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Weekly Longhorn Wrap August 23, 2009

Weekly Longhorn Wrap August 23, 2009

August camp is now over two weeks old and headed into the final full fall camp week. The team has had two full game scrimmages (last Wednesday and Saturday) and will have a third on Wednesday, August 26. Camp will close next weekend and the team will go into game week preparations for the season opener on September 5 versus Louisiana – Monroe.

Week three will be the first time the team starts to work on actual game planning situations and against scout teams rather just facing the Longhorn offense/defense, as appropriate.

Although the team has not publically or privately released a depth chart for the opener, most of the position battles are starting to take shape. Obviously, as the team starts breaking up into scout team groups and the expected rotation, the depth chart clearly has taken shape.

Before I get in position by position analysis, I want to talk about the true freshmen that are looking like they will play this season. This Texas staff’s idea on redshirting have very much evolved over the last 12 years. Today, the main criterion for the redshirt question is “Will this guy help us win a game this season?” If that answer is yes, that guy will play as a true freshman – even if that means just on special teams or situational packages.

In the spring, Coach Mack Brown said that he thought that perhaps every skill position player would play this season as it helps keep those players engaged with the team and the program. Greg Davis said yesterday that there are times he wished both Brandon Collins and James Kirkendoll had redshirted (they would be sophomores this year rather than juniors) with the caveat that they might not have performed as well last year if not for the experience that they gained as true freshmen.

All that said, there are two guys who are already in the two-deep that obviously will play: quarterback Garrett Gilbert and buck end Alex Okafor. The plan right now is to also play guard Mason Walters, tight end/H-back (jumbo package) Barrett Matthews, defensive tackle Calvin Howell, and defensive end/tackle Tevin Mims. It is also likely that DB Marcus Davis, and perhaps Eyron Barnett and Kenny Vaccaro will also play, although primarily in kick return and coverage situations. It would take pretty healthy amount of injuries in the defensive backfield to force any of those three onto the field when the game is still in question.

It sounds as though the other three OL (Porter, Kelley, and Ashcraft), TE Trey Graham, WR Greg Timmons, both LBs (Nkwopara and Allen), DT/DE Kyle Kriegel, DT Derek Johnson and DE/TE Dominique Jones will all redshirt. Obviously, injuries at their respective positions can ruin the best laid plans.

Chris Whaley’s slow start due to a hamstring tweak has his redshirt status in question. I lean to thinking that he will redshirt given that most of the situational and two-deep roles are pretty well set.

If “walk-on” Marquise Goodwin (on track scholarship) earns a two-deep spot at punt or kick returner, he would play. It is doubtful he would contribute at WR this season. The first time Goodwin plays a snap in a football game, he goes on football scholarship and counts towards the 85-man limit.

Moving on to the positional analysis, let’s start on the defensive side of the ball.

When talking with Will Muschamp on Saturday he had a great line about Earl Thomas: “He’s seeing the whole door, not the keyhole.”

In fact, that notion has been said about quite a few guys on the defense this offseason and most of the defensive staff are expecting a lot more out of this defense. Last year’s squad each understood their role and responsibility (the keyhole), but virtually no one fully understood the entire defensive concept (the door).

I’ve heard similar notions about Lamarr Houston, Roddrick Muckelroy, Jared Norton, and Aaron Williams. The defense in key spots gets the philosophy that Muschamp is installing. And for other guys, Muschamp has made the role very digestible either because they are only situational guys, are too young to catch on to the whole defense, or he just wants that player to play on speed and instincts.

In the defensive backfield, the top six players are pretty clear: Earl Thomas, Chykie Brown, Aaron Williams, Blake Gideon, Christian Scott, and Curtis Brown. If you assume the nickel package will be the “base” defensive package, five of the above will be on the field depending upon whether Earl Thomas or Aaron Williams is playing the nickel spot. When Thomas is at the slot, Christian Scott will take his safety spot. When Williams plays the nickel, Curtis Brown takes over his corner spot.

Earl Thomas has really stepped up his play and has separated himself from a talent maximization perspective. He has also taken the vocal leadership role (despite being just a redshirt sophomore) with Lamarr Houston. I would really be surprised to see Thomas miss many snaps except due to injury.

At the traditional linebacker spots, Muschamp really feels very comfortable with five guys in Roddrick Muckelroy, Jared Norton, Keenan Robinson, Dustin Earnest, and
Emmanuel Acho.

Emmanuel Acho is also getting some looks at the buck end position. Obviously Sergio Kindle is going to get the bulk of those snaps. Freshman Alex Okafor is backing up Kindle there and Russell Carter has a role as an edge rusher.

Sam Acho and Eddie Jones are both having great camps at the “true” defensive end position.

In obvious passing downs, I would not be surprised to see a front six of Muck, Robinson/Norton, Kindle, Sam Acho, Lamarr Houston, and Eddie Jones. Virtually any of those six could pin their ears back and go get the quarterback or drop back into coverage if a nickel back rushed off the edge.

The staff really wants five defensive tackles that they can count on for the snaps that they face. Muschamp remains confident that he has what he needs at the DT tackle spot. He is very comfortable in what he gets from Houston, Randall, and Alexander (albeit spot duty). In the last two weeks, Muschamp needs two more guys to develop into guys who can play at the championship level he expects. Those options include Tray Allen, Calvin Howell, Tyrell Higgins, and Tevin Mims. If Allen is not in the top five mix at DT, they will move him back to offense on a more fulltime basis, but he would, in an emergency situation, be able to contribute at DT.

On the offensive side of the ball, things are much straighter forward.

Colt McCoy is your starter. Garrett Gilbert is the #2 and Sherrod Harris is the #3.

At running back, Vondrell McGee and Fozzy Whittaker are alternating at first string back with Antwan Cobb as the starter at fullback. Cody Johnson is cross-training at RB and FB and still has his role as short yardage back. Tre Newton is the number four RB and might see the Chris O third down back role.

As we said earlier this week, DJ Monroe is showing some promise at running back as well and his speed might force a special package which presumably includes catching the ball out of the backfield and edge rushes.

The wide receivers define the term “multiple”. Each guy can play at least two positions and most can play all three WR spots. All-American candidate Jordan Shipley clearly is the top player and has a chance to set a single season receiving record for the Longhorns. James Kirkendoll and Brandon Collins are the next two most consistent receivers, but Malcolm Williams is the wildcard for this team.

Williams has the ability to make plays that Kirkendoll and Collins can not (it helps to be 6-3, 220 and a blazer), but his consistency has really dogged him all spring and summer. John Chiles and Dan Buckner (who is also working at the Flex TE position) round out the top six. Spots 7 & 8 (essentially two-deep in four wides) are up in the air without much separation among Hales, Monroe, Payne, Timmons, and Goodwin.

At attached tight end, Greg Smith and Ahmard Howard are battling for the starting job in a role that just does not look like a part of the passing offense. When Greg Davis was asked whether those two could combine for 30 catches on the year, he said that they would likely not be asked to do that. The position will still be key in the run game from under center. Barrett Matthews has also made a case for that spot.

The offensive line is really pretty straight forward (left to right): Ulatoski-Tanner-Hall-Huey-Hix. David Snow is the swing interior lineman while Britt Mitchell is the swing tackle. Those are your top seven linemen. Mason Walters is your second interior linemen assuming Allen remains in the mix on defense.

If an OT went down this season, Britt Mitchell would be given the first shot to fill in, but center Chris Hall might also be given a shot which would push Snow to the starting center role. If it were Ulotoski, right tackle Kyle Hix would be moved to left tackle with Mitchell at RT. Hix is the expected LT starter for 2010.

On the recruiting front…

Spoke with a source on Ohio linebacker Jordan Hicks. Hicks is very likely to take an official visit to Texas during the season. With the elite level linebacker a possible mid-term enrollee, he has to knock the visits out in a timely fashion in September, October and November.

A visit for the Colorado is a strong possibility, but the source didn’t think it was 100% quite yet.

We have said all along that should Hicks visit Texas officially, we believe the Horns would have a very good chance to land the five-star prospect. Texas, Florida, Alabama, Ohio State, USC and Georgia are the six under consideration.

As we reported a few days ago, we are hearing that Texas and USC are the current top two in the Jackson Jeffcoat sweepstakes. That hasn’t changed. They aren’t the only two involved and Jeffcoat is a young man that BOB believes is more likely to stay close to home than end up on the West or East Coast.

More on the Thursday visit to Fort Worth Dunbar…

We’ll start with Darius White. Two questions were key on the visit to Dunbar on Thursday. The answers didn’t come from White, but the answers are key for two programs being Texas and OU. The first was life after football and a person very close to the recruitment said that was going to be big in the decision. That appears to be a positive for Texas.

The other question, which was centered around a person very close to the decision making process. We believe, after visiting that the stepfather is pushing the Sooners heavily.

There are three people guaranteed to be sitting down at the table when a decision is made…Darius, his mother and his stepfather.

Texas has spoken about the possibility of playing basketball at the next level, but White’s interest in playing both sports has been mild in recent weeks. Won’t likely be a deal breaker for one program over another.

Oklahoma, Texas and USC have the best shots for official visits with Oklahoma State and Florida also being mentioned the most.

On Rashod Favors, the Longhorns are showing interest in the outside linebacker as we reported first on Thursday afternoon. Favors has moved from safety to linebacker as a senior and had a very good scrimmage against Dallas Carter. Carter runs a wing-T type scheme and Favors showed the ability to not over pursue against the run based offense as well as showing very good feet (which he has always had) and the ability to run to the football and deliver a punishing hit.

With Oklahoma the leader for his services, the major question becomes can the Longhorns get back in the race for the 5-11.5, 220-pounder with legit 4.6 speed. Favors has always favored the Longhorns and said as much in his initial interviews before offers began pouring in.

Favors has family in Oklahoma (Oklahoma City area) and does feel comfortable at Oklahoma.

BOB also took in practice at Hurst Bell on Thursday afternoon to check out 2011 running back Kenneth Farrow. The 5-10, 190-pounder has Texas on top of his early list with interest from Florida, Oklahoma State, Oklahoma, Arkansas, TCU, Georgia and LSU among others.

Farrow camped at Texas on June 14 and did very well moving up the board of 2011 running backs.

Kenneth Farrow Scouting Report

Farrow is a legit 5-10, and 190 pounds with very good feet, terrific balance, impressive hands, the ability to jump cut, skip cut and above average lateral ability with sneaky power and a physical attitude with the ball.

In the screen game on Thursday, Farrow showed the understanding of timing and fluidity with soft hands and light-footed burst after the catch.

What didn’t show up in a limited practices setting pops out on video. Farrow has the desired vision and the ability to make his body small on contact. Farrow understands how to lower the shoulder, keep the feet moving and maximize runs.

On the hoops front…

As first reported, another big man has entered the picture for the Longhorns in the 2010 class. Turkish big man Enes Kanter has enrolled at Findlay prep (home of Tristan Thompson) for his senior season.

The Longhorns are very likely to receive an official visit. North Carolina is one school that Kanter has a strong liking for, but Texas is the other school he is most familiar with due to Dogus Balbay.

USC and West Virginia will likely be involved as well.

Norcross, Ga. 6-4 combo guard Jeremy Lamb is very likely to officially visit Texas in early September. Texas has offered Lamb in the 2010 class along with Findlay Prep and Grassroots Canada AAU’s Corey Joseph, who is also likely to make an official visit in September.

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