The Stars Come Out For Texas

Texas landed a consensus Top Five recruiting class ( No. 3) Wednesday, inking 25 future Horns, punctuated by Parade All-Americans LB Sergio Kindle, QB Jevan Snead and DE Eddie Jones. It's the most balanced group coach Mack Brown has signed and ranks among the program's best during his nine-year tenure.

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"This group filled a lot of needs because it filled just about the whole scope of positions," Brown said. "Most of these guys could probably play six or seven different places. We feel like that's one of the keys to this class."

Added Brown: "Right now, the bar is set so high that the guys will come in in better shape and have to work to play. They understand that they're playing for the best team in the country this year. We think that might stretch this class more to be a better class than some others we've had. How do we know what to expect from a class? At a place like Texas, you expect to win all the games every year. Our classes have been close and last year's was the first class to do that. We do feel like this class has the potential to keep us in the upper echelon of college football if they work hard."

The jewel of the class is Kindle, whose highlight reel elicited gasps from media gathered Wednesday afternoon at Moncrief-Neuhaus and, Brown reports, "whoops and hollers" from lettermen who saw the tape earlier in the day. The consensus All-American earned all-state honors on both offense and defense at Dallas Woodrow Wilson. He recorded 411 tackles (55 TFL) while rushing for 5,632 yards, 86 TDs and 9.5 ypc during his final two seasons.

"He's just big and strong and fast," was Brown's summation.

'Nuff said, other than that Kindle will likely log his first collegiate snaps at WILL.

"We'll let him get settled at linebacker and then, if he wants to play tailback, we'll try to see if he can do both," Brown said. "He'd rather play linebacker. That's what he wanted from day one. He doesn't care. He just wants to help the team. We'll look at the possibility of two or three of those big guys playing some short-yardage, goal line tailback. If they can learn enough to do both early, that's something we could do."

Snead is a two-time all-state standout, passing for 7,955 yards and 100 TDs in 25 games during his final two seasons in Stephenville, finishing with a 23-2 record. He finished with the second-most passing yards in the U.S, Army All-American Bowl after throwing for 147 yards and two TDs. Brown lauded Snead's arm strength before adding, "Very honestly, we didn't think Vince (Young) was leaving until 19 seconds were left in the (national championship) game. Then we thought there might be a chance. We started calling quarterbacks from the field."

Kindle and Snead joined two-time first-team all-state OL Buck Burnette (6-3, 295) and TE Greg Smith already enrolled in school and will participate in spring drills. The quartet held a mock Signing Day presentation with future teammates just before Brown's afternoon press conference. The four scholarships are considered part of last year's recruiting class. According to Brown, Texas extended 26 official invitations, with only DB Jonas Mouton opting for another program (Michigan). Texas does not plan on signing another player.

"We felt like 25 was good because that's going to put us around 20 next year," Brown said. "We didn't want to get back to a 14 (scholarship) year where you get your numbers unbalanced. Being able to put the four (scholarships) back to last year and keep 21 this year helped. We'd like to sign 18-to-22 every year."

Texas inked three DEs, none more highly touted than Jones ( No. 1 at his spot). The consensus All-American tallied 310 tackles, 27 TFL, 28 sacks, 28 PBU, 30 pressures, eight fumble recoveries and a blocked punt returned for TD during his prep star days at Kilgore. Jones is projected at quick end while South Grand Prairie's Brian Ellis (6-5, 255) is slated at power end.

"He's a big, tall, disruptive defensive end," Brown said of Ellis. "He's just a playmaker. You like that height for a defensive end."

It's a class that could have a sudden impact when the Horns defend their national title next season.

"I'm not opposed to playing freshman," Brown said. "The fact that they're here in the summer helps you more. We had a record number of juniors leave early, so if they're ready to play we should go ahead and play them."

Freshman DBs are prime candidates to lose their 'shirts this season, notable First Team All-State CB/SS Chykie Brown (6-1, 180) who has drawn comparisons to former Texas All-American Quentin Jammer. Two-time all-state Port Arthur DB Robert Joseph is slated at safety. Schertz safety James Henry (6-2, 210) is another first-team 5-A all-state selection who's recovered from a broken ankle suffered at season's end and is now participating in track (100-meter hurdles, discus, shot put).

"We are losing two great defensive backs to the NFL this year and three more to the NFL next year," Brown noted. "Corners and safeties that can come in and play are really important for us if we're going to continue to win like we're winning."

Boerne's Hunter Lawrence became one of the few place kickers to receive a scholarship right out of high school during Brown's tenure. He connected on 22-of-44 (.727) of his FG attempts during his final two seasons.

"He's traveling all over the country for camps because he knows he may play next year," Brown said. "He's trying to get himself prepared. He's coming in like he's ready to play next year. We've seen him kick 50-plus field goals. He's been very impressive."

One of most explosive and versatile signees is West Orange-Stark's Kenneth "Deon" Beasley. His TD grab in the U.S. Army All-American game last month confirmed why Texas coaches have reconsidered their initial projection of tabbing him solely at DB. Beasley primarily played QB during his 12-1 state semi-finalist campaign as a senior but will get a look at WR (probably in the slot) during August camp.

"We'll decide where he plays after he gets here," Brown said. "He also can be involved in the kicking game because he has such great speed. He has good hands and leaping ability."

The Horns inked two out-of-staters, both prep All-Americans. DT Ben Alexander is slated for nose tackle after registering 302 tackles (68 TFL) while a four-year starter at T. L. Hanna in Anderson, S.C. (the school in which the Cuba Gooding movie character 'Radio' attended). The 6-2, 205-pounder has drawn comparisons to former Longhorn great Casey Hampton. Colorado Springs Doherty standout Lamarr Houston (6-3, 255) earned Parade All-American honors as a linebacker, earning several statewide Defensive Player of the Year honors. He'll begin his collegiate career at DE.

Overall, Brown stacked the pantry at every spot except FB, but believes second-team 5A all-state RB Antwan Cobb could play either FB or outside linebacker. Texas made the offer after Emmanuel Moody switched his commitment to USC.

"We've found out that it's really important here that if a guy wants to play at our school, he'll probably be a better player than one who's looking all over the place," Brown said. "Antwan actually waited on us through the process because he wanted to come so badly. He thought it would work out, and it did."

The Horns also added RB Vondrell McGee out of Longview who earned Texas 5A second-team honors after rushing for 1,361 and 17 TDs on 163 carries (8.3 ypc).

"Running back is one of those spots, as we saw last year, where you can't get enough guys," Brown said. "You can get somebody hurt very quickly. You can thin out. We're getting more guys who can play that position, even if they're not playing that position full-time."

North Mesquite OT J'Marcus Webb (6-8, 280) highlights a group of four O-linemen, including Houston Worthing's Roy Watts (6-6, 295), Jersey Village LT Steve Moore (who projects a G at Texas) and Burnette. Webb is a Parade All-American and is considered one of the top prep pass protecting prospects.

Texas' off-season strength-and-conditioning program is in full throttle each morning at six a.m. Spring drills begin Monday, February 27.

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