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Recruiting

Commitment Spotlight: Mikey Grandy

The Longhorns asked for an offensive lineman for Christmas. Ask, and you shall receive

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The Longhorns offensive line problems just became a little less apparent with the addition of JUCO OL Mikey Grandy. The San Mateo product did not have many DI offers before Texas identified him. After that, Grandy picked up 2 more from UCLA and Arizona State. This was a battle between UCLA and Texas from the beginning. Grandy is a California native, so UCLA and new head coach Chip Kelly was very appealing. In the end, the opportunity to play right away at Texas won the day. The Longhorns desperately needed OL help, and they got it. This will be a nice addition to the 2018 class.

Film Analysis

At 6’5″, 305 pounds, Grandy has the measurables of an offensive tackle. But potentially to the dismay of Texas fans, I don’t believe that is his ceiling in college. Although Grandy has the size and arm length to be an efficient tackle, his feet say otherwise. At San Mateo, Grandy was not tested much in the passing game. When he was, he won those matchups simply because he was not going against any defenders with true speed. We all saw Denzel Okafor and Tristan Nickelson get beat by speed rushers consistently in conference play this year. If the Longhorns stick Grandy at LT next season, they might get the same result.

So what’s the good news, then? Grandy is an absolute mauler in the run game. He could come in an immediately help fix the interior woes that plagued Texas this season. More holes for talented running backs = a more balanced offense. It’s a win-win for Tom Herman. Grandy has a particular nastiness to him that reminds me of Connor Williams. He does not stop punishing his opponent until the whistle blows. Maybe that comes from his time in the MMA after high school, but it’s nevertheless refreshing to see. Regardless of where Grandy plays next season, he will make an immediate impact. This is a huge pickup for Texas, and one that can help the offense immediately.

Final Verdict

Landing a JUCO OL became imperative for Tom Herman and Derek Warehime this cycle. Even though Texas may miss on their other JUCO prospects, Grandy was a must-have after being offered. With the departure of Jake McMillon and Terrell Cuney, RG is wide open next season. My prediction is that Grandy finds a home there, even though he played LT at San Mateo. Even though he has tackle measureables, his footwork reminds me too much of Tristan Nickelson and Denzel Okafor. Grandy could very well improve his footwork in the offseason and become a viable LT. If he doesn’t, don’t fret. Wherever he lines up, he will help the Texas offense with his physicality and run blocking abilities.

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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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College Football

Commitment Spotlight: David Gbenda

The Longhorns have landed another highly-touted prospect, this time it being David Gbenda from Katy Cinco Ranch

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After signing one inside linebacker and only two linebackers total in 2018, Texas needed to make the position a priority early and often this cycle. The staff’s national search came up empty and the self-inflicted wound that came in the DaShaun White recruitment proved too much to overcome in the end, but the staff seems once again to be learning from previous miscues.

Cinco Ranch linebacker David Gbenda had some parallels to White from the 2018 cycle in the sense that he saw his stock take off early in the cycle despite not possessing the ideal measurables you’re looking for at this position. Like White, Gbenda’s tape does plenty of talking for him and sometimes when the measurables aren’t there, you just have to trust what your eyes are telling you and that’s the case with the rangy and hard-nosed backer out of Katy.

Gbenda made the trip up to Austin for the Junior Day in February, but the trip was unfortunately cut short. It’s typically a good sign when the staff reaches back out shortly after to arrange a follow up visit that will allow for more face time with fewer recruits on campus and it was as Gbenda received a very coveted offer from his dream school on the second trip to campus.

Lately it seems Texas has been the dream school for several recruits only for them to end up elsewhere, but that this time around it ended up working out for the good guys, as they were able to push the right buttons and win over Gbenda’s family in this recruitment. The Longhorns were able to secure an early commitment from the linebacker over several regional schools, including TCU and Texas A&M.

Player Information

Name: David Gbenda

Position: ILB

High School: Cinco Ranch

City & State: Katy, TX

Measurables

Height: 6’0 (Verified)

Weight:  212 (Verified)

40-yard: 4.74 (Verified)

Shuttle:  4.36 (Verified)

Vertical: 32 (Verified)

Statistics

2016:  N/A

2017: 56 Tackles, 8 TFLs, 2 Sacks, 2 PBUs

Film

David Gbenda Junior Film

Pros:

  • Won’t win the Underwear Olympics, but he wins you over on tape. Kid is just a flat out football player.
  • Processes things quickly and has good linebacker instincts from a read and react standpoint.
  • Keeps his shoulders square to the LOS and gets downhill in a hurry when he sniffs out the play.
  • Moves well laterally and does a good job of navigating through the trash inside the box.
  • Aggressively takes on blocks and doesn’t try to go around them. Loved the clip in his junior tape where he absolutely destroyed the h-back in the hole before making the play.
  • Sure tackler, who wraps up pretty consistently. Not afraid to strike you at the moment of truth in the hole.
  • Good range with a good motor to boot. Will make the hustle plays that the coaches will love.

Cons:

  • Lacks the measurables and length you want for the position.
  • Solid testing measurables, but won’t wow you from that standpoint.
  • Will need some time in the incubator due to him lacking ideal size, but with the lack of depth will he need to be ready sooner?
  • Not much tape of him going backwards in coverage, so that’s a big question mark to monitor during his senior year.
  • Some will wonder about him coming off the edge, but he lacks the length to be edge player and will have to make his money as an off the ball linebacker.

Summary

David Gbenda out of Cinco Ranch is a feisty, hard-nosed linebacker whose stock has really taken off this spring after his junior tape began to make the rounds early this cycle.  Gbenda won’t be described as a prolific tester for his position, but he possesses solid testing and physical measurables. Gbenda makes his best case as a player when you flip the film on and watch him play inside linebacker for Cinco Ranch this past season. Gbenda displays good read and react skills coming down hill against the run and shows he consistently hit his run fits while aggressively taking on blockers of different shapes and sizes. Despite only coming in at 212 pounds, Gbenda shows that he will get physical when taking on offensive linemen, tight ends, or H-backs and he shows the ability to shed blocks and get to the ball carrier. Gbenda is not at all shy about contact and possesses the physicality you want to see from an inside backer. When Gbenda arrives at the ball he proves to be a very reliable tackler that will consistently wrap up and get the ball carrier to the ground and also has the ability to lay the big hit, well as strip the ball out. Gbenda shows that he has good range from the middle of the field to both sidelines and that he will make plays with both ability and effort. A knock on Gbenda at this stage is that he hasn’t provided much if any tape of him showing his ability in coverage at this point, and that is something that will need to be evaluated thoroughly going forward before it can be determined if he is a guy that can remain on the field in sub packages. While he has logged some snaps along the LOS, I don’t anticipate that being something that will translate to the collegiate level due to him lacking the length to take on offensive tackles on the edge. Gbenda is going to make his money as an off the ball linebacker due to his ability to navigate through the bodies and if his stock is any indicator, he is a candidate to have a big senior season as he continues to come along.

Final Verdict

The importance of landed several linebackers this cycle capable of playing either Mac or Rover can’t be understated and landing Gbenda is solid way to start off the cycle. I don’t think Gbenda is an instant impact type of guy, but he is a solid all around football player that I can see why Todd Orlando loves him and made him a priority early in the cycle.

Gbenda isn’t the type of player that blows you away physically, but he’s the guy that just makes play after play and probably ends up being under appreciated to those who don’t watch closely. You want linebackers that have good instincts and a feel for the game and you want them to be willing to be physical as hell when it comes to attacking and shedding blocks and that’s exactly what Gbenda already does on tape.

Gbenda is likely going to be a redshirt candidate, which is why Texas already seems to be mining the JUCO ranks or potential candidates that can walk in and contribute after mid-term, but he is definitely a guy who I can see making contributions down the line and developing into a rock solid, dependable football player after spending some time with Orlando.

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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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