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Burnt Ends – 02/12/18

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The point on a brisket is typically the fattiest cut. Pitmasters often trim the point (and select edges) off a brisket and return those pieces to the smoker.

Are burnt ends tough, chewy worthless cuts of meat, or are they heavenly bites of smoky goodness? It depends on who you ask…

Rather than discard the trimmings and fat, we choose to savor all the information that flows through the site. So, sit down and help yourself to some burnt ends.

This is a free site, so anyone can read this report. If you share it with someone, please take time to attribute the information to HornSports.


Moving on to 2019

With Texas wrapping up the No. 3 recruiting class in 2018, it’s now time to move towards next year’s class. Texas only has 1 commitment in the 2019 thus far, but that can easily change once the football staff ramps up the heat on the recruiting trail. Here, we preview a multitude of 2019 offers and where the Longhorns stand with each.

Offense

Commits

Quarterback

Roschon Johnson – Johnson is the lone commit for the Longhorns’ 2019 class thus far. We only expect Tom Herman to take one QB in this class, and there is nobody better equipped to run a Herman offense than the Port Neches Groves product. In his junior season, Johnson passed for nearly 3000 yards and rushed for 1500+. In one playoff game, he had 10 TDs by himself. That is insane. Johnson is locked into Texas and informed HornSports that he plans on signing early in December. Great news for Longhorn fans.

Targets

Running Back

Noah Cain – As a junior at IMG Academy, Cain did not put out the product that many expected. He only played in 8 games, in which he received 86 carries for 526 yards. As a sophomore, Cain had 210 carries for 1683 yards. This has not phased big-time programs, however. Cain is still Texas’ No. 1 target at the position, and they will have to fight off some fierce competition. Texas was the clear leader heading into Cain’s junior season, but other schools have emerged as threats – namely Ohio State, Miami, and LSU. Texas will have to fight off surges from other schools, but we feel good about where the Horns sit as of now.

Deondrick Glass – Glass is the latest running back to come off the Katy high school assembly line.  Glass became a bit of known commodity when he spelled current Texas running back Kyle Porter a couple years ago, but now it is his turn to be the feature back and he hasn’t squandered it. Glass has offers from everywhere including Texas and will be one of the most sought after backs in the class.

Wide Receiver

Jordan Whittington – Whittington is more of an athlete, but right now we have him listed at WR. Texas has done a great job in this recruitment, and we feel they are the clear-cut leader at this time. Whittington is one of the must-have athletes for the 2019 cycle, and Texas has prioritized him as such. Many believe Whittington’s true potential lies at safety in college, but regardless, he’s a take. Texas is in a great position early.

Garrett Wilson – The Lake Travis native was ecstatic about receiving a Texas offer in November, and the Longhorns became the early favorite. Since that time, a multitude of teams have emerged with offers that have forced Wilson to slow down with the process. Wilson is one of the best WR prospects in the state, and Texas is in a prime position. If they could get Wilson to pull the trigger early, that would amount to a huge recruiting victory over the likes of Alabama and Ohio State. If not, things could get interesting down the stretch.

Dylan Wright – His production may not be as sexy as some of the other top flight wide receivers in the state, but Wright MIGHT have the most upside of them all. Wright has the skill set and athleticism that is borderline absurd to go along with a ridiculous catch radius. Wright is already close to 30 offers and recently received offers from Alabama and LSU. They won’t be the last either.

Elijah Higgins – Fast rising local kid who just recently saw his stock go through the roof. Offers are pouring in from all over the country, including Stanford, TCU, and Tennessee all in one day. Seemed like Texas arrived to the party just for the blow up and will get a chance to get face time with a kid who grew up just down the street from DKR. Higgins splits out for Bowie, but I could see him growing into a flex tight end down the line if he keeps on growing.

Tight End

Boomer Grayson – With a name like this and hailing from Oklahoma, you would think Grayson was destined to end up in Norman, but instead is committed to the Cowboys of Stillwater. Grayson might be the best tight end prospect in the country, and while the chances of him staying home are probably good, I would be beating down his door from now until NSD if I was Texas.

Thomas Gordon – With the top 2 TE options in the state committing to OOS schools, Texas needs to focus its attention elsewhere. A sleeper is Strake Jesuit TE and Northwestern commit Thomas Gordon. At 6’4 and 218 pounds, Gordon has tremendous upside. The state is very thin at the position past Gordon, and Texas needs to get into this recruitment sooner rather than later, before it’s too late. Otherwise, the Longhorns will have to go OOS for TEs, which will be tough to do.

Offensive Line

Kenyon Green (OT) – Green is the best player in the state, and the No. 1 target on Texas’ big board. He is the most important recruit for the Longhorns 2019 class. Right now, Texas A&M is pushing Green hard to buy into the early hype and pull the trigger, but we do not expect him to do so. Green is a smart kid who wants to take his time with the process. With that being said, we believe Texas is in a good position early on. Green likes what the program has to offer, and the hiring of Herb Hand will only help in this recruitment. Things could change, but this appears to be a Texas-Texas A&M battle.

Tyler Johnson (OT) – Johnson is one of the state’s best tackle prospects in a year where there are several good ones. Texas offered fairly early and has placed themselves in good position here for the big man from Conroe. With Joseph Ossai ending up in Austin, you can bet he will be putting the hard sell on his former teammate to join him.

Javonne Shepherd (OT) – Shepherd might have the most upside of all the blue chip in-state tackle prospects and that’s saying a lot all things considered. Shepherd possesses a great frame with good athleticism and lots of upside that likely projects to left tackle. This looks like an A&M/Texas battle early, and the Aggies left a good impression after he visited recently.

EJ Ndoma-Ogar (OG) – Call him Mr. IHOP because he is always serving up all you can eat pancakes. EJNO spent some time out in Florida at IMG, but made his way back to Allen for his junior year and didn’t miss a beat upon his return. EJNO put on a show down at the Army All-American combine and showed he is one of the nation’s best interior offensive line recruits and he’s a major priority for Texas early on.

Branson Bragg (C) – Texas was the early leader for Bragg, and very well could still be. However, an offer from Stanford made things a little interesting. This recruitment reminds me a lot of the Walker Little saga. Texas is in a prime position early on, but Tom Herman will have to earn his reputation as a solid closer with this one. As of now, we like where Texas sits.

 

Bragg, Gordon Discuss Recruiting

As the No. 2 center in the country, Branson Bragg has a multitude of DI football offers. With that being said, a couple of schools stand out from the pack – Stanford and Texas. So, what stands out about Texas to Bragg? “It’s close to home, a legendary program and has great coaches,” Bragg said. One of the coaches that stands out to him, although fairly new to the state, is new offensive line coach Herb Hand. After speaking with Hand the first time, Bragg came away impressed. “[Coach Hand] speaks my language. The hiring of Coach Hand boosted Texas for me. He is so respected.” With offers from Stanford and Texas, it appears that life after football is just as important as life during football for Bragg. That is a huge selling point in his recruitment. “I want a degree that will matter after my football career is over and I want to be around people that I’d like to be around all the time,” Bragg stated. Although Bragg does not have a decision timeline set, he does have some future visits planned. The most concrete of those is Stanford’s Junior Day at the end of the month. Bragg informed HornSports he would attempt to make the Longhorns’ Junior Day this weekend, but if not, he would definitely make it in for a spring practice. Although Bragg declined to name a leader, this one appears to be a Texas and Stanford battle. Hopefully the Longhorns can come out on top when all is said and done.

Before Texas looks out of state to find a couple of TEs, an under the radar prospect that deserves attention is Strake Jesuit’s Thomas Gordon. Although Gordon is a Northwestern commit, Texas has been in frequent contact. When asked if Gordon would attend Texas’ Junior Day, he stated that the Longhorns offered, but he declined the invitation. “I’ve visited [Austin] multiple times. I’m not interested in visiting. I am solid on my commitment.” What made Gordon pull the trigger on Northwestern so early? “The academics, football, and a great winning tradition and town,” Gordon said. As one can see, Texas has some work to do in this recruitment. However, it’s a positive sign that the coaching staff is contacting Gordon and prioritizing him. Gordon is a high-upside prospect that would be a good take at TE, and would alleviate some of the pressure for Texas to find more than one prospect out of state. Although Gordon is not looking around right now, it’s very early. Never count out Texas and Bryan Carrington on the recruiting trail.

 

Basketball Note

The Longhorn basketball team is coming off a tough week where they dropped a close contest to Kansas State and were then blown out by TCU. Questions have began to surface about whether Shaka Smart’s job could be in jeopardy should the Longhorns miss the NCAA tournament. One important detail that many forget is Shaka Smart received a contract extension following his first season in Austin, when he led to the Longhorns to the NCAA Tournament, where they fell to Northern Iowa in the first round. The contract extension raised Smart’s base salary to $3 million per year without incentives and extended him through 2023.

So what does this all mean?

If Texas were to let go of Smart at the end of the season, he would be owed more than $15 million. To put things in perspective, Texas paid Charlie Strong $5.2 million this past season and will be sending him a check for the same amount this upcoming season. All things being said, we fully expect Smart to return for the 2018-2019 season. The Longhorns will return every scholarship player except for Mo Bamba, and will add the 11th ranked recruiting class in the country, according to 247sports. Texas will also welcome transfer PG Elijah Long, who was forced to sit out this season due to NCAA transfer rules after transfering from Mount St. Mary’s. Long averaged 15 points and 4.4 assists per game during the 2016-2017 season.

 

Burnt Ends Mailbag

Q: What is your perfect world OL and DL for next year?

A: In a perfect world, Texas would get to redshirt all incoming lineman on both sides of the ball. Unfortunately, it is not a perfect world and Texas will probably need freshman to step up on both sides of the line.

Offensive Line – Texas would love to land Calvin Anderson and plug him in at LT. This would allow Sam Cosmi to slide to RT or get another year of development. Cosmi, Derek Kerstetter and Elijah Rodriguez would battle it out at RT, with either Kerstetter or Rodriguez sliding inside to RG to take over for Jake McMillon. Patrick Vahe and Zach Shackelford should be the favorites for LG and C, respectively, but JUCO transfer Mike Grandy could push for a guard spot. Patrick Hudson will also be back from his ACL injury, providing competition and depth across the offensive line. If a freshman were to push for playing time, it would most likely be Junior Angilau, who has not decided if he will take his 2 year LDS mission.

Defensive Line – In a perfect world, Chris Nelson slides over to NT, leaving Breckyn Hager, Charles Omenihu and Malcolm Roach to rotate between the two end spots. TaQuon Graham and Jamari Chisholm will provide depth at defensive end. Freshman Moro Ojomo and Keondre Coburn will both see snaps at NT, along with Gerald Wilbon.

The bottom line is Texas is in a pretty good spot in terms of depth and competition along both lines entering the spring.

Q: What do you think LB will look like this year? Can you predict a 2 deep? I was looking at the roster and thought Cameron Townsend could fit as a Rover,  but he hasn’t done much since he got to campus.

A: Towards the end of the 2017 season, Texas basically rolled with Malik Jefferson and Gary Johnson as the two linebackers, opting to get a 6th DB on the field. Johnson will head into the 2018 season with a firm grasp on the starting rover role. Middle linebacker will likely be occupied by Anthony Wheeler, and Jeff McCulloch will be the early favorite for B-Backer. It is not likely that Cameron Townsend factors into the linebacker equation in 2018. The Longhorns are very thin at linebacker. The potential 2 deep could look something like:

Rover – Gary Johnson, Ed Freeman

MLB – Anthony Wheeler, Ayodele Adeoye

B-Backer – Jeff McCulloch, Joseph Ossai

Q: Anticipating any more coaching changes on the offensive side? Tom Herman’s presser made me feel he wasn’t 100% confident with the staff on that side of the ball.

A: We believe Tom Herman is done making coaching moves. Corby Meekins should slide over to coach inside-receivers and Derek Warehime will take over TE’s. Recruits speak very highly of Warehime and he has good relationships with several key 2019 targets. The only possible change, which Tom Herman hinted at in the press conference, is how heavily the head coach will be involved in play calling. Herman stated he will call plays if it gives Texas the best chance to win. After checking around, it is a real possibility that Herman is heavily involved in play calling in 2018, similar to what occurred during the Texas Bowl.

Q: Any clue / insight / prediction as to what CTH might do when Orlando leaves for a HC job?  Promote from within, go after another hidden jewel (like Orlando when he was hired at UH) or money whip a high profile DC?

A: It is still too early to predict who will take over at defensive coordinator if Todd Orlando were to leave for a head coach opening.  When Orlando was hired at Houston, he came from Utah State and was not considered a big name. If Herman promotes from within, it would most likely be safeties coach Craig Naivar. Naivar was the defensive coordinator at Texas State from 2011-2013. He has also had defensive coordinator stops at Rice and Sam Houston State. Naivar is very highly regarded in the coaching profession and loved by the players.

Q: Have the coaches started visiting recruits yet and if so who have they seen?

A: 2019 recruiting is starting to crank up. QB commit Roschon Johnson visited Texas on Saturday and will serve as the bell-cow for the class. Coaches will begin making their way back on the road when spring practice starts up for the various high schools. Until then, Texas will focus on juniors days and breaking down film of potential offers.

Q: Who are some of the key names you think the staff have targeted for 2019?

What do you see today at the biggest position group needs?

And what are the areas of Texas HS talent this year (ie last year was WR and DB)

A: The staff is already working hard on several key 2019 targets like WR Garrett Wilson, WR Jordan Whittington,  RB Noah Cain, DL DeMarvin Leal and OL Branson Bragg. The biggest position group of need will be linebacker and the offensive line. The good news is the offensive line class in Texas is deeper than 2018, but the bad news is the LB class is not deep at all. Texas will likely need to go out of state to fill their need at LB. Wide Receiver is another position group that has a lot of talent in 2019.

Harrison is a proud alumnus of The University of Texas at Austin and a second-year law student at Texas Tech University School of Law, where he plans to get a J.D./M.S. in Sports Management. He hales from Baytown, TX, but will always consider Austin home. In his spare time Harrison enjoys hunting, sports and any activity pertaining to his dog.

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Featured

Commitment Spotlight: Tyler Owens

Texas has landed a commitment from highly coveted safety Tyler Owens. What does he bring to Todd Orlando’s defense?

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Following the “Stars at Night” camp in July, Texas extended several offers to prospects who impressed the coaches throughout the evening. One of those offers went to 2019 Plano East safety Tyler Owens, who won the fastest man competition. The Longhorns quickly became the front runner in his recruitment, and the intriguing prospect ultimately chose to shut down his recruitment and pledge to Texas.

Owens joins a secondary class that already has commitments from Mayfield (CA) S Chris Adimora, Grayson (GA) CB Kenyatta Watson II and Alvin CB Marques Caldwell. The 6’2, 202 pounder currently ranks as the 44th best safety in the country and the 631st player overall, according to the 247sports composite rankings. Owens chose the Longhorns over offers from 14 other schools, including Baylor, Houston, Nebraska and UCLA.

Player Information

Name: Tyler Owns
Position: S
High School: Plano East
City & State: Plano, Texas

Measurables

Height: 6’2
Weight:  202
40-yard time: 4.48
Shuttle: 3.29
Vertical: N/A

Statistics

No stats available.

Film

Tyler Owens Junior Season

Pros:

  • Very reliable tackler. Wraps up and takes good angles to the ball carrier. Good technique.
  • Has a knack for squaring ball carriers up and laying some pretty solid hits.
  • While his straight line speed isn’t as noticeable as it may be when he is in shorts, Owens definitely shows the ability to stick his foot in the ground and get downhill quickly.
  • Shows a good football IQ. Diagnoses plays well and knows where to be on the field.
  • Very good special teams player. Uses his speed to get down the field on kickoffs and always seems to find the ball.
  • Played very good competition. Had highlights against 6A state champion Highland Park and plays in the same district as state powerhouse Allen.

Cons:

  • Needs to continue to develop his ball skills. Shows the ability to defend the pass, but will need to work on getting his head around and finding the ball.
  • Positional fit. Owens best fit could be at linebacker after he spends a season or two in a college strength and conditioning program.
  • Tests extremely well, but you don’t see those athletic traits translating much to his tape.
  • Seems a little stiff on tape, so that will be something to take monitor when his senior tape comes out. Could factor in to where he projects long-term.

Summary

When you turn on the film for Owens, the first thing to stick out is how projectable he is. He could easily add weight and spin down to linebacker, which wouldn’t be bad at all considering his reliability as a tackler and how well he defends the run. It is easy to see why Todd Orlando and Craig Naivar like Owens. He has a nose for the football and his athleticism will allow him to be utilized in multiple ways. 2018 signee DeMarvion Overshown had a similar build to Owens coming out of Arp (6’3, 200 pounds), and there are definitely some similarities in the way the two  play.

If Owens sticks at safety, he will need to continue to work on defending the pass. His speed helps him tremendously when tracking down the ball in the air, but there will be a learning curve as he adjusts to the passing game at the college level. Owens possesses great athleticism, as seen by his testing numbers, but it is a bit concerning that you don’t see that explosiveness and twitch on tape much. Is he a combine warrior or does he just need more time in the incubator to unlock his potential? It will be interesting to see what the senior film beholds because it could be a solid indicator for what his development curve is.

Final Verdict

After hearing how Owens performed in the camp setting and watching his film, there should not be any doubts about whether he is a take for Texas. The loaded 2018 defensive back class should allow almost all the 2019 signees in the secondary to be eased into action. Owens has a very high ceiling, and the Texas coaching staff feels confident they can tap into his potential.

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Recruiting

Commitment Spotlight: Derrian Brown

Texas picked up its first running back commitment of the 2019 class

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Photo via: The-Ozone

Texas has secured a huge commitment on one of its biggest recruiting weekends in decades. After securing a big win against USC, the Longhorns weekend got even better with the commitment of 4-star running back Derrian Brown.

Although Texas was high on top backs such as Noah Cain and Trey Sanders early on, Brown entered the picture and it was impossible for Texas to pass. Brown is a high-level back that has the potential to leave his mark in Austin. A duo of Keaontay Ingram and Derrian Brown in the backfield is not something Texas fans will be displeased to see.

Player Information

Name: Derrian Brown
Position: RB
High School: Burford HS
City & State: Buford, Georgia

Measurables

Height: 5’10
Weight:  179
40-yard time: 4.62
Shuttle: 4.28
Vertical: 35.0″

Statistics

No stats available.

Film

Derrian Brown Junior Season

Pros:

  • The first thing you notice about Brown is that he has a sneaky type of quickness about him. For his size he might not be the quickest or fastest back out there, but he certainly has some breakaway speed. His 40-yard dash time supports that.
  • With his quickness comes Brown’s fearless nature when hitting the holes. This may attribute to the fact that his offensive line creates decent lanes for him to run through, but there is no denying that Brown hits the gaps hard and without hesitation. This is something you like to see from a back, but also causes mild concerns about their patience and vision.
  • Has great ability in the second level. Once Brown gets to that second level on film, there’s no stopping him. He shows great power and lateral quickness to make defenders miss.
  • Demonstrates great awareness. Whether it is on the sideline or gaining a couple extra yards for the first down, Brown always knows what he needs to do on every play.
  • Football savvy. Shows good instincts and high football IQ. 

Cons:

  • The major area Brown needs to improve in is lowering his pad level. He’s able to get away with it in high school, but in college he won’t be able to gain extra yardage after the point of attack.
  • Catches the ball out of the backfield with his body rather than his hands. Granted, there is not much film regarding his catching ability, but using his body will result in some drops in college.
  • No film on his blocking ability. Brown is a little undersized, so he might have to adjust to the size of college-level linemen.
  • Needs to learn to have more patience. It’s not a bad thing that Brown hits the holes at full speed, but it can be a problem when your offensive line doesn’t create holes and you run right into a plugged up gap. Brown needs to learn to be a bit more patient, and will have a great mentor to learn from in Keaontay Ingram in that department.

Summary

Brown may not stand out physically on tape, but his play speaks for itself. He demonstrates quickness and a keen ability to get to the second level and beyond. Brown is a very talented 4-star back, and his abilities demonstrate that he will fit in nicely with Tom Herman’s offense. Although Brown clearly has the skillset to succeed in the Big 12, there are some concerns — mainly that the competition he faces in Georgia is not stellar. Other concerns stem from Brown’s lack of patience and limited tape on his pass catching and blocking abilities. All in all, Brown is a fantastic get for the Longhorns, and will be the feature back of Texas’ 2019 class.

Final Verdict

After trending negatively for top RB targets Noah Cain and Trey Sanders, Texas needed to come up with an alternative. Bryan Carrington and Derek Chang then identified Brown and Texas offered. After the offer, Texas continued to trend in the right direction. I see a lot of former Texas running back D’onta Foreman in Derrian Brown. His quickness and burst through the gaps has similar characteristics to Foreman’s running style — even though Foreman had much more bulk on his frame. Brown is another great add to the Texas running corps, and gives Stan Drayton the potential to find his next Ezekiel Elliot.

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Big 12

Commitment Spotlight: Javonne Shepherd

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Pure tackle prospects are hard to find and are always in high demand. Texas learned this the hard way in 2017 once Connor Williams went down and they were forced to play some guys out of position on both edges of their offensive line.

Needless to say, the Texas staff has been hard at work this cycle trying to land the top tackle prospects that reside in the Lone Star State this cycle and their hard work already resulted in landing Conroe Oak Ridge offensive tackle Tyler Johnson. With Atascocita’s Kenyon Green off the board to Texas A&M (some think Green is a tackle, but I don’t necessarily subscribe to that line of thinking) that leaves Houston North Forest’s Javonne Shepherd.

Shepherd quickly turned into one of the biggest in-state dogfights between Texas and Texas A&M this cycle, and with him potentially holding the greatest amount of upside at the position it makes sense. Early on it looked like A&M was poised to land both Green and Shepherd, as there was plenty of scuttle that the duo wanted to play together at the next level. As we all know by now there are no givens in world of recruiting and things can and always will change.

In the case of Shepherd, things begin to change in favor of the Longhorns earlier this spring when he was able to make it to Austin early in the spring and begin to form a bond with new Texas offensive line coach Herb Hand. That trip would be the first of several trips Shepherd made to Austin before the dead period hit and each time he left with Texas heavily on his mind.

This was a battle that Texas not only needed to win from a perception standpoint, but most importantly they needed it from a roster management standpoint. The Texas offensive line room needs more bodies like Shepherd in the pipeline and with his commitment to Texas; the Longhorns have solidified a big position of need this cycle.

Film Analysis

Player Information

Name: Javonne Shepherd

Position:  OT

High School: North Forest

City & State: Houston, Texas

 Measurables

Height: 6’6 (Unverified)

Weight:  319 (Unverified)

40-yard: 4.76 (Unverified)

Shuttle: 4.58 (Unverified)

Vertical: 34 (Unverified)

Statistics

No Stats Available

Film

https://www.hudl.com/video/3/7660667/5a130e5fda522d0e08ef8e64

Pros:

  • Possesses very good measurables for the offensive tackle position. At 6’6, 320 pounds his size won’t be issue for whether he can stick at the position.
  • Possesses good length, which will cause edge defenders issues when you combine it with his size.
  • Possesses the athletic traits you in a future left tackle. Moves very well laterally for his size and his vertical shows he possesses some explosiveness.
  • Has a very high ceiling and isn’t close to hitting it, which makes him a very enticing and intriguing prospect.
  • Flashes a bit of a mean streak and shows that he can be a capable block finisher.
  • Very nimble for his size and shows that he can be capable puller from the tackle spot.
  • Possesses good functional strength at this stage in his development.

Cons:

  • Lacks the quality of film you would expect from a recruit of his caliber.
  • With his size and athletic ability, I expected to turn on the film and see him dominant from snap to snap given his competition, but I didn’t see that.
  • His highlight tape probably could have done without the very meh cut block attempts on the backside of plays.
  • Very raw at this point in his development and will really benefit from collegiate coaching once he arrives on campus.
  • Possesses great physical tools, but will likely have to redshirt and shape up his technique before he can be thrown into the fire.
  • Need to see more reps of him as a pass blocker on tape. Majority of his highlight films consisted of run plays.

Summary

Javonne Shepherd is entering his 3rd year as a varsity starter at offensive tackle for Houston North Forest and has logged snaps at both left and right tackle at this point in his high school career. At 6’6, 319 pounds, Shepherd possesses very good size and should have no issues sticking at tackle from a measurable standpoint or athletic standpoint. Shepherd has been blessed with athletic traits that makes him a very enticing prospect that offensive line coaches would love to get their hands on to develop. On top of having very good size, Shepherd possesses long arms, good feet, he’s nimble and coordinated, has good flexibility, and on top of that he shows that he can be a finisher. From a physical standpoint, he checks off all the boxes that you look for when you draw up a collegiate offensive tackle. On the other side of the coin, Shepherd is extremely raw at this point from a technique standpoint and he lacks the dominant film you would expect to see from a prospect of his caliber. While he does show flashes of being up to line up and flat out dominate defenders at the POA, I was expecting to see a lot more of it from snap to snap as I sifted through his sophomore and junior film. Another red flag for me is that I didn’t get to see much from him as a pass blocker due to his tape being very heavy on run blocking, so I have questions about how far along he is in that department and it will be something I will be keeping my eye on during his senior year. This could be a result of the offense he is in being run oriented, but I would have much rather seen some clips of him in pass pro over him cutting defenders on the backside of run plays. Shepherd is a gifted prospect, but the more I watch him the more I feel like he has some boom/bust to him a player, but he’s the type of player you gamble on and trust your offensive line coach to get the most out of him. He’s a project player, but he’s a project player that has NFL upside who could potentially anchor your offensive line for several years.

Final Verdict

This recruitment reached silly levels as both coaches and media members wore out Shepherd’s cell phone trying to continuously get updates on his visit intentions over the past month. It gave everyone a sneak peek of why some prospects choose to get through the recruiting process as quickly as possible so that they don’t have to be hounded night and day and honestly I don’t really blame them.

From a recruiting perception standpoint, this is big head to head victory for Tom Herman and his staff over Jimbo Fisher and in-state rival Texas A&M, who was viewed as the favorite to land Shepherd for some time. Much was made of Shepherd and Kenyon Green’s friendship and them wanting to play together at the next level, but package deals often don’t work out in recruiting and this is another data point to support that. At the end of the day recruits are going to do what is best for them and that is how it should be.

Texas offensive line coach Herb Hand deserves tremendous credit in landing Shepherd, as his impact was felt in this one from the moment Shepherd made it to campus this spring and begin building the relationship. Slowly but surely the tide began to turn in this recruitment and it led to Shepherd giving his pledge to Longhorns and giving them a talent tackle duo in Shepherd and Tyler Johnson.

Texas has landed two talented tackles this cycle, and now it has until February to find some interior bodies to go in between them to solidify the rest of their offensive line class.

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College Football

Commitment Spotlight: Marcus Tillman Jr.

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Everyone loves surprises, right? Well here is one for you on Saturday afternoon in the form of Orlando (FL) Jones linebacker Marcus Tillman Jr. who visited Texas yesterday for the Stars at Night camp. Tillman wasn’t a name that was really on the radar until last night when he showed up and earned himself an offer, but he has a pretty stout offer list that includes the likes of Clemson, Florida, Ohio State, and Virginia Tech.

Linebacker has been an interesting plot line to follow this cycle, with the state of Texas being thin at the position. The Texas staff has been turning over rocks all over the country rather than settling on a player they think would be considered a reach and landing Tillman is another data point for that theory.

Adding Tillman to the calculator gives Texas its second linebacker commitment of the class along with De’Gabriel Floyd and likely narrows the scope a bit on who the staff will be focusing on going forward.

Film Analysis

Player Information

Name: Marcus Tillman Jr.

Position: LB

High School: Jones

City & State: Orlando, FL

 Measurables

Height: 6’1 (Unverified)

Weight:  220 (Unverified)

40-yard: N/A

Shuttle: 4.3 (Unverified)

Vertical: 35 (Unverified)

Statistics

2016: 58 tackles, 5 TFLs, 1 Sack, 2 FF, 2 FR, 1 INT

Film

https://www.hudl.com/profile/6134001/Marcus-Tillman-Jr

 

 Pros:

  • Plays downhill, physical football. Can stick his foot in the ground and go hunt the man with the football in the wrong color jersey.
  • Better tighten that chin strap up because this young man brings the funk to the ball carrier.
  • Displays good athleticism and good COD in pursuit of the ball.
  • Shows some good pop in his hands when he uses them properly and has the ability to provide a good jolt to those trying to slow him down.
  • Pretty solid tackler at this point and shows he will wrap up.
  • Appears capable of dropping into coverage on shallow routes and shows the ability to find the ball and make plays on it.
  • Could end up being a fun player to watch run down on special teams early in his career.
  • Plays with good effort consistently in pursuit of the football
 Cons:

  • Pretty raw as a player at this stage in his development and looks a lot more comfortable moving forward more than anything at this point.
  • When he uses his hands he can be very effective, but he needs to do so more consistently.
  • While he seems capable of dropping to cover shallow routes, he can get a little lost when asked to drop deeper into coverage.
  • Doesn’t exactly have a clean projection as things sit right now. Will likely be a longer curve guy when it comes to his development.
  • While he does play off the ball at times on tape, he is often used as an edge defender. Need to see more of him read and reacting from the ILB spots if that is what the staff views him as long term.
  • His sophomore tape was more impressive to me than his junior tape. Want to see more of the former this fall.

Summary

Marcus Tillman Jr. is a linebacker that hails all the way from Orlando in the Sunshine State of Florida. Listed at 6’1, 220 pounds Tillman possesses solid size for the position and has been utilized both on and off the ball the past two years. On the positive size of the ledger, Tillman shows on tape that he possesses good physicality, athleticism, COD ability, and solid field speed in pursuit of the ball carrier. Tillman shows that he is pretty comfortable at this stage in development when it comes to going forward and attacking up the field and shows that he has pretty good pop in his hands by showing he can provide a legitimate jolt to blockers. Tillman shows on tape that he is a pretty reliable tackler and shows the willingness to wrap up the ball carrier rather than always going for the big hit and coming in out of control. As far as coverage goes, Tillman’s comfort level seems to be on shallow routes at this time and he shows he can get to that depth and make play on the ball, as he was able to log both PBUs and some INTs on tape. On the negative side of things, Tillman’s comfort level appears to decrease once he is asked to drop deeper down the field and he showed he can get a little lost in that regard. This is something he will have to greatly improve if he is going to be asked to play off the ball at the next  level, as he will be asked to do this frequently and he will be victimized accordingly if he is unable to do so. Tillman is utilized more on the LOS coming off the edge, which makes me wonder what exactly his projection will be at the next level. He’s a bit of a project either way you slice it and doesn’t have the cleanest projection you will come across in that regard. I’d also like to see more read and reacting from him from the ILB spot just to see more of what he is in that regard, but we will probably have to wait for more tape to come out for that part of the evaluation to be completed.

 

Final Verdict

To say things materialized quickly with Tillman Jr. would be severely understating it. It’s clear that the staff loved him enough to make sure he didn’t leave campus without an offer and he was blown away enough to pop on the spot and get in the boat. With Texas’ need for linebackers it is hard to be disappointed with the staff once again finding a prospect that met their standards outside the state lines even though the out of state flavor for this class will probably raise a few eyebrows.

As I said above, Tillman’s projection isn’t the cleanest as things sit right now, but it is very hard to question a Todd Orlando evaluation, and that goes double when you take into account that he offered Tillman on the spot after getting to see him up close this weekend. I am going to defer to the man who has made a living making these kinds of evals and has made a lot of money developing them into quality ball players.

With Tillman and Floyd now occupying two of the linebacker spots in this class, the staff will likely narrow its focus on whom they are targeting with limited spots now available.

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