Monday Thoughts 5/9

This Monday Thoughts focuses on Garrett Gilbert as the starter, Cody Johnson as fullback, recruiting numbers and more.

Gilbert the man?

The Austin American-Statesman revealed that a source said that not only was Garrett Gilbert already tapped as the 2011 starter at quarterback, but that he has been told as such. The paper continued on to say that the other quarterbacks had not been informed of the decision, and obviously, no official decision has been made.

While that doesn't necessarily mesh with what I've heard, it wouldn't be totally surprising, either. Gilbert appeared to be the best quarterback in what little practice us reporters were able to watch, an observation that was confirmed by somebody who attended at least one full practice this spring.

"They all looked good," said the source. "But you can just tell that (Gilbert) is ahead. He's just more comfortable right now, and you would expect him to be."

One thing is for sure: too many people are focusing exclusively on the spring game, which is only natural, since that was the only scrimmage that was visible to the public. Don't forget that Gilbert was incredibly impressive in last year's spring game, then went out and struggled in his first year as a starter.

Three things should work in Gilbert's favor, if in fact he is the starter when the season kicks off.

First, second-year starting quarterbacks often make a big jump. The game slows down for them, and teammates are more accepting of the leadership they try to provide.

Second, I'm really high on the team of Bryan Harsin and Major Applewhite as co-offensive coordinators. Whoever wins the quarterback job should have some easy reads to make. Boise State won several plays per game before the ball was even snapped thanks to motion and leverage. That didn't happen a year ago.

And third, the Longhorns should be stronger around him. His offensive line has higher upside than last year's group, while additions at running back and receiver make both positions more of a strength than a year ago.

Cody Johnson, super fullback

Count NFL scouts among those happy to see Cody Johnson get more of a role as a fullback. Johnson was the Longhorns' leading rusher a year ago, and has the type of scheme versatility that could make the Texas offense tough to stop.

A bullish tank in short-yardage situation, Johnson is a high-level runner for a fullback, and can also catch the ball out of the backfield. He projects, according to at least one NFL scout, as the top fullback prospect in the 2012 draft.

In the spring, Johnson spent time both as a fullback and as a single back, blasting open holes at one moment and running through them the next. Part of the viral nature of the spread has seen several NFL teams de-emphasize the fullback position and go to more of a three-wide look. But a versatile fullback like Johnson still has plenty of value in that he's a three-down player who can help in many different ways.

Keeping the count

Don't focus specifically on the number of scholarships left on roster, or how many should be in this class. While the Longhorns expected to have a small class this year, the bottom line is that they'll find spots for players like Andrus Peat and Dorial Green-Beckham if either player comes calling. For sure, the Longhorns would take at least two more offensive linemen, and are in the market for a defensive end and a defensive back.

After that, it's really anybody's guess. Technically, the Longhorns are already above limit in this class, but these things tend to work their way out, either by grades or overall attrition. Just know that the Longhorns will find a way to make it work, and that they won't miss out on a potential big-time player due to a numbers game.

Cibolo Steele up-and-comer

Most high school teams have a major adjustment after losing a five-star player at a single position. But Cibolo Steele had a powerful duo a year ago at running back with incoming Texas freshman Malcolm Brown and then-high school freshman Justin Stockton.

Stockton averaged nearly 10 yards per carry as a frosh running behind one of the best backs in the state. But as a sophomore, he won't have to take a back seat to anybody. The lightning behind Brown's thunder, Stockton is an entirely different kind of back … pure explosion. That explosion was evident at a recent open Steele practice, where the sophomore displayed great speed, along with tough running between the tackles and surprisingly good balance an tackle-shaking ability.

His explosion also shows up well in the weight room, and on the track, where's he has already run a 4.46 40-yard dash.

Steele is loaded with prospects, several we'll get into in the upcoming days, and is in the process of becoming one of the most talented programs in the San Antonio area on a year-in, year-out basis. The program has produced four Big 12 signees in the past two years (two to Oklahoma, one to Texas and another to Oklahoma State), and have another Big 12 level player in quarterback Tommy Armstrong, a Class of 2012 player. With Stockton entering just his sophomore season, the Knights appear to be loaded with talent for the future as well.

Big 12 in 2012

On the basketball side of things, the Longhorns took a tough blow when both Tristan Thompson and Cory Joseph kept their names in the 2011 NBA Draft. The move means that all five Texas starters from a year ago will be gone. More than that, the Longhorns lose almost every rotation player from a year ago, excepting J'Covan Brown and Alexis Wangmene.

Brown essentially counts as a starter, as he played starter minutes a year ago. He and incoming freshman Myck Kabongo will form the crux of a backcourt that should still be among the Big 12's best. The issue there will be who handles the ball. Both are ball-dominating types, meaning they're both at their best when the ball is in their hands. Brown can shoot, but he's at his best when he's attacking the lane off the dribble, the same strength that Kabongo has. Can those two work together?

Both Sheldon McClellan and Julien Lewis have the talent to work at the other wing spot, where both can score the ball in bunches.

It's not nearly as rosy in the post, where true freshman Jonathan Holmes will likely find himself next to Clint Chapman, who returns from a redshirt season. Wangmene will probably see increased minutes, with Kevin Thomas serving as the fourth post player.

On both sides of the ball, there appears to be a lack of depth, and certainly a lack of experience.

But where does that put the Longhorns in the Big 12 hunt? It's impossible to say. Kansas should probably be the front-runner — the Jayhawks should always be picked first until they fail to achieve it — with Baylor in hot pursuit. The Bears will boast the Big 12's top frontcourt with Perry Jones III, Quincy Acy and Anthony Jones, while adding top-five 2011 signee Quincy Miller.

After that, things get hazy. Both Texas A&M and Missouri return a large number of contributors, but lost their coaches. And the true wild card is Iowa State, which loses Diante Garrett, but adds a huge influx of talented transfer players.

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