With the fifth pick of the draft I've finally selected players in the same position...sort of. More notably, the player I've selected in the reality draft is following a similar path as my fantasy pick when it comes to injuries and needs to finally blossom as a junior. For the sake of this year and next, let's hope the current player has a phenomenal year and strong finish to his career at Texas. While there's young talent with potential at his position, their lack of experience may leave him without a choice.
Fantasy Draft 5th Pick (Position & Player): Hybrid (LB/DE) | Sergio Kindle
I'll be honest... We all knew our days were numbered when Sergio Kindle stepped on campus. I'll never forget the conversation I had with Robert Killebrew and Scott Derry about the different breed of species he was. Legend tells it that his high school had a weight room the size of a utility closet with nothing more than a bench and bar. But, after looking at this kid, we felt much like, Bruce Wayne... merely adopters of the light [weight room]. While Bane, er, Sergio was born in it, molded by it...not coming out until he was 18 years old. We didn't have to see him play. We knew what was to come with this kid. But, hampered by a nagging ankle injury his freshman year, a three-game suspension and a knee injury his sophomore year, we were able to leave campus surviving his eventual takeover, also knowing the Texas fans should be excited about what was to come.
In his junior year Sergio didn't disappoint on the field. The 2008 season was his coming out party as he finished with a stellar 53 tackles, 10 sacks, 14 TFLs, and 15 pressures. I'll be the first to say that this was done against a much stronger Big XII conference than what I faced while playing. He led the defense against Top #11 teams in OU, Mizzou, Okie State, Texas Tech (who we let steal a game from us), and Ohio State. Not to mention he harassed a young Robert Griffin at Baylor that year as well.
What made him special, in addition to having the stature of Bane, was his motor. He was built to attack. Dropping him into coverage on passing downs wasn't maximizing his potential. Coach Muschamp did a phenomenal job of putting him in a position, no matter the down, to attack whoever had possession of the ball. With that flexibility, and schemes catered specifically to his talents, he walked away as a 2009 finalist for both the Butkus and Hendricks Awards and was an All-American.
While Sergio has had some challenges along the way, I can't think of a better teammate and person and I certainly enjoyed watching him get after it on the field, down after down. With his unmatched DNA, relentlessness on the field, and love for the game, I couldn't deny him as a top five player and wish we could have him back in this new Big XII conference.
Reality Draft 5th Pick (Position & Player): Linebacker | Jordan Hicks
Admittedly, I have a different standard for what I expect from out-of-state players who come to Texas. With all the talent there is in state, I always question "What makes this kid so special?" But I have an equally high standard for the experience I want out-of-state players to have when do they come to Texas. I want them to understand the pride we have in the game of football across the state and take ownership of it. Jordan Hicks, a kid from a state full of football pride, is the player I believe will perform to a Texas standard this year. And we sure as hell need him to.
Being the most experienced backer he'll be charged with the task of leading that group this year and the defense as a whole. Nagged by injuries in the past, he hasn't had a chance to fully display what I believe his leadership and skillset can bring to the table. He is a guy who works his ass off, has the respect of his teammates and coaches, and understands the scope of the game. But, we know and have heard that since he got to campus, right? So I'll dig a little deeper.
His performance against Cal in the Holiday Bowl showed me that he can influence the game in a diverse set of ways. Hicks was active covering the field sideline to sideline, making plays in the backfield and in the passing game. The most productive players at this position at Texas throughout the years have had the ability to do just that. He is the single player in the linebacker corps who provides the least amount of risk when it comes to defending both the passing and running game. I expect his reps on the field this year will show that.
A strong-side linebacker in base defense, I believe he'll replace Steve Edmond at MLB in the nickel package, prepping him to take as many reps as any of the starting DBs this year. While the defensive line may have players rolling in and out depending on the package, Hicks will likely be on the field no matter down and distance or package. His play-count each game should display how integral he'll be to this year's defense.
While I'm drafting him as the 5th player from this year's defense, I believe we'll absolutely need him to over-achieve as this pick in order to fill the void left behind by Keenan Robinson and Manny Acho. With his maturity, well-rounded knowledge of the defense's packages, skillset, and conditioning, I think we're finally ready to get a full demonstration of what his game is all about. He's a guy we'll need with us every game this year and I sure as hell hope his career explodes like Bane's did.
Sixth Draft pick(s) coming soon...