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Babers: 12 Thoughts on the Horns and More on a Holiday Weekend
By SP_COP on December 26, 2014 | From
Babers: 12 Thoughts on the Horns and More on a Holiday Weekend In honor of the Twelve Days of Christmas here are 12 things on my mind during this holiday weekend.

1. Social Media may be the downfall of society, but it's the future of recruiting
Last Friday Malik Jefferson verbally committed to the University of Texas, his choice came down to Texas and Texas A&M. His recruitment and pledge symbolized the latest chapter in the Texas Cold War between the Longhorns and the Aggies, and it potentially shifted the recruiting balance in the state.

Even before the decision on Friday, I said on my radio show numerous times that Jefferson's recruitment reminded me of the recruitment of Cory Redding's back in 1999, a recruitment that predated most web rankings and the recruiting boom. Mack Brown was working on his second recruiting class and it was going to be one of the nation's best before C-Redd committed, but once he picked Texas (over Texas A&M, Arizona and others) you saw the butterfly effect on a national scale, which included Chris Simms reconsidering his verbal commitment to Tennessee.

Of course, Ricky Williams' Heisman campaign along with Mack recruiting genius and Tim Brewster (Brewster was the best recruiter on that staff, he landed Simms, myself and Bo Scaife in 1999 and Vince Young a few years later) contributed to being able to land the state's top prospect. As a member of that 1999 class, I can tell you that Redding committing to Texas was a factor considered by almost every relevant unattached student athlete in state at the time. It's what I call the "We Are The World" effect.

When Quincy Jones was recruited by Lionel Richie and Kenny Rogers about a project to raise awareness and funds for world hunger titled "USA for Africa” he accepted, but insisted that to make the project successful they had to recruit two people, Michael Jackson and Stevie Wonder, the two biggest stars in music at the time. After landing those two for the project, it was relatively easy to recruit Bruce Springsteen, Tina Turner, Diana Ross, Willie Nelson, Ray Charles, Bob Dylan, etc. “The King of Pop” was the centerpiece of the "We Are The World" recruitment because everyone wanted to work with the best artist in the world at the time. So whether it was Quincy Jones recruiting the best artists on MJ's behalf or MJ personally recruiting other artists, so long as you had MJ (Michael Jackson, Malik Jefferson, you see where I'm going here... I guess if Malik Jefferson is Michael Jackson in this scenario, does that make DeAndre McNeal Stevie Wonder?) others would follow.

As a young high school prospect I paid close attention to the performance and recruitment of those who were also prospects in my area, and there was no bigger recruit in Houston than Redding -- the USA Today National Defensive Player of the Year. Always the tallest man in the room, literally and figuratively, with an older brother already playing Division I football at Arizona, most believed Redding would follow his brother and leave the state. Based on what I was being told by Tim Brewster, not only was C-Redd going to stay in state, but he was going to choose Mack Brown, the lovable, hot and young coach at Texas.

At the time I wasn't sure what to think – Brew was also telling me that the nation's top overall recruit, Chris Simms, was coming to Texas even though he was verbally committed to Tennessee. I had to admit, for an 18-year old kid the thought of playing with the nation's best at The University of Texas was enticing, seductive, intoxicating even. So not only can Texas recruiters use Jefferson's pledge as a celebrity endorsement for the recruiting class, the coach and the university, but it's also symbolic of a movement that's become increasingly popular within college recruiting in a social media age.

It almost reminds me of the superstar recruitment model in the NBA where a free-agent signing may result in a domino effect of other players who want to play with that star player (i.e. LeBron James). In the age of social media, it's even possible for recruits to actively pitch their peers much like James has done.

During my football playing days in high school, I would follow the stats and recruitment of my peers on the local news and in newspapers. Now, you just follow that person on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. There's plenty of evidence that there are several players in Charlie Strong's current 2015 recruiting class already actively recruiting peers unsolicited.

The new age of recruiting and social media allows student athletes to be the recruiters and the recruited.

2. So what does a five-star pledge actually mean?
Texas has had 32 five-star recruits commit and play on the Forty Acres since 1999. Malik Jefferson will represent the 33rd for the Longhorns in the last 17 recruiting cycles. This number may seem small, but recruiting enthusiasts know on average there are only 30-35 legitimate five-star prospects on a national level in every recruiting class. That means on average, Texas has been able to snag two five-star recruits per year since the start of the era in recruiting (1999 and on). The percentage of five-star players recruited to Texas that played, are currently playing or will play in the NFL (excluding Jefferson is at around 65 percent. Here's the list based on 247Sports Composite Rankings.

Cory Redding, Chris Simms (1999)
Roy Williams, B.J. Johnson, Sloan Thomas, Chance Mock (2000)
Cedric Benson (2001)
Vince Young, Rod Wright, Justin Blalock and Brian Pickryl (2002)
Tony Hills (2003)
Frank Okam, Drew Kelson (2004)
Roy Miller (2005)
Sergio Kindle, Eddie Jones (2006)
Tray Allen, John Chiles (2007)
Garrett Gilbert, Mason Walters (2009)
Darius White, Reggie Wilson, Mike Davis, Jordan Hicks and Jackson Jeffcoat (2010)
Malcolm Brown, Sedrick Flowers and Steve Edmond (2011)
Johnathan Gray, Malcom Brown (2012)
Darius James (2013)
Malik Jefferson (2015)

When you look at the actual success rate of college football players with a shot at the NFL, you're looking at 300 lucky young men out of roughly 2000 draft eligible players (there are around 12,000 college football players at the FBS level and around 25,000 players if you add in FCS level). I'll spare you the sad truth about most athletes and their odds to play professionally, after all it is the holiday season.

No matter your opinion of recruiting rankings, it seems obvious that a five-star recruit does have a relatively good chance to make a living as a pro athlete, and a five-star recruit undoubtedly lifts the ceiling of a recruiting class. I've always said that its not the four and the five-star players that make a recruiting class great, its the two and the three-star recruits that you develop into four and five-star caliber talent. The biggest factor in determining a recruiting classes' success is the bust rate -- the number of players who never provide the program any tangible return on their investment of an athletic scholarship because they either play poorly, fail out or transfer.

For some perspective, the bust rate of the 2002 Texas recruiting class featuring Young was around 25 percent (2003-38%, 2004-37%, 2005-40%, 2006-40%, 2007-33%, 2008-30%, 2009-80%, 2010-50%). Recent stats and trends in recruiting have shown if you can limit the bust rate of a recruiting class to under or around 40 percent then that recruiting class is more profit than loss; if you can lower the bust rate to less than 30 percent (i.e. 2002 recruiting class) then you could possibly have a championship recruiting class. The conclusion is simple – a five-star recruit is potentially an NFL caliber talent in your college program for four or five years -- longer than most NFL careers. You take advantage of that every chance you get.

3. The bowl game will likely be the last for a certain All-American
Unfortunately for Longhorn fans this next topic is bittersweet. 'Big' Malcom Brown has not yet decided whether he'll forego his senior season for the NFL, but all signs point to that happening. I was recently asked about where Brown ranks among the all-time great defensive tackles in program history, and here's my assessment.

Based on my recent DBU rankings, I figured even broaching this subject makes me a "message board" masochist, but I thought the question was intriguing. My answer? Brown is the seventh-best defensive tackle in Longhorn history behind (in my opinion):

1. Kenneth Sims
2. Steve McMichael
3. Brad Shearer
4. Scott Appleton
5. Tony Degrate
6. Casey Hampton

Brown's shooting star across the Forty Acres reminds me of Earl Thomas. Like Earl, I think 'Big Malcom' will leave Texas before he ever comes close to reaching his ceiling.

4. Can you handle more quarterback talk?
I would be remiss if I neglected the topic of the Texas quarterback position. At this point we've written, discussed and contemplated almost every solution and/or scenario. So the question to me isn't who will start the 2015 season opener at Notre Dame. The more compelling question is will Shawn Watson be willing to morph his offense into something more prolific and quarterback-compatible by the 2015 season opener at Notre Dame?

I know there are those who will say when Watson finds his quarterback it will make the offense more prolific. That's true, but that also means it could happen if he became a little more flexible with his system as well.

5. Did anyone spend their Christmas morning with Bevo?
I found it hilarious that the Longhorn Network aired five hours of Bevo roaming his ranch on Christmas morning accompanied with a festive holiday playlist . On the subject of carols, I hope everyone heard some of the holiday classics from my all-time favorite Christmas album, "The Temptations Christmas Card".

6. What exactly do people mean when they talk about football speed?
I was talking to a scout about John Harris and Quandre Diggs, and we began discussing their possible 40-yard dash times. He was curious if I thought either had good straight-line speed (speed without football movements deviations or cuts). He reiterated several times that if they didn't run great 40 times that the film has shown they both have "football speed".

That term football speed has always intrigued me. “Football speed" is easily observed. As football fans we witness it everyday, yet there's so little explanation about it. For centuries man observed gravity, but until Sir Isaac Newton came along, no one bothered to explain the invisible force. The same was true of electromagnetic forces and Hans Oersted. I will try to do something similar with "football speed".

I'll spare you the scientific jargon, because I have none. My theory is based on two principles: First, football is all angles -- to the football, to your man, away from your man, to a point, running routes, etc. -- and those sleuth-footed athletes labeled with "football speed" simply have a more effective geometric mind. They diagnose angles faster, more accurately and adjust to ever-changing angles a lot quicker. I'll admit that it doesn't sound as cool to hear a football scout say a player has a "geometric mind" rather than "football speed" but I think it's more accurate. The second element of my "football speed" theory focuses on observation of bodily movements. As a defensive back you learn to anticipate a receiver's next move by observing body language and movement. Body lean, hip height, shoulder movement, etc; you get the idea. There are scores of different body movements and points of body language that will give you a split second jump on your opponent's next move. That split second can mean a step or a step-and-a-half when tracking a ball carrier or running away from a defender. Usually these two skills develop out of necessity because the player had to play with subpar speed their entire football life.

7. It's a great time to be a wide receiver
Before last year's NFL draft, several analysts continuously reminded us that the 2014 wide receiver class was one of the best ever and it was the deepest position in the draft. Well, the stats have backed up the claim. This rookie receiver class has amassed more receptions, touchdowns and 100-yard games than any in NFL history. Since 1970, 12 wide receivers have had 1,000 yards receiving in their rookie year, this season three rookies are on pace for 1,000-yard seasons.

While talking to an NFL scout he mentioned to me that wide receiver could be the deepest position in the 2015 draft as well (depending on how many underclassmen declare). I have a feeling we could be saying that the wide receiver position is the deepest position in the draft a lot more in the near future.

I would even go so far as to say that the deepest position at every level of elite football today is wide receiver. With the proliferation of the spread offenses at the high school and college levels, there's now a saturation of talent at the position. Supply and demand.

8. The inexplicable failure of Heisman winners in the NFL
One of the greatest mysteries in sports has to be the poor representation of Heisman winners at the NFL level. The last 25 Heisman winners have combined for 19 Pro Bowls, and Charles Woodson accounts for eight of those selections. The 17 quarterbacks who have won the Heisman since 1989 have only been to five Pro Bowls. The last Heisman-winning quarterback to win a Super Bowl was Jim Plunkett and the last to win a playoff game was Tim Tebow. There are no valid or even credible theories as to why college football's best player routinely underachieves in the NFL. For once I don't have a theory on this one, i's simply stupefying.

9. Trash talk doesn't mean as much as it used to mean
There was a column in a recent edition of the Wall Street Journal explaining how Andrew Luck's definition of trash talking is merely to compliment and encourage his opponents. NFL players say they have never heard of anything like it, but I have. In 2011, Kobe Bryant said he didn't like talking trash to LeBron James because he only reacted by laughing and when he did respond, which was rare, he was usually encouraging. For an old school guy like Kobe this alien, trash talk and competition go hand in hand, but this new era of athletes and stars aren't effected by trash talk in the same way we were.

Trash talk is meant to distract by shocking the system, saying things that your opponent may not normally hear, specifically on the field of play to make them over emotional and solicit a reaction. Words that are meant to shock and hurt don't carry the same weight in a social media world. Any student athlete will tell you the things that are said to them on social media by opposing fans before games and even by their own fans (if they lose, just ask Mykelle Thompson) at times makes on-field trash talk sound like a church league. The new era, social media savvy athlete is desensitized to trash talk because they get that vitriol a lot more often than athletes before the social media age. Specifically related to football, I think there's something to the notion that hurry-up offenses are forcing all trash talk into 140 characters or less....
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