Duane Akina churns 'em out
The Longhorns had a weak draft class at the top, arguably its worst class of the last 11 years. In no year of the previous top 10 did Texas produce fewer than three prospects drafted in the top three rounds, while also failing to produce a first-rounder. But the Longhorns still had four overall players drafted, tied for second-best in the Big 12 to Nebraska (which had seven). All four draftees were on the defensive side of the ball, perhaps casting light on last year's offensive struggles. There were five offensive starters from a year ago who worked out at Texas's Pro Day, but none were drafted. Akina has a reputation for producing defensive backs in bulk, and he lived up to that yet again, with three players from last year's secondary going in the draft.
But now, the going gets tough …
For the Texas players who weren't drafted. Rather than having their phone blowing up immediately after the draft, as is customary, they'll have to wait until an unsure lockout situation is ironed out. The Longhorns have a number of players — including receivers James Kirkendoll and John Chiles, tight end Greg Smith, and offensive linemen Kyle Hix and Michael Huey — who earned some attention through the draft scouting process. What's worse is that, because of the lockout, you'll probably see teams hold onto veterans who know the playbook, making things more difficult for an undrafted free agent to make the team.
Texas basketball gets big visitor
D'Vauntes Smith-Rivera, a five-star shooting guard in the Class of 2012, is expected to be in Austin today for an unofficial visit. The Longhorns look like they'll have plenty of scholarships available in the class, and Smith-Rivera would be a definite take. The talented 6-foot-3 wing from Indianapolis isn't a great athlete, but he excels at putting the ball in the basket. Smith-Rivera is ranked as the No. 5 shooting guard in the class by Scout.com.
Daniels taking his time
The Longhorns, like Kansas and Duke, are still waiting for a decision from talented wing DeAndre Daniels. The No. 28 overall player in the Class of 2011 was originally a Texas commitment, but elected to open up his recruitment this past summer. Then, in a brief frenzy of activity, Daniels tried to become a semester transfer, deciding between Texas and Kansas. When that didn't work out, Daniels took a visit to Duke a few weeks back. A number of coaches have since visited the four-star prospect who has three-point range and athleticism, but nobody seems to be able to handicap where he'll end up. Stay tuned.
Up this week
Each day this week, I'll have stories on ways that the Texas football team will be better than a year ago. In a bit of a spoiler, I'll say that Friday's edition — the final one — will focus on turnover margin. When bettors look for teams that will improve from one year to the next, one of the first things they'll look at is turnovers. It's a feature in Phil Steele's glossy magazine every year. The reason why is this: while there are some teams that force turnovers better than others, in general, turnovers seem to be somewhat luck related. Therefore, it stands to reason that a team that was way in the hole a year ago will come back to earth this year. Same with the opposite way. When teams have a largely positive turnover margin the previous year, it's a safe bet that they won't be so bullish the next season. With the Longhorns tying for 115th nationally with a turnover rate of minus-1.1 per game in 2010, there's a major chance that Texas will improve on that rate in 2011.