AUSTIN, Texas -- Not much of the top talent in the state escaped the top program in the state in 2010.
Texas, coming off a national championship appearance, won the recruiting battle for defensive end Jackson Jeffcoat and just about every other player it went after. The Longhorns locked up four of the top five recruits from Texas in ESPN’s 150. The lone miss was defensive back Ahmad Dixon out of Waco. And Texas even had Dixon for a short period. He committed to Texas after junior day in February of 2009 only later to decommit and commit to Baylor. He then decommitted to Baylor in favor of Tennessee only to decommit from Tennessee as he eventually signed with Baylor.
Another year, another recruiting saga.
Now that a few years have passed it is slightly easier to see what Texas might have missed in Dixon and a few of the other ESPN 150 players from the state Texas failed to secure in 2010.
Player: Luke Joeckel
Position: Offensive line
Ranking: No. 83 in ESPN 150
Schools interested: LSU, Nebraska, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State and Texas Tech
Signed with: Texas A&M
The tackle was a package deal along with his twin brother, Matt. Texas was not interested in the entire package and didn’t go after Joeckel. Texas was after another tackle in Jake Matthews, but missed on him. It was not a huge surprise, as Matthews has a family connection to Texas A&M.
Because he played the left side, Luke Joeckel became a more valuable prospect and also became the better of the two tackles for the Aggies. He played as a true freshman and became such a steady performer that he declared for the NFL Draft after his junior season. He is projected as a high first round pick.
Texas has not had an offensive lineman picked in the first round since 2002. It hasn’t had an offensive lineman picked period since Tony Hills in 2008. The offensive tackle position was such an issue for the Longhorns that in December of 2011 it went out and signed Donald Hawkins, only the third junior college player of Mack Brown’s tenure. (Brandon Moore, another junior college player, was also signed at that time.) Had Texas had some stability at tackle it could have allowed for some movement along the offensive line and not forced Josh Cochran to hold down the spot as a true freshman. Additionally, the flexibility might have allowed Texas to cover up the deficiencies it had at center in 2011.
Player: Ahmad Dixon
Ranking: No. 15 in ESPN 150
Schools interested: Alabama, Auburn, Florida, Oklahoma State and Tennessee
Signed with: Baylor
The Bears’ pass defense was not good. In fact it was the second worst in FBS in 2012 and third worst in 2011. And Dixon, as the starting nickelback the past two seasons, has been a large part of that pass defense. But Dixon has proven he has enough talent that if surrounded by players at an equal level he would excel. At Texas with Vaccaro next to him, at least in 2012, Dixon undoubtedly would have helped the Longhorns plug the gaps and make tackles in the secondary. In fact, Dixon made the most tackles of any player on the field in the Texas game this season. He had 11, plus a tackle for loss.
He might not have been as productive in 2012 for Texas as he was for Baylor because it probably would have been his first year as a full-time starter after waiting behind Blake Gideon in 2010 and ‘11. But Texas would have had Dixon for 2013, and that would assuage most of the fears about what is Texas’ shakiest position on the field headed into this spring.
Player: Lache Seastrunk
Position: Running back
Ranking: No. 40 in ESPN 150
Schools interested: Auburn, Cal, LSU, Memphis, Southern Cal
Signed with: Oregon
Texas’ relationship with Willie Lyles, the man many accused of pulling all the strings in the Seastrunk recruitment process, had begun to sour by signing day in 2010. Two years earlier a booster had contacted Texas assistant Major Applewhite and alleged that Lyles had asked for $3,000 in order to get a recruit on campus. Texas, which had paid Lyles’ employer (Elite Scouting Services) $15,000 for Lyles’s services, began to distance itself from Lyles at that time. So when it came to Seastrunk, Texas, like most every other school in the state, was not heavily involved in his recruitment.
And whether or not signing Seastrunk would have been a boon for Texas is still a question. He transferred from Oregon after his freshman year and did not make much of an impact for his new school, Baylor, until late in the 2012 season.
But when handed the ball in the last six games, Seastrunk proved he might be one of the most versatile an exciting backs in the Big 12. He rushed for 831 yards in the final six games, including a season-high 185 in the upset win over then No. 2 Kansas State.
Couple that production with Texas’ switch to Applewhite as play-caller and a what should be more of a spread attack and it could have made for an interesting combination.