Monday Thoughts, 8/1

This week's Monday Thoughts include notes on quarterback play, Andrus Peat's visit and positions of strength for the Longhorns.

Andrus Peat visit

The Longhorns are down to the last few players of their 2012 class, and are actually over the current scholarship limit by several players. That's not an issue at this point, as attrition will likely cover the extra spots.

But that doesn't mean that Texas is down to the bottom guys on its board. In fact, last week the Longhorns had a visit from arguably the top guy on the Texas board — Corona Del Sol offensive tackle Andrus Peat.

A source close to the Peat recruitment said that the visit went well and added that the Longhorns would likely receive a second visit when the massive offensive lineman began making official visits.

The Longhorns appear to sit in a good place for the five-star prospect, so stay tuned!


Quarterback Play

What if I were to tell you that there was a quarterback on the Texas roster capable of completing 60 percent of his passes with a 2-1 touchdown-to-interception ratio? To quote Bob on Entourage: "Is that something you might be interested in?"

Look no further than last season's quarterback Garrett Gilbert. Later today, we'll post a breakdown of every passing attempt lobbed by last season's quarterback, all 441 of them. We charted every attempt by down and distance, then calculated how he did at different intervals.

Without giving too much away from a soon-to-come-out story, our hypothesis that Gilbert can play well if he's well supported, was confirmed. When in throwing on second-through-fourth down, in situations of six yards or less to a conversion (either a first down or touchdown), Gilbert completed 59.8 percent of his throws for four touchdowns and two interceptions. He had a third-down conversion rate of better than 50 percent and a fourth down conversion rate of 60 percent.

His passer rating in those situations, 118.04, wasn't that special, but it's important to note that passer rating focuses hugely on yards per attempt. And if Gilbert is in a third-and-six, the smart play is to make the seven-yard pass, rather than look for a lower-percentage 25-yard bomb. Additionally, that passer rating was higher than it was in any other situation. On second-through-fourth down and more than seven yards to a conversion, Gilbert's passer rating plummeted to 105.5.

Long story short: put the guy in situations he can handle and he can succeed, even with an offensive line and a wide receiver group that struggled at times a year ago.


Practice Kicks Off

Both the Longhorns and Texas high schools will kick off their seasons this week with practice. And as Texas prepares to start up the 2011 season, I've been hearing great things about two areas considered somewhat of a question mark: the Longhorns' wide receivers and cornerbacks.

Perhaps not coincidentally, both positions are among the youngest on the Texas squad, with two sophomores and a freshman leading the race for the top three spots.

At wide receiver, that means sophomores Mike Davis and Darius White on the outside and true freshman Jaxon Shipley in the slot. The position could have been more experienced, but senior Malcolm Williams spent the spring at 240 pounds, and Texas coach Mack Brown said at Big 12 Media Days that he hopes Williams will be able to keep that weight and serve as the versatile H-back and flexed-out receiving threat the Longhorns have been missing. Williams is already known as a great blocker. And fellow returning starter Marquise Goodwin is redshirting the year to prepare for the Olympics. Those two opened up spots for White — by all accounts the most physically gifted receiver on campus — and Shipley, a big-time route runner who has been tearing through summer workouts.

Cornerback has sophomores Adrian Phillips and Carrington Byndom as the likely starters, with freshman Quandre Diggs in the mix. Diggs, who continued his momentum from the spring into summer workouts, would seem to represent an ideal nickel back, one with cover skills and the thickness to come up and hit in the run game. Phillips might be the best cover cornerback of the group while Byndom has fantastic potential as a playmaker. Like at receiver, two other players affected the youth of this group. The first was Aaron Williams' decision to go pro early. And the second occurred when Eryon Barnett, who had worked his way onto the two-deep by season's end, suffered a season-ending injury.


Pass Rush

Brown talked at Big 12 Media Days about how excited he was about the Longhorns' duo of Alex Okafor and Jackson Jeffcoat. The duo give the Longhorns something no other team in the Big 12 has: a pair of five-star, top-two-rated defensive ends together. And they were highly rated for different reasons.

Okafor is the physical specimen, the former defensive tackle playing end. But he still displays great get-off and should be a difficult matchup for teams in both the running and the passing game. Jeffcoat, meanwhile, excelled because of his advanced technique. Brown said that Jeffcoat was an excellent player for the Longhorns up until his high ankle sprain robbed him of his mobility.

Now, Jeffcoat is healthy, and the Longhorns can also rotate through players like Dravannti Johnson — who started multiple games at defensive end last year — and Reggie Wilson, an athletic up-and-comer who terrorized the line in the spring. Wilson too, was a five-star recruit according to Scout.

Defensive end will be one of the most important positions in new coordinator Manny Diaz's scheme, so it's nice to note that the Longhorns have so much talent in a key position.

Marcus Smart

The Longhorns have long been in the mix for the talented guard from Flower Mound Marcus High School. In fact, Smart has said on several occasions that the Longhorns have recruited him the hardest, despite offers and attention from schools like Kansas and North Carolina.

But if the Jayhawks were in his recruitment before, they're starting to ratchet up the pressure. Smart has had a huge summer, showcasing an increased ability to score, while he's still one of the class's few elite perimeter defenders. Physically, Smart is built like a linebacker, and he plays like one, bulldozing players who aren't as strong (basically, everybody he goes against). He's also a great leader and an intense player who gets the most out of his teammates.

That summer led to increased attention, including more from the Jayhawks, who elected to offer Smart's high school teammate, point guard Phil Forte. The early word is that the offer might not be a full one, but more of a conditional offer, but Forte has called Kansas his "dream school," and his commitment, if the Jayhawks take it, would have to help Kansas's chances at one of the state's, and the country's, top players.


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