Diaz and 2 perceived leaders of the team (Gideon and Okafor) met with the media the other day, you may have read about it and noticed Oak's comment that seemed to imply that we were no better than a mid-major team last year.
Much more interesting to me was the evaluation by Diaz of Okafor as a defensive end, and not a tackle. Muschamp clearly thought that his eventual playing weight might settle around 280 and that he belonged inside in this league, I'll be a little surprised if we never play him inside like we did with Acho but there you go. My theory of Texas building their 3-tech tackles in the future by anticipating growth in high school DE's has suffered a serious blow, although that was more of the expecation for Muschamp's strategy.
Oak's claim that he was having difficulty adding weight as a tackle is an important bit of news, he was never going to dominate inside at 262 at the level we expected him to achieve on the outside when he came in as a freshman.
So, we've got most of the DL starters figured out since I believe we can be very confident that Jeffcoat and Randall will also find the field. That suggests also one of the young tackles looks like someone worth starting to Diaz and Davis. Since we'll be using multiple fronts and aggressive packages, you can expect a lot more of the Muschamp method of finding assignments players can handle and then packaging guys according to the requirements of the situation.
Okafor seems to have elevated himself into the rank of guys who stay on the field, like Acho, and wear a few different hats. In his case, defensive end in either the 3-4 or 4-3. I'm going to venture that Jeffcoat plays Buck and vascillates between 3-4 OLB or 4-3 right end.
Diaz also addressed our situation at linebacker, which I would summarize as "we have 3 dominant outside linebackers in a league where you usually only field 1 or 2."
We're looking for leadership out of [Emmanuel] Acho and Keenan Robinson. Jordan Hicks is a guy who I think has really impressed through the first three days. And we are not really worried about who is in what spot. We have flexibility in that we can play our best three.
Translation: In this scheme you are often either attacking or dropping into a short zone so traditional attributes for the linebacker positions are less essential. Hicks and Acho can both stunt inside or outside with the best of them and Robinson isn't terrible either. Really, they offer him perfect versatility since any of them can drop back and diagnose with the speed to reach a play or stunt inside or out and get into the backfield. The lack of a true Mike linebacker can be offset by the creation of 8-man fronts and penetration that leads to runners having to bounce outside.
All of this was pretty interesting and pretty much expected...as was the unfortunate decision to have Gideon speak and support him as a leader on this team. They are cross-training Phillips at corner and you can be sure that the demands of this scheme will be moving us back to a 4-corners philosophy in general. Gideon is not a corner and could never play corner. If I could pick the two most desirable attributes for safeties or corners in the Zone-blitz defense they would be coverage and open field tackling. 0-2.
This reeks of when Mack asserted Kirkendoll into leadership roles, or Greg Smith. Sometimes your leaders aren't your experienced seniors, and if those guys can't hold the jockstraps of the younger guys behind them it's going to be difficult for the underclassmen to be lead.
Last year I ridiculed national pundits who placed Gerald McCoy of OU on a similar or higher plane than Ndamukong Suh who I argued was one of the best defensive tackles ever to play the college game. This year we're going to build on that success.
Sam Acho is an absolute lock to be an impact player at the next level and his draft rankings in the 2nd and 3rd round are totally beyond my comprehension. The man played multiple positions, had upstanding character, had a nose for the ball, and put up fantastic stats in consecutive healthy seasons. There was some question about him being athletic enough to move outside to 3-4 linebacker, then he ran a 4.6 and set a record in the shuttle. Some are questioning whether he has the strength to play defensive end in the league...the man played defensive tackle here!
Aaron Williams didn't run an amazing forty and Peter Bean says his coverage drew some criticisms from former greats. His coverage at Texas, however, was always excellent and he has the versatility to play the run as a nickel, blitz, and cover the slot receiver that is becoming essential to defense at both levels. Uh, essentially a nickel rover if you will, which has evolved from Roy Williams' dominance to becoming the new Mike linebacker for defensive schemes (where you must place a badass).
They are easily the class of our draft prospects and I think both have obvious value in the league and each had a lot more to do with the 2009 defensive excellence than has been attributed to them in the media.
As for the Big 12 in general, Amukamara and Von Miller are being labeled the best in the league and I can't really argue the point. Acho, I suspect, could have the same impact as Miller but the latter's speed and pass-rushing abilities could put him in the NFL's elite tomorrow. I think Colby Whitlock could suprise a team as a 3-4 end or 3-tech tackle, I like Jared Crick a lot and I'm from Missouri on Nate Solder whom I never watched once. If Gabbert is a top 10 pick it's because some team is desperate for a QB, not because he's a guy you can't afford to say no to.
Of our 13 committed prospects so far I think we've managed to land a couple of standout guys:
Curtis Riser, though maybe not a tackle, was a must have and exactly the kind of guy I would make an exception for in chasing mostly tackle prospects.
Connor Brewer, I'm very suspicious that he is Harsin's expected starter for the future. Kid loves coming here, was taught the Boise offense in high school, and has the skill set desired for the system. Granted, so does Gilbert, Wood and Ash. But Brewer clearly has the advantage with the system. Which is cool, he looks pretty good.
Peter Jinkens, great weakside linebacker prospect. He's excellent in pursuit and takes the right angles, plus he's quite fast and is listed at 4.5. It's essential against modern offenses to have guys who understand how to pursue laterally AND have the speed to do so effectively. Can't have too many of these.
Alex Norman: Fantastic find, his tape looks like Desmond Jackson's, which I learned upon review made him one of our 5 best (at least) committments in 2011. Leverage and rip away, and he plays mean. The clips of him at offensive tackle look better than the highlight tapes of some tackles we've brought in.
Thomas Johnson, Cayleb Jones, in our new offense we shouldn't have any more trouble finding and developing receivers. The failed efforts of bringing in shifty guys and trying to make them into extensively complete recievers have gone.
Hassan Ridgeway, not the best edge guy we've ever brought in but he has a pretty good first step. 6-5 says he may grow into a good strongside end.
Bluiett, De La Torre, and Thomas are interesting takes to me that remind me of classes like 2008. I just don't see a ton of upside.