Monday Thoughts

Here are five thoughts on positions of strength and weaknesses for the Longhorn football team, recruiting and Rick Barnes building a powerful basketball squad for 2011-2012.

Search for a pass rusher

The Longhorns sit pretty with offensive tackle Kennedy Estelle, offensive guard Michael Starts and running back Johnathan Gray. But if those three all pick the burnt orange, who else will the Longhorns pursue to the 40 Acres? One safe bet is the country's top wide receiver Dorial Green-Beckham, though he's more a luxury than a need. Offensive tackle Andrus Peat, whom Texas offensive line coach Stacy Searels will visit this week, is another option. But the best positional pick appears to be at defensive end, where the Longhorns are still looking for a high-level pass-rusher. Channing Ward, a defensive end from Aberdeen (Miss.), could visit Austin for a camp this summer, and he'd certainly be a welcome visitor.

Linebacker, the position of today

Though Texas's roster is stocked with talent, there's only one position where I think they're as good, or better than, anybody in the league, at linebacker. Texas returns probably the league's top linebacking duo in Keenan Robinson and Emmanuel Acho, while Jordan Hicks looked fantastic before missing the last part of spring with an injury. All three have All-American potential. There's talent behind those players as well, with converted safety Demarco Cobbs, who's a devastating blitzer, and who has coverage ability. And did I mention that the Longhorns are bringing in Steve Edmond, the top linebacker signee in the league? So not only does Texas have the top-end talent at the position, but it's one of the few spots where you can point out talented depth.

Wide receiver, the position of tomorrow

This position took its lumps a year ago, and while improved this year, could still face some growing pains. But after that, it's hard to argue against the Longhorns fielding an elite unit for the 2012 season. Mike Davis and Darius White will be juniors, and talented players like John Harris and Jaxon Shipley will have added years under their belts. Add in players like Desean Hales, Marquise Goodwin and Chris Jones, who would start for other Big 12 teams, give a redshirt year to Miles Onyegbule and sprinkle in a pair of talented true freshmen in Cayleb Jones and Thomas Johnson, and it's a deep and talented group with a number of players who can frustrate a defense. There might not be a Roy Williams in that group (though Green-Beckham would go a long way to that end), but it's quite a bit deeper than the Williams-Johnson-Thomas group.

Defensive tackle, the worry of today and tomorrow

Looking at Texas's roster, there's only one position that scares me more than quarterback for this season: defensive tackle. And if this year looks scary, what about next year, when the Longhorns lose top tackle Kheeston Randall? It's not like the Texas staff didn't see this issue coming. Texas signed six defensive tackles in the 2010 and 2011 classes and is on tap to take another three in 2012. That's a whopping nine defensive tackles in three recruiting classes. That's more that most Big 12 teams have on roster (including Texas, which right now, has eight scholarship players on roster). Don't be shocked if a tackle or two from that group winds up leaving. That's a lot of bodies, and quite a bit of talent but nobody with any proven production to this point. Hopefully that will change this season, as the Longhorns look like they could field an elite defense in 2012 at every other position.

On to basketball

That's where the Longhorns have pieced together what appears to be the Big 12's top roster for the 2011-2012 season. Should Jordan Hamilton and Tristan Thompson return, the Longhorns should be in contention for a national championship. That title would still be within reach if Hamilton left, as Thompson is the key to a frontcourt group that has some talent, but not a ton of experience. Should Thompson leave, the Longhorns will fall back to the pack and will likely battle with flawed Kansas and Baylor squads for the Big 12 title. Baylor will have a loaded frontcourt with Perry Jones III, Quincy Acy and incoming freshman Quincy Miller, while Kansas returns All-Big 12 candidates at point guard and in the post in Tyshawn Taylor and Thomas Robinson, respectively. And with a couple big-name recruits still floating around, both Texas and Kansas could stand to improve a little more.

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