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2015 Texas Longhorns Recruiting Breakdown: OL. Connor Williams, Patrick Vahe, Garrett Thomas, Tristan Nickelson, Brandon Hodges, Ronnie Major


Patrick Vahe

That's not blocking so much as savaging. Vahe is a dedicated dominator who works against assumptive type - he's not wreaking mayhem with a massive frame and superman strength, no, he's actually a quick technician who serves his lessons with an extra helping of mean. The Polynesian Kasey Studdard brings the nasty to OL play and that's something we've been missing here for some time. Besides the piles of twitching corpses he leaves in his wake, Vahe's film reveals some real polish in his game - he's a a high motor active player with good hand placement and excellent feet that continues to drive relentlessly after contact.  How many times in high school were you told to bring your feet?  Vahe brings his feet. Those pancakes are a result of great footwork, balance and an Inquisitor's desire to punish.  As for headiness, look at his pass off of the DL to his teammate at 0:43 followed by a mercury quick release to pancake the linebacker.  Joe Wickline probably wept a single tear when he saw that.  I know I did.  This must be how George Will feels when he sees a baseball park.  Vahe played OT for Euless Trinity, but he'll be an inside player in college.  I love him at center and think he'll be capable of similar movement to Dominic Espinosa in the zone game.

If there's a downside to Vahe, it's that he's actually not a big-framed guy and may struggle at the point of attack against bigs early in his career until he can add more base.  Is it possible that he doesn't have as much ceiling as some other candidates? Yeah, it is.  But his floor is nice and comfortable.

Tristan Nickelson

A gigantic athlete, this JUCO early enrollee and waxed sasquatch is a legitimate 6-8+ and still has plenty of growing to do. He has 4 years to play 3.  Baby faced giants like Nickelson often don't grow fully into their bodies until their mid 20s - the sheer number of Strong Men and Highland Games types who mention this fact is fascinating.  A 9 month old Great Dane may be big, but it's still a puppy.  It's going to lose a wrestling match with that adult 90 pound lab at the dog park.  Two years later?  Not so much.  Nickelson's value proposition is simple: if he can gain a sufficient base and the technical proficiency to keep defenders at arm's length and from getting into his body, his radius is too long to allow an edge rush and he'll be too big to bully.  The DE will end up a doing an awkward junior high sway dance with him.  If. We won't know until we see it.  For what it's worth, he gave former TCU star Devonte Fields problems in JUCO (Fields finished with 2 assisted tackles in the game).

From a developmental perspective, Nickelson will clearly struggle releasing into space to get a linebacker and getting submarined by penetrating smaller DL in the running game.  Nickelson is a Wickline project and while we may need immediate help at OT, that's not Nickelson's problem.  Give him some time to grow and mature and we'll see what he can be.

Garrett Thomas

Thomas is massive and highly intelligent.  A legitimate 6-6+, 300 pounder who, like Nickelson, is still filling out his massive frame.  He was an early enrollee and that jump on his preparation will serve him well.  Thomas laid waste to Louisiana 2A football, carrying his team to a state title, but he'll be stepping up a tad in competition.  He's a load to move, carries his weight well and shows good tenacity, but I'm concerned about his feet - not only as a potential RT on the edge but as a guard making lateral steps in the zone blocking game or trying to pull on power.  I think he can be an asset when we scheme defenders into a phone booth with him, but he's a lot of jump rope time away from having the feet that quality starting OL require.  Redshirt him and let's check back in 2017.

Connor Williams

Connor headlines my all-underrated team.  Vahe appeals to my love of technical proficiency, aggression and sheer effort, while Williams is all about pure athletic upside and ease.  His flexibility and coordination jump off of the film.  I'm not sure why people who are paid to evaluate don't understand that big-framed athletic guys who are "undersized" (oh no!  he's only 255 as a junior in high school!) have no problem adding weight and when they do so, they generally become bigger athletic guys.  This is not hard.  Connor Williams will carry 295-300 pounds well and he'll do it soon. The former TE from Coppell is on a rocket growth curve and the plateau is nowhere in sight.

I liked Williams as a junior where he basically played jumbo TE for Coppell and I liked Williams even more as a senior when he dominated at offensive tackle.  He's just tapping the surface of his potential.  While a healthy program wouldn't even think of starting a player as young as Williams in the OL, his ability and our desperation may intersect as early as his freshman year.

Brandon Hodges

Speaking of the intersection of starting potential and desperation, the JUCO OT from Mississippi may also be needed to step in and start. Good thing he was an early enrollee.  At least Hodges is mature and comes with some seasoning. Hodges carries his weight extremely well, but he's more pusher than punisher in the running game.  Wickline doesn't mind - screening a defender can be as useful as pile driving him and it's pass protection where Hodges' skill set is most sorely needed. Perhaps Hodges is the offensive version of SDE candidate Quincy Vasser - a steady player meant to improve a gaping need.  Wickline identified Hodges early and didn't relent in recruiting the two year JUCO veteran, so he's probably in our immediate plans.  I really don't know much about Hodges beyond the available tape, but I'll be watching the Spring game with interest.

Ronnie Major

In a OL class that checks almost every box for player type, Buck Major checks another: the raw athlete with immense innate talent who isn't quite sure how to play football yet but dominates anyway.  This highlight tape also shows some bewitching potential and some of the inconsistencies in his play - namely a high base in the running game and a pass block set-up that's different on every snap.  Nah, no kick slide on this one - just gonna fling this dude to the ground. He's so talented, he can do things incorrectly and still crush people. He's a pure tackle all the way and has the athletic profile of a natural pass protector.  He's a legit 6-6, 290 and he looks like an oversized DE - that's a flat belly on that big guy.  Unfortunately, Major may have academic problems and there's a reasonable chance that he'll need to make it to Austin via JUCO.  That's too bad - Major is a player I'd love to see after a few years of high level instruction.  Let's see how it plays out.