I had a great time this weekend sitting in the sun and enjoying some pretty spirited practices. I was with some old friends, and some new friends. Even some new old friends .
The number one thing that stood out to me was the quality depth at pretty much every position. Gone are the days when finding a swing tackle seemed impossible, or there was the necessity to move your future first round defensive end to tackle. If the staff can accept our ire for lacking play in areas, it deserves mention that they’ve done a great job of retooling the roster.
As an example, hold this roster to the 2009 team and compare it by position. RB, WR and OL are better now. DL might go to the ’09 club, but it is close. From a pure talent perspective, not production, LB is also close. DB and QB are the only positions that were clearly superior to what Texas had at its disposal the last time it was nationally relevant.
This Texas team will not lack for talent, but unfortunately it takes more than just pure talent to win big.
I thought the play of Adrian Phillips was impressive. Sure it was thud tempo, but he was coming across players fundamentally to tackle and with vigor. He was flying around out there.
The linebacker play was a bit hard to read overall, but they were moving around well and making plays in space while also filling their run fits. I was encouraged. Steve Edmond is in a fight with Dalton Santos.
The offensive line lacked cohesion, but that’s to be expected. We won’t know which five fingers will comprise the fist until Desmond Harrison is on campus and Trey Hopkins and Josh Cochran return from injury. When possibly 60% of your starters are missing I’m not going to hold much against your immediate performance. I think the line will be a net improvement next year, but for now the talented and deep defensive line is winning the majority of the battles. That said, I think Dom Espinosa acquitted himself nicely during the two practices I saw.
Bryce Cottrell is going to play his way into meaningful snaps. We’ve been stating how fond the staff is of him and I’m beginning to see why. He really is a mini-Jeffcoat out there with his technical ability and knack for getting the edge, then getting flat. I’m becoming a big fan of #52. Defensive end looks set for the next three years with Cottrell and Shiro Davis. Davis has some kinks to work out, but he’s too talented to not figure it out. He’s from the same house of thoroughbreds that sired Brian Orakpo and Sergio Kindle.
Quandre Diggs did get some looks at nickel on Saturday, but not a whole bunch. The staff is liking what they’re seeing from Mykkele Thompson and at this point it looks like he’ll hold off a hard charging Josh Turner. I was a bit concerned with the tackling ability of Thompson and Phillips, especially given their last line of defense duties, but I saw some things that made feel a bit better this weekend.
Wide receiver is going to be a very fun position to watch this season. Pretty much every skill set is at Major Applewhite’s and David Ash’s disposal, other than the transcendent type of athlete that has every positive trait you look for.
Kendall Sanders headlines the list of receivers I’m excited to see, but Mike Davis is the alpha of the group and it looks like he’s on the verge of putting it all together. We saw flashes of that last year, but it looks like he’s going to be used in more nuanced ways than simply running predictable flies and posts. Davis was the best player on the field Saturday, and the quickness he showed getting off of press coverage was NFL quality.
Running back will be fine, obviously. If the line is average, the backs will be slightly above average. If the line is good, the backs will be great. If by some miracle the line is great, well, …
Tyrone Swoopes got quite a bit of reps this weekend. If they don’t redshirt him, Wayne Brady’s gonna have to choke a b****.
Overall I’m happy with what I saw this weekend.
RECRUITS CHECK OUT PRACTICE
The big names in attendance were Jamal Adams (Hebron) and Solomon Thomas (Coppell), but Texas also received visits from Devlin Isadore (Eisenhower) and Zeke Riser (La Vernia, class of 2009).
Yes. Riser will be enrolling in summer graduate classes after being released from his University of Houston scholarship. At 6-4 and 255 pounds, Riser will give Texas a big body to rotate at defensive end. I talked to Zeke for about 20 minutes yesterday and I’ll have a full report soon. The road less traveled, imo.
Adams and Thomas both had great times and received a lot of attention on what basically equates to their personal junior day. Adams of course is my number one safety in the state for 2014 and he was tended to by a graduate assistant nearly the entire time the DB’s went through drill work.
Adams liked Texas a lot before the visit, and even more so after. I’ll sleep a little easier when Texas finally puts this one to bed.
Like Adams, Thomas is much more than a luxury item for Texas. I wrote in January that Thomas and Adams are the two biggest must haves of the entire class and I still feel that way. I’m fairly certain the staff feels the same. While Jackson Jeffcoat sat out the bulk of drill work, he talked to Thomas quite a bit. I think Texas leads for Thomas, even if he doesn’t know it yet.
WHO IS DEVLIN ISADORE?
I had no idea until yesterday myself. After my buddy Max Olson tweeted that Isadore was on campus I did my Columbo impression and did some investigating. But I was kind of drunk at the time (I blame JYuma’s bottomless cooler and my insatiable liver) and forgot everything. I even dreamed that I ran into Olson’s colleague William Wilkerson at Moonshine. Or maybe that was real.
Anyway, luckily Texas commit Donald Catalon, Isadore’s new teammate, got me in touch with the new Ike signal caller. If you’re keeping track at home, that makes two visits to Texas from Eisenhower quarterbacks in the last two weeks as Trevion Roberts visited previously.
Roberts will likely move to WR/DB and play his more natural positions, while Isadore will remain at quarterback.
I talked to Isadore yesterday, right as he was getting off work, and he told me a little about himself.
“Texas just sent me a letter and asked me to come to a practice, so I did. I was actually just talking to Duke about the trip. I told him I shook Mack Brown’s hand and I’m never washing it [laughing]. It was a good visit. I guess they like me at quarterback because that’s who they had me watching. I liked the quarterback coach a lot. I liked the tempo, everything was fast. That’s the thing, college moves so much faster than in high school.”
Isadore also told me that he’s 6-3 and 200 pounds, and he’s more of a pocket passer than anything else. At this point he’s getting letters from schools but he has yet to receive any offers.
Jonathan Wells contacted a coach he knows that’s familiar with Isadore and here’s what the coach had to say, “He’s a big kid and has a cannon for an arm. Porter (his former school) was horrible last year so moving to Eisenhower should help him out a lot.”
I talked to Ike head coach Dre Thompson about his unique situation. “He’s (Isadore) pretty good, strong arm, has a high football IQ and is already picking up the offense well. Trey (Trevion) is tearing up the track. He’s running 10.7 in the 100 and he’s going to be big this year for us. I’m trying to get Texas on him as a WR or DB.”
WWMBD? He’d turn this into a full blown quarterback controversy.
AGGIES LAND THREE NEW COMMITS
And two of them hold Texas offers. Melt. Down. Not really though.
Midway through UT’s Saturday practice I got a text letting me know that Dylan Sumner-Gardner was REALLY enjoying his trip to College Station. I passed that info on to dos bobby and didn’t think twice about it. By the end of practice, DS-G was an Aggie.
So, other than the hyphen, what happened?
This one came down to Dylan’s fondness for A&M defensive backs coach, Marcell Yates. Texas didn’t do anything wrong in his recruitment. He genuinely liked Texas and Duane Akina, but he felt really comfortable with Yates and the way he operates. In fact, Yates reminds DS-G of his current position coach at West Mesquite, Kyle Ward. Having a player he looks up to in Kameron Miles being an A&M signee didn’t hurt Aggie’s chances either.
Armani Watts from North Forney isn’t a player we’ve talked about a lot, but only because Texas only showed minor interest in him. He’s a baller though, and I just told Cal about him last week. Watts is an explosive DB that probably projects to safety, but he could end up at corner or slot receiver as well. A&M got a good one in Watts.
Losing DS-G hurts some, but it just puts a bigger priority on Adams. The state is flush with defensive backs. The state is not flush with defensive tackles, so missing out DeShawn Washington was indeed a blow to Texas’ class.
A lot of people were expecting Washington to drop to Texas relatively soon, but apparently he liked what he saw and heard from Sumlin and Company. He probably really likes to overuse and misapply the word ‘swagger’ too.
Texas needs to start looking out of state ASAP for defensive tackles. Hell, we’ll do the looking for them (stay tuned for our post on some defensive tackles in Louisiana UT should evaluate).
I got a text from a friend yesterday that simply read, “Aggie’s class is sick.” Indeed it is, but Texas isn’t conceding anything. They’re definitely aware of how abrupt momentum shifts can be.
This is going to be one wild recruiting cycle. Texas believes if they have a great season they’re not out of it with some of Aggie’s prized possessions.
OTARO ALAKA TAKES IN A&M BUT DIDN’T COMMIT!
That’s a net victory in year of our Lord 2013. Bizarre times we live in. While the internet yell leaders are fancying their chances with Otaro Alaka, his visit wasn’t a game changer for them. He told me the visit was good, but it didn’t move A&M ahead of Texas.
The Cypress Falls condorbacker is a better fit for the Big 12 than the SEC. This should be something that’s very easy to convey to such a smart kid. Fits work both ways (Kam Miles is an example, SEC safety, Big 12 hybrid-backer) and Texas needs to use its conference advantages when it has them.
Jacorey Warrick being a Texas signee shouldn’t hurt, either.
TEXAS ABOUT TO GO SCORCHED EARTH ON 2015 RECRUITING
Okay, that’s probably overstating it, but the staff is noticing the trend of schools targeting Texas kids very early and is going to adapt accordingly. Deionte Thompson (WO-S safety) committing to Alabama was an eye opener, but it is also spawning some positives. Some 2015 recruits have started to reach out to Texas and Justin Dunning (Whitehouse) has been invited to the spring game. I expect invitations to go out to Malik Jefferson (Mesquite Poteet), Larry Pryor (Sulphur Springs), Kendall Sheffield (Fort Bend Marshall) and many more.
Expect Texas to make a big splash on the 2015 recruiting front before the end of spring practice, and that may include a certain showcase day.
This is potentially big news. Will Texas extend offers in March, or wait until June camp? I’m certain they’ll offer a slew of players before August 2nd; their trigger date for the majority of class of 2014 sure-fire offers.
SPEAKING OF 2015 PLAYERS – BLAKE LYNCH
My buddy Bobby Stroupe does a great job of keeping me up to date on some East Texas talent. From his perch at APEC training facility in Tyler, he sees a lot of the best in the area. Previously he’s trained Kendall Sanders, Dalton Santos and Jalen Overstreet, so when he mentions a player I tend to pay attention.
This weekend he told me about Troup athlete Blake Lynch. Lynch is starting to gain some notoriety amongst college coaches as a do-it-all type athlete. Texas Tech likes him at wide receiver, Mississippi State likes him at quarterback, and Alabama just likes him.
Lynch tells me he went to Mississippi State this past weekend for their junior day, and he’s been invited to both Alabama and Tech.
As a prospect, he looks like an ideal fit for the read option offense. He has the ability to stretch the field with his legs and arm and he got a chuckle out of me calling him Colin Kaepernick. Lynch is a tall, smooth athlete and I could definitely see him at wide receiver. He’s sort of Lorenzo Joe-ish.
In years past I had a good idea early on of which quarterback Texas was going to target for a class, but for 2015 I have no idea yet.
Let’s see if Texas tries to bring Lynch in before the end of spring. I have a feeling they might.
DILLON BATES STILL PLANNING TO VISIT FOR A SPRING PRACTICE
Dillon Bates of course is the son of Bill and currently lives in Florida. He’s being pursued by many of the national elites, but Texas likes where it currently sits with him. Dillon tells me he and his family are aware of the practice dates and spring game and still plan on making it to Texas, but they haven’t confirmed the ideal date yet.
Look for Texas to give the Bates’ the hard sell as a three down Mike linebacker. There’s no question Bates could play OLB, but if you look at the profile of guys like Peter Jinkens or Deoundrei Davis, he’s just not as rangy.
As a three down MLB, Bates would be able to play big against the run but also use the range he does have in third and long. That would sound attractive to me.
As an NFL veteran, Bill Bates is going to have some thoughts about Texas one way or the other for his son. Let’s hope those thoughts are positive.
If Texas misses on Bates, there’s another OOS linebacker they’ll move on. They may move on him anyway. Look for OOS recruiting to pick up in general.