June 5, 2006

Texas commits earn rave reviews at camp

After all of the publicity that the current Texas Longhorns recruiting class has received over the course of the last few months, the nation's top collection of talent finally found themselves together on the field for the first time during Texas' one-day camp in Austin on Sunday.

The buzz that resulted from the performances seen at the camp could be heard loud and clear across the Lone Star State, as the 17 Longhorn commitments that participated in the camp displayed the type of skill that should help Texas in the discussion for national championships for years to come.

Here's a position-by-position recap of Sunday's camp performances.

Quarterback

The breakdown - The combination of five-star talents John Brantley and John Chiles took the field together as Longhorns for the first time on Sunday and displayed the type of talent that had everyone talking about their play afterwards. Several sources reported that Brantley was on target from beginning to end, displaying the type of accuracy and feel for the position that have helped make him one of the nation's top quarterback prospects. According to everyone on hand, Brantley did exactly what was expected. If there were any surprises on Sunday, it was the confidence and authority with which Chiles displayed throughout the afternoon. Although he's not nearly as polished as Brantley in the short and intermediate passing games, Chiles displayed the kind of arm strength that makes him a candidate to play the position in the future. Both quarterbacks threw the deep ball very well.

Quoteables

Brantley: "The (DBs) did an awesome job. I got to throw to Malcolm (Williams) and he did a great job too."

Texas wide receiver commitment Malcolm Williams: "They were really good, really accurate. They get the ball there to you where it needs to be and I liked working out with them a lot."

Texas cornerback commitment Ben Wells: "John Chiles is a freak of nature."


Running backs

The breakdown - There wasn't nearly as much buzz coming from this position on Sunday due to an injury that kept Texas commitment Cody Johnson from participating. Couple that with the fact that fellow Texas commitment Fozzy Whittaker (ran a 4.40 40-yard dash) spent time working out on both sides of the ball and Tatum running back Lennon Creer was a no-show, it was a relatively quiet afternoon with the backs. When Whittaker did participate at running, he reportedly looked good in position drills and flashed the type of speed and quickness that make him so dangerous in the open field.

Quoteables

Whittaker: "I did really good at running back because I feel more comfortable right now. All of the other athletes that were there looked really good. That guy from Beaumont Ozen (Ben Wells) was very impressive."

Wide receivers

The breakdown - One of the more interesting battles throughout the afternoon on Sunday was between the wide receivers and defensive backs. Perhaps the guy that made the biggest impression throughout the day was Gilmer defensive back Curtis Brown. The two-way threat spent time on both offense and defense on Sunday, but while he saw time at wide receiver, he made big things happen. According to several sources that watched Brown closely during the camp, the East Texas star caught every pass that came his way and dazzled everyone with his footwork and quickness. While Brown was all over the field, fellow Longhorn commitment Malcolm Williams worked extensively at wide receiver throughout the afternoon and reportedly had an up and down day. Although he dropped a couple of passes throughout the day, Williams showed the kind of big-time athleticism that made him the most attractive wide receiver prospect in the state in the eyes of the Texas coaching staff. Most of Williams' success on Sunday came down the field as a vertical threat, which only adds credence to the fact that many consider him to be the best pure big-play receiver in the state. As if the talent that these two displayed wasn't enough to get the blood flowing, Chiles moved over from the quarterback position for a few reps and was a dominating presence. Overall, the talent at receiver definitely lived up to their reputations.

Quoteables

Ben Wells: "I like Curtis Brown a lot. He's got great hands and great feet. He's nice."

Tight ends

The breakdown - Perhaps the biggest surprise of the day came at this spot, as Springdale (Ar) High commitment Zach Pianalto performed at a level that was as high as any prospect on hand, regardless of position. The 6-4, 215-pound Pianalto caught every pass thrown to him throughout the day and reminded observers of a young David Thomas because of his ability to get open and separate against defenders. If there's a player in the commitment class that really saw his stock soar after his performance on Sunday, it might have been Pianalto. While Pianalto was dazzling observers with his talent, fellow tight end commitment Ahmard Howard also performed well, although he might have been a little overshadowed by Pianalto's display of skills as a receiver. The 6-4, 240-pound Howard did a nice job as a receiver throughout the afternoon and flashed some downfield potential as a pass-catcher.

Quoteables

An unnamed Longhorn source: "(Pianalto) looked just like David Thomas. He catches everything. I wish we had him this season."

Offensive Line

The breakdown - Perhaps the most talked about group of players was along the offensive line, as five of Texas' six commitments (Vidor's Jerrod Gooch was unable to perform at the camp because of an injury) performed at the camp on Sunday. The common theme throughout the day on Sunday was the talent level that the Texas offensive line class possessed, but none of the five participants stood out above the others per those on hand. Five-star commitment Trey Allen dominated at times and showed the kind of power and foot quickness that make him a potential guard or tackle. Perhaps the most imposing player on hand from a physical standpoint was Aledo tackle Kyle Hix. Although he hasn't generated as much publicity as some of the other linemen in this class, Hix was outstanding on Sunday and showed the type of ability that could make him a future bookend tackle for the Longhorns. According to several people on hand, his footwork was outstanding. Fellow Texas commitments Aundre McGaskey, Matt Nader and Michael Huey were also reported to be every bit as good as expected. The general feeling after the camp was that this group is on the verge of doing some special things in the future.

Quoteables

Detroit (MI) Cass Tech defensive tackle Joseph Barksdale - "All of those offensive linemen that they have committed, they are all beasts. They are going to have a great line in the future."

Huey: "It was great to be on the same field as everyone for the first time. I thought everyone looked pretty equal. We all made some mistakes, but we all had strong moments. You realty couldn't tell without pads on, but I thought we seemed equal."

Defensive linemen

The breakdown - The big story on Sunday was the presence of Detroit (MI) Cass Tech defensive tackle Joseph Barksdale, who did not work out at the camp on Sunday. However, even without Barksdale participating, there were a number of players who made big impressions on the Texas coaching staff. Perhaps the biggest was made by Houston Westbury defensive end Russell Carter, who showed more ability as a pass rusher at the camp than most anticipated. The 6-3, 230-pound Carter is widely considered a raw physical talent, but his speed and quickness off the edge was outstanding. Along with Pianalto, no current commitment helped their recruiting stock as much as Carter. Another player who opened some eyes was Killeen Shoemaker defensive end prospect Brandon Joiner. The 6-3, 220-pound Joiner clocked a 4.47 40-yard dash during testing and dominated one-on-one drills at times with his pass rush ability. Although the Longhorns haven't extended an offer to Joiner at this time, his performance might have out him in line for one down the road. As far as the play of the defensive tackles are concerned, it was a quiet afternoon with Barksdale on the sidelines and current Texas commitment Andre Jones out of state at a wedding.

Joiner: "Things were great out there. I ran my 40 in a 4.47 and then we went in one-on-one drills, I did really well. It was great day."

Barksdale: "I was also impressed with a defensive end that they have that's committed. He had a great first step."

Quoteables

Linebackers

The breakdown - Heading into the camp, the big story at this position centered around Fort Bend (Texas) Dulles standout Brandon Herron, who had emerged as a potential favorite of defensive coordinator Gene Chizik during the spring evaluation period. Although Herron (4.60 40-yard dash) wasn't totally enthralled by his own performance early on, his performance was good enough to earn the praise of the Texas staff throughout the day and it looks like a scholarship offer could be headed his way in the future. According to those on hand, Herron's sideline-to-sideline speed and ability to thrive in coverage really stood out throughout the afternoon session. Meanwhile, current Texas commitment Keenen Robinson was outstanding throughout the day, as his athleticism, speed and playmaking made him the top overall performer at the position for the day.

Quoteables

Herron: "I exchanged numbers with (Texas commit) Keenan Robinson and I'm going to stay in touch with him. I was really impressed by him. I had seen his film on Rivals, but it was really impressive to see a guy that tall, get that low. A lot of people were saying that we looked the same. They called us the twins because we had similar abilities and builds, although he's a couple of inches taller."

Defensive backs

The breakdown - Without question, this position was the one that every Longhorn fan had their eye on heading into the day because of the potential the need for another top-flight player in this class and the fact that several top-flight players that didn't have offers from the Longhorns had been scheduled to attend. However, when it was all said and done, Hutto's Jeremy Kerley, Irving MacArthur's Ron Brooks and Dallas Skyline's Chrisitian Scott were all no-shows, which limited the likelihood that someone would perform well enough to earn an offer at the camp at the defensive back position. One thing that was certain after the camp is that Beaumont Ozen cornerback commitment Ben Wells (ran a 4.48 40-yard dash) is a bad man on the football field. The national top 100 selection dominated one-on-one drills throughout the day and served notice that he is the state's top pure cornerback prospect. Another player that looked very good in one-on-one drills was West Orange Stark athlete Earl Thomas. In addition to the strong play of Wells and Thomas, the Longhorns had to be encouraged by the play of Curtis Brown, who also excelled in one-on-one drills at cornerback when he wasn't playing wide receiver. As was mentioned earlier, Fozzy Whittaker also saw time in the defensive backfield, but he didn't appear to be nearly as comfortable there as he was at running back. Of the non-committed prospects that did show up, the top two players appeared to be Brenham star Brandon Collins and Seguin safety Desmond Jackson. It remains to be seen whether either player did enough to earn a scholarship offer, but the word from those on hand was that Collins was very impressive throughout the day as a cornerback. The biggest disappointment of the day had to have come when California cornerback prospect Antwoine Baker pulled up in the 40 testing and was unable to participate in the rest of the camp.

Quoteables

Wells: "I wanted to prove to everyone that I'm the best cornerback in the state and I felt like I did that in one-on-one drills. I was the best cornerback there."

Collins: ""I think I did pretty good. I didn't play too much on the offensive side of the ball. They wanted to see me on defense, so I did a lot of that today. A couple of commits, like Curtis Brown, Ben Wells and Earl Thomas all looked really good."

John Chiles: "I'm not used to seeing DBs like that. They're strong, physical and fast. It makes me feel really good. We're all very confident after seeing each other play."


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