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March 20, 2013

Underclassmen names to remember

Get in the game right now

When it comes to recruiting, Mack Brown used to be the trendsetter. While top schools were forced to wait until signing day to fill up a majority of their recruiting class, Mack leaned back in his office chair - I've seen pictures of that chair and it looks pretty damn comfortable - and smiled as the faxes from top recruits rolled in without much signing day drama. You could argue that Mack made Junior Days more important than ever, and helped usher in the era of early commitments.

Now, the Horns have slipped some on the field and off of it in recruiting. Somewhere along the line, Texas, drunk on success, stayed out too late living it up during the program's peak, and then never made it to numerous recruiting classes; the game changed, and as the 2013 calendar went up, it became clear Texas was behind in the game. Heck, Mack even admitted as much.

Texas went out and hired a guy from the staff that was doing it the best, Alabama. Enter Patrick Suddes, the man assigned the task of getting the UT DeLorean up to 88 miles per hour, so it can catch back up. And it appears Suddes has been hard at work as the Longhorns have quickly organized a Sophomore Day (this Saturday) in addition to making contact with some top sophomores in order to try to get them on campus for this coming weekend or the Spring Game on March 30th.

This is an obvious step in the right direction. Suddes himself said it in his introductory press conference that recruiting is starting earlier than ever now, and that means the Horns need to play the game. Now, I don't know what Texas' list of 2015 players look like. However, I did just return from two big-time Rivals camps, have watched over 20 hours of film recently, and will have a significant hand in crafting our first LSR for the 2015 class. With that being said, here are 10 sophomores from the state of Texas I feel the Longhorns need to get on campus sometime soon and offer:

(Note, Texas has invited some of these prospects to visit already and has offered Daylon Mack)

Patrick Carr - The Woodlands RB (The Woodlands); FILM
Daylon Mack - Gladewater DT (Gladewater)
Chad President - Temple WR/QB (Temple); FILM
Malik Jefferson - Mesquite Poteet LB (Mesquite); FILM
Deionte Thompson - West Orange Stark DB (Orange) ; FILM
Kendall Sheffield - Fort Bend Marshall DB (Missouri City); FILM
Tristan "Maea" Teuhema - Keller OL (Keller); FILM
Sotonye "Soso" Jamabo; FILM
D'Vonta Hinton - Texas City LB/DB (Texas City); FILM
Jalen Campbell - Flour Bluff DB (Corpus Christi) ; FILM

The list could probably go on some. You could maybe include Cedar Hill's DeMarkus Lodge , Bishop Lynch's Rawleigh Williams , Sulphur Springs' Larry Pryor, Ridge Point's Cameron Townsend , etc. Texas can't be afraid to offer elite sophomores early. The odds of them all jumping on an offer and committing are extremely slim, and as long as you've identified the players as elite, there really shouldn't be much hesitation.

Here's a bonus …

Being the huge proponent of national recruiting that I am, here are five national prospects that Texas should try to get on campus as soon as possible and offer:

Tim Irvin (cousin of Michael Irvin) - Westminster Christian WR (Palmetto Bay, Florida) ; FILM
Shyheim Tuttle - North Davidson DT (Lexington, North Carolina) ; FILM
Mekhi Brown - Carver LB/DE (Colombus, Georgia); FILM
Iman Marshall - Long Beach Poly DB (Long Beach, California); FILM
Kerryon Johnson - Madison Academy ATH (Madison, Alabama); FILM

Texas is finally starting to get into the recruiting game even earlier. It needs to stay there, and it needs to capitalize on the opportunity.

2) More Texas football

a) We're just 10 days away from the Texas Spring Game, and the one position Texas really needs to get something significant out of in these last few days is the safety spot. The Longhorns don't need to have it all figured out, but they at least have to be thinking there has been at least some improvement made with things moving in the right direction. I don't know that they got that in the first half of spring practice.

b) With Cayleb Jones probably sitting out the remainder of spring practice - hey, you never know since Mack let him practice before the charges were formal - the pressure is on Kendall Sanders and Marcus Johnson to emerge. Those two receivers need to finish strong.

3) UT baseball and hoops

Hey everybody, get ready for the CBI Tournament! Can you feel excitement? No, what you feel is the groaning noise from a frustrated hoops grim reaper that has been patiently waiting to bury this miserable season in the grave for a long time. But the Longhorns decided they needed extra games, despite one player already deciding he was transferring, and will participate in the lowest of low postseason tournaments.

Could Texas win the tournament? Sure. Purdue and Richmond are better teams according to the nerdy numbers, but the Horns have the ability to string together the few wins necessary to win it. The question is will they take it seriously?

b) We all know the big event involving Texas hoops is the Julius Randle announcement. The nation's No. 2 overall prospect will finally make his college decision live on ESPNU on Wednesday at 12:00 p.m. Central.

Of all the big-time players I've followed in recruiting and tried to cover - let's be honest, Randle never picked up my phone call and only returned one of my texts in two years - this 6-9 five-star has done the best of keeping everyone out of the loop besides his family. It's the way he wanted it, and he has that option. It just makes predicting where he'll end up extremely tough.

As I type this it's 11:15 p.m. on Tuesday night. I've been checking with sources all day and night and I've gotten the same response - the smoke and odds are with Kentucky or Kansas, but no one really knows for sure. While I haven't heard anything that makes me think there is a strong chance Texas is going to win out, I haven't heard it's eliminated either. At one point, Texas did lead in this recruitment. Kentucky and Kansas would be my first picks, but this truly is a situation where, at least the night before, no one knows where the player is going.

c) At this point, the Horns might want to embrace their inner Bull Durham and start thinking about sacrificing a chicken or something.

The good news is that Augie Garrido is apparently now okay with Ben Johnson's defense in left field because he started there Tuesday and continues to rake. He also might have found a leadoff batter in Weston Hall. And Jeremy Montalbano is hitting well enough to keep his bat in the lineup at designated hitter, or maybe even catcher. But the bad news is that the bottom of the order and the consistency on offense has yet to be solved.

So far, the Horns have lost seven games by two runs or fewer. In most cases, they're a big inning or a couple of timely hits away from winning a few more games. But the bottom line is that they're not getting that right now.

4) Filling out my bracket

Usually by this point, I would have already done hours of research in preparation for my March Madness bracket. This year, the whole tournament process hasn't sucked me in yet, but I have glanced over my usual, go-to-statistics.

Top seeds I like
Indiana, Louisville, Ohio State, Florida, Michigan State

Not only did both Louisville and Indiana avoid tough eight seeds, they have favorable odds to not see the two-seed in their bracket in the regional final while also getting favorable four-seed matchups. Indiana against Syracuse would be a nightmare matchup for the Orange because the Hoosiers shoot great from deep, and St. Louis just doesn't have the juice on offense to beat Louisville's historically good (best defensive rating at kenpom.com since 2003) defense. Florida is by far the strongest three seed in the bracket, and actually, according to Nate Silver, has the third best odds to win it all. Michigan State gets favorable matchups in the first two rounds, and is a strong three-point defensive team if it matches up against Duke, who could lose to Creighton in the second round. Ohio State could face a real test in New Mexico eventually, but Gonzaga has a lot of landmines awaiting it like Pitt in the second round or Wisconsin the round after that. Plus, the Buckeyes finished the season with an eight-game winning streak and Aaron Craft is playing the best basketball of his life.

Top seeds I don't like
Gonzaga, Duke, Kansas, Georgetown

As mentioned above, Gonzaga, a strong team, is listed here more because of its potential matchups. Both No. 8 Pittsburgh and No. 5 Wisconsin are top 10 teams on KenPom.com. That's a rough draw. A Florida-Georgetown matchup would not favor the Hoyas, who are notorious for choking in recent years, and they could get a big test in the second round against a veteran San Diego State team. Kansas can be as good as anyone when it is clicking, but it, specifically Elijah Johnson, has shown at times it will struggle. Facing UNC in the second round would be no easy task, and VCU could be waiting with an Elite Eight berth on the line.

Low seeds I like to make noise
VCU, Butler

Great coaches and somewhat favorable draws. Michigan has been in slump recently, and VCU has the defense to match its guards. Butler is a weak team, but matches up well with Marquette and could face a Miami team that is in uncharted waters.

Strongest eight seeds in a long time?
North Carolina, Pittsburgh

As mentioned already, Pitt is a top 10 KenPom.com team, and North Carolina is not only a top 30 team, but is an extremely talented team that finished 8-2.

Don't pick them to mount a bunch of upsets
Mississippi, UNLV, Arizona, South Dakota State

Ole Miss had to win to get in, and you can bet Wisconsin, one of the nation's elite defensive teams, will have a plan to handle the cocky, streaky, beer-drinking Marshall Henderson. If UNLV gets through its first game, it is just a bad potential matchup against Syracuse because the Rebels don't score or shoot the three well. I like the talent level Arizona has. I'd probably pick it to advance far if it didn't run into a great No. 3 seed in New Mexico. South Dakota State is one of the worst teams in the tournament with a defense that ranks 209th.

5) McComas' MLB Musings

Despite their over-the-top antics getting on my nerves at times, it was pretty cool seeing a ton of talented guys from the Dominican Republic take the WBC seriously, and finally do what their talent level suggested they should do - dominate.

Ketch is the biggest Phillies homer/fan on the staff by far, but he'll have to make room for me on the Domonic Brown bandwagon. Brown, a former top prospect, is murdering the ball this spring (.400/.471/.683 before Tuesday when he hit his sixth homer) and might finally get a chance to play every day. As for Roy Halladay, I'm not worried… yet.

Hooters girls as ball girls? Yes, Hooters girls as ball girls .

6) NFL

Yeah … it sure didn't take long for Elvis Dumervil to fire his agent and that agent hire a lawyer in case he'll be sued by the NFLPA. It seems likely he'll end up back in Denver, but tough to imagine that agent ever landing a big-time client again. For the sake of awesome drama, it would be funny if Dumervil somehow ended up in New England.

Houston needs to make Ed Reed happen. At this point, I still think Houston is operating in a window with Andre Johnson and Arian Foster's elite years on decline, and needs to try to do everything it can to win now.

Even though he's coming off the Achilles' tear last year, I think someone is going to get a steal by signing corner Brent Grimes to a short term deal. If a team gambles there, it could really be rewarded.

Are the Cowboys going to do anything of significance this offseason (sorry Ernie Sims)?

7) NBA

Yes, we all know by now that the Heat is good. Really good. And at this point it is on a historic win streak after an impressive win at Boston. I don't have to tell you or breakdown those things.

However, Miami isn't the only team that is on an impressive win streak right now. If you didn't notice, the Denver Nuggets have now won 13 straight after beating the Thunder in Oklahoma City 114-104. It's the second time the Nuggets have beaten the Thunder during the streak, and they also have wins over Memphis, New York, the Clippers, at Portland, and the Lakers. Denver is an impressive 30-3 at home, and has lost the fewest games to the Western Conference of any Western Conference team (tied at 11 with Thunder).

The big question surrounding the Nuggets is that they don't have a go-to-scorer come playoff time. They score a ton of points, third most in the NBA, but they do it collectively with a bunch of guys in double figures.

We'll see the "you can't win without a star, individual scorer" theory put to the test in the playoffs because although Ty Lawson can be that guy at times, the Nuggets don't have an established scorer.

By the way, Denver ends with games against the 76ers, Kings, Hornets, Jazz, Mavericks (twice), Blazers, Bucks, and Suns. It's a possibility this team could win 55 games or more.

8) Gimme a five

In a perfect world, I'd be able to eat chips all the time and they would have as many calories, carbs, and all those other bad things as water. It's not a perfect world, but despite trying to stick to a more strict diet, I still make room for some chips on a frequent basis. There are all sorts that are tasty, and as I munch on a few for a midnight snack, here are my five favorite:

1) Zapp's Cajun Crawtators
2) Snyder of Berlin Original BBQ
3) Dorito's Blazin' Buffalo and Ranch
4) Zapp's Jalapeno
5) Cape Cod Sea Salt and Vinegar

9) An ode to the Astrodome

Many of nights and afternoons were spent at the Astrodome watching baseball, and there was nothing like a DomeDog growing up. It was the "Eighth Wonder of the World" and now, according to reports, it will be set to be demolished. It's time, but I'll miss it.

Oh, and they should have passed the legislation and made it a casino while they could.

Texas NEWS


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