August 26, 2008

Tough questions find answers in Locker Room

Q: (Kevin Durant is God) - What's the deal with street agents in football recruiting? This seems like a new development and I don't like that it's something that seems to be running rampant in the state of Texas now.

A: There's no question that this is becoming a much bigger problem in football recruiting, specifically in this state, than it has ever been before. In an odd way, I think the early recruiting that Texas and other schools in the state have been leading the charge with in recent years has directly contributed to the problem in some ways. In my mind, one of the biggest differences in recruiting between college football and college basketball is that the hoopsters have usually been on the radar for these scumbags for much longer than their football contemporaries.

For instance, you can find a list of the top eighth grade basketball players in the country right now and if you are someone looking to make some cash off of a recruit, the target list is usually established years before they sign the letter of intent, which leaves time for these guys to work their "magic" and newfound "family relationships". On the football side of things, a lot of the top players have historically been identified very late. However, the evaluation process is speeding up as we speak and these players are being identified earlier and earlier, which makes this usually untapped market ripe for plucking by those that make a life out of plucking 17-year old apples off of trees.

I'm not really sure how bad things might get, but we're starting to hear about these kinds of associations more and more each year, and there seems to be a growing sense that it's really starting to become a problem in cities like Houston and Dallas.

Expect this to become a bigger story as time goes by. I think we're just scratching the surface.

Q: (wild_horn_fan) - What's the deal with Christine Michael? Is Texas really going to leave another five star talent on the table for LSU or A&M? With Chris Whaley possibly being to big for the RB position already, and with the potential to still grow do we not go after CM? Is there any truth to the rumor that if Texas seriously pursued him they would have a strong shot at landing his signature? Does the lack of Michael's recruitment say anything about how strong the coaching staff feels about their chances with Lache Seastrunk?

Also, of all the current 2009 commits, who do you think has the best chance at having a breakout senior year, and improving their stock?

A: When push comes to shove, I'm still not convinced that Texas won't get involved in his recruitment for a couple of reasons. Fist of all, I think at some point the staff could still come to the realization that he's too good to simply let walk away. I think he'd think very seriously about a Longhorn commitment if they do get involved and I just don't think they have so many special backs on campus that they can ignore a kid.

At some point a bird in hand has to be worth the one in the bush. After two straight 10-3 seasons and possibly another staring them in the face, this program needs difference makers and that's what Michael offers.

The numbers at the position within the program are strong right now, but how many difference makers are there on that side of the ball of his quality? One? Two at the most? Maybe? Also, I don't think the staff can look towards 2010 and let 2009 get away from them. If they thought Lache Seastrunk was a slam-dunk, they are probably going to be mistaken because that's going to be a dogfight from here on out, even if they do have the support of the Temple coaching staff. Passing on money in pocket for the promise of a "possible" lottery ticket tomorrow doesn't make sound business sense and it's a flawed approach to recruiting that has hurt them in the past, primarily in the quarterback recruiting from 2003-05. What if Texas had passed on Jamaal Charles in 2005 to get Vondrell McGee in 2006? Would there have been a national title in 2005 without Charles? I think Texas needs to be recruiting with a little more urgency.

As far as the 2009 commitment list, I think Lake Travis offensive lineman Paden Kelley will have an excellent chance of boosting his stock because he's two seasons removed from his injury issues and he'll play in a lot of games that will have eyeballs at them. That plays a big part in all of this. Others that I think are in a good position to boost their stock include Barrett Matthews and Kenny Vaccaro. If those guys take their level of play up a notch this season, they should rise in the national rankings.

Q: (MCB0703) - From your experience of covering various recruiting stories over the years, would you have a list of some of the best recruiters in the country? I understand schools like UT, USC, Florida, etc will have strong recruiters and are established programs…however, I've read various stories about Tim Brewster's recruiting successes while he was an assistant to Mack (either UNC or UT) and wanted to know some of the other top recruiters you would consider around the country. Other coaches mentioned (that I've read) are Trooper Taylor or Ed Orgeron…also, does Mack & Co have an assistant that you believe is an underrated recruiter?

What are your thoughts regarding the NCAA ban on text messaging recruits? It does seem as though this limits coaches from establishing a bond or relationship with recruits…was there a specific reason(s) for this ban?

A: Love the questions. The list of talented recruiters across the county is as deep as I've ever seen. Two names that have been in that rare air for more than a decade are Notre Dame's Rob Ianello and Florida's Charlie Strong. I think when you're talking about coaches in the Big 12 that stick out, Oklahoma's Brent Venables, Oklahoma State's Joe DeForest, Texas' Bobby Kennedy and Colorado's Darian Hagan (after this past recruiting class) come to mind.

To answer the rest of your question, I went to recruiting analysts Jeremy Crabtree and Mike Farrell for their thoughts on the matter. Among those that Crabtree mentioned were Florida State's Jimbo Fisher, Auburn's Eddie Gran, LSU's Josh Henson, Clemson's Dabo Swinney and Michigan State's Mark Staten. As for Farrell, he also really liked Clemson's Billy Napier, West Virginia's Doc Holliday, Illinois' Mike Locksley and Alabama's Lance Thompson.

If I'm looking at the Texas staff, I'd probably single out Major Applewhite. If Mack really turned him loose to go after more national kids, I believe he'd hit some home runs.

Finally, I'm kind of straddling the fence on the text-message issue because I do think the kids just get beaten down with the raw volume of incoming texts. If I don't have time to answer all my texts, I know these kids don't either. That being said, it's ok to email kids and those can go straight through to a crackberry, so it's probably something that can easily get around and in the grand scheme of things, perhaps the improvements in communications outweigh the downside. I'm really not sure.

Q: (VALonghorns) - Why haven't the Texas coaches tried Curtis Brown at safety

A: I think the biggest reason is that it's not time to hit the panic button. This is a kid that Duane Akina believes has as much talent as any kid that he's ever coached, but he's a little more than a year removed from playing at little Gilmer High. The staff loves his talent, but he runs from hot to cold on a daily basis right now and he just needs more time to allow the game to slow down for him. I'm not sure that moving him there does that for him at all. Now if you want to argue that he should be playing on offense, that's probably a conversation worth having, if for no other reason than to make sure you've got him on the right side of the ball.

Q: (Ilovedoughnuts) - Heading into the season I feel like this team needs a complete mental makeover from the last two seasons. All of the rhetoric from the off-season sounds like the stuff we hear every off-season, so how can we believe or disbelieve anything? It's just white noise to me. My question is what do you believe is simple: what needs to happen for this team to get back to the type of determination we saw from the team in those two Rose Bowl years? Comparing the last two seasons to the two seasons prior is like an out of body experience.

A: Hammer meet nail. I think the biggest single issue for this program right now is the reestablishment of their attitude and moxie. If you look at the last two seasons, this team just hasn't always played with the edge needed to compete for a 12-game season at an elite level. Players and coaches have both talked about not being ready to play at times last season and when you look at this season, this team needs to be as much of a 180-degreee turn away from the last two years as possible. I think the players want that to happen, but we can't know how things are going to go until the first snap of the first game. The Longhorns of 2004-05 played fearless football, while the Longhorns of 2006-07 simply did not. If they want to beat Oklahoma, Missouri and Texas Tech this season, this team needs to get their "gangsta" back. It needs to strike and not worry about whether anyone will strike back. Until that happens, I don't know how they'll be able to get back to a championship level of play. That's what this season needs to be about - reestablishing the Texas brand.

Q: (MaestroHorn) - A lot of posters on OB seem to be categorized as either "pumpers" or "haters". The majority of us are just "fans": we hope for the best in our Horns. Without being a labeled a "pumper", why not get excited about this year's team?!? If Colt has his best season, the running back situation is not any drop off, the offensive line is as improved as it should be, and Will Muschamp improves the defense to a top 25 level or better, why should we not hope that the 2008 Longhorns get AT LEAST 10 wins. Where do YOU stand on how far this team can go?

Do you think that Mack will be more aggressive with players (and coaches) during the season like he was in the Bowl practices or will it take an unexpected loss early to get him "riled up" again? - Does Henry Melton really deserve to start at DE or are we "playing nice" with him because we was kind enough to switch positions for RB? Sounds like Acho over Melton is a no-brainer.

A: I'm on record as saying that I think the Longhorns go 10-2 this season and play in the Cotton Bowl on New Year's Day. Overall, I think the biggest reason for excitement this season centers around a changing of the guard in some ways and the talent base in place is one that can legitimately challenge for a championship in the next couple of seasons.

As for Mack, I think he's already mellowed out from his pre-Holiday Bowl period. He's got Muschamp and Applewhite to breathe fire for him right now and he's just kind of doing his thing as the master of ceremonies. I don't know that it will take a loss though to set him off this year because he's pretty sick of the listless play from the last two seasons and he's made it clear he's not going to stand for that this year.

Finally, from what I heard from those close to the program, the two best defensive ends in camp this month were Brian Orakpo and Sam Acho. I expect them both to play a lot because they both count as playmakers and the team needs as many of those as possible. Melton and Jones are both very capable starters and I don't really have a problem with them fighting it out in game action, along with Aaron Lewis, for the long-term title of starter.

Q: (Leonidas 05) - Ketch when mentioning the younger player you left out a few, how are they looking? Luke Poehlmann, Ryan Roberson, Dravannti Johnson, Brock Fitzhenry and Russell Carter. Is Cody Johnson our answer at Fullback?

A: I think for most of the guys you mentioned, it's just too early to have a read on those guys because Poehlmann, Roberson, Johnson and Fitzhenry are all learning so many new things and they aren't getting a ton of reps. Carter absolutely looks good in practice, but he's buried right now by a talented lot of older players. Eventually, he'll get on the field and he projects as a potential starter down the road. Johnson is more of a runner right now than a blocker, but he's got a lot of upside to be the fullback this offense needs.

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