Texas Football Recruiting: Grading the Longhorns' 2011 Class
The Texas Longhorns and their entire fan base will want to forget the slew of inconsistencies and shortcomings in 2010.
After 22 high school athletes signed and sealed their Letters of Intent today, the Texas program is well on their way to a new beginning in 2011.
Highlighted by Malcolm Brown, the country's top rated running back by rivals.com, the Longhorns brought in an impressive haul in this year's class, but it doesn't end with Brown.
In 2009 and 2010 Mack Brown and his staff recorded consensus top five recruiting classes, and the 2011 group is no different.
Here are the grades for 15 of Texas' 22 newest players.
To track all the top recruits, click here.
Ht/Wt: 6-4, 195
Where he fits in best: Behind center. Ash won't turn any heads this spring as an early enrollee. If Garrett Gilbert continues to struggle during his junior year, all bets will be off as far as the 2012 quarterback race. Ash received a variety of awards and recognition during his senior season, including First Team All-District (12-5A) and AP 5A Second Team All-State as quarterback.
Does he fill a void?: He is a future builder. Case McCoy is a sophomore and Connor Wood redshirted last season, creating enough separation to last for some time. Ash was the only quarterback taken in 2011 for the Horns, but he will need to develop quickly if he is to climb the depth chart any time soon.
Grade: C. There were better prospects out there this year, but Ash is no slouch. Some work with very capable coaches and who knows?
Position: Tight End
Ht/Wt: 6-5, 236
Where he fits in best: Tight End. Texas may have found a missing ingredient to establishing a pro-style offense. McFarland has the frame of a true tight end, and he has the bulk to play the position well. Bryan Harsin's offense at Boise State used plenty of formations involving tight ends, and the freshman from El Paso could play a big role down the road. He has the hands, but incorporating the blocking schemes may take some time. Nonetheless, McFarland could be the first true tight end to come to the Forty Acres in some time.
Does he fill a void?: McFarland doesn't fill any particular need, but the Texas staff was looking towards the future. With the slew of injuries problems at the position (Blaine Irby, D.J. Grant, Trey Graham), tight end appeared to be thin with options. But Irby, who has been sidelined with a litany of issues for what seems an eternity, is set to return to the field this season, along with Grant. So what had been a problem of depth before is not so much the case. Texas currently has eight tight ends on the roster, McFarland included.
Grade: C+. He will be a project, but expect to see some things in the future.
Ht/Wt: 6-1, 219
Where he fits in best: Outside linebacker. Moss is a tackling machine, but lacks the brute size to plug up the running lanes in the middle of the defense. Though he isn't a true sideline-to-sideline linebacker, he has room to grow in that area. The Horns have plenty of talented linebackers, but Moss may be on the outside looking in as far as early playing time. He is a spring enrollee.
Does he fill a void?: With the recent transfer request put in by sophomore Tariq Allen, it opens a spot on the roster for another young linebacker to fill. But that likely won't be Moss at this early stage. Nevertheless, the Horns have typically had good depth and good athletes at linebacker, and Moss is another case.
Grade: C+. Texas has always had smart linebackers, and the Cedar Park prospect is one of those. He is a good tackler, but will need to become acclimated to a new defensive scheme (as will everyone else) and adjust to the speed of the college game.
Ht/Wt: 6-1, 168
Where he fits in best: Thompson has shown to be electric with the ball in his hands, so getting him on the offensive side of the ball may be his best bet. It is hard to see the Horns getting him reps at quarterback. Putting the San Antonio native at a scat back or slot receiver position, somewhere where he can get the ball quickly and use his athleticism in the open field, would fit his skill set nicely. But given the numbers at running back and wide out, Thompson may find himself in the secondary.
Does he fill a void?: It never hurts to have more playmakers on either side of the ball. Seeing as how Thompson doesn't have a set position at the moment, it is hard to determine what kind of impact he will have on the program. He figures to be a project for the future.
Grade: B-. Finding him a spot will be a task for the Longhorns' staff. He has good size and speed to play in the secondary, but the coaches cannot ignore his potential with the ball in his hands.
Position: Defensive Tackle
Ht/Wt: 6-3, 289
Where he fits in best: Russell will be in the trenches. He is a big body and can get some good push on the interior line, something that the Longhorns have lacked with some consistency of late. Given that the only experienced interior lineman to date are Kheeston Randall, who returns for his senior year, and Alex Okafor, a former defensive end, the incoming freshmen on the interior line may be able to compete right away.
Does he fill a void?: In two senses of the word, yes. Russell is a beast and can surely help in stopping the run, but with the lack of depth inside, Russell is a great addition to the defense and should be a player for some years to come. The Longhorns have a history of producing well-developed defensive tackles (Casey Hampton and Lamar Houston come to mind), and the San Antonio product could be next in line.
Grade: C+. Another defensive tackle by the name of Desmond Jackson may have the upper hand, but Russell creates some depth and is talented enough to play well for Texas. Unless he is able to unseat guys like Taylor Bible, DeAires Cotton, Ashton Dorsey or even Calvin Howell, Russell will be waiting in line.
Position: Defensive Back
Ht/Wt: 6-0, 175
Where he fits in best: Turner has good size and is destined to play cornerback on the Forty Acres. Some believed his commitment may have been in question after Duane Akina left the program, but with new defensive backs coach Jerry Gray, a Texas alum, Turner never wavered. Under Gray's tutelage, Turner looks to continue Texas' reputation as "DB U."
Does he fill a void?: The Millwood product absolutely fills a void. The Longhorns lost Curtis Brown, Chykie Brown and Aaron Williams to the NFL Draft and will need all the depth they can get their hands on going into 2011. Early playing time remains to be seen, but Texas is scary thin with cornerbacks with experience. An impressive summer could mean seeing the field early and often.
Grade: B. The Horns get a solid B for hauling in Turner. Nabbing a prospect out of Oklahoma and keeping him away from the Sooners and Cowboys is always a good thing, and coupled with Gray's knowledge of the game, Texas gets a formidable player in the secondary.
Position: Offensive Guard
Ht/Wt: 6-3, 280
Where he fits in best: Interior offensive line. Short, relatively, but powerful. Flowers has the make-up of a prototypical run-blocking offensive lineman. He has a good release, can get to the next level and throw a powerful block. But with the many formations that Co-OC Bryan Harsin has in his playbook, one has to wonder how it will play out in regards to true freshmen getting early snaps.
Does he fill a void?: Texas has more depth on the interior than they do at tackle, but experience runs pretty thin. With Tray Allen healthy (fingers crossed), it will be difficult for Flowers to unseat Trey Hopkins or Thomas Ashcraft early enough to justify the reps.
Grade: B+. Another project, but he figures to be a good one.
Position: Offensive Tackle
Ht/Wt: 6-7, 300
Where he fits in best: Tackle. Greenlea is one of five offensive linemen in Texas' 2011 class, four of which appear to be fit for offensive tackle, where the Horns have just one upperclassman listed (Luke Poehlmann who is coming off an ACL injury). Like Poehlmann, Greenlea is recovering from an ACL injury and was scheduled to enroll early and is now set to join the Longhorns this summer.
Does he fill a void?: Greenlea absolutely fills a need. Texas is freakishly thin, especially at tackle. In addition to Poehlmann, Paden Kelley and Kyle Kriegel (a former defensive end recruit) are the only other offensive tackles on scholarship. Expect some freshmen to get some snaps this season.
Grade: B-. Lately, the Horns haven't faired so well in their offensive line recruits, so it's hard to get a grasp on how well Greenlea will develop given the ACL injury. At any rate, the 300 lbs. tackle is still an enormous body to put anywhere on the line.
Position: Defensive End
Ht/Wt: 6-5, 240
Where he fits in best: Put this man-child at the buck end to rush the passer. In 2009, the Horns locked up Alex Okafor (now moved to DT). In 2010, they reeled in Jackson Jeffcoat and Reggie Wilson. In this recruiting class, they signed another beast of a defensive end in Reed. He is very athletic, strong from the point of attack and uses his length well.
Does he fill a void?: The Longhorns are thin on the defensive line, and Reed provides depth for the future. Jeffcoat and Wilson figure to be the standard for a couple of more years, and they are the smart money. But Reed is another big, physical body who could take some reps this year. He likely won't see the field too much this season, if at all, but store his name away in a safe place.
Grade: B-. He's long, he's big and he's physical. Doubtful that he plays right away, but Reed was the only defensive end recruited in the Horns' 2011 class.
Position: Defensive Tackle
Ht/Wt: 6-1, 278
Where he fits in best: Defensive tackle. Jackson is regarded as one of the more undersized players for his position, and he is. Though generously listed at 6'1", Jackson has a ton of athleticism and speed and uses them to his advantage. He's in no position to take away too many snaps from someone, but with depth a problem on the interior line, Jackson is prime for some reps in the fall. Stay tuned.
Does he fill a void?: Definitely. The Houston native is one of the best 2011 recruits in the state of Texas, and is a great athlete at a position where the Horns lack playmakers. Jackson is hard to block, and if displays that ability early, expect him to get some snaps.
Grade: B+. There was a coach who said that the closer you play to the ball pre-snap, the harder it is to play early (or something like that). Jackson may have a big learning curve, but his athleticism may be enough for him to see the field early.
Position: Offensive Tackle
Ht/Wt: 6-6, 278
Where he fits in best: Offensive tackle. Cochran bloomed during his senior year and really gained some attention, but he was always solid with Texas. Like Greenlea, he is another big body to get out on the exterior line and looks to develop into a solid option.
Does he fill a void?: Yes. Again, with the lack of depth at tackle, the Longhorns may be pressed to force some of their freshmen into early playing time in the fall. Will Cochran or any other freshman be able to adapt quickly to the speed at the college level to make an impact?
Grade: B. Just like Greenlea, it is hard to project the development of big offensive tackles, especially at a position where Texas has struggled to find durable and influential pieces.
Position: Wide Receiver
Ht/Wt: 6-0, 170
Where he fits in best: The younger Shipley is set for the Split End receiver position for the Longhorns, the deep threat. But make no mistake, Shipley's route running is akin to his brother's, so expect him to have the flexibility to move all over the field. He may not have the top-end speed that so many teams covet these days, but his trademark Shipley hands more than make up for it.
Does he fill a void?: Yes. Texas lacked playmakers all over the offense last season. Mike Davis, a true freshman at the time, was arguably the best player on offense, but injuries and offensive sputters curtailed what could have been a tremendous season. Shipley will enroll in the fall and should immediately compete for some playing time.
Grade: A-. Shipley may be one of the more underrated prospects in 2011, mainly because of his early and adamant commitment to the Longhorns nearly a year ago. He has all the tools any receivers coach would want, so adjusting to the college game likely will be the biggest hurdle.
Position: Defensive Back
Ht/Wt: 5-10, 188
Where he fits in best: Cornerback. Diggs was originally recruited as an athlete, given that he played both ways for Angleton. But just as his half-brother, Quentin Jammer, did for the Longhorns, Diggs likely will be set for cornerback. He will get an early start on acclimating to the college atmosphere as a spring enrollee, and that could play in his favor come the summer and fall.
Does he fill a void?: Yes. With the loss of three cornerbacks to the NFL Draft, the Horns only have three non-freshmen scholarship players listed at corner (Eryon Barnett, Carrington Byndom and A.J. White). He could compete immediately for snaps in the fall.
Grade: B+. He has the bloodlines and the athleticism that shout star. Can he develop quickly?
Ht/Wt: 6-3, 225
Where he fits in best: Middle linebacker. Some have said that Edmond is the best linebacker prospect to come out of the state of Texas since Derrick Johnson, but the Daingerfield product will have some big shoes to fill in his time in Austin. One glance at Edmond's tape, despite hailing from Texas 2A, and he is a man amongst boys. He plays fast, physical and is intimidating. Other than Malcolm Brown, Edmond may have the best shot at getting early snaps in 2011.
Does he fill a void?: Yes. Apart from the incoming freshmen linebackers, Texas currently lists six players on scholarship for the position. Emmanuel Acho and Keenan Robinson figure to have their starting spots locked down, but the third position may be up for grabs. Sophomore Jordan Hicks got a handful of reps as a freshman, but any regression could see Edmond jump at the opportunity.
Grade: A-. Edmond is simply a beast and he figures to be a standout player for the Horns.
Position: Running Back
Ht/Wt: 6-0, 220
Where he fits in best: Brown will be the feature back in Austin for years to come. If there was ever a sure-thing, this is it. Since the days of Jamaal Charles, Texas has been searching for an answer in the backfield, an all-purpose running back with all tools: speed, power, agility, balance, vision and pass-catching. A true home-run threat. Be excited Texas fans.
Does he fill a void?: There was no other void that was a spacious as the one in the Longhorns' backfield. To secure a commitment from Brown, who hails from San Antonio just down I-35, was a huge pick-up by itself. Summer time should put the Forty Acres into a frenzy.
Grade: A+. There is nothing more to be said.
Overall, the Longhorns pulled in an impressive class, and they did it early in the recruiting process. Despite losing out on Christian Westerman, who switched his commitment to Auburn, Texas has some great pieces coming to Austin.
Getting Malcolm Brown shored up any problems in the running game, though mending the issues on the offensive line will make it all come full circle.
Most importantly, they signed what seems to be a litany of playmakers. They have Brown at tailback, Edmond at linebacker, Jackson at defensive tackle, Diggs in the secondary. And these are just the tip. It is a deep class with great talent, and it will be very interesting to see how it all unfolds as Texas will still be a very young team in 2011.