Inside Texas takes an in-depth look at Texas’ 17 commits for 2009, what offers Texas still has out, which players still might receive an offer and much, much more on a class that’s ten years in the making.
Ten years of recruiting work has all built to this.
It’s no secret that Texas Longhorn football teams have been built primarily of players from the state of Texas and the reasons are not arbitrary. It’s a hot bed of high school football talent and the state’s most prestigious football program is right smack in the middle of it.
But Texas head coach Mack Brown has had much to do with it as well. In his decade at UT, Brown has focused almost exclusively in-state, only going out of state for players with connections to Texas. Offers for players outside of Texas who had no previous connections do occur, but they’re typically few and far between.
Brown’s strategy has been to recruit by building relationships with Texas high school coaches. For example, when the Longhorns won the national championship in the 2006 Rose Bowl and Brown stood on stage with the crystal football, what was the first thing he did?
He thanked Texas high school coaches.
When Inside Texas travels across the state to meet with coaches, most speak of the respect they have for Brown — one even teared up when talking about that specific speech. Because of this respect, Brown has the advantage at many high schools across the state. He finds out about players earlier and many are pointed in his direction because of the relationships he’s developed with their coaches.
There are out-of-state players the Longhorns have lost out on because of this policy and many criticisms have been raised about whether Texas should be pursuing more high-profile players outside of the state border, but the 2009 class is where it all pays off for Brown. For the past couple years, most of those who cover recruiting in the state of Texas have been pointing to 2009 because of the astounding surge of talent that was on its way up the ranks. When Texas pursued this talent, there were very few misses.
Brown got his quarterback. He offered four offensive linemen and got them all. Less than a week after losing out on Darrell Scott in the 2008 class, he picked up the top running back in Texas for ’09. At each spot he got almost every player he wanted.
In fact, there are only two players who received Texas offers and committed elsewhere, Russell Shepard and Dexter Pratt, who are headed to LSU to play for the defending national champions and as Shepard himself put it: “If (Texas) would have told me I was going to play quarterback, I would of committed.”
Texas, essentially, got what it want in one of the best classes to come through the state in years, but the Horns may not be done just yet. Let’s take a look at the class and see where Texas goes from here
Garrett Gilbert, Lake Travis, 6-4/190
Texas had its choice of Gilbert and Shepard and went with Gilbert. In Lake Travis’ 15-1, Class 4A state championship season in 2007, the local product passed for a state record 4,827 yards, completing 360 of 556 attempts (both also state records), with 52 TDs and 12 INTs. He also did so on a partially torn labrum, which was discovered after the season. Gilbert underwent surgery and a full recovery is expected by 7-on-7s in the summer.
Offers out: Russell Sheppard
Still on the radar: None
With transfer rumors swirling around Texas back-ups Sherrod Harris and G.J. Kinne and LSU getting the commitment of quarterback Chris Garrett, Shepard is still a remote possibility, but he’s deflected any suggestion he’ll waver on his commitment to the Tigers.
Chris Whaley, Madisonville, 6-3/218/4.45
‘Big’ is the word with Whaley. At 6-foot-3, 218 pounds, the Madisonville talent towers over most running backs. But despite his size, he runs a 4.45 in the forty and displays very good feet for a player that big. Whaley earned first-team All-State honors this past fall by rushing for 2,119 yards and 28 touchdowns. The season before, he was second team All-State, gaining 2,130 yards and scoring 27 touchdowns. In 2008, he’ll look to make it three consecutive 2,000 yards seasons.
Offers out: Dexter Pratt
Still on the radar: Trent Richardson, Knile Davis, Stepfan Taylor, Cierre Wood
With Pratt committed to LSU, Texas does not have an outstanding offer to an uncommitted running back. If the Horns do decide to grab one more runner, there are a couple of talented in-state options in Davis and Taylor, but expect Richardson, a Pensacola, Fla. RB who has professed great interest in Texas and is scheduled to take a visit, to get the first crack at it. Wood, the nation’s No. 3-ranked running back expressed interest in Texas early in the process, but there has been little movement on that front.
Greg Timmons, Houston Eisenhower, 6-3/185/4.54
Timmons is listed as a ‘soft verbal’ because the Eisenhower receiver told Inside Texas he’s committed but still “looking around”. Specifically, the other school he’s looking around at is Oklahoma. If Texas manages to secure Timmons’ signature, the Horns will be getting a player with a nose for where he needs to be and who’s able to effectively leap over defenders to secure the football. Timmons caught 41 passes for 784 yards and six touchdowns this past season.
Offers out: None
Still on the radar: Emory Blake, Terdema Ussery
The Longhorns haven’t offered either Blake or Ussary yet, but keep an eye on both. If Texas loses Timmons it will look to fill that spot with one of the two. Or, if the scholarships work out as Signing Day approaches, Texas could offer either or — unlikely, but it’s possible — both.
Barrett Matthews, Galena Park North Shore, 6-3/215
Trey Graham, Waco Midway, 6-5/224/4.60
Both Matthews and Graham have played standing up away from the line before and each (particularly Matthews) could find himself in a different role on the 40 Acres, such as a combo H-back position, but regardless, Texas is done at tight end recruiting for the Class of 2009. Matthews is an athletic talent who can easily separate himself from defenders. He had 383 yards at the tight end position last season, but he got those yards on just 13 catches for an average of 29.5 yards per catch and scoring a touchdown on over half (seven) of those receptions. Graham is a big-bodied tight end with a great understanding of the game and shows very good positioning on routes. Both are noted for being tenacious blockers.
Offers out: None
Still on the radar: None
Mason Walters, Wolfforth Frenship, 6-5/280
Thomas Ashcraft, Cedar Hill, 6-5/275
Paden Kelley, Lake Travis, 6-6/270
Garrett Porter, Odessa Permian, 6-6/281
If the Class of 2009 becomes a legendary one for the Texas Longhorns, it will most likely be because of this group. All four are nationally ranked in the Top 30 at their position with Walters and Ashcraft listed as the No. 4 and No. 8 offensive tackles, respectively. These were the only four linemen Texas targeted in the entire class and these are the four Texas got. Each one is immense and projected as a tackle due to their frame, but Walters and Ashcraft have significant experience playing on the inside.
Offers out: None
Still on the radar: None
Offers out: Jamarcus McFarland, Calvin Howell
Still on the radar: Randall Dent
If the Class of 2009 was done today, the only position that would be considered a let-down for Texas fans would be at DT. Defensive tackle is one of the biggest need positions for the Longhorns, but they have not secured a commitment from one yet. That will likely change very soon, though. Howell is a heavy Texas lean and has had nothing but positive things to say about the Longhorns. McFarland also has the Longhorns high on his list, but the Lufkin product is split between Texas, Oklahoma and LSU. McFarland is the nation’s No. 1-ranked DT and will be a big pick-up for whichever team lands him. If Texas loses out on one, the Horns will likely give the big-bodied Dent from SGP a look.
Alex Okafor, Pflugerville, 6-5/230/4.67
Dominique Jones, Kilgore, 6-3/230
Kyle Kriegel, Elysian Fields, 6-4/235/4.78
Texas will bring in a talented group at DE. It starts with Okafor, who’s the No. 3-ranked defensive end in the nation. The 6-foot-5, 230-pound Okafor helped Pflugerville High School on its run to the 5A state title game, putting up seven sacks. Jones is a quick rusher off the edge who’s built almost exactly in the mold of a former teammate of his at Kilgore, current Texas DE Eddie Jones (no relation, however). As for Kriegel, ‘production’ is the word. In his junior season, he posted a school record 15 sacks to go with his 128 tackles, 32 tackles for loss, two forced fumbles, three fumble recoveries and one touchdown on a fumble return. The prolific season earned Kriegel 2A defensive player of the year honors from the Texas Sports Writers Association while helping Elysian Fields to the Class 2A Division II state championship game.
Offers out: Devon Kennard
Still on the radar: None
It’s Kennard or bust. Already having brought in three DE for 2009, Texas would normally sit here. But Kennard is such a special prospect that he’s worth bringing in at any point, no matter how many players Texas has at the position. With three senior defensive ends on the roster, the Horns will have some room, but if Texas doesn’t land the ridiculously talented Kennard, that’ll be it for DEs.
Tariq Allen, Irving MacArthur, 6-2/220/4.60
Patrick Nkwopara, South Grand Prairie, 5-11/195
The No. 6-ranked middle linebacker in the nation, Allen is a tremendous pick-up for the Horns. As a junior, he was everywhere for MacArthur, racking up 123 tackles, six sacks and 19 tackles for loss. He’s most likely a middle-backer on the next level, but he’s been told by Texas defensive coordinator Will Muschamp he could end up at any of the three positions. Allen was a high-profile recruit who held a slew of offers. Nkwopara, on the other hand, was a bit more of an unknown in recruiting, but it didn’t stop the Longhorns from targeting the SGP product and giving him his only offer. He’s not tall, but Nkwopara is a tenacious player and also he received the offer because, as he put it, Brown “said that I had good grades and was a good student, so they decided to offer me.”
Offers out: None
Still on the radar: Chris Williams, Kerry Hyder
Texas is pretty much done at the linebacker position. Williams and Hyder are on the radar, but if they receive offers, expect it to be late in the process and only after the scholarship situation works out just right.
Marcus Davis, League City Clear Creek, 6-1/185
Kenny Vaccaro, Brownwood, 6-1/190/4.47
Eryon Barnett, Euless Trinity 6-2/185/4.50
Davis was Texas’ first target at defensive back and his commitment is a big one. Rated as the No. 4 cornerback in the country, Davis is a lock-down DB who could contribute very early for Texas. The next to commit was Eryon Barnett. The Euless Trinity defensive back has a wide wing-span and is the definition of a big-bodied corner. “He stands 6-2 barefooted and is 185 right now,” said Euless Trinity head coach Steve Lineweaver. “By the time he gets to Texas, he could be 6-3 and half.” One week later it was Kenny Vaccaro who gave his pledge to the Horns. Vaccaro could play any spot in the defensive backfield, but Texas plans on using him as a safety. Vaccaro posted 110 tackles and 7 INT’s as a junior earning first team all 16-4A honors along with first team all Big Country and Honorable Mention All-State.
Offers out: Kevin Brent, Dre Kirkpatrick
Still on the radar: Rex Burkhead, Thomas Ferguson, Roderick Goodlow
Texas has only one more spot open at defensive back…assuming Kirkpatrick doesn’t decide to choose the Longhorns. Kirkpatrick is the nation’s No. 1-ranked cornerback and the scholarship will always be available for him, although Texas has a long way to go to be in the running now that the Gadsden, Ala. DB has over 40 offers, but he does plan on paying Texas a visit. Regardless, Brown has a commitment from two corners and one safety and is looking for another safety to fill out a full backfield for 2009. Brent holds that one safety offer, but if he goes elsewhere, look for Texas to turn around and give that offer to Ferguson, Goodlow or Burkhead, a Plano athlete who projects as a safety at the next level.