Mondays in the Humidor with the Big Cigar

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By Jesus Shuttlesworth, Inside Texas Special Contributor
Posted May 19, 2014
Copyright © 2014 InsideTexas.com


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Quandre Diggs

We make this week's edition of Mondays in the Humidor with the Big Cigar FREE. We’ve got some team info from someone close to the Texas staff, along with information from sources close to a few players. 

With a FREE Hoops Humidor just added.

 

 

 


More premium articles from Inside Texas:

 

BOYD: Are the Big 12 offenses ready for Charlie Strong LINK


NAHLIN: Inside Texas Top 100 for 2015 (1-25) LINK

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We wrap it all up and put a bow on it with our own hoops cigar in an effort to continue to be THE go to place on the interwebs when it comes to Longhorn Basketball with guys like Tim Beam and ballerjunkie hammering out the content. We’ll have the hoops Humidor up tomorrow morning. For now, it’s football, and we’re drinking single malt, dropping knowledge, and staying humble inside the Humidor. 


Jesus Shuttlesworth: Still a slow time of the year, but it sounds like we have a lot of stuff for readers to sink their teeth into despite being in mid-May. First and foremost, I want to highlight a comment you made last week because it sounds like you have an update. Last week, you had this to say about the absence of Longhorns in the 2014 NFL draft.


Big Cigar: It’s embarrassing really but hopefully it galvanizes everyone or at least opens the eyes of those who are close to Mack and wanted him to stay. The NFL draft is just another indication that it was time to make a move. 

Jesus Shuttlesworth: Anything new?

Big Cigar: Yeah, I also mentioned that perhaps talent acquisition and player development were equal culprits here. Now I’m not so sure after talking to someone close to the current staff. The staff thinks that, by and large, recruiting wasn’t the problem. They are in fact dismayed with how little the junior and seniors on this team looked physically and acted mentally once they took over. I guess I’ve changed my position on the matter after the conversation this week. With the backing of coach Strong, coach Moorer and the culture of the program in general will cure a lot of our ills. There are still positions with a talent deficit, but overall this program needed a kick in the backside top to bottom. 

Jesus Shuttlesworth: So did the draft indeed galvanize some of the naysayers? 

Big Cigar: I don’t know if it galvanized the group but I know it shamed some of the Mack supporters to the point where their opinions are carrying zero weight. You have people inside the program and objective observers who understand this was a Mack problem and that the Strong era has a very low chance of being a train wreck some of the naysayers said it would be. They can recruit a tick under the talent that Mack acquired the last few seasons and still be more successful. I don’t know if that’s galvanizing things but it’s apparent to anyone with a brain that player development and culture were the two biggest problems the program had. You’ll get that answer from both people close to the program and from folks that have to play and prepare for Texas every season. 

Jesus Shuttlesworth: No more second halves walking around the state fair hopefully. Speaking of talent versus player development, it sounds like there are more beneficiaries of the Strong hire who have emerged this spring. What are you hearing?

Big Cigar: If there is a better example of the total collapse of the Texas culture I’d love to see it, but here’s the most damning evidence that Mack Brown lost control of the program from player development/culture standpoint —Quandre Diggs. Coming into the program Diggs ate and slept football. He was a self-starter with a gigantic chip residing on his shoulder. He was a leader and if any player was going to be immune from the cultural rot, it was going to be Diggs you would think. Not so. There are several close the program that believed Diggs mailed it in his sophomore and junior seasons and flat-lined in his development as a players. It’s said that he stopped putting in max effort like he had his freshman year and instead coasted for two years.

Jesus Shuttlesworth: At a glance, that’s almost unbelievable, but Diggs’ performance on the field kind of supports that claim.

Big Cigar: I can tell you that Quandre lost belief in the old regime early on. Keep in mind that his brother Quentin Jammer had no use for coach Madden so Diggs had a frame of reference. Regardless, Diggs didn’t put in the work he did his first season and I think he’d tell you as much.

Jesus Shuttlesworth: So has anything changed?

Big Cigar: Yeah, Diggs is dialed in and poised for a big season according to this staff. I think we’ll get a bigger, faster, stronger version of the 2011 Quandre Diggs this season. At least that’s the scuttlebutt. 

Jesus Shuttlesworth: That’s great. Any other data points on player development? 

Big Cigar: The current staff is a bit perplexed at the lack of buzz around Hassan Ridgeway in the spring and specifically the lack of reps last season. They get that Ridge was injured some early in the season, but they view him as a future NFL player with terrific potential. They are riding the hell out of Ridge with that in mind and I was told it was paying dividends at the end of spring—as in Ridgeway was starting to realize some of that immense talent and potential. He’s another one to watch and some expect his development curve to be pretty steep. 

Jesus Shuttlesworth: I’m a big fan of an explosive Ridgeway pairing up with Malcom Brown against pass-happy squads. 

Big Cigar: Yeah, the staff is too. They love this defensive line. 

Jesus Shuttlesworth: Anyone else?

Big Cigar: I’ve mentioned a lot of names the staff was high on, but a new name that came to light this week wasDemarco Cobbs. The staff was not expecting much out of Cobbs, but he flashed some in the Spring Game film that they are intrigued with. Not sure I buy it, but I found it interesting. 

Jesus Shuttlesworth: I doubt our readers would buy it after he was pitched at the second coming of Lawrence Taylor, but good for Cobbs. I hope he has a healthy season to show what he can do. Is there anything the staff is worried about besides the QB position?

Big Cigar: Yeah, the defensive backs. They still feel they need more physicality and may have to experiment and tinker some to find the right combination in the back 7. 

Jesus Shuttlesworth: Speaking of DBU, it sounds like there’s a familiar philosophy being adopted by the current staff when it comes to the secondary. What’s going on there?

Big Cigar: I guess if you’re going to emulate someone from the former staff, Duane Akina is not a bad one to copy. I don’t get into recruiting much but I’m told that the plan with this position is to get the best players on the field by trial and error starting with whether or not a given player can cover. It’s similar to Akina's process of discovering his best group of defensive backs in that Vance Bedford and Chris Vaughn will continue to try players at corner first and if that doesn't work they’ll move them to safety.
In the near term that means incoming freshmen John Bonney and Jason Hall will first get looks at corner despite most thinking they're safeties long term. For Bonney, his goal is clear, he currently weighs 187 pounds and has been told to try and get to 195. That's can be good, flexible weight for long frame; he should be able to carry it and have a chance to play corner but also be big enough to help in run support which is a huge plus for a squad lacking great tacklers in the secondary. There is no downside because Bonney is already on his way to safety if corner doesn't work out and you’ve at least helped to enhance his coverage skills if a position change is needed. Plus, Bonney’s a cerebral kid so there's a chance he can stick at corner; think Carrington Byndom in terms of between the ears.

Jesus Shuttlesworth: What does the staff think about the Bonney signing?

Big Cigar: They were happy they pulled him out of the fire. The Bonney take was necessary and we think a quality signing. One added benefit is his relationship with 2015 CB Holton Hill. It's because of this relationship the staff is exceedingly optimistic it will land Hill. Hill's family and Bonney's family are very close. In fact, Hill initially followed Bonney on to middle school football factory Pershing before following him again to Lamar. So this could be a huge development.

Jesus Shuttlesworth: Good stuff. Sounds like you gleaned some other recruiting intel. What gives?

Big Cigar: Yeah, I don’t want to step on Eric’s toes but I get some from time to time. Eric mentioned former Cy Falls defensive tackle Jacobi Hunter transferring from Cal in one update so because there’s a need at the position I sent a text. It turns out the staff is already aware of the situation thanks to 2015 defensive tackle Du'Vonta Lampkin. The staff is also cognizant of the hole in the depth chart thanks to the 2013 class that featured zero defensive lineman which gives me a cathartic belly laugh truth be told. I mean this isn't the same as not taking a running back in that class because backs can come in and play immediately, while lineman need time to develop. Maybe we thought we could move a tight end there to fill the void but that it’s gratuitous shot. Anyway, I’m told that if Texas moves on Hunter, it would have a player ready to contribute in 2015. It's not a sexy pick, but he'd be a piece at least.

Jesus Shuttlesworth: The list of Brown regime head scratchers is long and distinguished. {Insert Top Gun reference here.} But speaking of tight ends, it’s sounds like one player may be making a move. 

Big Cigar: Yeah, one player who is very excited about his role in 2014 is senior-to-be Greg Daniels. He loves how coach Moorer is a hard ass and he's really taken to the tough love. He's also very enthusiastic about the offense. According to someone close to Daniels he's expecting a lot of two and three TE formations and not just on running downs. He also thinks he'll have the chance to be targeted. This is probably instructive for all the TE's and you could see more emphasis on TE involvement in the spring game. Daniels thinks he'll have an outside shot at getting an NFL look. He's 6-foot-5 and a well put together 260 pounds.

Jesus Shuttlesworth: Good stuff. Before we switch gears to hoops, I understand you were party to a feel good story involved with one of our players?

Big Cigar: I was able to go to a wedding reception in Dripping Springs a weekend ago for one of our friends and David Ash was in attendance. Anyway, a friend of the family has a 33-year old with Down syndrome and she’s a huge Longhorn fan despite her family being mostly Tech grads. Ash caught wind of her allegiance and made this young lady’s night by asking her to dance despite being on crutches. After the 5-minute dance, he proceeded to walk the young lady to her table and chat her up for about half an hour. I can tell you she’s talked about nothing else for the past eight days and is still walking on cloud nine. No cameras were rolling and there was no media to be found, but here was the face of the Texas program doing the right thing when no one of significance was watching. I was prouder of him this night than I was when he beat Oklahoma State and Oregon State combined. How can you not like this kid?

Jesus Shuttlesworth: I hope he stays healthy more for him than the program. The kid is one of the good guys and has gotten a raw deal most of his college career. 

Big Cigar: I agree. 

Jesus Shuttlesworth: Thanks for taking the time.

Big Cigar: You bet.


As promised, here are some interesting tidbits from our source about the current Texas team and roundball recruiting going forward. We’ll try to make this a weekly feature as information is available. 


Turner and Ridley at Fonde Rec


We’re hearing in the last two weeks that both Myles Turner and Cam Ridley had participated in open runs at the renown Fonde Rec Center. Tristan Thompson, Austin Rivers, and other NBA players were also in attendance. 

First, Turner. We’re told the Texas freshman-to-be really turned some heads last week, putting on a shooting display that had onlookers awestruck. Turner torched the Texas-Ex Thompson on the offensive end doing most of his damage facing up from 15 feet, including a couple of deep 3’s against the NBA forward. 

On the defensive end, Turner is not a great leaper, which is precisely why I doubted his ability to be a one-and-done, but it sounds like is freakish length gave some of the Fonde ballers fits when they tried to get point blank buckets. 

Overall, Turner’s showing at Fonde against top flight competition has me rethinking my prediction that Turner would be at least a two-year player. If he continues this trajectory, enjoy Turner while you can Longhorn fans.

On Ridley, I’m told the big center from Texas had his way with an unidentified Wichita State big man and did some nice things against Thompson when he got the ball down low in what was mostly an up and down setting. One person I trust on all matters when it comes to hoops has always been impressed with Ridley’s potential so it’s no surprise that he is growing into an NBA caliber center. The one improvement my source harped on was Ridley’s ability to run the floor. He had this to say, “I didn’t know Rid could run like that. He was beating guys down the floor for buckets and that’s something that Texas should take advantage of next season.”

Recruiting

Speaking of Texas, word out of Fonde is that Texas may have a relationship problem when it comes to how players’ families feel about sending their prospects to Austin especially if Jai Lucas isn’t involved or a prospect is out of Dallas and doesn’t have Houston ties as in the case of Turner. The general feeling is that Rick Barnes’ staff doesn’t get on kids early and certainly doesn’t recruit balls to the wall, start to finish, when it is interested in a prospect. Case in point, DJ Hogg is the no-brainer 2-guard choice for the Horns in the 2015 class. He’s 6-foot-6, decent handles, and is tough as nails, but more than anything, he may be the best pure shooter in America for 2015 and the Horns haven’t even identified the Dallas prospect as the top player on their board. Along with another big, a wing who can extend the floor is precisely what the Horns need and Hogg is basically in their back yard. 

Speaking of bigs, Elijah Thomas is thought to be one of the top bigs in the nation for 2015 but my sources aren’t sold. “He’s smaller than he’s listed at. He may have broad shoulders but he’s probably 6-foot-8. He’s not a great athlete and his skill set is overrated. I like the 2016 big Jarrett Allen out of Austin much better than Thomas.” My source thinks Thomas would be a solid player at Texas but he’s not the end all be-all. The way he spoke about Allen, however, indicates Allen is much more important than landing Thomas. Just because Allen is from Austin doesn’t make him a lock for Texas. They better get on him early because Allen has a ton of family on the west coast and his dad went to SDSU. The parents have no problem sending their son west, young man.

Recruiting targets in 2015

DJ Hogg: SG/SF
Armon Gilder: SG/Combo, reportedly badly undersized.
Galen Robinson: PG, Houston Westbury. Best player on the floor other Danuel House the day I went to watch Turner play at Fonde. Always in control and a deadly shooter, especially for a pass-first point guard. Texas has recently inquired but they better not wait. 
Elijah Thomas: Texas needs a big and Thomas is the logical choice. Shaq Cleare seems to be an insurance policy if Texas can’t get a suitable big in the 2015 class. 

Ike Taylor

Taylor should be back in town this week after enjoying a brief vacation in his home state of California. Word is he’s shooting a thousand jumpers a day and has vowed to increase his range. Taylor is also allegedly a legit 6-foot-3, which is a surprise to this writer. I’ll trust my source on this one however. Look for Taylor to workout in Houston for much of the summer with plenty of Fonde Rec appearances. Can’t wait.


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