As it is the dead of summer, there isn’t much real news to discuss… But there is news. Let’s take a look at what’s happening:
• Poona Ford is in. As the freshmen class of 2014 arrived for the first session of summer school a few weeks ago, it might have slipped under the radar that one of those that didn’t arrive was Poona Ford. The 6-foot-1, 288-pound defensive tackle from Hilton Head, South Carolina has held up from enrolling due to a single class. He took said class at home and got an A, but then had to submit it the NCAA Clearinghouse for approval before he could enroll at Texas. The potential for that to go HORRIBLY WRONG AND SLOW is very real. I remember Aaron Ross having to submit paperwork for approval to the NCAA Clearinghouse regarding a transcript mix up. That “mix up” took two years to clear up. TWO YEARS. A member of the 2001 recruiting class, Ross didn’t see the field until 2003. It all worked out for him just fine, but when you consider he’s been in the NFL seven (going on eight) years, you wonder how much money those two years lost to the Clearinghouse cost him. So when I heard “Clearinghouse” in regards to Ford’s status, I wondered if we’d see him this fall, or at all. Turns out I didn’t have to wonder at all. In less that two weeks they received, reviewed and approved Poona Ford’s high school transcript and now he’s on his way to Austin for the second summer school session. He’ll get a solid three/four weeks of summer work in with the training staff before the start of two-a-days. I don’t care what the Aggies or anyone else says, this kid is going to be a BIG TIME player for the Texas Longhorns and I think he’ll be making things happen this fall. He’s so strong and so quick and so long for a guy that is 6-foot-1, he’s going to surprise some very good o-linemen in the Big 12 with his athletic ability. Welcome, Poona. Glad you made it.
• University of Texas President Bill Powers is being forced out according to all the reports. He has been told he can resign or he can be fired, effective at the end of the year, and from all indications he’s said “come and take it.” The reasoning for him being relieved varies depending on the source, but it sounds like his handling of the Mack Brown “retirement” didn’t exactly fortify his supporters involved in athletics. Yahoo! Sports Writer Pat Forde broke the story the day Mack Brown retired that President Powers had given his support to Brown the day before that retirement and told him it was his choice to stay or go. According to Forde’s source, it was believed that only when angry boosters with deep pockets made it known to Powers that was not acceptable did he reverse himself and tell Brown it was over. Allegedly. It seems that was the day Powers lost a lot of allies and now the opposition (possibly led by Rick Perry) has found the votes on the Board of Regents it needs to send him on his way. I’m not smart enough to know how this affects the school, but it could have a large impact on athletics. How will new Athletic Director Steve Patterson get along with the new president? Maybe it will be perfectly fine. Maybe it won’t be. You just don’t know.
• Speaking of athletics, it seems Texas is pulling itself out of this funk. The baseball team went to the College World Series, the basketball team made it to the second round and was competitive and exciting (the women, too) and the future looks bright. Both Augie Garrido and Rick Barnes (and Karen Aston) are back next year and the rosters are full of young talent and dynamite prospects. Alright football, you are on deck.
• Dorial Green-Beckham is an okahoma sooner. At least for now. DGB was the No.1 recruit in the nation two years ago, picking Mizzou over Texas. At 6-foot-6, 220 pounds, the wide out has NFL size, speed and ability and proved last year he can compete at the highest levels… But speaking of “high” he’s been arrested twice for marijuana-related offenses, including one in January where he was in the car with a pound of weed. A pound. That’s not recreation. That’s occupation. A third offense where he forced himself into an apartment and then (allegedly) pushed girl down a flight of stairs didn’t lead to an official charge, but it did lead to his dismissal from the Missouri football team. The sooners are hoping that DGB will be eligible for the “run-off waiver” which is a waiver from the NCAA that allows a player to play immediately after transferring rather than having to sit out the mandatory one year. The reason of the waiver is it allows players to transfer and play elsewhere right away because “…they do not have the opportunity to play for their former team for reasons beyond their control.” It’s basically a disclaimer saying a player is leaving a program because he isn’t getting the chance to play. The Tulsa World ran a story about it, citing former LSU basketball player Anthony Hickey’s transfer to Oklahoma State as an example. In Hickey’s case it was a run-in with the coaching staff that led to the bench, a suspension and eventually a transfer. LSU agreed with that timeline and explanation and ended up granting him a full release. The key there was Hickey’s inability to play was not by his own hand (his own hand being poor academics, poor attitude, poor citizenship or some other issue he could control). The sooners are going attempting to go down this road with DGB, who had fine academic standing at Missouri, but it isn’t going to work. He isn’t playing because of disciplinary reasons, which is entirely in his control. Barring Missouri completely recanting their statements and reasoning for his dismissal, I don’t see how he gets that waiver. Oh, also Missouri would need to recant the dismissal. Anthony Hickey transferred, Green-Beckham was kicked off the team. He didn’t ask to leave, he was asked to leave. I don’t see him getting that waiver, and I don’t see him playing a down for ou. DGB is going to play in the NFL, be sure of that. He’s done enough on the field to warrant a look and his measurables are off the chart. I think he gets denied and spends the fall rehabbing his image and declares for the NFL Draft before Christmas, but that’s just me.
• What a weird story out of Lubbock last week. In case you missed it, Nigel Bethell was kicked off the Texas Tech football team. Here’s why: he beat up Tech basketball player Amber Battle. That’s right, women’s basketball player Amber Battle. Tech absolutely did the right thing in dismissing Bethell, their highest rated recruit coming in this fall, because that’s not something that can be allowed. Ever. BUT, this is where it gets odd. Amber Battle was suspended for the same incident. She is out for the entire month of November and issued a public apology to her teammates, fellow Tech students, the fans, the University, the coaches and Nigel Bethell. That’s right, the guy that “…caused serious bodily harm… with hands, fists, feet, etc…” got an APOLOGY from the GIRL he BEAT UP. She said she “… initiated first contact..” during a pickup basketball game at the Tech Rec Center and things went insane from there. See? weird.
• In San Marcos over the weekend, the police responded to a party at an apartment complex. Why is this newsworthy? There were 1,700 people at the pool. It took “virtually every officer on duty…” to end it. That’s a real-life Project X. I want pictures, people. Someone was there, right?
• Self-serve beer at sporting events? This seems simultaneously horrific and awesome.
• Oh, Florida. What are you doing?
We are about a month away from the start of fall practice and a mere seven weeks away from the first week of the season. As we get closer to the start of the season, we will break down the Longhorns at length, as well as provide an overview of the Big 12 and what to expect from the rest of the league.
But for now, let’s do this:
Five to Watch in 2014
Every football magazine out there has their “new faces” or “Newcomers” section, listing out the guys in each conference that will make their mark on the field in the upcoming season. Some of those guys are celebrated and expected to be stars, like Adrian Peterson in 2004, Jamaal Charles in 2005, Jameis Winston last year; while others come out of nowhere like Our Favorite Dollar-Bill-in-the-Vegas-Bathroom Cleveland Browns Quarterback. And by “came out of nowhere” I mean that they exceeded the immediate expectations of the fans and media. I’m certain that Kevin Sumlin expected Johnny Manziel to be a great quarterback when he gave him the starting job in 2012; just not likely the best in the nation so quickly. That’s obviously the fantastic extreme, but other players have stepped in and excelled above early expectations. I remember Kwame Cavil moving from linebacker to wide out and excelling quickly. I remember how surprised I was at how quickly Blake Gideon adapted to the college game. Same with Colt McCoy. They were expected to be good players or even great players, but no one expected them to be so good so fast.
Looking at this Texas roster, I see several guys that could “come out of nowhere” and make an impact this fall. Again, these are guys that are expected make an impact (otherwise they wouldn’t be playing football here) but I could see their impact exceeding expectations this year and maybe they aren’t on the radar of the average fan. Here are five of those guys:
The 5-foot-11, 190-pounder came out of Livingston the No.9 rated athlete in the nation. A jack-of-all-trades in high school, Collins played quarterback, safety and even returned kicks. He just missed the cut of the national top 250 recruits by ESPN (253). With 4.5 speed and super athleticism, he has the speed to cover the entire field and the ability to hit and play physical when he gets there. Last year he redshirted finding a college position and this spring and summer it looks like Vance Bedford and Charlie Strong are very comfortable with him at safety. I think Texas is going to do a lot of mixing and matching this fall to counter all the four- and five-wide sets they’ll see in the Big 12 and Collins has a nice combination of speed and athleticism that will allow him to fill in the running game and run with a receiver. I think he’s doing well enough and the staff is confident enough with him that, according to InsideTexas, they are running safety Mykkele Thompson at corner in five-wide sets. Thompson has great range and speed and at 6-foot-2 can tower over receivers, but he isn’t as physical as you’d like. Collins is physical and will stick his head in there, which is exactly what Texas needs.
I think by the end of the year it will be Collins that’s starting at safety and making plays and you’ll see that tremendous athletic ability.
I thought about going with Montrel Meander here, who I also think will make an impact, but with Marcus Johnson, Jaxon Shipley, Kendall Sanders and Daje Johnson out there the fight for receptions will be tight and it might not be this fall. With Joe Bergeron’s status up in the air (I have heard he’ll be ready to go, but you just don’t know) and Jonathan Gray rehabbing that Achilles rupture, keeping a healthy stable of backs will likely press Catalon into service early. The 6-foot, 200-pound running back will get opportunities early spelling Malcolm Brown as the staff likely takes it slow with Gray to be safe.
I heard the staff is extremely high on Catalon and loves what he brings to the table as far as power, speed and toughness. I think he cracks the two-deep in the early games and proves his worth very quickly. I think he becomes another row of shark teeth for this running back corps and does so very early.
The offensive line isn’t a place that gets a lot of attention (at least in a good way) but if you are solid up front then you can mask issues elsewhere. But you cannot mask issues up front. Kent Perkins is one of those guys you want up front. The 6-foot-5, 325-pound sophomore earned his first start at Texas Tech and went into the spring as the established starter at tackle… only to injure his knee in the spring. He’ll be back in time for fall camp, so all should be good. He was the No.6 rated tackle in the nation coming out of high school and the idea was to redshirt him and let him grow into the role, but his talent pushed him into the two-deep and injuries forced him onto the field early.
It may not have gone according to plan, but I think Kent Perkins has All-Big 12 written all over him.
Warrick IS the one new guy outside that will make an impact this fall. I think he’ll be the 2014 version of Marcus Johnson. As teams focused on Mike Davis and Jaxon Shipley last year, Johnson emerged as a big play receiver from the slot that could torch a defense (ask ou). I see a similar thing happening this fall as teams focus on Shipley, Daje, Kendall Sanders and Johnson. With 4.6 speed and kick return abilities in the open field, I see the 5-foot-10, 174-pound Warrick being lethal on jailbreak screens. He’s a perfect compliment to the deep threats Johnson and Sanders and Shipley the technician. Another playmaking option outside is what Texas needs, and Warrick is that guy.
Expect to see big plays from No.11 this fall.
The fifth year senior has waited his turn as two transfers (Alex King and Anthony Fera) punted and kicked their way to All-Big 12 Honors. Now it’s Russ’ turn. He’s seen the ups and downs in the program and knows this is the contract year: a big season could mean a shot at NFL money. In the spring he punted very well and looked very comfortable and confident.
I hope that carries over. A impactful year from Russ would do a lot to ease the uncertainty of the kicking game.
Surely there are others, but those are the five that I think are going to make an impact this fall. Who did I miss?