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Evaluating The 2012 Texas Longhorns Recruiting Class: Defensive Back

Our final position feature tackles the DBs. We begin with one of the best, criminally underrated (nationally), athletes in the entire class....

Adrian Colbert

If you want to understand the strange calcification that can take place around national rankings, watch Colbert's film and ask - what if he had played his ball at Dallas Skyline and been on the high profile camp circuit since his sophomore year of high school? He'd be rated in the Top 10 in the state and the best safety prospect in it. With scholarship offers and national attention to match.

When you find a high level track guy with a big frame who relishes contact and is an instinctive safety - look out. I also have suspicions that, on a weight-adjusted basis, Texas signed a mitochondrial freak. Colbert is the reigning 3A 400 meter champion (a smoking 48.23 junior time), a brutal sprint usually reserved for smaller athletes. So I wrote a much more knowledgeable friend and asked if a 190+ pound junior running that fast over 400 meters struck him as impressive given that the world class athletes in that distance - the Jeremy Wariners - typically go about 155. This was his response:

So, pretty much anything sub 49 is pretty freaking fast no matter how much you weigh. My best clocked time ever was a 48.6 but (as hard as it is to believe) I was at one point in my life one of the top 10 fastest guys in Houston in the quarter mile. (This was before bionic shoes and HGH were invented.) At that time I was 5' 10" and maybe weighed 160 in my winter clothes...

Although I could bore you for pages with tales of the late nineties H-town track circuit, I should try to answer your question... Yes, I think that's a smoking time for a dude that size. A consistent sub-49 quarter will get you a ride on a lot of D1 track teams, even in this day and age. Sub-48 will get you a ride on the track team at UT. So he's right in that wheelhouse and if he was track-only, they'd run all that football weight off of him and probably shave another half a second or more.

I'll give you one more anecdote to help with your weight-adjusted picture. I'm working out every week with a trainer who ran the quarter for UC Davis. If you look at his bio/stats, he was 188 pounds and running in the 49s. But (drum role) the dude is freaking 6' 5".

In anticipation of likely comments that Colbert isn't going to run 400 meters on a football field - agreed - but what it does demonstrate is a large, fast-twitch athlete with a heightened capacity to do work over time. This is rare. And Colbert's game tape show what his first 10 meters look like. Each play in football is a sprint, but quarters are aptly named.

Forgive my mitochondrial tangent, most crucially: Colbert is a football player. He fills the alley with abandon, tackles well in space, and he has some ball skills over the top. He's also blessed with a frame that can comfortably carry 205-215 pounds. He scored 20 touchdowns as a senior despite only dabbling on offense (5 touchdowns on special teams) and finished the season with 90 tackles and 4 interceptions.

My expectations for Colbert are nothing shy of multi-year starter and potential all-conference. Great get.

Orlando "Duke" Thomas

Thomas seems to get boilerplate "good athlete who doesn't project cleanly" lip service. This is a mistake, as I pointed out with Adrian Phillips two years ago.

Much like Quandre Diggs and Phillips, Duke Thomas played the "balla" position in high school. Ballas can be penalized and discounted by gurus, coaches, and fans when projecting college efficacy because their brilliance at being generalists who are asked to win the game every week can be misinterpreted as a lack of ability to be specialized when, instead, they should be coveted as the human multi-tools that they are. Cornerbacks with hands, ability to score after the pick, and an understanding of what the QB sees when he drops back are a good thing. Show me a specialized high school corner and I'll show you a limited athlete.

Thomas cuts on a dime, delivers change, then prints a receipt for your expense report you can file under "Lost jock accounting", and then motors on to the end zone. I will not fully invoke the Holy Name of Nathan Vasher, but the similarities are there if you care to find them. Duke's cuts may not be as savage as Nasty Nate, but the kid has serious flow. Duke lacks cornerback footage, but his ability to break his hips, his body control, and his general competitive spirit are blindingly obvious. This doesn't require much imagination. Duane Akina also worked him out at CB at a junior camp and said,"Yep."

I'm a Thomas fan. Terrific program asset with big upside who just needs some time to fill out, develop upper body strength, and learn the finer points at Akina DB College.

Bryson Echols

Where I see nothing but untapped potential with Thomas and Colbert, who will both still have to learn their craft, I see a sophisticated, cagey veteran in Echols. He's an old soul on the football field and watching him drop into zone, lie to QBs with his eyes, and break on another receiver's route ten yards away is NFL stuff. The clip below doesn't have all of those specific instances, but the film is out there.

Echols is a good athlete and, though a smallish corner, he's competitive with bigger receivers, and has played- and will consistently win - against elite competition (like Thomas Johnson). Good small area quickness and anticipation. Skilled in hand placement and understands how to ride a hip and steer a receiver off balance without getting a flag.

Echols isn't shy in run support and though he may not have any one physical attribute that screams super-elite, he doesn't have any identifiable deficiencies. I think his most likely positive trajectory is strong special teams contributor, in the nickel, and as a reliable third cornerback. Given the likely strength of the UT secondary over the next 3-5 years, that's not damning with faint praise.

Kevin Vaccaro

Like older brother, Kenny, KV loves to hit and it's in his DNA to put people on the ground with extreme prejudice. UT Law students - you are on notice. Kevin isn't your ideal turn and run cornerback when the opposing WR goes 6-2 and can motor, but he does a nice job of keeping receivers in front of him, punishing the short game, and then using excellent quickness to harry pass catchers.

Despite rolling at 5-8, 175, Vaccaro is extraordinary in run support, closing to the ball with abandon, maintaining outside leverage, and usually delivering a kill shot. He's competitive as hell and looks for someone to hit on every play - even when the ball is thirty yards away.

I thought older brother Kenny - also a three star - would do big things at Texas based on his speed and powerlifting background, but frankly, I don't see Kevin as a starter in an elite secondary. He can more than earn his free meals and board if he'll play his ass of on special teams and force our starting receivers to bring it in practice.

Final Thoughts

I hope you've enjoyed reviewing this class as much as I have and whatever opinions I expressed should be tempered against the hard knowledge that even if this class is excellent, half of them won't start at Texas. That's why my reviews aim for sobriety over mindless cheerleading. That written, this is our third strong class in a row and given the changes we've made in coaching and development, it shouldn't be long before Texas is Texas again.

Hook 'em.