Scouting the Big 12: Texas

A program that failed to live up to expectations the past three seasons, Texas is a roster laden with supreme talent on both sides of the ball. Even after all the first day picks UT provided the NFL Draft the past three Aprils, there are still a lot of terrific prospects wearing Longhorn uniforms.

The name Roy Williams has been on the minds of scouts for three seasons running. A tall, smooth athlete with the size/speed numbers that makes the NFL drool, Williams is a tremendous pass catcher that literally takes over ball games as a one-man show. He's effective over the middle making the tough catch in a crowd or beating defenders down the flanks. Williams is quick off the mark and immediately gets to top speed yet looks as though he's gliding on the move. Inconsistency and a penchant for disappearing in big games, as well as a series of minor injuries, leave doubt in the minds of many. Williams should be a very early pick but needs to pull it together as a senior and prove some durability. It does not end there in the pass catching department for UT.

B.J. Johnson may be quicker than Williams and also shows a lot of ability. Not an aggressive or physically strong wide out, Johnson may be better off as a slot receiver in the NFL yet still has first day potential. Sloan Thomas is fast and makes a lot of plays down the field. He's flashed ability but has not seen a lot of action compared to his teammates and could be a "sleeper".

UT has a pair of complimentary tight ends that impact the game when healthy. Bo Scaife is one of the better pass catching tight ends in the nation and a prospect that makes plays in the opponent's secondary. Were it not for a brittle body that constantly keeps him on the sidelines, Scaife would be considered first day material but his injury history and minimal blocking skills will push him late into the draft. Scaife redshirted in 2000 then missed all of last season with a knee injury, so a medical 6th year of eligibility is possible.

Brock Edwards is not a downfield threat but a big tight end that catches the ball well in the short field and does a solid job blocking. He could fall into the late rounds.

Fullback Ivan Williams is a dominant lead blocker with above average offensive skills. Williams blocks like an offensive guard yet shows surprising skills carrying the ball. He may not test well athletically, which will push him down draft boards, but he has real possibility at the next level.

Running back Cedric Benson looked like the next great UT back as a freshman but his play has leveled off since. Benson has solid speed but is not the most instinctive back nor does he always show great vision. He is an accomplished minor league baseball player with the Dodgers.

Several potential first round picks reside on defense starting with Marcus Tubbs. A big thug in the middle of the line, Tubbs is a powerful tackle that easily bullrushes blockers up the field and gets a lot of penetration behind the line. At the top of his game Tubbs cannot be handled by a single blocker and collapses the pocket but he was below par during 2002 after battling several injuries. Should he stay healthy and have an All American type senior campaign, as well as good post-season results, he will move into the top twelve next April.

Defensive end Kalen Thorton rushes the edge with speed and makes a lot of plays in the backfield yet also displays the skill to play off the line in space. Lacking bulk, Thorton is handled at the point by a single lineman and has difficulty when teams run at him. As a result he will drop down boards.

Derrick Johnson, an explosive and forceful linebacker, is a terrific athlete who gets to the action with a tremendous first step and displays sideline-to-sideline range chasing the action. His instincts are still a bit raw and there is some hesitation to Johnson's game yet his potential as an impact player on the outside or even versatility to play the middle could push him into the first round if he leaves for the draft.

Reed Boyd is a workman-like defender in the middle but a limited athlete without the great upside.

Another senior prospect with potential first round ability would be corner Nathan Vasher. A ball-hawking cover man with a penchant for breaking up an inordinate amount of passes, Vasher runs with opponents around the field, positions himself to make a play on the ball, and does not make mistakes. If Vasher runs respectably prior to April he should slide into the first 32 picks.

Redshirt sophomore Michael Huff is a defensive back with outstanding cover skills and a nose for the ball. Huff also has good size and though he played strong safety in 2002, is better off in deep centerfield or even at corner (where he also played last year).

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