking at the running back position and despite my personal concerns about Brown's ability to transition to the college game, he's going to get his shot this fall to contribute and there's a strong likelihood that he will take advantage of that opportunity.
Most likely to contribute (defense) -- Desmond Jackson
As difficult as it is for defensive tackles to contribute as freshmen, Jackson has a chance because his body is college-ready and his technique is advanced for his age group. Given the lack of established depth at the position, it wouldn't be a surprise to see him jump guys like Calvin Howell, Taylor Bible, and Ashton Dorsey in the competition for playing time.
Most likely to contribute (special teams) -- Steve Edmond
Edmond is the choice here because of the difference that he could make on the kickoff coverage and kickoff return units. In terms of the former, Edmond has the speed, recklessness, and pure football instincts that lead to special teams tackles and in kickoff coverage he could provide the strong blocking as an upman in the middle of the field that was glaringly absent in 2010.
Most critical position for future success -- offensive line
Even after losing Christian Westerman, this is still a strong group headlined by Sedrick Flowers and Garrett Greenlea and as highly-touted as Malcolm Brown is coming out of high school, a great deal of his success during his junior and senior seasons will be based on how well this group develops.
In fact, it's not a stretch to say that the success of the entire offensive will depend greatly on whether Josh Cochran and Greenlea can become strong collegiate players on the outside. It's pressure amplified by the loss of Westerman, who looked as close to a sure thing to be a good tackle as there is in recruiting.
Most explosive (offense) -- Jaxon Shipley
Frankly, Texas didn't recruit a lot of speed on offense this season. Malcolm Brown isn't a speed guy at running back, neither Jaxon Shipley nor Miles Onyegbule are burners at wide receiver, MJ McFarland freaked everyone out with a glacially slow time on the glacially slow turf at the Alamodome. Hell, David Ash is a pro-style quarterback and may have the best speed relative to his position.
The nod here goes to Shipley, though, because explosiveness isn't always about pure speed. In this case, it's about making big plays and Jordan's little bro does that on a consistent basis both at wide receiver and in the return game because he sells his routes extremely well, he gets into and out of his breaks, and he uses his excellent hands and leaping ability to high-point the football.
So there's your football lesson of the day, boys and girls -- explosiveness in football isn't always about pure speed. Class dismissed. Er, keep reading, please.
Most explosive (defense) -- Sheroid Evans
Evans faced some serious competition here from guys like Quandre Diggs and even players who are particularly explosive for their position. Thing is, it's hard to compete with a guy who won the 200m and 400m nationally last spring. Dude can fly. This choice? About pure speed.
Meanest --Sedrick Flowers/Garrett Greenlea
No prospects provided any quotes about wanting to kill people this season, so Texas fans will have to settle for a couple of mean and nasty offensive linemen who are road-graders in the running game. If the offensive line is going to regain the attitude that defined it when players like Kasey Studdard roamed the 40 Acres, Flowers and Greenlea are going to lead that charge. Both are flat-out maulers in the running game and love nothing more than putting their opponents flat on the grass. Grrrrr.
Most confident -- Leroy Scott
Scott has the type of brash confidence needed for a position like cornerback, where players must have a short memory and put any big plays given up into the past quickly. Is he cocky? Maybe so. As are most of the top cornerbacks out there.
Best story -- Quandre Diggs
There aren't any truly incredible stories in 2011 like that of Reggie Wilson and his journey from Liberia to the Ivory Coast to Fort Worth to Texas. However, Diggs deserves a tremendous amount of credit for remaining loyal to the Longhorns after the coaching staff decided not to offer him at the second Junior Day, a major slap in the face for a prospect of Diggs' caliber.
Diggs showed a lot of maturity and maintained his lifelong commitment to Texas by giving his verbal pledge. Not only that, but Diggs was also instrumental in holding the class together after the coaching changes by keeping in touch with other commits, a little bit like the prospect who won the award listed directly below.
Class MVP -- Chet Moss
Even if Moss never becomes anything more than a career back-up/program player, he's already made enough of a positive impact on the class to deserve his scholarship. Moss was one of the most vocal commits in terms of trying to bring other players into the fold and was a focal point for the entire class as the most social commit who went above and beyond to build relationships with other members of the class.
When it came time for the summer camp or visits during the fall, it was often at the Moss household that visiting players would end up staying, providing a further bonding experience -- when a recruit's commitment is to more than the school and the coaches, when that commitment is to the other members of the class, it's a commitment greatly strengthened.
So when Will Muschamp left to take the Florida job, it was Moss who had the social capital to make sure that the other players remained as committed to the school, to Mack Brown, and to each other as Moss. And it worked.
Most underrated (offense) -- David Ash
Okay, so Ash has prototypical size for the position, was really, really good his senior season, has good arm strength, is accurate, and is a plus athlete. What is there not to like about that? What about that description screams three-star ranking? Huh? Huh?
Most underrated (defense) -- Leroy Scott
Adrian White occupied this space last season and Scott occupies it for similar reasons -- questionable ball skills and exposure fatigue. There's no question that Scott has four star type of skills and he could end up being a major contributor at Texas.
Stock up -- Mykkele Thompson
Thompson had a monster senior season in terms of productivity and looks every bit as strong an athlete as the generally more highly-regarded Ladarius Brown. Fluid, fast, deceptive stride. Fantastic evaluation by the departed Duane Akina.
Stock down -- Taylor Doyle
Doyle looked out of shape and unathletic against Aledo during the fall and his subsequent drop in the rankings suggests that the rest of his senior season wasn't much better. Questionable take by the Longhorns.
Biggest recruiting miss (offense) -- Brandon Williams, Oklahoma RB
Is there really anything else to say about this? How about pointing out that Hookem.com ($) had Williams ranked ahead of Brown in their final rankings and leaving it at that.
Wondering about why Christian Westerman didn't land in this spot? Brandon Williams man-crush.
Biggest recruiting miss (defense) -- Jermauria Rasco/Brandon Alexander
Defensive end wasn't a need when the recruiting process began for the 2011 class. By the end, it was a major need and the commitment from Cedric Reed didn't end up filling it. Unfortunately for Texas, Mack Brown and his staff missed out on Alexander after getting in on his recruitment late and Jermauria Rasco was a longshot after Will Muschamp left.
Highest ceiling -- Sheroid Evans
Still raw as a football player, Evans has the pure speed to be a big-time NFL cornerback if he can turn his potential into production. In a class that has some guys with high ceilings like Quincy Russell, Evans has the highest.
Highest football IQ -- Jaxon Shipley
Maybe it comes from his dad. Maybe he learned it from his older brother. Whatever the case, the littlest Shipley is one of the smartest football players around and understands the game and his position from the inside out. In terms of football intelligence, he's off the charts.
Most impressive national player -- Jadaveon Clowney
Even a brief look at Clowney's film is enough to justify his ranking at the top player in the country and it's little wonder that some NFL teams were talking about being willing to draft him now. Right out of high school. Insane. Almost as insane as how well Clowney gets off the ball. And unlike a lot of high school kids, Clowney has the flexibility to sink his hips, wrap up, and drive opposing quarterbacks and ballcarriers into the ground. It's not particularly safe to be lined up opposite of Clowney when the bright lights come on and it would be a major surprise if that changes in college, wherever the blue-chip defensive end ends up. MON-STER.