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May 12, 2013
In the aftermath of Friday's news that 2014 Plano West running back Auston Anderson (ranked No. 24 on the LSR Top 100) had committed to Northwestern, there was a lot of discussion about the importance of the moment and whether too much was being made of the fact a kid who liked Northwestern from the very start didn't commit to the Longhorns at the drop of a hat when he was offered.
If this were locked in a vacuum, I'd totally agree with the premise this kid's recruitment isn't a complete reflection of what is going on in 2014 recruiting with the Longhorns. The truth of the matter is nine out of 10 times, the Longhorns would win a recruiting battle like this as recently as 12 months ago, and I might be giving Northwestern too much credit in one out of 10. This particular kid is the outlier ? but he's an outlier in a year where there are more and more of them.
When the foundation of the 2013 recruiting class for the Longhorn was compromised 15 months ago, Mack Brown was still dealing himself pocket aces in almost every recruiting battle. Whether it was against Texas A&M, Oklahoma or Alabama ? the in-state market was all his for the most part. However, starting in the summer of 2012, momentum started to stall, especially as the star members from the class of 2014 began ascending to the top of the discussion board. Unlike most years, there were several elite-level players who were outside shots for the Longhorns from the beginning.
As everyone weighed what Texas A&M's surge in-state meant to Longhorn recruiting, the general consensus was even if the Aggies cleaned UT's clock in head-to-head battles, the Aggies couldn't take all of the top guys, and the Longhorns would swipe the majority of what remained on the board ? worst-case scenario.
Even if you're a 1B or a 2A in the state, one heck of a class should be assembled in theory when you have a state that produces as many as 35-45 four-star prospects in a given year and another 35-40 high-level three stars that are undervalued in the recruiting landscape.
The only issues that might occur is if you're not wrecking shop as that 1B or 2A option or if you're in a year where limited numbers in some areas leave dry wells for talent available beyond the top guy or two at a position (see offensive line).
If both happened in the same year, it might get pretty tricky unless the out-of-state recruiting turns up a few aces in the deck.
Hold that thought.
Nine weeks ago I received an interesting email from a source of mine. After a decade-plus on the beat, I've got sources scattered all over the place, but this particular source has been very good to me in recent years. Per this particular source, there were several realities facing the Longhorns in the 2014 recruiting year.
1. As of early March, there were about 40 kids in the state the Longhorns viewed as Texas-quality.
2. The vibe coming from those within the program was the Longhorns liked their chances with roughly half that number, but a few of those 20 or so were in repetitive spots, which would preclude the Longhorns from simply going after all 20 and taking them because it would create unbalanced numbers.
3. The feeling from those inside the program was they were aware the "shine was off" in terms of the way the Longhorns were regarded by top prospects. Translation: Texas had lost its position as the "IT" school because of the last three seasons.
4. Texas would recruit out of state much more aggressively as a byproduct of this situation and hope to wash out some of the in-state issues.
Of course, a lot of this has been talked about in the last nine weeks, but not together in a discussion like this for one reason ? I personally doubted some of the gloom in the forecast. Although I would disagree specifically with one of his points, it was just hard for me to visualize Mack Brown not closing on every top 20-40 kid in the state who might be the No. 2 or No. 3 guy at a certain position if they had missed out on the No. 1 guy.
For the better part of the last decade, every coach at every school who recruits the state of Texas was forced to bite through its lower lip while the Longhorns selected exactly who they wanted and dictated the terms of the commitment. Suddenly, they weren't even going to be an extremely hard No.2?
It was just a concept that was hard to visualize. For example, as soon as Texas offered Auston Anderson at running back this spring, I just assumed they would land the kid because in all of the years I've covered Mack in recruiting, there have been some kids who have liked Northwestern. But none of them actually picked the Wildcats over the Longhorns.
Everyone just has to know this idea would have seemed preposterous a year ago.
The concern for the Longhorns right now shouldn't be Texas A&M, it should be themselves. Forget about the head-to-head battles with the Aggies because the Longhorns are in a dog-fight for everyone right now.
Consider the following breakdown of the Rivals.com-rated players from the state of Texas by recruiting tier ?
The list: (1) Beaumont Ozen cornerback Tony Brown
Breakdown: This is one of the kids who figured to be a tough get for the Longhorns early in the process because of the presence of his sister, who is committed to LSU. He's visited Austin numerous times, but this remains a bit of an outside chance for the Texas coaches.
High Four-star (6.0)
The list: (8) Lewisville Hebron safety Jamal Adams, Mount Pleasant wide receiver K.D. Cannon, Arlington Martin defensive end Myles Garrett, Richmond Travis athlete Nick Harvey, Mansfield Timberview safety Ed Paris, La Porte linebacker Hoza Scott, Coppell defensive end Solomon Thomas and Galena Park North Shore linebacker Zach Whitley.
Breakdown: Four of the eight (Harvey, Paris, Scott and Whitley) have committed elsewhere, which leaves Adams, Cannon, Garrett and Thomas as the only remaining possibilities among the early Rival.com Top 9 from Texas. Adams was once a big Texas lean, which likely makes him one of the 20 or so the Longhorns once felt very good about. Garrett and Thomas seem like longshots at this point and it's impossible to project what will happen with Cannon. Adams remains the most likely elite-level prospect to sign with the Longhorns, but he's probably 50-50 right now between UT and A&M.
Mid Four-star (5.9)
The list: (7) Arlington Bowie safety Edwin Freeman, Texarkana Liberty-Eylau athlete Davion Hall, Denton Guyer quarterback Jerrod Heard, Brenham cornerback Darrion Johnson, FW All saints offensive lineman Demetrius Knox, San Antonio Brennan defensive end Derick Roberson and West Mesquite athlete Dylan Sumner-Gardner.
Breakdown: The good news is that the Longhorns have two of the four players committed from this tier of prospects. Of the remaining three, they lead for Freeman, just got in it for Hall and are completely out of it with Knox. If the Longhorns were to come away with Adams (6.0) and Freeman (5.9), it would give them commitments from four of the state's top 16, which is well below Texas' norm from 1999-2013.
Low Four-star (5.8)
The list: (15) Houston Cy Falls linebacker Otaro Alaka, Alief Taylor wide receiver Keenan Brown, Aldine Eisenhower running back Donald Catalon, Dallas Skyline cornerback Cedric Collins, Rockdale linebacker James David, Texas City wide receiver Armanti Foreman, Alief Taylor defensive back Chris Hardeman, Abilene Cooper Lorenzo Joe, Klein Oak linebacker Josh Mabin, Lake Travis running back Varshaun Nixon, Pflugerville Hendricson Samaje Perine, Wylie linebacker T'Kevian Rockwell, Mansfield Timberview safety Brandon Simmons, Dallas Bishop Dunne defensive back Nick Watkins and North Forney athlete Armanti Watts.
Breakdown: Nine of the 15 members of this recruiting tier are committed at this point, with three (Alaka, Catalon and Joe) committed to the Longhorns. Of the remaining six, only Foreman and Watkins are really on the radar right now with offers and interest. This is a recruiting tier where the Longhorns were winning at an almost a 100 percent clip previous to the 2014 class. In a good scenario, the Longhorns will land Adams, Freeman, Foreman and Watkins, which would give them commitments from seven of the state's early top 31.
High Three-star (5.7)
The list: (22) The Colony defensive end Grant Blankenship, Houston Lamar defensive back John Bonney, Lakeview Centennial offensive lineman Kealvin Davis, Dallas Skyline safety Derrick Dixon, FW All Saints running back Daniel Gresham, Dallas Carter linebacker Cameron Hampton, Longview defensive tackle Zaycoven Henderson, Katy Seven Lakes defensive end Jarrett Johnson, San Antonio Warren defensive tackle Trey Lealaimatafao, Longview wide receiver Dorian Leonard, Whitehouse quarterback Patrick Mahomes, Manvel tight end Koda Martin, Dallas Bishop Dunne offensive lineman Jovan Pruitt, Allen linebacker Christian Sam, Houston Kinkaid tight end Marvin Saunders, FW All Saints quarterback Foster Sawyer, San Antonio Roosevelt defensive back Arrion Springs, Cibolo Steele running back Justin Stockton, Klein Collins defensive back Jordan Thomas, Gilmer linebacker Josh Walker, Nederland defensive tackle DeShawn Washington and Ennis running back Terence Williams
Breakdown: This is an area the Longhorns have to really dominate when you consider what is going on in the higher tiers and at this point they have three of the 12 commitments from the kids that have made early decisions. Of the remaining 10, the Longhorns have offers or have shown a lot of attention to seven of them - Bonney, Johnson, Leonard, Martin, Pruitt, Saunders (not offered yet) and Springs. Of that group, the Longhorns are in good shape with Bonney. But you can't really pencil them in with any of the five remaining offers.
How important is the 2013 season and recreating some momentum for the Longhorn football program?
The player who kick-started this entire column isn't even rated among the top 53 players that Rivals has rated as a high three-star prospect or better at this stage of the recruiting process. It's not that the Longhorns just lost a prospect to Northwestern, it's that we're nine months out until signing day and Texas just lost a mid-three-star recruit to Northwestern.
Texas A&M's rise and instant success in the SEC is a tremendous focal point for 2014 recruiting frustrations, but the truth of the matter is the Aggies don't represent the biggest problem the Longhorns have at the moment.
No. 2 - Keeping it real ?
From the very moment I became an actual functioning member of the media nearly 20 years ago, I'd like to think I've been a strong advocate for high school and college athletes.
I'm the first one to scream out my being appalled every time an injustice occurs involving the rights of college athletes in the political machine for which they volunteer in an effort to live the dream. In fact, I'm such a honk for the athlete in the athlete vs. powerful institution discussion that I belong in all of the minority opinions when it comes to my personal thoughts on pretty much everything. There are times when I feel like I'm so alone on my personal platform that I feel like I must look like Sean Penn to some folks.
When it comes to the recruiting process, I'm an even bigger advocate for the player. If a kid needs time, I always lean on the side of giving him time. If a kid needs to take all five visits to help him make a decision, I say let him have all visits. If a kid actually has leverage on the school, I have no problem with that element of the recruiting process because the running clock on that leverage expires the moment the recruits sign a letter of intent, and they'll never have it again.
There are limits to this natural instinct of mine to protect a young person throughout the recruiting process. One of my limits is simple, common decency and respect. The easiest way to lose me as an advocate is to simply act in a manner I find to be lacking in respect for other people.
Believe it or not, most 16- and 17-year old kids get it. They understand the golden rules. They understand their actions are a reflection of those around them, from parents to teachers to teammates. Again, most kids get it.
For the last six months, I'm just not sure I would include Fort Worth All Saints offensive lineman Demetrius Knox and running back Daniel Gresham in the group that gets it.
Make no mistake, I think both Knox and Gresham are good kids at the core. We're not talking about crimes against humanity here, just simple respect. There's nothing that has happened thus far that will define their lots in life or the type of men they will become. My guess is Knox and Gresham will end up being quality men, fathers and members of society.
It is also not their fault they were thrust into a public spotlight at an age when 90 percent of their peer group is simply trying to figure out how to keep from getting grounded by their parents. Yet with great power comes some responsibility. You have to know right from wrong, and you have to treat people well ? you know ? the same way you would want others to treat you and stuff. I believe it is written somewhere if anyone wants to find the exact quote.
The point I will finally make now with all of the disclaimers out of the way is this ? Knox and Gresham were completely out of line with their actions as Texas commitments over the last few months and deserve to be called out for it (regardless of their age) in the same type of manner I would cry foul if a coach had treated them with the same lack of couth.
Point blank ? Knox and Gresham gave the Longhorns the runaround for months, speaking out of both sides of their mouths and always using the excuse of youthful ignorance whenever surprise trips, surprise tweets or surprise comments popped up. Frankly, the pair has redefined the meaning of "100 percent." The two were always committed, except when they weren't. They always said the same thing, except when they contradicted themselves five seconds later. They always showed Texas an ample amount of respect, except when they didn't, which pretty much seemed to be every day.
Let me put it in terms a 16-year old might understand. If this had been a relationship, Knox and Gresham would have been the guys claiming to have a steady girlfriend, but in truth have the numbers of 50 girls in their phone they constantly flirt and meet up with. Of course, every time they meet the father of the "steady girlfriend," they look him in the eye and swear they'll do right by him. Of course, by the end of the night the promised vow has already been compromised in some disgusting manner.
As the pair gets ready for the second phase of their combined recruiting process, my advice to them is to simply treat everything the exact opposite of how they've spent the last few months. If they don't want to be committed, then don't tell people they want to be committed. If they can't keep from contradicting themselves every five minutes, stop talking and tweeting. If you can't show people more respect than you did the Texas coaches, then spend more time learning how to do so because this Mickey Mouse House of Fun that represents the first phase of your college recruitment was one step short of a clown school application.
It's time to grow up and be held accountable for your actions, fellas.
No. 3 - Here's the reality for my boy KD?
Kevin Durant has to do more if Oklahoma City is going to come back from a 2-1 series deficit in their Western Conference Showdown with a very game Memphis Grizzlies.
The other players aren't getting it done and aren't going to get it done, which means that if Durant wants to keep playing beyond next weekend, he has to understand he has to reach deeper and find a level of player that is different and greater than the already astronomical stat line he has averaged over the course of his first nine playoff game this season.
Kevin Martin can't do it. Serge Ibaka can't do it. Derrick Fisher has to do it.
The Thunder is not the better team in this series without Russell Westbrook on the floor. But that doesn't mean they can't win this series. However, the only way this can happen is if Kevin Durant has a bit of an out-of-body experience and allows himself to be the player we want him to be. Durant is one of the greatest scorers who ever lived and he's the planet's No. 2 player by a large margin, but his game is currently built on efficiency and unselfishness.
In order for the Thunder to win Game 4, get back in this series and finish things off in six or seven games, Durant can't worry about whether he's shooting too much or not trusting his teammates enough. He can't find himself in the middle of the third quarter of Game 4 and have the third highest shot attempts on his own team.
Now isn't the time for feelings, it's the time for him to go nuclear. And if he can't, he'll be spending the off-season second-guessing himself and his response to Westbrook's injury. The moment calls for him to be an all-time player and not an all-time teammate.
It's okay, Kevin, you're allowed to be selfish.
No. 4 - Speaking of the Western Conference Semifinals ?
Man, I really don't know what to make of the Spurs.
In the aftermath of a Game 4 loss at Golden State that a championship team would have found a way to win, I can't tell if the boys from the Alamo City are just running into a charmed team on a hot streak or if they've got some greater flaw that will ensure their season ends short of the goal.
All I know is they are lucky they aren't down 3-1 heading back to San Antonio against a six-seed that is as hobbled and battered as it is hot. Instead, it's a 2-2 series that is headed to at least six games and probably seven.
Do I believe San Antonio emerges from this series as the victor? Yes, that has never really been in doubt in my mind.
Do I have less faith in the Spurs today than I did a week ago? Yup.
If I'm a Spurs fan, I'm rooting my heart out for the Thunder to find a way to win their series against the Grizzilies ?
No. 5 - "Splash!"?
Of course that happened to Sergio Garcia. Of course it did
After all that lip directed at Tiger Woods over the weekend (and with some of it probably deserved), Garcia had a share of the lead with Woods as he approached the 17th hole and a chance to seemingly re-write the book on the way we think about him. Win that tournament with Woods on his heels and he'd have some major scoreboard for the now and present.
It was as if his entire career was staring him in the face and then?
Of all the golf crashes we've seen in recent years, the one we watched on Sunday was as bad as any of them because the fans in Florida jumped on the Euro golfer like sharks in bloody water. Before it was over, fans were screaming "Hit it in the water!" as he was lining up putts.
Oh, and this was listed on Wikipedia under the Tin Cup section late Sunday evening:
"Tin Cup is a 1996 romantic comedy film co-written and directed by Ron Shelton, and starring Sergio Garcia and Rene Russo with Cheech Marin and Don Johnson in major supporting roles."
No. 6 - As for Miss Lindsay Vonn ?
You know Sunday had to feel goooooooood.
Hell, it almost felt like the old days. Tiger Woods didn't win a major on Sunday, but he might have got his groove back like Stella. When he finished his round on Sunday, he stormed off the course like a man who wanted to play 18 more holes because of the intoxication of his conquest.
It felt a little like the old Tiger, even though I cringe when people say, type or think that? but it was true for a weekend.
On to the next major? one that really counts.
No. 7 - Five more sports things before I move on to something else ?
I. I expect blood to be on the floor on Monday night in Chicago. I expect the most physical game of the entire NBA season.
II. Floyd Mayweather and Canelo Alvarez are in negotiations right now for a fight in September. My guess is "something" will happen in their conversations that will lead to Money fighting someone less dangerous in the fall. Although I'd suggest he take the fight now before he slips and Alvarez hits his looming prime. There's no time like the present.
III. Titus Young was arrested again.. the third time in a week. This time he was charged with breaking into a home and fighting with cops after a foot chase.
IV. Some way, somehow, my Phillies are three games under .500 and only four games out of first place. So, you're telling me there's a chance.
V. Atlanta wants no part of San Francisco for a while. Yikes.
No. 8 - A string of Game of Thrones thoughts after episode three of season three ?
*********WARNING: MINI-SPOILERS? LAST CHANCE TO SKIP TO No.9 **************
1. This show is so wicked that my first instinct upon learning Robb's going to be a daddy is that the baby will probably dies a gruesome death before it ever lives to blow out a third birthday cake.
2. "Yes, sweet girl. Mother taught me." Happy Mother's Day, everyone!
3. Danny is like LeBron coming out of Game 6 against Boston last year. Watch the hell out.
4. Tyrion just needs to give in and enjoy his spoils. Dude won the lottery and he's worried about the taxes.
5. They ought to let the guy going to work on Theon have a go at Ariel Castro.
6. Jamie got is groove back.
No. 9 - Pop goes the culture because the culture goes pop ?
? Hottie of the Weekend: Jessica Green makes back-to-back appearance
? NOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!!!: America reacts to Biebs having a beer
? Sign That The Apocalypse is Upon Us: Chris Brown's creepy curbside art reportedly scaring Los Angeles neighbors
? Baby bump 46-year old Halle Berry is showing
? The perfect woman?: Jessica Alba Drank Wild Turkey in Sixth Grade, Stole Her Mom's Car .
? Great moment in art history: Hairstylist high when she invented "The Rachel" .
? 100-Words (or Less) Movie Review: Iron Man 3 (B)
Consider me slightly disappointed after hearing so much praise, only to walk away a little underwhelmed at the overall product. Don't get me wrong, it was a solid summer blockbuster, but it felt a little more like a Transformers movie than it did either of the first two movies in the series, which I liked much more than this installment.
No. 10 - The List: Eminem
I have a confession to make? 8 Mile is a guilty pleasure of mine.
I have another confession to make? I didn't really come around on Marshall Mathers until I watched 8 Mile.
I have another confession to make? When Eminem is on his A-game, he really is as talented of a lyricist as anyone that you could put on the Mount Rushmore of Rap.
Last five songs out: If I Had, The Way I Am , Rock Bottom, Deja Vu and Crack a Bottle
10. Love the Way You Like
You might have heard, but Eminem has had a woman problem or two in is life. The final half of the song is as good as he's ever been. I might have this song underrated.
9. White America
I laugh every time I hear him say "White America" and then drop the TRL line.
8. Sing for the Moment
Eminem is at his best when he's channeling his inner disenfranchised and his ability to capture it in song is one of his true gifts.
7. Just Don't Give a F
It's not the highest ranked song from "The Slim Shady LP" on the list, but it's probably my favorite.
6. No Love
Weezy sets Eminem up with an incredibly sick open and then Mr. Mathers blows the roof off of things from there. It's a great track. Give Emnem credit because he raises his game when the stakes are high.
5. Till I Collapse
The combination of Eminem's rage, Nate Dogg's work in the chorus and the sample of the "stomp-stomp-clap" beat from "We Will Rock You" makes for an incredible song. It's nearly five minutes of white-hot heat.
4. 97 Bonnie and Clyde
One of the most creative and disturbing rap songs ever created. That is not hyperbole.
Not many have ever made a guest appearance on a Hova record and outperformed the self-appointed king of rap, but Eminem was on fire in The Blueprint and pulled off the kind of scene-stealing role on one of the all-time albums that a lot of his detractors don't like to acknowledge.
Honestly, this song is pure genius, as Eminem jumps into the mind of his biggest fan, who writes him incredibly emotionally unstable letters, with each expressed emotion growing more and more unstable.
1. Lose Yourself
This song is the "Welcome to the Jungle" of the rap/hip-hop world. As soon as I hear the song, it makes me feel like I'm watching Rocky IV when Balboa makes Drago bleed for the first time.
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Previous Lists on Spotify: My Number 1's, 2-Pac, Aerosmith, Beastie Boys, Beethoven, Biggie Smalls, Bon Jovi, Boyz II Men, Jeff Buckley, CCR, Eric Clapton, Phil Collins, Sam Cooke, Joe Ely, Al Green, Guns N' Roses, Hall and Oats, Jimi Hendrix, Whitney Houston, Ice Cube, Elton John, Janis , Jay-Z, Jodeci, Amos Lee, Bob Marley, George Michael, Mo-Town, Willie Nelson, Stevie Nicks, Nirvana, Norah, One-hit Wonders from the 1990's, Roy Orbison, Prince, Prince (After Hours), Outkast, Queen, Reba, Otis Redding, Lionel Richie, The Rolling Stones, Scarface, Snoop Dogg . Bruce Springsteen, Gary Stewart , George Strait, The Strokes, UGK, Van Halen , Stevie Ray Vaughan , Jack White , Hank Williams Sr. and Dwight Yoakam