Recruiting: Who'll take the final few 'ships?

A little less than a month ago, <I>IT</I> took a look at the uncommitted prospects on both offense and defense to fill the remaining spots in the UT class of '02. Since that time, the Horns have snagged verbals from several of those prospects, particularly <B>Albert Hardy</B>, <B>Justin Blalock</B>, <B>Selvin Young</B>, <B>Marco Martin</B>, <B>Rodrique Wright</B>, <B>Larry Dibbles</B>, and most recently <B>Michael Williams</B>.

With those seven in the Longhorn fold, along with the other 16 already-committed prospects, the number of scholarships now available for Signing Day '02, which is just under four weeks from today, has dwindled significantly. There's no shortage of great players, however, for those few remaining 'ships.

Here's a look at the group of players from which the Horns' final three, four or even five final commitments will come:

QB Vincent Young, 6-5, 190, 4.49, Houston Madison. Young was originally scheduled to visit Austin on UT's Banquet weekend back in mid-December, but his Madison team squared off in the state regional finals that weekend. Instead, he'll make his official visit to the Forty Acres this weekend. After an MVP performance at the US Army All-American Bowl last Saturday in San Antonio, the state's (and arguably the nation's) top high school prospect said, "I'm waiting to see what (Brock Berlin) does. Miami and Texas have the two systems that I think would fit me best offensively." Berlin, who started for Florida in the Orange Bowl because of a disciplinary benching of regular starter Rex Grossman, is expected to announce this week his intention to transfer to Miami. If that happens as expected, look for Young to quickly join the Longhorn commitment list. It may happen soon even without Berlin's transfer.

OL Kasey Studdard, 6-3, 260, Highlands Ranch, CO. Colorado coach Gary Barnett is hoping to close the state's borders from rival recruiters, and one of his top remaining priorities is convincing Studdard to spurn the Horns and play for the Buffs. Studdard, though, has ties to Texas, including family in the Lone Star State and a father (Dave) who played for UT from 1975-77. Studdard tripped to Austin early in December with another legacy, Robin Sendlein's son and UT early commit Lyle Sendlein from Arizona. The Colorado legacy has twice now pushed back his commitment announcement -- with this weekend ebing the latest time frame for his decision -- which probably points to the difficulty of the decision between UT and CU. This still looks like a toss-up, just like it did a month ago.

TE Eric Winston, 6-7, 260, 4.77, Midland Lee. The Holiday Bowl showed the danger a Texas defense faces when a TE like Winston lines up on the opposite side of the ball. The Horns had a tough time covering the Huskies' huge TE Jerramy Stevens, who caught nine passes for 109 yards and almost single-handedly made the game as close as it was, and Winston fits the Stevens mold. Winston also could end up at an OL spot, but regardless, he is certainly one of the top talents in Texas and a guy that the UT coaches surely don't want to face in the future. Conventional wisdom, though, has always had Winston ending up in College Station, where he has already visited, but he will make an official visit to Austin this weekend and he's already tripped to his other favorite Miami. He will visit LSU the weekend of the 18th for his final official visit. Texas, of course, features its TEs prominently and the Hurricanes are likely to lose their game-breaking TE Jeremy Shockey to the NFL, among other reasons making both Austin and Miami desirable destinations for Winston. I've always liked the Horns chances with Winston more than most but this one is still too close to call, with any of the four schools still a possibility.

ATH Edorian McCullough, 5-9, 180, 4.35, North Garland. McCullough has already visited Nebraska, A&M and Miami and he is scheduled to trip to Norman this weekend and Austin the following weekend. The Aggies, 'Canes and Sooners all think they've got the upper hand with McCullough, but the thought here is that the battle for one of the top all-around athletes in the state is still completely up in the air between those three and the Horns. The fact that Texas gets McCullough's final visit bodes well for UT's chances, but this one still falls into the toss-up category.

LB A.J. Nicholson, 6-2, 230, Winston-Salem (NC) Mount Tabor. Nicholson, one of the top LB prospects in the nation, has a powerful list of suitors. Texas, Florida State, Miami, Tennessee and North Carolina are all in on the signature sweepstakes, and right now it is anyone's guess which of the five schools will receive his LOI in early February. After his official visit to Austin for the Kansas game in early November, Nicholson declared the Horns the leader for his signature but he has since said that he would take all of his official visits before leaning one way or another. FSU is first on Nicholson's January visit list, with the North Carolina star tripping to Tallahassee this weekend for the 'Noles football banquet. Miami is next on the itinerary, followed by Tennessee and then home-state UNC, where his dad played football. Last update, I said this saga would probably continue into late January. Now, I'd say it'll be early February.

DE Travis Leitko, 6.5, 245, 4.8, The Woodlands. Leitko is the sole remaining uncommitted prospect who made an official visit to Texas on banquet weekend. The other five who came to Austin uncommitted -- Albert Hardy, Selvin Young, Rodrique Wright, Justin Blalock and Larry Dibbles -- all pledged to the Horns within 10 days of their visit. Leitko, though, still has two official visits scheduled, to Stanford this weekend and to Michigan the weekend of the 18th. Whether Cardinal coach Tyrone Willingham's departure to take over the Fightin' Irish program sways Leitko we probably won't know until he returns from his weekend trip out west. Leitko officially visited South Bend in November and College Station in early December. The out-of-state schools have always seemed to have the advantage with Leitko, but at this point, any of the five schools have a realistic shot at signing the defensive end.

LB Rufus Alexander, 6-1, 202, 4.65, Baton Rouge (LA) Christian Life. Alexander made his visit to Austin in early November and followed that up with a mid-December trip to Norman, but he has yet to announce a decision between OU and UT.

LB Cameron Vaughn, 6-3, 225, 4.55, Marrero (LA) Archbishop Shaw. The Louisiana 'backer will visit home-state LSU this weekend. If he doesn't give Nick Saban his verbal pledge this weekend and makes his scheduled visit to the Forty Acres the following weekend, the Horns obviously have a shot at landing the kid, who at one time called Texas his favorite. Notre Dame is also in the mix.

Other longer-shot possibilities

WR Robert Timmons, 6-2, 205, 4.46, Flower Mound Marcus. Reports are that Timmons recently received a vastly improved ACT score but he remains a qualification risk. He still has set no visit dates, and with just a month to go till Signing Day, the outlook for the state's best receiver (and a challenger for the best overall player in the state) is still completely up in the air.

LB Marvin Byrdsong, 6-3, 235, 4.5, Longview. Byrdsong will be in Austin this weekend for his official visit, but the state's No. 2 LB (behind UT commit Aaron Harris) probably will never wear the Orange and White. SEC schools Arkansas, where he will visit the weekend of the 18th, or Mississippi State, where his brother Shawn played, look to be the most likely recipients of his LOI, although A&M and OU are also in the mix.

FS Lamon Means, 6-3, 185, 4.45, Galena Park. A teammate of current UT commit Albert Hardy, Means recently told Heartland Recruiting, "Texas has stayed in contact with me and will take an official visit there if I get the opportunity."

LB/RB Pagitte McGee, 6-0, 218, 4.5, Tyler John Tyler. McGee recently told Heartland Recruiting that he planned to visit the Forty Acres the weekend of the 18th.

Here's the current committed prospect breakdown by position (with the number committed at each position plus the number expected to be added at each position in parens) followed in italics by the most likely prospects to fill the remaining spots in this class:

QB (0+1) -- Vincent Young
RB (2) -- Albert Hardy, Selvin Young
OL (3+1) -- Neale Tweedie, Bret Valdez, Justin Blalock; Kasey Studdard
TE (1+1) -- David Thomas; Eric Winston
WR (2) -- Dustin Miksch, Marquis Johnson
DT (3) -- Sonny Davis, Rodrique Wright, Marco Martin
DE (5) -- Lyle Sendlein, Tully Janszen, Chase Pittman (expected spring enrollee), Brian Pickryl (expected spring enrollee); Larry Dibbles
LB (5) -- Brian Robison, Marcus Myers, Garnet Smith, Aaron Harris, Michael Williams
DB (1) -- Matthew Melton;
and ATH (1+1) -- Clint Haney; Edorian McCullough

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