We all remember the terrible period between 2000 and 2005 when Stoops' squads would murder Texas every year and make examples out of 2-3 Big 12 teams.
Then their run of terror in the Big 12 died a slow death from multiple BCS defeats culminating in the sack of Norman by Boise St. in 2007.
Texas has won 3 of the last 4 meetings, holds the Big 12 title and should hold the previous one as well. Perhaps what should really excite Texas fans about the end of one of the most brutal periods of college football since Barry Switzer is that Texas has been able to accomplish this with vastly inferior talent.
That's right Trent Williams, once prophetically declared the greatest Left Tackle of all time, is up to no. 2 on this draft board with the monumentally stupid Lions snatching him up to keep Matthew Stafford healthy. Sounds reasonable, since that was how OU kept the no. 1 pick healthy enough to repeat their 2008 offensive excellence.
Gerald McCoy drops down to no. 7 in this draft with Sergio Kindle kicking things off for the woefully undermanned Texas at 16. We can only assume from these bits of draft analysis that 2008 OU was one of the greater teams crafted by mankind to dominate a gridiron.
They had 2 tackles drafted, all-conference guys at left guard and center, a defensive tackle comparable to probably the greatest to play in the Big 12, a first round Tight end, and a no. 1 pick quarterback. What conclusion can we come to from this information except that Bob Stoops wasted one of the most talented teams in Big 12 history? Unless Trent Williams and Gerald McCoy weren't actually 2 of the finest linemen to play the game...
In other Oklahoma news, Big 12 blogger David Ubben has their strengths and weaknesses up at ESPN. The primary weakness is the offensive line, riddled by attrition and now the departure of Marcus Aurelius to the Elysium fields. Their primary strengths are their defensive ends which start with Jeremy Beal and Frank Alexander followed by a host of young talent I'm not excited about.
Texas figures to be really strong on defensive line, particularly if Sacho handles the assumption of Houston's tasks, and fairly weak at Offensive tackle. Both teams strengths exploit the others' weakness. In other words, another defensive struggle seems forthcoming unless one of these teams can build a clock controlling running game to dominate the game.
He also did one of these write-ups for Nebraska. One roadblock to their hold on the Eastern Empire, besides the loss of their best player, is the departure of both safeties who had a significant impact in their major defensive performances last season. They are stocked at tailback with Helu Jr. and Burkhead but their offense will have to improve several orders of magnitude to really have a chance of locking down the North and best Texas/South champion in the conference title.
Mashtun put in a request to the higher authorities (i.e. not me) to break down Barnes' recruiting in determining if it's really been very solid given the recent lack of parts in building the machine. He also asks for a "big-picture assessment" and not a year-by-year analysis. Well Mashtun, despite your lack of interest in my specific input or likely method (I'm going year-by-year) I have the free time to examine the question so I will do so.
Let's start with 2002 when Barnes had landed Ford and put Texas on the recruiting map because it's the first year I can find any archives for.
Kenton Paulino-no rating: Paulino was a solid guard who won the Sweet Sixteen game vs. West Virginia and held down the PG spot adequately when it arose that Gibson was actually a 2-guard in the Barnes offense. A solid pick-up for the year after selecting the greatest Point Guard the school has ever known.
Brad Buckman-5 star: You're going to find a lot of ratings inflation here to the point that I'm not sure Rivals can be remotely trusted to judge basketball talent. Buckman was a strong rebounder, the rock of the 2004-05 team and somewhere a little south of being an all-conference player.
PJ Tucker-3 star: Feisty power forward and eventual 3 on the loaded 2006 team. We're gonna find a lot of these lower star players being maximized in the Barnes era.
Edgar Moreno-3 star: Not this guy though, I'm not sure if he transferred out or what but the most I remember from him is maybe 5-6 minutes of providing relief for Ford. Maybe Trips can answer what happened to him.
Kenny Taylor-N/A: Stolen from Baylor after one of their players shot the other and the coach told them to lie about it. Was able to provide a starting presence on the 2005 team that held the program together before the arrival of LaMarcus.
This was one of Barnes fill in the gaps seasons when he would try to pick out diamonds in the rough to supplement his star classes.
Daniel Gibson-5 star: Barnes almost broke him down freshman year and he returned for a decent 2nd year that proved he wasn't the right fit for the Barnes system since the aforementioned Paulino was able to lock down the starting Point Guard spot. Overall he contributed some strong value, not terrible results from a big time recruit.
Dion Dowell-4 star: I guess another one that couldn't handle Barnes' temperament as he transferred and became a solid starter at Houston.
Mike Williams-5 star: Williams had to play a lot of F/C in his early time and then transferred when playing time was imminent with Buckman and Tucker graduating and Aldridge leaving. He had a career much like Dowell's somewhere else.
Connor Atchley-3 star: Connor was the perfect fit for a Barnes Texas team with his excellent screening, pick'n'pop shooting, and strong interior help and man defense.
LaMarcus Aldridge-5 star: I'm not sure if Texas really utilized Aldridge as best as they could have but he was an anchor in the 2-3 zone and the best player on an elite eight squad.
This was the first loaded Barnes recruiting class and it was relatively full of duds as Barnes recruited 2 guys that never amounted to anything special (Williams & Dowell) and didn't even do that at Texas, a point guard who didn't fit the system. Atchley and Aldridge were the model for what Texas inside players should look like for the random screening offense.
AJ Abrams-3 star: Given that Abrams was only a 3 star recruit it's hard to call this anything other than another fine catch. He limited the Longhorns on defense with his tiny height and inability to play point or trade defensive assignments with Augustin but his shooting was ridiculous and one of the only means to offense in 2008-09. A worthwhile player on any College team, it's not his fault he had to be the no. 1 offensive option.
Craig Winder-N/A: A transfer to add guard depth that did that for one Big 12 conference tournament and was a wasted scholarship for the rest of his career.
J.D. Lewis-N/A: Same story minus the production.
Our 2nd "fill in the gaps" class by Barnes where he has a 33% hit rate.
DJ Augustin-4 star: The 2nd best point guard in Texas basketball history. Sophomore Augustin could have led just about any given Texas roster this decade to the sweet sixteen at least.
Kevin Durant-5 star: ...
Mat Hill-3 star: Another attempt to find a scrappy tall white guy to handle screening and interior D. I suppose the jury is somewhat out on him but thus far he has contributed nothing.
Dexter Pittman-3 star: Crafted by Todd Wright into a potentially dominant Center wasted by the lack of offensive design and personnel suited to putting him in places to succeed and building fitness to match his improved basketball body. Still, he did a lot as a 3 star.
Harrison Smith-4 star: I believe he transferred right? Worthless acquisition.
Damion James-5 star: A good fit for the offense and strong contributor all 4 seasons.
Justin Mason-4 star: Consistent defensive stopper who, at best, remained consistent on offense if not regressing over his time at Texas. Paired with shooters and creators he was a stat-stuffer but otherwise a limited role player.
The 2nd major star class with a lot more hits with James, DJ, and Kevin providing a ton of value for various periods of time. 33% yet again on the supplementary players. Mason was certainly a good pick-up and either knocks down the star level a little or upgrades the grade on supplementary guys depending on your expectations for his play here.
Dogus Balbay- 3 star: Maybe the best on-ball defender Barnes has had as well as one of the worst shooters. A better Freddie Williams basically and a guy worth having on any team.
Clint Chapman-4 star: He definitely has some athleticism and offensive talent but hasn't made the court long enough to develop into a worthwhile asset. He at least looks the part for a Barnes forward; mobile, effective from 15 out, skinny. I think he might be worthwhile when he's counted on in lieu of Pittman.
Gary Johnson-4 star: At 4 stars that puts him into the DJ, Mason, Dowell class of players and he compares favorably to all except DJ. Barnes has had success with undersized power forwards who love rebounding and have some effectiveness away from the basket. This is probably more or less what one of his templates for forwards should be.
Alexis Wangmene: 4-star: Another guy who can improve his rating by replacing Pittman effectively. There really isn't any role for him on the team except as an occasional defensive stopper and his help defense doesn't make him a great option there either. He's shown a lot of potential on offense that is stymied by his rock hands.
This is probably best classified as a higher-rated "filler" class for Barnes with a 50% hit rate if viewed from that perspective.
Varez Ward-3 star: Definitely a supplement class with just another guard Barnes viewed as having potential value as a defensive player who has since emerged as a creator and possible team leader. One of the finer selections in recent years.
Ward was a nice pick-up but Barnes' had a squad full of the misses from the 2004 and 2006 classes since the better talent had transferred or left for the NBA.
Avery Bradley-5 star: He hasn't been a one-and-done on the level of Kevin Durant but if that's your standard...Durant was, in fact, really the only freshman to excel for Barnes (save for TJ Ford). If he leaves that's another more costly attrition but his value this season was actually quite high for a freshman.
J'Covan Brown-4 star: I think Brown has already established himself as a likely Gary Johnson level program player that has a lot of value for the next 3 years. He's a solid fit for the offense provided the right pieces are around him.
Jordan Hamilton-5 star: The most talented player recruited since 2006. On a thinner team not stocked with defensively-trained role players he would have put up some big numbers this season. I'm confident a 2nd season will reveal this recruit to be one of Barnes' best.
Shawn Williams-4 star: He can spot-up and shoot which means he has value in this offense and era of college basketball.
We're getting too early to really rate these classes but this still seems like a great class as far as the star classes under Barnes have gone. Three of these guys have already shown a lot and if they depart for the NBA it only reinforces the need to make strong choices on the program players.
Tristan Thompson: Another hit for the better profile for a Rick Barnes forward. He can shoot and be effective in the high screen and away from the basket. Probably the best post-player recruited since LaMarcus Aldridge.
Guard?: Better be someone who can shoot.
The lesson here is, if you are going to rely on star-studded classes to have occasional bursts of excellence when the super-stars are present than a solid stock of program players who fit the system needs to be replenished well at a much higher percentage than Barnes has achieved to date. He simply isn't versatile enough as a coach (or at least willing to be so) to build great teams around whatever talent is on hand.
He needs shooters at essentially every position and forwards who can be a threat away from the basket. To answer a question not really posed to me Mashtun, yes his success luring in some big stars along with some nice hits on the lower-rated guys has resulted in Barnes' being somewhat overrated as a recruiter. However, I would characterize it more as a failure to recruit to the system rather than a failure to bring in talent.
Well that was long and probably only moderately informative, LeBron James told us a lot more recently in just a few words. I don't think the temptations to pair up with stars in a big market of his choice can fail to pull King James away from the worst city in America.