• Longhorns snakebitten along the line

    For each Casey Hampton, there’s an Andre Jones. For each Shaun Rogers, there’s a Derek Johnson. For every Lamarr Houston, there’s a Quincy Russell.

    At least, that’s the way it seems these days at Texas, which can either be referred to as DT-U, or DT-Boo.

    In all, there are five former Longhorn defensive tackles playing in the professional ranks. There are also six since 2007 whose careers haven’t panned out exactly as planned.

    2007: Andre Jones — A top defensive tackle in the country, Jones spent more time in jail (five days) than he did on the field (not one snap) after being charged with aggravated robbery with a deadly weapon during a holdup in late summer of 2007. Jones was suspended by Mack Brown after the burglary — one of his cohorts was then-safety Robert Joseph — and eventually dismissed from the program.

    2007: Tyrell Higgins — Played for Texas, left Texas, played for Texas, left Texas. Higgins’ roller coaster of a Longhorn career came to an end in December when he left the program with one year of eligibility left. He originally signed in 2007, but left the next spring because of personal reasons. He came back in 2008 as a walk-on and re-earned his scholarship. Perhaps he didn’t play as much as he would have liked last fall, because he left school again.

    2008: Jarvis Humphrey — One of the sadder stories in recent memory, Humphrey came to school as a highly regarded tackle with an opportunity to play quickly. But a strange kidney condition forced him to sit out a year and a half before he ultimately withdrew from the program.

    2009: Derek Johnson — The out-of-state recruit from Arkansas transferred back home to Arkansas State University after a year because of family issues. “I recently had a little boy who was born premature,” Johnson told the Jonesboro Sun in July 2010. “I’m moving back home where my family can help.”

    2010: Taylor Bible — Well, at least Bible is still on the team. He’s just not the guy the Longhorns thought they were getting, at 310 lbs, which is 50 lbs (!) higher than his reported weight as a high schooler. The jury is still out on him after a redshirt year, but Bible is running out of chances to make an impact.

    2011: Quincy Russell — Tuesday’s news that the Sam Houston High School product failed to qualify at UT and will attend junior college ensures that, for the fifth straight year, something goes wrong for the Longhorns at the defensive tackle position.

    Read more about Quincy Russell here.

  • Goodwin reshirting benefits both sides

     

    Marquise Goodwin’s decision to redshirt the upcoming football season in order to train for the 2011 World Championships and possibly the 2012 Olympics is best for him and the football team. Here are five reasons why:

    1. It allows Goodwin to chase his initial dream.

    If you remember, Goodwin was the No. 1 track recruit in the nation coming out of Rowlett High School in 2009. He took home two gold medals in the 2008 IAAF World Junior Championships, and was going to Texas to build off that. He joined the football team as well and, rather surprisingly, became a quick contributor at wide receiver. So it makes sense that Goodwin will chase what he came to college to do.

    “I honestly see myself as a professional track athlete,” Goodwin told ESPN Rise in a 2009 interview.

    2. It doesn’t throw Goodwin into an uncomfortable situation.

    Even if he had elected to participate in this year’s football season, Goodwin would have missed the season opener against Rice after qualifying for the 2011 IAAF World Championships. And he would have missed all of summer and fall camps to do so (he already missed spring practices). This might have been a problem for a couple of reasons.

    First, missing that much football would have created a steep learning curve of the new Texas offense — one that might take Goodwin at least a month to feel completely comfortable with. Also, it would not have gone over very well with some other wideouts on the team who would be vulnerable to lose their starting job or spot in the receiver rotations the moment Goodwin’s track obligations were fulfilled.

    3. It opens the door for others to gain experience.

    Speaking of those wide receivers, many of them stand to benefit from Goodwin sitting out a year. DeSean Hales has been waiting his turn at the slot position for a while, and he should finally get a chance to start. Fan favorite D.J. Monroe should get more touches. Chris Jones and John Harris, two who redshirted last season, were not supposed to be in line for immediate playing time — now one or both will be asked to play a significant role. Freshmen Jaxon Shipley and Miles Onyegbule should also get better chances to show what they can do. This all means that Texas will enter next season with many receivers with game experience, plus Goodwin, and that will go a long way to making next year’s offense a scary one.

    4. It loads the wide receiver position.

    Goodwin sitting out a year will make him a junior receiver in 2012 rather than a senior, meaning he’ll fall into the same class as Mike Davis and Darius White. If those three all stay for the 2013 season — their senior year — they will be joined on the field by Jones, Harris, Shipley, Onyegbule (who would be juniors) and Texas commits Cayleb Jones and Thomas Johnson, who would be sophomores.

    Why is 2013 so important?

    It would be the first year without Garrett Gilbert (assuming he finishes his career as the starting quarterback), meaning whoever steps in to replace him would have an absolutely stacked receiving corps to throw to.

    5.It gives Texas an advantage in recruiting two-sport athletes.

    The fact that Mack Brown is OK with Goodwin taking this year off should give him some street cred among the athletes that would at least like the opportunity to consider playing two sports in college.

    Take super recruit Tyrone Swoopes, the starting quarterback at Whitewright — who has skills similar to Vince Young — and one of Texas’ biggest targets for the 2013 class. He is also an all-state basketball player who averaged 20 points and nine rebounds in his sophomore season. Swoopes may never play two sports in college, but he might like to hear from Brown that it would be fine if he wanted to. 

  • Texas, Mack Brown still making up for 2003

    Justin Tucker will enter this season as Texas’ do-it-all kicker. The Longhorns have given a scholarship to a kicker every other year since 2006.
    Justin Tucker will enter this season as Texas’ do-it-all kicker. The Longhorns have given a scholarship to a kicker every other year since 2006.

    Texas offered a scholarship to Coppell kicker Nick Jordan on Monday because Mack Brown still remembers 2003.

    That’s the year he didn’t offer Georgetown’s Mason Crosby.

    Colorado got him and for four years (2003-2006), Crosby was the best kicker in the country. He would finish his four-year career in Boulder as a unanimous All American, as Colorado’s all-time leader in points, was named Conference Player of the Week eight times his senior season, and kicked a 60-yard field goal. Of 203 career kickoffs, 138 were touchbacks.

    Brown didn’t think that a scholarship needed to be spent on a kicker, because kickers don’t run or throw or tackle or block. They just kick, and just about all of them do it with the same proficiency.

    So Texas offered Crosby nothing more than walk-on status. Four years later, Brown regretted the decision so much that he sent a handwritten letter to Crosby, apologizing for not offering him a scholarship, calling him the best college kicker he had ever seen, and told him he’d enjoy looking forward to watching him play on Sundays, according to the Amarillo Globe-News.

    It never really bit the Longhorns in the butt as much as it could have — Dusty Mangum did hit that 37-yard field goal against Michigan in 2004 — but, it was an oversight that Brown has spent the past five years trying to correct.

    He offered a scholarship in 2006 to Hunter Lawrence, one to Justin Tucker in 2008, one to William Russ in 2010 and now, to Jordan for the 2012 class.

    Lawrence hit the game-winner against Nebraska in 2009, Tucker was the most valuable player on the team last season, Russ should be the heir-apparent once Tucker graduates after this season and Jordan will come after that.

    Jordan, one of the top kickers in the country, wasn’t sure Texas would be able to offer him a scholarship initially, as scholarship numbers were almost at a max limit and he would be the third kicker on the roster (walk-on Ben Pruitt of The Woodlands will join the Longhorns for the 2011 season).

    “They knew they wanted me, but the problem was that they had to come up with a scholarship,” Jordan said.

    Texas came through with the scholarship — Brown’s determined not to make the same mistake twice.  

    Read more in our blogs about Nick Jordan

  • Barnes deserves credit, not criticism for three first-round picks

    Rick Barnes sent three players to the NBA Draft this season, all of whom were first-round picks.
    Rick Barnes sent three players to the NBA Draft this season, all of whom were first-round picks.

    Normally a program producing three first-round picks would be cause for celebration, but it’s cause for concern for some fans who believe Texas should have had a better postseason.

    Rick Barnes took a lot of heat for not making it past the second round of the NCAA Tournament in March despite having two projected lottery picks and several other respectable players. The fact that three Longhorns — Tristan Thompson (No. 4), Jordan Hamilton (No. 26) and Cory Joseph (No. 29) — heard their names called during the NBA Draft’s first round was a stark reminder for Barnes’ critics that he should have gotten more out of his team last season.

    With that trio of early selections, Texas had more players selected in the first round than any other team (Kansas and Duke each had two). Since 2006, the Longhorns have seen eight of their players picked in the first round, also more than anyone in the country. During that same time span, Barnes’ boys have gotten past the second round twice and gone 9-6 (.600) in the NCAA Tournament.

    This plethora of first-rounders should not be a reason for throwing Barnes under the bus though. That would ignore the fact that Texas had a stellar regular season. Before they lost three of their last five regular-season games, the Longhorns rose as high as No. 2 in the USA Today Coaches poll, won their first 11 conference contests and beat Kansas in Phog Allen Fieldhouse for the first time in school history.

    Any disapproving remarks about Barnes would also fail to recall the gauntlet Texas faced in the NCAA Tournament. After hopes of a No. 1 seed were squashed by a February skid that saw them fall to three unranked teams in 10 days, the Longhorns found themselves in a No. 4 slot many felt was an error on the Selection Committee’s part. Some experts also felt Texas’ first-round opponent, 13th-seeded Oakland, was also disrespected by its spot in the bracket and even picked the Grizzlies to pull the upset. When the Longhorns squeaked by with an 85-81 win, they were faced with the daunting task of facing Arizona’s Derrick Williams, the eventual No. 2 pick. Had Texas beaten the Wildcats, they would have gone up against the defending champion Duke Blue Devils, who featured the eventual No. 1 pick, Kyrie Irving, and two more heralded future selections — seniors Nolan Smith and Kyle Singler.

    Any claim Barnes is a mastermind of squandering superior talent would also forget the fact that Barnes has talented teams for a reason — he’s a top-notch recruiter and an awesome developer of talent. Thompson, who will join former Longhorn Daniel “Boobie” Gibson on the Cleveland Cavaliers, was the highest-ranked member of the high school class of 2010 when he committed after his sophomore season. But by the time he graduated, he had slipped to No. 10 (No. 17 on Rivals.com). During his short time at Texas, Thompson more than made up for it. He drastically improved on both ends of the floor, becoming a feared offensive threat and an incredible rebounder and shot-blocker.

    Joseph, who played alongside Thompson at Findlay Prep, also made significant strides during his freshman season. He scored 10.4 points per game — fourth on the team — but displayed his ability to come through in the clutch when he hit a game-winning jumper to beat North Carolina in December. Most draft experts thought the San Antonio Spurs reached to make Joseph their first-round selection. But when you consider that the Spurs are a franchise with a heavy emphasis on defense, it’s not much of a surprise they went with a guy that would be a defensive asset.

    Hamilton likely best illustrates Barnes ability to shape elite college basketball players. In his freshman year, the 6-foot-7 swingman showed flashes of brilliance but also displayed horrendous shot selection and proved to be a defensive liability. Hamilton’s sophomore season went much better. He embraced his role as the go-to guy on offense without taking 25 to 30 shots and routinely guarded the other team’s best player. Hamilton also improved as a rebounder and a defender and was rewarded by landing in Denver after Dallas traded him.

    Barnes gets both the blame for falling short in the NCAA tournament with his gifted team without getting any of the credit for having a gifted team in the first place. How else would Thompson have gone from top-20 prospect to top-five draft pick? How else would Hamilton have gone from someone who never met a shot he didn’t like to a pro prospect that a bunch of scouts liked? The answer is short and simple — Rick Barnes.

  • Breaking Down the Draft

    Kyrie Irving, a former Duke basketball player, gestures to the crowd after being selected with the No. 1 pick by the Cleveland Cavaliers during the NBA basketball draft Thursday in Newark, N.J. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez)
    Kyrie Irving, a former Duke basketball player, gestures to the crowd after being selected with the No. 1 pick by the Cleveland Cavaliers during the NBA basketball draft Thursday in Newark, N.J. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez)

    A tried-and-true practice, The 2011 NBA Draft Lottery (retro) Diary, with thoughts on the first 14 selections:

    ?First Round
    1. Cleveland (from L.A. Clippers), Kyrie Irving, g, Duke.

    *This is the pick the Cavaliers got in the Baron Davis-Mo Williams trade, and it’s just the Clippers’ luck that it becomes the No. 1 pick in the lottery.

    After a few days of speculation, no surprise here that the Cavaliers take Irving, who was great in his freshman season at Duke, albeit if he only played 11 games because of injury. He’s not as dynamic as recent No. 1 point guards like John Wall and Derrick Rose, but his playmaking abilities have led some to compare him to Chris Paul.

    I’m not sure if Irving will ever be that good, but I don’t think there’s any way he doesn’t become one of the top-10 point guards in the league. This is a step in the right direction for Cleveland, a franchise that desperately needs some hope after last season’s LeBron James hangover.

    Just a side note, this puts the Cavs in position to trade one of the other PGs on the roster — whether it be Baron Davis, Ramon Sessions or former Longhorn Boobie Gibson.

    2. Minnesota, Derrick Williams, f, Arizona.

    It’s really hard not to fall in love with Williams when you watch him play, because he’s so dynamic. If there’s one player in this draft who could become a true superstar, it might be him. Only thing to complain about here is that he’s sort of in a basketball dark hole in Minnesota now — by all accounts, the worst franchise in basketball. And he lands on a roster that already has a glut of talented forwards: Kevin Love, Michael Beasley and Anthony Randolph. There’s also Wesley Johnson, the fourth pick last year. One of those guys will need to be traded to make room for Williams, who projects as a four but could also play the three.

    3. Utah (from New Jersey), Enes Kanter, c, Kentucky/Fenerbahce Ulker (Turkey).

    Great pickup for the Jazz. Kanter was set to star at Kentucky before the NCAA ruled him ineligible for all of last season, but he showed some glimpses of his talent at the 2010 Nike Hoops Summit, when he scored 34 points and grabbed 13 rebounds.

    Kanter’s skill set — polished low-post game, soft hands, mobile, good jumper — should complement Derrick Favors and Al Jefferson down low. This gives Utah one of the more formidable frontcourts in the league.

    4. Cleveland, Tristan Thompson, f, Texas.

    Wow. There were some rumblings of this happening in recent mock drafts, but it’s still pretty unbelievable to think about how much Thompson has improved his stock since he officially declared for the draft, when he was a fringe lotto prospect. He might never be a star, but his hustle on both ends of the floor will make him a reliable big man. At Texas, he became known for his defense and his rebounding, but never really got much of a chance to show what he could do offensively, other than put-back dunks and oops. In a NBA offense, and with a really good point guard in Irving, Thompson will have a chance to improve that end of his game in Cleveland.

    5. Toronto, Jonas Valanciunas, c, Lietuvos Rytas (Lithuania).

    Valanciunas could have gone to Cleveland at No. 4, but there were some worries that his expensive buyout could keep him overseas a bit longer. In any case, he’ll be a really good compliment to Andrea Bargnani whenever he comes to Toronto. Haven’t seen much of the guy (completely forgot to check him out on my most recent trip to Lithuania) but if he’s as solid in the post as the experts say he is, Toronto should have a versatile frontcourt attack.

    6. Washington, Jan Vesely, f, Partizan Belgrade (Serbia).

    This is going to be fun to watch. Vesely plays differently than any European player you have ever seen, with incredible athleticism and the ability to dunk just about anything. YouTube this guy. Then imagine John Wall lobbing oops to him. Vesely won’t be the second or third best guy on a playoff-contending team, but he could make up an exciting piece of the puzzle in D.C.

    7. Sacramento (traded to Charlotte), Bismack Biyombo, f, Fuenlabrada (Spain).

    Two really fun picks back-to-back. Biyombo really won’t be good for anything more than shot-blocking and interior defense, but he’s good enough at both of them to make up for offensive incompetence. He and DeMarcus Cousins would have been scary in Sacramento, but Biyombo was traded shortly afterwards to Charlotte.

    8. Detroit, Brandon Knight, g, Kentucky.

    Knight is an intriguing combo guard who fits well with Detroit, assuming Rodney Stuckey is on his way out. Ideally, he’s a point guard. This is a steal, Knight could have gone in the top five.

    9. Charlotte, Kemba Walker, g, Connecticut.

    I’m a fan of Kemba, but just not on this team. Charlotte got big contributions last year from former Longhorn D.J. Augustin, who scored 14 points and dished out six assists a game. Walker, like Augustin, is a smaller point guard, and a scorer who needs the ball in his hands to be most successful. Not sure what this means for Augustin’s tenure in Charlotte, because the fans (all 200 of them) might favor Walker, the national champion who has developed a cult-like following. Interesting to note that both he and Augustin were picked No. 9 in the draft.

    10. Milwaukee (traded to Sacramento), Jimmer Fredette, g, BYU.

    In the name of Joseph Smith, we couldn’t have gotten Jimmer in a bigger media market? I need to see this guy either in New York, Los Angeles, Boston, Dallas, Miami, Denver or Chicago. The only consolation in this is that the Kings should become one of the more polarizing teams to watch, what with Cousins’ temper tantrums and Tyreke Evans’ style of play — equal parts exciting and selfish. Jimmer will most likely play off the ball in Sacramento, so, assuming Evans ever passes to anybody, he’ll do his damage around the three-point line.

    11. Golden State, Klay Thompson, g, Washington State.

    Thompson led the Pac-10 in scoring this past season, with 21.6 points a game, so it only makes no sense that he’s going to the Warriors, who already have Monta Ellis and Stephen Curry.

    12. Utah, Alec Burks, g, Colorado.

    Another good get for the Jazz. Burks was one of the premier scorers in the Big 12 this season, and he’ll bring some punch to a backcourt that features — yikes — Devin Harris, Gordon Hayward, C.J. Miles and Raja Bell. Burks should start from day one.

    13. Phoenix, Markieff Morris, f, Kansas.

    Big, mean, reasonably talented, tough, experienced, with a good motor.

    14. Houston, Marcus Morris, f, Kansas.

    Twins?! All the above, plus a jump shot.

    Some Local Notes:

    What a wild night for Jordan Hamilton, who was drafted by Dallas then traded to Portland then traded to Denver. The Nuggets got a steal here. He’s no Carmelo (though, with his shot selection, he might think he is) but he’ll pour in anywhere from 10 to 25 points any given night. If you’re wondering why Hamilton, who was projected to be a lottery pick, slipped all the way to No. 26, it’s because Texas basketball coach Rick Barnes apparently told inquiring NBA front offices that Hamilton was “uncoachable.”

    Cory Joseph was not only drafted by the nearby Spurs, but he also served this whole city a whopping plate of crow. Blasted by many when he came out, including myself, Joseph must have put together some really strong workouts for a diligent-scouting team like the Spurs to want him. With George Hill being traded to Indiana tonight, Joseph should be Tony Parker’s backup this season. Good for Cory.

    The Spurs also get SDSU’s Kawhi Leonard, who was picked No. 15 and then traded from Indiana in the Hill trade. Nicknamed "The Human Avatar” by his college teammates because of his huge hands, Leonard will give San Antonio the perimeter defense presence it hasn’t had since Bruce Bowen.

    Who is your steal of the draft? Who might be the biggest bust? 
     

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