With their senior seasons approaching, the class of 2013 has been assessed, reassessed and then re-reassessed more times than I care to think about, but there's one more reassessment to go before the start of the season. At the forefront of the next rankings update is the debate for the No. 1 spot, with the discussion focused on four players in particular … current No. 1 Tyrone Swoopes, current No. 2 Ricky Seals-Jones, current No. 3 Kent Perkins and current No. 5 A'Shawn Robinson.
Since the last update in May, we'll have seen the best of the best participate in spring workouts, the summer camp circuit, events like the Rivals Five-Star Challenge and The Opening, along with this week's Texas State 7-on-7 Tournament in College Station.
It's definitely time for a revision of the rankings, but I'm not sure that we've had such a confusing debate for the top spot in the Texas state rankings since 2008, a year when there was zero consensus on the top spot (I chose Aaron Williams, Rivals chose R.J. Washington, ESPN chose Jermie Calhoun and Scout chose Justin Johnson … none of selected Andrew Luck!!!!!!).
Here's the thought process going in to the debate next week:
Pros: College football has turned into a sport that can be dominated by a certain kind of quarterback and Swoopes has every single ingredient needed to become the kind of difference maker that can dominate opponents. As an athlete, a comparison to a guy like Terrelle Pryor is probably a good one, but he's probably on par with Pryor at the same stage as a passer, but much-better than Vince Young in the short- and intermediate ranges at the same stage. At 6-5, 230 pounds of untapped athletic potential, the clay is all there and just needs to be molded. He's also maxes out as a 10 across the board in my book in terms of intangibles and mental make-up.
Cons: When he's performing well, he can be surprisingly impressive in the short and intermediate areas, but he is a little too inconsistent right now to suggest that he's in the upper-levels of his peer group as a passer and he's going to need at least a year to polish up before being ready to hit the field (not unlike most quarterbacks). His weekly quality of competition at Whitewright leaves a lot to be desired, but he's shown in the off-season that the jump up to elite-level college competition is something he'll be able to adjust to. It's just going to take patience.
Pros: Like Swoopes, there's athleticism and pure athletic upside inside of RSJ that is simply different than just about anyone I've ever seen at this level. In fact, I can say with certainty that I have never seen a 6-5, 230-pound wide receiver in the state of Texas that could just as easily emerge as the next Julius Peppers as he could the next Plaxico Burress. When watching RSJ this summer with my own eyes, you see a frame that is just starting to mature and yet he's already a sure-thing 230. Once he gets in a weight program, watch the hell out because he's a pro body in the making. The best news of all is that I'm absolutely convinced that defense is his most natural side of the ball, but he proved this summer that he can whip elite-level defensive backs as a receiver.
Cons: Like Swoopes, RSJ is as a rough around the edges as a worn piece of leather, which means that he's got a ton of untapped talent, but he might need some time to fine-tune his craft before being a weapon at the next level. While he has the potential to have great ball skills, he's an inconsistent pass catcher at times and his route-running will need some training. If he stays on offense for the long-term, there is some concern that he won't stay at receiver if he loses a little natural quickness and burst with his body continuing to develop. There's a chance he'll be more of an H-back like Jermichael Finley (the best comparison to him I can think of) than a wide receiver like Limas Sweed or Roy Williams.
Kent Perkins/OT/Lake Highlands
Pros: From a body frame and athletic standpoint, Perkins is probably the best-looking offensive line prospect that we've seen from the Lone Star State since pre-back injury Mason Walters. When Perkins was a young player, he was a little softer in body than you'd like to see from a young kid like that because you worry that the bad weight might get away from him, but he's emerged in the last year as a player that works incredibly hard off-the-field and it is reflected on a frame that is as close to college-ready as you could ask a tackle prospect. As a pass-protector, Perkins showed elite-level stuff against the nation's top prep pass rushers at the Five-Star Challenge when his technique didn't slip. We're talking about a guy that could walk in and start for a lot of schools right away and be an upgrade over what was previously on the field.
Cons: Perkins is a tackle, but he looks better suited for the right side, and his value suffers slightly if he can't play on the more valued left tackle. As far as ultimate upside is concerned, he might be closer to reaching his ceiling as an athlete than the others in the conversation because he's been so much more committed thus far as a 365-day-per-year football player.
A'Shawn Robinson/DT/FW Arlington Heights
Pros: When Robinson is motivated and dialed in, he's pretty much as dominating of a player as you're going to find. The questions with Robinson a year ago concerned his commitment to staying focused and maximizing his true upside. You just worried that he'd turn out like so many other big guys that read their press clippings and eat eight bags of Cheetos a day in the summer, and after not performing at any national camps all year, all eyes were on Robinson at The Opening because anything was possible. So, what happened? He went out and manhandled guys like a young Shaun Rogers and flashed so much dominance in Oregon against other top prospects that it's time to seriously consider him for the top spot. The cherry on top of the sundae is that he's a versatile athlete that thrives on other side of the ball (some think his best side of the ball is offense). He has first round of the NFL draft raw talent.
Cons: Until you see him take his hardhat attitude to the next level, there will always be some concerns from those close to him that he might take his foot off the gas. Like a lot of big guys who play inferior competition, his motor still needs testing. Players from his school district have a history of not panning out.
If you held a gun to my head right now, I'd say I'm leaning towards a RSJ vs. A'Shawn final discussion.
No. 2 - Scattershooting on the Longhorns …
… So, a few hands are being thrown amongst teammates at workouts this summer? So, what? As one team source said via text message this weekend, "Hell, I'm just glad to hear they are competing hard enough for tempers to flare up. As long as no one gets hurt, compete beyond the whistle for all I care."
… I think we should all chip in 10 bucks as a bribe to Mack in an effort to get the first full practice with pads open to the public. I want to see Malcom Brown in his first college practice with pads. I'll kick in an extra 10-spot if Mack will let me put a helmet cam on him.
… If you believe in Bennie Wylie and Stacy Searels, then you should be counting down the days to see what this offensive line looks like in the fall. Not enough is being made of the fact that youngsters like Josh Cochran, Dom Espinosa and Sedrick Flowers should be light years ahead of where they were last season on the field.
… The Longhorns are going to count on some true freshmen this year at wide receiver, but they need at least one non-true freshman to raise their games to a standout level. I'm just not sure I know who I would bet money on right now.
… The last step of development for senior safety Kenny Vaccaro should unfold in his final season of play at least that's the hope going in for the pre-season All-American candidate. As a junior, he flashed big-time playmaking skills in the final game of the season, but averaged less than a tackle for loss per game and a sack/interception once every six or so games. If he adds more difference-making skills to his play this season, the Longhorns have a chance to have the best secondary in the country. The only thing missing is a ball-hawking playmaker.
… Duane Akina will replace Blake Gideon this season with Adrian Phillips in the back end of the secondary and I'm not sure enough focus is being given to the upgrade in the spot, considering that Phillips was every bit as productive as Gideon in less playing time. That includes Phillips forcing three fumbles last season to Gideon's none.
… How much pressure is on the linebacker unit that features Jordan Hicks, Steve Edmond, Demarco Cobbs and Tevin Jackson among others? Former linebackers Keenan Robinson and Emmanuel Acho were sometimes disappointing playmakers on the defense, but they did record 29 tackles for loss, four sacks and three forced fumbles. The returning group of linebackers on the roster combined for seven tackles for loss, one sack and one forced fumble. That's the group of uncertainty on the defensive side of the ball.
… The Longhorns aren't taking a quarterback to Big 12 Media Day and they'll be just one of three schools in the Big 12 to do so.
… There's just a few weeks of seven-on-seven workouts left before the team reports to camp. Whatever this team is going to be, they are probably close to being on some level. It's time to see what this team has under the hood.
… 18 days until the team reports and 47 days until the season-opener.
No. 3 -Randomness on The Association …
… The Dwightmare continues, but if his back is ok, you can't forget that on the backend of this story is a top-five player in the league moving to a city potentially near you (H-Town, holla!). Just like with LeBron to Miami, once the dust settles you're going to have a franchise-changing player that makes whatever team he lands on different from everyone else in the league. Now, he's not in the same stratosphere as LeBron or KD, but he's at the top of any conversation among the rest of the players in the league once you get past those two names on the roll-call. I'm not saying that he's been idiot-proof on this deal, I'm telling you that if he's right physically, the team that gets him will be receiving a beast.
… I'm worried about that back of his. You know what they say, "Once you go back, you never go back."
… If I'm Houston, I'm all-in for Howard. I get it.
… Whoa, the Knicks just pulled the rug out from everyone on this Jeremy Lin deal with the trade acquisition of Raymond Felton. In my mind, Felton is a clear upgrade over Lin. Suddenly, the Rockets, who created the deal with plenty of potential markers in the deal that would potentially scare off the Knicks, might be stuck with a contract that could come back to haunt them. I like Lin, but I'd be lying if I said that I didn't have questions about him in the long-term. In my mind, he could turn out to be a guy more apt to succeed as a guy off the bench than a front-line point guard. Yikes.
… Yes, the 2012 "Dream Team" could beat the 1992 original Dream Team. Could. As in, if they played 10 times, they might win once or twice or even three times. Hell, a college group beat the 1992 group in their first scrimmage, so let's not act like it would be Villanova/Georgetown.
… A Dirk/Elton Brand/Chris Kaman frontcourt would have wrecked shop five years ago, but what happens when they go up against teams that can jump? Do they have teams with guys that can't jump in the NBA?
… The Spurs sure seem to be banking on the old gang being able to play out a perfect storm again next season. I don't really know what to think of that.
... Jason Kidd went hard this weekend …. A little too hard.
No. 4 -MLB randomness…
… HIGHLIGHT OF THE WEEKEND: Former Longhorn Taylor Teagarden went walk-off for the Orioles
… The Braves/Nationals battle for the East is going to go down to the finish.
… Halladay comes back this week for the Phils, who did take two of three from the Rockies this weekend, but they just seem so far back right now at 39-51 to become a threat by September.
… JONATHAN SINGLETON WATCH: .273/.397/.492/.888
… Oh hell yeah, the Rangers/Angels do battle at the end of this week in Anaheim. It's Trout vs. Hamilton for MVP bragging rights.
No. 5 - Random thoughts from the sports world …
I. The Browns paid a second-round price (probably a top 40 pick) for the right to select Baylor wide receiver Josh Gordon in the Supplemental Draft. My first thought is, "Wow, Mike Holmgren wants to win now and is running his team like a guy on a mandate to win now. Second, Art Briles sure is developing a lot of pros. Third, I'll never forget watching Gordon at the US Army Underclassmen Combine in 2008 and thinking he was an incredible athlete that could emerge as a star in college if he ever took football serious and tapped into his natural resources. He was dominant that day in San Antonio, but was a very inconsistent player. He seems like the ultimate boom vs. bust prospect heading into the NFL.
II. So much for that Floyd Mayweather/Amir Kahn fight. In what had to have been one of the more entertaining fourth-round knockouts of the year, Danny Garcia rocked Kahn's world into defeat. I don't know who in the hell Mayweather is going to fight when he gets out of the state pen, but he'd destroy either of those dudes. Floyd is just a different class of fighter.
III. The Tiger Woods Major Championships Watch is back on this week at St. Annes for The Open. The American public has deemed anything less than a win as failure. Speaking of failure, I smell a Lee Westwood run coming this weekend. As for my guy, Lefty … yeah … I know he finished 16th this weekend, but I'm not sure he's going to make the cut. Prove me wrong. Phil!
IV. Penn State needs to do everyone a favor and self-impose a year timeout from football. Some things are just bigger than a game and that university not only lost the right to play for a season, but it needs to be cleaning house away from the public spotlight as much as possible. Give their players transfer waivers or freeze their eligibility or whatever needs to happen to protect the current, innocent student-athletes, but this story needs to stop being viewed through any prisms that includes a football focus. Come on Nittany Lions, prove to us that You Are Penn State.
No. 6 - Six things you should read this morning if you get a chance …
WETZEL: Let Graham Spanier forever be the poster boy for NCAA arrogance, hypocrisy and miscast power
REILLY: Sins of the Father
No. 7 -Bustin' Caps: The best of the Twitter-world this week …
10. "Twitter gave average chicks max attention"
9. "Way to make those millions, A-Rod. Lou Gehrig's hologram could've hit that ball in his sleep."
8. "Amir Khan should get Arrested for even mentioning fighting my son."
7. "Looks like George Brett uses pine tar as sun screen now. #HRDerby"
6. "Tramp stamp lady is drinking one of those daiquiris in bags right next to a "NO ALCOHOLIC BEVERAGES IN THE POOL AREA" sign. Keep it classy."
5. "raises an interesting question: are hipsters making it harder on ppl who NEED to buy second-half threads? that'd be wack."
4. "I'm charging @MichaelMFloyd with a DWI "don't want it" he missed a 3rd straight workout 2day."
3. "@gkketch If you need work, please come manage the Phillies. We're desperate."
2. "Penn State's statue of Joe Paterno really captures what made him special. (It's completely silent)"
1. "If you want guys to act like gentlemen, start acting like a lady."
@TEDInRealLife (Hey, the Teddy Bear gets it!)
No. 8 - Pop goes the culture because the culture goes pop.…
… Movie Trailer of the week: Oz looks kind of cool
… R.I.P. Sage Stallone. You were one of the better things about Rocky V.
… R.I.P. Celeste Holm. I'm watching Gentleman's Agreement this week.
… DECLARATION: Emma Stone is climbing higher on my current top 5 list.
… Hottie of the Week: Ashley Greene is moving up my list .
… Ryan Reynolds and Blake Lively are not married . Rejoice!
No. 9 - The List: Hank Williams Sr.
One week after dropping Outkast coming out of vacation, I thought I'd go completely in a 180-degree direction this week with The Hillbilly Shakespeare.
As a small kid growing up in Waco, my grandmother used to take me to this old honky tonk named Mary's Place (on 25th street, I believe) where she might enjoy a cold beverage or 12. I can't say that it was the best place for a five- or six-year old to hang out, but outside of the beer drinking, it always seemed like a pretty harmless place.
When I look back on it, there are four things that old place reminds me of:
1. My grandmother (rest her soul)
2. A coffin that they kept out in front of the bar with the following scribbled along the side for passers to see: "Just dying to cook for you."
3. An old-time pin-ball machine that cost a dime to play.
4. A free-juke box that played music. Hank Williams Sr. music.
When I think of Hank, I think of all that stuff at once. That hard-life, hard-living music is where my family came from, and they came by it honestly. It's funny because my wife was born six years after I was born, but when I think about my younger formative years, it's like we come from completely different planets, and when she listens to Hank, she hears whining.
When I listen to Hank, I hear the ghosts of memories past. I hear home.
Let's get on with The List
Ramblin' Man, Howling at the Moon, I saw the Light and Lovesick Blues all were under heavy consideration for the final slot on The List, but in the end I went with a song that has the most emotional connection. When I was about 12, Coach Banda on my Pony League baseball team used to sing this song when he'd pick me up on the way to practice. There are still times today when I'll start singing the song out of nowhere.
Hank can take a word and turn it into his own personal instrument that everyone else can try to imitate, but never quite master. When he's moans out the word "lonesome" on this song, he transforms into the embodiment of the word, sounding for the word like a midnight train heading to nowhere.
It's a song about wooden Indians out in front of a store and all I can tell you is that it's fun and not like any other song I've ever heard.
When Hank wasn't singing himself into a sad mess over some injustice created by the fairer sex, he could flip a foot-tapping, good-time anthem and this song is one of his very best. It's basically the best doghouse song of all time.
Speaking of anthems, this might as well be THE Cajun anthem. In fact, someone with a thick Cajun accent sing this song while cooking crawfish might be one of the top 100 pleasures in life.
Hank's having woman problems and nobody sings angst like ol' Hank, who is trying like hell to get into the good graces of his old lady, but she's not having in any of it… for good reasons, I'm sure. I'm guessing many a man have spent time face-down on a bar with that song serving as painful inspiration.
This time hank is having woman problems, but it's not his fault. His old lady is doing him wrong and he wants her to know, she can't hide her sinful ways.
"When tears come down like fallin' rain, You'll toss around and call my name, You'll walk the floor the way I do, Your cheatin' heart will tell on you."
It could easily be argued that this is Hank's greatest work. He's not anguished or in any kind of pain. In fact, he's in total G-mode. In my mind, I see country boys driving down the street in pick-ups on dirt roads singing this song while going to pick up their dates for a trip to the drive-in movie theater that is 35 miles away.
My favorite baseball movie of all-time is Long Gone and this song is on the soundtrack, so when I hear Hank howling at the moon in this one, it makes me think of Stud Cantrell and the Tampico Stoogies. On top of that, hank proves that when he's sad, the heartbreaking lyrics flow like the water he's going to drown in.
"I'm gonna find me a river, one that's cold as ice, And when I find me that river, lord I'm gonna pay the price, oh lord!, I'm going down in it three times, but Lord I'm only coming up twice.
Take a huge glass of whisky, add two shots of anguish, torment and a cup of depression, and you might just have the most perfect sad country song of all-time. It was the only gong up for the No. 1 spot in my mind.
"I've never seen a night so long
When time goes crawling by
The moon just went behind a cloud
To hide its face and cry
Did you ever see a robin weep
When leaves begin to die
That means he's lost the will to live
I'm so lonesome I could cry"
Previous Lists: 2-Pac, Beastie Boys, Biggie Smalls, Boyz II Men, Chuck Brown, Jeff Buckley, Cartoon themes, Eva Cassidy,Phil Collins, Sam Cooke, Joe Ely, Al Green, Guns N' Roses, Hall and Oats, HBO Shows, Jimi Hendrix, Whitney Houston, Kool and the Gang, Metallica, George Michael, Mo-Town, Bill Murray, Willie Nelson, Stevie Nicks,Prince, Outkast, Queen, Scarface, Sexiest Women of All-Time, Snoop Dogg . Gary Stewart , George Strait, TV Themes, Stevie Ray Vaughan
Next Week: The Rolling Stones
No. 10 - And finally…
Over the course of the last few days, the outpouring of support since my dismissal from my former radio employer has been beyond overwhelming. More than just a radio show, so many expressed that the show was something that touched them beyond the scope of what you'd think a talk show would ever be able to connect. Some of the stories have been so touching that they left me weeping, fueling me with love that helped me understand so many more important things than whatever had happened to me.
A couple of things…
a. A few of the opportunities that have already presented themselves to both Chip and me in the first 48 hours of our radio unemployment have been exciting enough for me to think when the dust settles, this will have proven to be a great thing for us.
b. Over the weekend, I answered 400+ emails of well-wishing that really picked me up in a down moment, but I wanted to share one of the more touching notes. When you guys see me working in the coming weeks and months, it will have been these words that forever serve as my fountain of motivation.
"Just a quick note to let you know how much I've enjoyed your show the past few years and how disappointed I am by the new owners' decision. It truly is their loss.
My wife lost a battle with postpartum depression about two years ago and I've had to rely on my in laws for child care while I'm at work. Unfortunately, they live in far south Austin and I work downtown so I'm in the car for a good portion of every afternoon when I go to pick up my daughter. As a die hard longhorn fan, listening to your show every day has been a welcome respite and distraction from the daily grind and stress that comes with being a newly widowed single parent stuck in rush hour traffic on I-35.
Thank you very much for your continued hard work and insight. I'm eager to see where you end up and am confident that better opportunities are headed your way."
Every time I read it, my eyes water up something fierce and I'm reminded of just how truly blessed I am.