HD Mailbag: Looking Back at Junior Day

In this week's HD Mailbag I answer several questions regarding the Longhorns' Junior Day. If you'd like to have your quesiton answered for next Monday's mailbag, please email me at HornsDigest@gmail.com.

HD subscriber HookedonHorns2797:

Did it seem like anyone was close to pulling the trigger on Junior Day? Did Buechele seem like the real deal after talking to him?

Answer:

I thought J.P. Urquidez seemed close. But he has a lot of big time offers and I think he wanted to gather his thoughts and make sure of things before he made that big of a decision. He was really the only one I thought was close.

I personally came away extremely impressed with Buechele’s maturity. It took he and his mother five hours to get to Austin from Arlington. It was a hellacious drive but he knew how much his being there meant to the staff. That was precisely the type of leadership he told HD that Shawn Watson really liked about him.

He’s well put-together too. He’s not going to blow you away with his height or anything, but he’s a solid 6-1/6-2, 185. He’ll put on the muscle once he gets to Texas. Just think about how slender Colt was when he first got to UT and how bulked up he was when he left.

UT got a winner IMO.

HD member stinsman82:

Who will be the breakout players on offense and defense for next season? Hopefully we have some on both sides of the ball, I'm really hoping we get #83 some touches this year. IMO he has the most potential to be an impact player at WR.

Answer:

A few guys to keep an eye out on offense are: Jerrod Heard, Duke Catalon, Dorian Leonard, and Lorenzo Joe. I’d also lump Blake Whiteley in there.

On defense, look for Poona Ford to have a much bigger impact up front. I think Derick Roberson will start to show flashes of what made him such a high-profiled recruit. Something tells me Edwin Freeman is going to start to make a name for himself for a linebackers unit that doesn’t have very much experience at all. In the secondary, keep an eye on John Bonney.

HD member DMVHorn:Group Mod effort. Please compare and contrast the recruiting styles and focus of CS and Mack Brown. Too many on our board need a level setting IMHO.

Answer:

I dive into this below as well, but one of the biggest differences is Strong’s willingness to go out-of-state to find recruits.

Mack Brown was as loyal to the state of Texas as anyone. He made sure to thank them publicly whenever he could. But he was almost loyal to a fault.

Strong is keeping the state of Texas at the forefront of his mind, and has his staff working tirelessly to build these in-state relationships. But he understands that if he can cherry pick a few difference-makers from out-of-state then there really shouldn’t be any harm in that. Texas coaches understand that. There was a hesitancy about him early from some TXHSFB coaches simply because they didn’t know how much stock he was going to put into recruiting the state and building those relationships. They don’t have those concerns anymore.

I also think that the current staff is ahead of the game with evaluations and understands that it’s OK to wait a bit longer to offer recruits to see how they develop.

Junior Days at Texas used to be filled with commitments. That was OK for Mack but it burned him at times when the players he got commitments from simply didn’t pan out. Meanwhile other programs waited a bit longer, and were able to see which players developed to their liking as seniors and were able to scoop them up later.

Strong isn’t a big believer in getting commitments at junior day. Will he take them? Absolutely, from the recruits he knows have a great chance at panning out at the next level.

There are several other differences as well, but I’ll stick with this one for now.

HD member Mralph9:

If I'm not mistaken, 7 of the top 10 recruits in Texas did not even attend the Texas junior day. Is that concerning?

Which of those who did not attend do you expect Texas to be able to get on campus? Greg Little, Ed Oliver, Tren'Davian Dickson, Devin Duvernay, Patrick Hudson, Brandon Jones, Kaden Smith

To be clear: I am in no way trying to say Texas did not get any good players to come. Just that they seemed to miss on that tip top tier.

Answer:

It’s not concerning one bit. You’ve got to factor in the weather. Many of the recruits you listed were tied up in horrible weather. Others have simply been to Texas already, have seen what they would have at Junior Day and are waiting for either spring practice or a game (or both) to make their next trip to UT.

I expect Texas to be able to get all of those players on campus except for maybe Greg Little and Patrick Hudson, two players committed elsewhere.

HD member Urban241884:

Who do you think could be the Malik of 2016 if they were to commit?

Answer:

If we are talking in terms of biggest impact on other recruits committing to UT, hmm, I think it could be a few people: Dontavious Jackson, Kendell Jones, Mike Williams and/or Jeffrey McCulloch.

HD member rpo0921:

Can an early enrolle for football play baseball in that spring semester? Answer: I’m almost positive that they can.

HD member graven2010:

When does spring practice start?

Answer:

March 25.

HD member jkpetters:

Who did Texas help themselves with most this weekend?

Answer:

A couple of recruits come to mind, including Dontavious Jackson, J.P. Urquidez, Kyle Porter, Jeffrey McCulloch, and Christian Wallace.

Jackson, one of the top LBs in the country, has wanted a Texas offer for a long, long time but it didn’t come until recently. He was a little turned off by that at first, but this visit helped him understand the coaches thought process with it all. He’s cool now. Plus he got to spend a ton of time with Malik Jefferson.

I think this visit really put Texas in the lead for Urquidez, if it wasn’t there already.

It was a real eye-opener for Porter, who learned a lot about what UT has to offer away from the field. Read our recap on the front page. He had some high praise for Texas.

McCulloch is really growing close with the staff and further understood just how big a piece of the puzzle he is to Texas’ success.

Wallace, a former TCU commitment, found out that the coaches also liked him at CB, which was good news for him.

HD member DiggsTX:

What is your stance on an alternate uniform? It seems like Twitter lights up every time an alternate uniform rumor circulates. Most recently I've seen Texas recruits champion the matte black helmet and all black uniform concept that is circulating. I've even seen Texas recruits express envy/jealousy for Baylor's new all grey uni's. So what's your stance on the issue?

Answer:

It’s tricky. Texas is Texas. It’s one of the most storied programs in the country and doesn’t have to play the alternate uniform game to lure recruits.

That said, I do think that UT would be OK with at least one alternate uniform. Hate it or love it, but recruits love this type of stuff. If you don’t think that Oregon’s uniform game hasn’t impacted its recruitment, you are kidding yourself.

I’ve had numerous recruits tell me that uniforms do matter. Look good, play good, right?

I do think Texas has some of the cleanest uniforms in the country. I personally believe the all whites are the best looking uniforms out there.

But at least having the option of an alternate jersey wouldn’t be a bad idea. Imagine the coaches surprising the players with some alternate uniform/helmet combo before they run onto the field against OU. That would be insane.

I’m not a fan of altering tradition but in this case, throwing one alternate uniform/helmet combo in the mix isn’t a bad thing.

HD member RiceNCorange:

Are we recruiting, making offers to, and/or getting the same players Mac would have (with the exception of the Florida players) and hopefully providing better structure and coaching? Or are we recruiting a different type of player, young man, athlete? please be as Frank as you can.

Answer:

Charlie Strong and his staff seem to be going after a different type of recruit, and you could see that in the type of player he was going after in 2015. He is not only looking to ramp up the physical nature of the program, along with its team speed, but get recruits in the fold that are passionate about being at UT.

That’s not to say that Brown wasn’t going after the same player. When he was at his best, and Texas was winning 10 games a season virtually every season, those were the types of players he was getting. They were passionate. That passion lacked the final few seasons of his tenure at UT and it reflected on the field. That’s why Strong had to clean hose so much in Year 1.

Strong is also not afraid to go out-of-state, or dip into the JUCO ranks. Brown started to warm up to that in his latter years but Strong proved that to be an crucial part of his approach with the 2015 class.

He wants them believing in their heart of hearts that Texas is the best school/program on the planet.

I personally think Strong evaluates talent better than Brown and I think the staff he has in place right now is exceptional at that as well. They are a big reason why UT had so much success in 2015 and should continue do have a similar impact in 2016 and beyond.


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