August 5, 2009

Countdown to kickoff: No.21 Blake Gideon

Name: Blake Gideon

Position: Safety

Classification: Sophomore

Prep credentials: The former Leander star was a two-star prospect (5.4) that went unranked in the national rankings. Gideon was regarded as a high three-star talent by Lone Star Recruiting and was ranked as the state's No.61 overall prospect.

Click here to see Gideon's high school film

2008 stats: Gideon started all 13 games as a true freshman and was third on the team in tackles with 64, while adding seven pass break-ups, a tackle for loss and a forced fumble.

2008 Honors: Gideon was an honorable mention selection for All-Big 12 honors as a freshman.

Click here to see Gideon's 2008 highlight film via UT's official website

Career stats: Gideon has played in 13 games (all starts) and has recorded 64 tackles, seven pass break-ups, a tackle for loss and a forced fumble in his career.

Best game in 2008: Although he didn't play the entire game, Gideon's biggest single game impact might have come against Kansas when he recorded four tackles, a quarterback pressure, a pass break-up and a forced fumble in less than 30 minutes of action.

Scouting Report: Heading into the 2009 season, Gideon is definitely a player to keep an eye on. At 6-1, 200 pounds, Gideon's long-term upside is still hard to determine because his physical development is still ongoing after having to sit out a year with a back injury in high school. That injury hampered him for much of his prep career and it's one of the biggest reasons for him flying under the recruiting radar, even if he was an early commitment to the Longhorns. Gideon has made up for the lost time in the weight room by completely dedicating himself there in recent years, but there's still a feeling that his upside as an athlete hasn't yet been realized.

As a true freshman last season, Gideon provided a mixed bag. On one hand, you had a guy that more than kept his head above water as a freshman. With zero experience on his resume, Gideon stepped into the starting unit and played the quarterback of the secondary, often directing traffic for the entire unit on a play-by-play basis. Given that the Longhorns were in the national title hunt the entire season and played a schedule full of all-conference quarterbacks, it's no small victory that Gideon survived the season with a bunch of other inexperienced kids and not only did he not lose his nerve, but he played a fairly high level given the circumstances.

Gideon is a tough kid that is not afraid to toss his body around in defending the run and he's a sure tackler, but his lack of core strength was obvious at times last year when he was bulldozed by stronger athletes. After his first full season in the Texas off-season program, Gideon likely isn't going to lose as many of those battles this season, which means he'll be able to finish plays better.

While he's a sure tackler, has underrated range and knows the defense inside and out, he's yet to emerge as a real playmaker in the secondary. For all of his strengths, Gideon's direct impact on games in the form of difference-making plays was non-existent in 2008. How much of that was him being a freshman and how much of it is him not being a true playmaker that projects as an NFL prospect? Those questions remain undetermined and we won't know the answers to those questions until the season starts.

The big hope… The game will slow down for the sophomore safety and with an added comfort zone, Gideon will start to cash in his playmaking opportunities, which would give the defense an added dimension in the secondary that it didn't have last season.

The big worry… Gideon is a smart player with a lot of intangibles on his side, but he's just not the type of dynamic athlete that can evolve into a difference maker at this level.

Did you know? One of his favorite shows is Dancing With the Stars, which he watches with his mother.

NFL Scouting report:"It's too early to say, but it's obvious that he's a Johnny on the Spot kind of guy. He's always around the ball and you like that about him. I'll admit that the only two plays I remember from last season are the hit he took against Kansas and the dropped interception against Texas Tech that could have won the game. But, if he's good enough to play for four years in the secondary at Texas, he'll almost certainly be good to play in our league. Does he end up being a guy or just a guy, though? You probably would know that better than I would. "

The bottom line: The coaches love Gideon and he'll have a huge role in the defense this season because he's projected as a starter in both the base and nickel defenses. Will Muschamp loves his mind and commitment for the game, and he feels like there's a higher ceiling for the sophomore than any of us know. We'll soon see how close he is to realizing some of that upside.

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