• 2014 recruiting set to take off

    With National Signing Day 2013 just over a week away, recruiting for the class of 2014 will soon be in full swing for Texas.

    Texas will hold two Junior Days in February when the Longhorn coaching staff will recruit and evaluate some of the best talent in Texas. Junior Days have been an extremely important date on the UT recruiting calendar in the Mack Brown era, since Texas emphasizes securing verbal commitments early in the recruiting cycle.

    Eight out of the 15 members of the 2013 class, for example, committed to Texas in February of last year. In 2012, that figure was 12 out of 28, and in 2011, a staggering 17 out of 22 commitments picked the Longhorns in February. Even though their National Signing Day is over a year away, the most important month for the class of 2014 is right around the corner.

    Texas is already off to a record start in terms of putting together the 2014 class with six verbal commitments, five of which appear in the 2014 edition of the Rivals 250 (a compilation of the best 250 prospects in a given class by rivals.com).

    Next month, Texas will look to add other elite names to the class, like Ozen cornerback Tony Brown (who is considered by some to be the best defensive back prospect in the country), Mount Pleasant wide receiver KD Cannon, Hebron safety Jamal Adams, and Dallas Carter outside linebacker Cameron Hampton. Each of these players (along with about a dozen others) currently holds a commitable offer from Texas.

    The 2014 class should be considerably larger than the 2013 edition, and place a greater emphasis on skill positions after two straight years of building depth along the offensive and defensive lines.

  • Goodwin, Okafor, and Vaccaro invited to Senior Bowl

    Longhorn seniors Marquise Goodwin, Alex Okafor and Kenny Vaccaro have been invited to the Senior Bowl. While Vaccaro, one of the top safety prospects in the 2013 draft class, declined his invitation, Okafor and Goodwin will get another chance to impress scouts and rise up NFL draft boards in an all-star contest of the best college senior prospects in the country Saturday in Mobile, Ala.

    The Senior Bowl brings together the country’s best college prospects in a game managed by the coaching staffs of two NFL teams. Scouts, general managers and coaches from all 32 NFL teams are ever present among the gridiron. The pressure is on to impress and all the athletes are hoping to catch the eye of a scout and earn a spot on an NFL roster.

     “Everybody here has the same goal, they want to increase their stock and potentially go higher in the draft.” Defensive end Alex Okafor told nepatrotsdraft.com “That’s what everybody that’s out here is working toward.”

    Okafor looks like a strong candidate for a leap into the first round of the draft with a strong performance in the Senior Bowl and a good showing at the NFL combine. After a 4.5 sack, defensive MVP performance in the Alamo Bowl, his momentum is headed in the right direction. His versatility to play either 4-3 or 3-4 as defensive end/outside linebacker hybrid will appeal to coaches using either scheme. In practice, Okafor has been performing well rushing the passer and is showing his enormous potential.

    Though it may be hard to emulate Von Miller’s 2011 defensive performance in the Senior Bowl that solidified his draft status and led the Broncos to select Miller second overall, Okafor has a good chance at a top 20 pick should he continue the hard work he’s already done in burnt orange.

    Marquise Goodwin has also been impressive and showed great quickness and Olympic-quality technique during practice. Like Okafor, momentum is on his side —just ask the Oregon State defense. A 64-yard run and 36-yard catch both ended in touchdowns for Goodwin in his final game as a Longhorn. However, the depth in this year’s class of wide receivers means he could be waiting until round 5 or 6 to get his name called at Radio City Music Hall. His exceptional speed, along with his impressive vertical, should move him up NFL draft boards, but a good showing in the game could see a team use a third round pick on him.

    Senior running back D.J. Monroe was not invited to the Senior Bowl, but did get a bid to the NFLPA Collegiate Bowl. Monroe helped the National Team to a 34-0 win with 62 all-purpose yards including a 31-yard return on the opening kickoff.

    The Senior Bowl will be held in Ladd-Peebles Stadium in Mobile, Ala. The game will also be televised Saturday at 3:00 p.m. on the NFL Network. 

  • Braves unite Upton brothers in trade with Diamondbacks

    For the first time in their professional careers, the Upton brothers will unite on the same team. On Thursday, it was announced that the Arizona Diamondbacks had agreed to trade Justin Upton to Atlanta, where he and his brother BJ, whom Atlanta just signed in November, will roam the outfield of Turner Field.

    Going to Atlanta along with Upton is third baseman Chris Johnson. The Braves were forced to part with a large package of players in order to match the hefty price tag for Upton. Heading to the desert to be future Diamondbacks are pitcher Randall Delgado, utility man Martin Prado, and minor league players Nick Ahmed, Zeke Spruill, and Brandon Drury.

    Upton, drafted number one overall in the 2005 draft, had enjoyed a sizeable run of success with the Diamondbacks. In 2011, he finished fourth in NL MVP voting while leading the Diamondbacks to a National League West title.

    All the goodwill began to unravel in the winter after his breakout season due to constant trade rumors surrounding the star, and a subpar 2012 campaign that saw him hit .280 with only 17 homeruns. Upton’s name had been attached to different trade rumors since the hot stove began to warm in November, and now the Diamondbacks and Upton can finally part ways.

    The last time the Braves pulled off a seven player deal, it was the Mark Teixera trade of 2007 that saw them deal future all stars Neftali Feliz, Elvis Andrus, and Matt Harrison to the Texas Rangers. Hopefully for the Braves, they won’t find out down the road the cost of reuniting the Upton brothers was just as expensive.

  • Texas snags No. 15 committment in 2013 class

    On Wednesday afternoon, the Longhorns received their 15th overall commitment for Mack Brown’s 2013 recruiting class. Offensive guard Rami Hammad, a Rivals.com four-star recruit out of Irving, Texas, committed to Texas approximately one week after the offer went out. 

    Hammad is the No. 31 offensive guard recruit in the country for the 2013 class. He stands at 6-foot-5 and 314 pounds and could potentially play either guard or tackle for Texas. 

    “I’m going to make sure we’re the best O-line in the nation. I believe in the setting there,” Hammad said in his announcement. 

    This is the third school that Hammad has committed to. He originally had committed to Oklahoma State this past summer before decommitting in order to keep his options open. Next, he promised his future to Baylor in November. However, Hammad quickly rose to national notice after a lights-out performance at the Semper Fidelis All-American Bowl in California earlier this year. Texas contacted him regarding an official visit before an official offer was issued by Texas coach Stacy Searels after the All-American Bowl. 

    Throughout the past few weeks, Texas led Baylor, Oklahoma and TCU in the hunt.

    Hammad’s committment comes on the heels of JUCO offensive tackle Desmond Harrison’s verbal pledge to the Longhorns on Monday.

  • Men's hoops making history, and not the good kind

    Texas head coach Rick Barnes talks with Jaylen Bond on Monday night against Oklahoma in Norman. In his 14th season as head coach, Barnes has not been able to coach his team out of a downward spiral. 
    Texas head coach Rick Barnes talks with Jaylen Bond on Monday night against Oklahoma in Norman. In his 14th season as head coach, Barnes has not been able to coach his team out of a downward spiral. 

    So far, not so good. That about sums up UT’s men’s basketball team this year, which is riddled with inexperience and injuries. Although the Longhorns still have practically half the season left, the team is well on its way to surpassing last year’s squad’s 14 losses, the most at Texas during the Rick Barnes era. Can they turn things around and salvage what many consider a lost season?  With 13 conference games remaining and an NCAA tournament berth looking like a long shot, the Longhorns have plenty of room for improvement over the next couple of months. On that note, here is a statistical breakdown, from greatest to least, of the Longhorns’ season up to this point:

    37 years since the last time a UT men’s basketball team lost its first five conference games, in 1976. After losing to Kansas on Saturday and to Oklahoma in Norman on Monday, the Horns dropped 0-5 in Big 12 conference play.

    15.1 points per game for sophomore guard Sheldon McClellan, the Longhorn’s leading scorer. McClellan, one of two players averaging double digits in points scored, dropped 25 on Oklahoma on Monday.

    14 years that have passed since the Longhorns last won the Big 12 outright in 1999, Barnes’ first year on the job. Texas has also held a share of the conference title twice in that span, in 2006 and 2008. 

    12 underclassmen on the roster, out of a total of 14 players. Although this inexperience has clearly hindered the Longhorns’ performance this year, the next several years should show plenty of improvement for this unproven squad.

    7 home wins for the Longhorns, making up all but one of their victories on the season. Texas has a combined 1-8 record in away games and contests played at neutral sites.

    3 losses they suffered in overtime this season. Texas lost consecutive overtime games to Baylor and West Virginia earlier this month, the first time that has happened in the Barnes era.

    2 times a Barnes Texas team will have had fewer than 20 wins in a season if this year’s squad fails to reach that number. Oddly, the only team to finish under Barnes with fewer than 20 victories was the ’98-’99 group that claimed the Big 12 championship. That year’s team went 13-3 in conference play and finished 19-13 overall. 

    1 game this season in which the Longhorns have managed to score 70 or more points during regulation. Texas is currently averaging 63.9 points per game, a full nine points less than last year’s team and good for 260th overall in the nation.

    0 times during Barnes’ tenure at Texas that the Longhorns have lost 10 or more conference games in a single season. With 13 games left on the schedule and their record at 0-5, this may be the first time that a Barnes-coached team finishes the season with double-digit losses in conference play.