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Thursday, January 24, 2013
Texas Longhorns Class of 2009 review

By Carter Strickland

AUSTIN, Texas -- Before his senior season started, Kenny Vaccaro figuratively took a look around and literally figured out what was left of the vaunted 2009 recruiting class.

Garrett Gilbert
Garett Gilbert was highly rated out of high school but ended up transferring to SMU.
"We’re it," he told defensive end Alex Okafor.

Not quite it. But almost.

In a class that was once held 20 players, great promise and a No. 3 ranking, only six players – Vaccaro, Okafor, guard Mason Walters, tight end Barrett Matthews, offensive lineman Garrett Porter and defensive tackle Chris Whaley -- either exhausted their eligibility or are still on the team. No so coincidentally, Texas also lost more games than it was accustomed to as this class in some cases disintegrated and others never materialized. The Longhorns were 22-16 over the past three years. That’s the worst three-year stretch in Mack Brown’s 15 years at Texas.

Brown, a year ago, even before four more players from the 2009 class left football before their eligibility was up, allowed that the evaluation process was not what it should have been.

"We let some slip," he said.

That one slip allowed so many other programs to catch up and surpass Texas. But even while Texas slipped with a few players -- Calvin Howell, Derek Johnson, Marcus Davis -- there were others Texas snared that everyone else wanted, namely quarterback Garrett Gilbert.

Gilbert was the No. 2 quarterback nationally behind Matt Barkley. He was from Lake Travis High School, about 30 minutes away from campus. And he appeared to be the next in line after Vince Young and Colt McCoy.

Gilbert has since become the poster child for this ill-fated class and the whipping boy for all Texas’ ills. He started 14 games for Texas, going 7-7. In his last and final start he was benched in the second quarter after a second interception. A shoulder injury was later discovered. After having it surgically repaired, he transferred to SMU. He led the Mustangs to a 7-6 record.

Five other 2009 signees transferred. Defensive end Tevin Mims is currently on the South Florida roster. Defensive back Marcus Davis went to Oregon but did not complete his eligibility there. Defensive lineman Derek Johnson transferred to Arkansas State but also did not complete his eligibility. Eryon Barnett transferred to Montana State and has a year of eligibility remaining. Greg Timmons asked for his release prior to the 2011 season and could not be found on an FBS roster.

Several players who left the 2009 class just walked away from football. Just last week offensive lineman Thomas Ashcraft, defensive lineman Kyle Kriegel and tight end Trey Graham gave up their final years of eligibility. Paden Kelly, the second-ranked offensive tackle in 2009, quit prior to the 2012 season. Linebackers Tariq Allen and Patrick Nkwopara gave up football.

Defensive tackle Calvin Howell left the team after an arrest last year. Tight end Dominique Jones was ruled academically ineligible before the 2011 Holiday Bowl and did not return to the team.

As for those remaining: Walters, one of the top-rated linemen in 2009, has been a three-year starter for Texas and has one year of eligibility remaining. Whaley is another player pushing for playing time. But he actually came to the program as a running back before being switched to defensive tackle in 2011. Porter continues to be a backup offensive lineman.