November 28, 2007

Breaking down UT's recruiting: The offense

As the Texas Longhorns get knee deep in trying to finish off the 2008 recruiting class, we at Orangebloods.com thought it was time to break down the current commitment list, while also providing a very extensive look at what needs the Longhorns still have to fill.

What positions do the Longhorns need to continue to seek? What are the strengths and weaknesses of the current class? Here's a full position-by-position breakdown of UT's recruiting class with just over two months until signing day. We start with the offense:

Quarterback

Players currently on scholarship: Colt McCoy (2009), John Chiles (2010), Sherrod Harris (2010) and G.J. Kinne (2011)

Needs for this year: None or one

Current commitments: None

Players still on the radar: None

Overview: After having to deal with a lack of numbers in recent years at the quarterback position, the Longhorns are finally in good position at this position. With the Longhorns not scheduled to lose anyone to graduation until after the 2009 season, the Longhorns should be comforted by the fact that a single-transfer or position change shouldn't be able to dramatically impact the depth situation. As far as the 2008 recruiting class is concerned, the Texas coaching staff talked with national top 100 selection Andrew Luck, but decided to wait until they were knee-deep in 2009 recruiting before offering a scholarship at the quarterback position. Passing altogether on Luck was a risky deal and it means that the Longhorns have to hit home runs with their recruiting at this position in 2009.

Current recruiting grade: Incomplete

Running backs

Players currently on scholarship: Jamaal Charles (2008), Chris Ogbonnaya (2008), Vondrell McGee (2010), Foswhitt Whitaker (2011) and Cody Johnson (2011)

Needs for this year: Two or three

Current commitments: (2) Alief Elsik's Jeremy Hills and Southlake Carroll's Tre Newton

Players still on the radar: Ventura (Ca.) St. Bonaventure's Darrell Scott

Overview: One of the real needs in this year's recruiting class is a true blue-chip, sudden-impact running back prospect. The Longhorns have done a great job in bringing in talented runners for most of this decade, but not since Cedric Benson have they landed a player that they know for certain has superstar ability from the moment he steps on campus. With Charles and Ogbonnaya set to depart after the conclusion of the 208 season, the Longhorns need a serious boost in talent at the position. Hills and Newton are both outstanding prospects, but if they can pull Scott away from the likes of Colorado, Florida and LSU, they'll have finally landed the franchise runner that they've been seeking for most of this decade.

Current recruiting grade: B

Fullbacks

Players currently on scholarship: Nic Redwine (2008) and Antwan Cobb (2010)

Needs for this year: One

Current commitments: None

Players still on the radar: None

Overview: This is a position that has been slowly phased out of the Texas offense in recent years, in part because of the move to a spread offense and in part because the Longhorns haven't had anyone like Will Matthews or Ahmard Hall that warrants having on the field at the expense of a more dangerous skilled athlete. Cobb showed flashes this season of being a player that the Longhorns will use more in the future, but they still don't have a true sledgehammer at the position and they'll have to find someone to replace Derek Lokey in the short-yardage sets. Cody Johnson could eventually move from tailback to fullback, but the Longhorns still have more questions than answers at this position. It's not easy to find great fullback candidates, but the Longhorns need to address it at some point, unless they are going to make a habit of moving pieces from the defense over to the offense each year. At some point, you need to quit sticking a band-aid on the problem and go out and fix it.

Current recruiting grade: F

Wide receivers

Players currently on scholarship: Quan Cosby (2008), Jordan Shipley (2008), Phillip Payne (2010), Montre Webber (2010), Brandon Collins (2010), James Kirkendoll (2010) and Malcolm Williams (2011)

Needs for this year: Three or four

Current commitments: (5) Allen's Dan Buckner, Giddings' Brock Fitzhenry, Klein Oak's DeSean Hales and Mansfield Timberview's Antoine Hicks

Players still on the radar: None

Overview: This is a hard position to grade because the Longhorns passed on a number of more highly recruited players and this has been a position where the staff's recent evaluations have come into question. Outside of a 22-year old Cosby in 2005, the Longhorns haven't recruited a wide receiver that has seen the time of day on the field since 2004. There are currently five young receivers in the program, but none of them have been factors and have to be viewed as question marks heading into next season. Landing Buckner gives the Longhorns a tall, physical option to replace the departing Limas Sweed at flanker, while the ultra-athletic Hales figures to be a candidate for early playing time in the slot and on special teams. The wild cards in this class are Fitzhenry and Hicks. If one of those two can emerge as a strong player from this class, this group of four players will likely solve a lot of the current question marks that the Longhorns have at the wide receiver position.

Current recruiting grade: B

Tight ends

Players currently on scholarship: Peter Ullman (2008), Jermichael Finley (2009), Josh Marshall (2010), Blaine Irby (2010), and Ian Harris (2011)

Needs for this year: One or none

Current commitments: None

Players still on the radar: None

Overview: The Longhorns have a lot of young bodies at this position and the development of Blaine Irby throughout the season has them thinking that they've got a potential difference maker for them down the road whenever Finley eventually departs. Therefore, the immediate depth at the position is pretty solid, especially if Marshall or Harris can give them anything at all in 2008. You'd always like to sign a tight end prospect in every class, but it was a terrible year at the position in-state and the Longhorns widely passed on taking a lesser prospect for the simple sake of taking a fresh body. However, this was an incredibly deep year at the position on the national stage and the fact that the Longhorns didn't even try to recruit any of them raises an eyebrow.

Current recruiting grade: Incomplete

Offensive tackle

Players currently on scholarship: Adam Ulatoski (2009), Tray Allen (2010) and Kyle Hix (2011)

Needs for this year: Two

Current commitments: (2) Austin High's Mark Buchanan and Brenham's Luke Poehlmann

Players still on the radar: None

Overview: The Longhorns don't have many veteran bodies, but they have enough young talent to build with at this position. With Ulatoski returning to the starting line-up, and both Allen and Hix figuring to compete for the other starting job, the Longhorns don't have an real pressing needs fir immediate help, which means that Buchanan and Poehlmann will both have the option to take red-shirt years. That's a good thing because both players are developmental projects. Overall, the Longhorns are getting two prospects with a lot of upside, but neither is expected to contribute early in their careers. There's definitely not anyone like Allen or Hix, who both projected as early contributors.

Current recruiting grade: B

Guards

Players currently on scholarship: Cedric Dockery (2008), Charlie Tanner (2009), Chris Hall (2009), Steve Moore (2010) Michael Huey (2010), Britt Mitchell (2010) and Aundre McGaskey (2011)

Needs for this year: One

Current commitments: (1) Gilmer's David Snow

Players still on the radar: None

Overview: The Longhorns don't lose anyone to graduation this season and will have six players from the current roster on campus through 2009, four of which were classified as some form of freshman this season. Therefore, the Longhorns didn't have a major need for an interior lineman, but they still were able to land a potential difference maker in Snow. The Longhorns didn't need much, but they went out and got the best one available in the state.

Current recruiting grade: A

Center

Players currently on scholarship: Buck Burnette (2010), Greg Smith (2010)

Needs for this year: One

Current commitments: None

Players still on the radar: None

Overview: It really boggles the mind that the Longhorns haven't done a better job of addressing their needs at this position. Of all the linemen they have signed in the last two years, none of have been true center prospects that played the position in high school. Burnette has a chance to be a multi-year starter beginning next season, but Smith is a converted pass-catching tight end that has never played on the line and is still trying to beef up. There's a good chance that Chris Hall can continue to lend help at the position next year if Burnette gets hurt or doesn't develop, but that leaves very little room for error. Mack Brown continues to say that this position is the most difficult and most important position on the line, but they seem to be recruiting it like they are phasing it out the door, along with the fullback and doo-doo board.

Current recruiting grade: F


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