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Looking back at success stories like Alex Okafor and Kenny Vaccaro, and huge misses like Garrett Gilbert.
As many are well aware, the winter of our current discontent is due in no small part to the 2009 recruiting class, headlined by former Gatorade Player of the Year and Longhorn all-time bust Garrett Gilbert. Over at Burnt Orange Nation, Westcott Eberts has a very insightful piece on the poor linebacker recruiting leading to Texas Longhorns' current predicament. I thought it would be interesting to look back at that 2009 class, which produced two stars (Alex Okafor and Kenny Vaccaro), three contributors (Marquise Goodwin, Mason Walters and Chris Whaley), and precious little else.
Takes: Garrett Gilbert (Lake Travis)
10 Words or Less Analysis: Horizontalism is its own reward.
Alternatives: It has been covered ad nauseum, but Texas' real problem at QB started by not going harder after Andrew Luck or Robert Griffin III in the 2008 class, choosing instead to go quarterback-less until the anointed Gilbert era. Interestingly, 2009 was a down year for QB's across the nation, with only Matt Barkley looking like a surefire NFL regular.
In Texas, Casey Pachall (Brownwood / TCU) and his George Jungian bag of tricks was the best of a promising but ultimately sorry lot. Other names include a bevy of backups, transfers and positions switches. That starts with five-star Russell Shepard (Houston Cypress Ridge / LSU), and includes Tyrik Rollison (Sulphur Springs / Auburn), Cody Green (Dayton / Nebraska), Jacob Karam (Friendswood / Texas Tech), Ryan Mossakowski (Frisco Centennial / Kentucky), Drew Allen (San Antonio Alamo Heights / Oklahoma), and Shavodrick Beaver (Wichita Falls Rider / Tulsa).
Remember those heated Gilbert vs. Shepard debates? Yeah, you're right. Probably best to forget that ever happened.
Takes: Chris Whaley (Madisonville)
10 Words or Less Analysis: NOT A RUNNING BACK.
Alternatives: Christine Michael (Beaumont Westbrook / Texas A&M) was the obvious choice then, but a LOT of good running backs came out of Texas that year. Among them were John Hubert (Waco Midway / Kansas State), Knile Davis (Fort Bend Marshall / Arkansas), Rex Burkhead (Plano / Nebraska), Stepfan Taylor (Mansfield / Stanford), Eric Stephens (Mansfield Timberview / Texas Tech), Charles Sims (Houston Westbury / Houston), Waymon James (Sherman / TCU), and James White (Dallas Skyline / Iowa St).
While the Texas running game has gotten back on track thanks to strong 2011 and 2012 classes, the missed opportunities allowed rival teams to stock their stable of backs. Silver lining: at least Texas got more production out of Whaley--albeit at defensive line--than Oklahoma did out of Jonathon Miller (Garland Naaman Forest).
Wide Receiver/Tight End
10 Words or Less Analysis: Brutal misses with an Olympic caveat.
Alternatives: Timmons was the highest-rated receiver in the state of Texas, but didn't make a dent in Austin. Eric Ward (Wichita Falls Rider / Texas Tech) would have looked great in the slot, with Emory Blake (Austin High) and Cobi Hamilton (Texarkana / Arkansas) split wide. At least both Blake and Hamilton were pursued by Texas; Mack just settled for a set of steak knives on both accounts. Also in this class were three enigmatic talents: Josh Gordon (Houston Lamar / Baylor), Jaz Reynolds (Aldine Eisenhower / Oklahoma), and Uzoma Nwachukwu (Allen / Texas A&M).
Tight end hasn't been a position of strength in Texas since Martellus Bennett and Jermichael Finley came out in the 2005 class, but Texas didn't have to compound the problem by taking two of them. Fun fact: Rivals' top rated TE in 2009? Virginia Tech's starting QB, Logan Thomas.
Electing to take only one receiver in this class was a questionable decision, further compounded by shooting mostly blanks in the larger 2008 and 2010 classes (I think Wescott still has shame collages dedicated to Dan Buckner and Darius White). Getting football utility out of a track star worked, but probably speaks more to Goodwin's work ethic and dedication rather than Mack and Greg Davis' player development acumen. Oh, and remember when Texas fans scoffed at a possible offer for athlete Ryan Swope (Austin Westlake / Texas A&M)? Yeah, about that...
10 Words or Less Analysis: Good kids who graduate.
Alternatives: As a whole, this class was a massive disappointment. In the LSR 100, center Ivory Wade (Dickinson / Baylor) is the only lineman I can find that is a regular starter. Outland Trophy Watch List tackle Cyril Richardson (North Crowley / Baylor) was also in the class, which helps explain why Texas has lost to Baylor two years running.
The bottom line is that taking the best lemons and making only one serviceable lemonade cooler just isn't the best path to success. Also, Randy Clements, Baylor's offensive line coach, is pretty good at his job.
Takes: Alex Okafor (Pflugerville), Tevin Mims (Round Rock Stony Point), Dominique Jones (Kilgore), Kyle Kriegel (Elysian Fields), Calvin Howell (San Antonio Warren), Derek Johnson (Arkansas Hoxie)
10 Words or Less Analysis: One strong as oak, rest willow o' the wisps.
Alternatives: Okafor was the defensive jewel of the class, and will likely go on to be the highest drafted in the NFL. For Longhorn fans chomping at the bit for a Will Muschamp return, just remember that Okafor was on his way to becoming a full-time defensive tackle before Coach Boom left. The rest of the group represents flat-out terrible evaluations. A 1 in 6 success rate for a position group that relies on four starters and regular depth rotation is unacceptable practice.
LSU's Michael Brockers (Houston Chavez) is already in the NFL. He was never going to Texas but would've looked great lining up with Okafor. Brockers and Kerry Hyder (Austin LBJ / Texas Tech) are two DE to DT success stories that didn't happen with Tevin Mims. Jamarkus McFarland's (Lufkin / Oklahoma) career has not been as transcendent as he initally hoped, but he pretty much had Texas linemen romancing each other after the beatdown in the Cotton Bowl. On the ends, Stansly Maponga (Lewisville Hebron / TCU) or Terrance Lloyd (Houston Stratford / Baylor) would have made the loss of Jackson Jeffcoat much more palatable.
Okafor has been a great success, but the head-to-head recruiting loss of McFarland still stings. Thanks to off-the-field issues for both Howell and Johnson, neither is still on the team, and the Mims to DT experiment was short-lived as well when he transferred out of the program. Hey, at least Mack insisted on Chris Whaley!
10 Words or Less Analysis: Too big. And too small.
Alternatives: Wescott covered this well. Tom Wort (New Braunfels / Oklahoma) has warts, but he at least is good enough to see the field. Tanner Brock (Copperas Cove / TCU) could be the reason why Gary Patterson is coaching at Texas next year [DeLoss Dodds does not approve this message]. Muschamp's dalliance with out-of-stater Jarvis Jones (USC, now All-World at Georgia) started a shouting match between Carol and Sally. Allegedly.
Mack's fixation with the traditional thumping middle linebacker has continued to pay off--for the opposing team. Texas fans were probably a little too gung ho about Nkwopara since he was handpicked by Muschamp, but bat colonies don't defend themselves, so off he went. Like TE, LB was slim pickings in-state and probably would have benefited from a proactive out-of-state and/or JUCO recruiting philosophy. Texas A&M's Sean Porter (Schertz Clemens) is the only full time starter from in-state as far as I can tell, and it's a group that will likely produce zero NFL players.
Takes: Kenny Vaccaro (Brownwood Early), Marcus Davis (League City Clear Creek), Eryon Barnett (Euless Trinity)
10 Words or Less Analysis: Allegedly punching law students = OK. Drugs = Not OK.
Alternatives: Machete done good. Unlike Okafor, who has a five-star, high school All-American, Vaccaro had minimal pub when he arrived at Texas but has clearly acquitted himself very well. Davis had a promising start to his freshman season; Barnett was chronically injured. Both like controlled substances, and would have probably done well in TCU's amateur drug ring.
Texas went after the top two DB's in-state: Craig Loston (Aldine Eisenhower / LSU), who just cracked the Tiger starting lineup, and Kevin Brent (Dallas South Oak Cliff / Oklahoma), who since transferred. There was also plenty of depth in the class, and a few of them have turned into solid-to-excellent starters: Damontre Hurst (Lancaster / Oklahoma), Andrew Green (San Antonio Madison / Nebraska), Steve Williams (Dallas Skyline / California), Texas A&M's starting safeties Steven Terrell (Allen) and Steven Campbell (Houston Jersey Village), and safety-turned-linebacker Terrance Bullitt (Garland Naaman Forest / Texas Tech).
Despite headliners like Gilbert and Shepard, the 2009 class in the state of Texas did not turn out great. The Longhorns did well to land arguably the top two players in the class in Okafor and Vaccaro. The seniors have become two of Texas' best players, and represent a couple bright spots in an otherwise disappointing season.
But games aren't won with stars alone, and a quick perusal through some of the names on this list demonstrate that teams like the Texas A&M Aggies, Baylor Bears and Texas Tech Red Raiders did well to stock up on depth that has paid off in upperclassmen support. For a team like Texas that has been described as "young" for about three years running, that experience would have been a huge boon.
Certainly, some of the blame can be placed on player desire (Kelley), player stupidity (Davis), and unfortunate injuries (Graham). However, a hit rate of 5 out of 21 (23.8%) is abysmal, on par with Brown's record against Stoops (5 of 14 - 35.7%), Brown's record against Top 10 opponents (10 of 28 - 35.7%), or Manny Diaz's record of quasi-intelligent playcalling (against OU, roughly negative infinity). The failure of proper player development falls squarely on the coaching staff as much as it does the players the staff recruited.
If brevity is the soul of wit, then, to be brief: Texas' 2009 recruiting efforts sucked.