Texas Longhorns: Michael Griffin

Perhaps the biggest name in attendance at Texas’ pro day on Tuesday aside from Vince Young was Texas’ All-American safety Kenny Vaccaro.

The lone defensive back working out, Vaccaro surprised NFL scouts with his weight of 217 pounds. But he did so in a good way.

Take what he gathered from Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin, who was the only NFL head coach in attendance.

“He thought I looked great,” said Vaccaro, who checked in at 6-foot. “Mainly that I pushed through everything and said I carried my weight well. He didn’t know I weighed 217.”

Vaccaro was a little disappointed that he wasn’t able to run the 40-yard dash because of a hip flexor injury, but was able to participate in individual drills in front of Cincinnati Bengals defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer.

“I think I was explosive out of my breaks,” he said. “I was real happy with how my hip held up. I think I did a good job.

“[The scouts] said I did a great job. They said the most impressive thing was just pushing through, working out by myself and also having that hip flexor.”

(Read full post)

Top Texas Longhorns sleepers 

January, 22, 2013
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Looking back at Texas' recent recruiting hits on prospects who were rated low but had stellar careers:

Yesterday, we tackled the Big 12's best offensive players in the NFL, but today, it's time for the other side of the ball.

The rules:
  • Players must be active
  • Players are judged by their current skills
  • The 2012 draft class is not eligible
  • Only players from the 2011 configuration of the Big 12 (No Nebraska, Colorado. Mizzou, Texas A&M are included.) are eligible

Let's get to it.

DE: Justin Smith, San Francisco 49ers (Missouri)

Smith has made Pro Bowls in each of the past three seasons and emerged as one of the NFL's premier pass rushers, nearly winning Defensive Player of the Year in 2011. He's forced 14 career fumbles and had 72.5 career sacks.

DT: Phil Taylor, Cleveland Browns (Baylor)

Taylor snuck into the first round of the 2011 draft and started every game for the Browns in 2011, making 59 tackles and four sacks, as well as forcing a fumble.

DT: Casey Hampton, Pittsburgh Steelers (Texas)

Hampton's career has peaked, but the 2001 first-rounder is still effective. He's won two Super Bowls and made five Pro Bowls, the last coming in 2009. He has 350 career tackles with nine sacks and four forced fumbles.

DE: Antonio Smith, Houston Texans (Oklahoma State)

Smith earned his first trip to the Pro Bowl last season, even though it was as an alternate. He has 29.5 career sacks and seven forced fumbles.

LB: Aldon Smith, San Francisco 49ers (Missouri)

Smith was one of the NFL's best pass rushers as a rookie in 2011. He didn't start a single game, yet came within a half sack of Jevon Kearse's rookie record for sacks, with 14 sacks. That broke the team record, and the Pro Football Writers of America named him the Defensive Rookie of the Year.

LB: Brian Orakpo, Washington Redskins (Texas)

Orakpo edges out Derrick Johnson for this spot, though Johnson was better in 2011. Orakpo was an alternate on this year's Pro Bowl team, but made the squad as a rookie in 2009 and in 2010.

LB: Von Miller, Denver Broncos (Texas A&M)

Miller earned NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year honors and a trip to the Pro Bowl after notching 11.5 sacks and making 64 tackles. He forced a fumble on the first snap of his career, too.

CB: Terence Newman, Cincinnati Bengals (Kansas State)

Newman's taken his fair share of knocks as a Cowboy before being released, but he made the Pro Bowl in 2007 and 2009 and has 32 career interceptions. The Wildcats' former Thorpe Award winner is moving on to the next phase in his career after an up and down career in Dallas.

CB: Aaron Ross, Jacksonville Jaguars (Texas)

Ross won two Super Bowls as a New York Giant, but he's moving on to warmer climates this offseason. He's made 200 career tackles and intercepted 10 passes in five seasons as a Giant before the former Thorpe Award winner signed a new deal with the Jags.

S: Michael Griffin, Tennessee Titans (Texas)

Griffin was a first-round pick in 2007 and made Pro Bowls in 2008 and 2010. He earned an All-Pro selection in 2010 and has 17 career interceptions and seven forced fumbles with his 389 tackles.

S: Earl Thomas, Seattle Seahawks (Texas)

Thomas gives the Longhorns a third member of the All-Big 12 NFL secondary after a Pro Bowl season in his second year, 2011. Thomas was arguably the Seahawks' top defender and has seven career interceptions.
Counting down to national signing day on Feb. 1, HornsNation will look back at each of Mack Brown’s Texas recruiting classes.

Mack Brown didn’t look beyond the borders in 2003.

Every signee -- all 18 of them -- was from Texas, which falls in line with Brown’s philosophy of locking up the state first.

“We will always look hard at the guys in state first and if we can't find the perfect fit, then we will go out of state to fill our needs," he said on signing day back in 2003 and has repeated maybe 10,000 times since.
[+] EnlargeMartellus Bennett
Matthew Emmons/US PresswireMichael Griffin was a offensive star in high school before going on to star as a defensive back.
But Brown and Texas didn’t have to look elsewhere in 2003. They were just looking to plug a few holes in a few spots, so a full class of 25 wasn’t necessary. And it turned out the state had just what Texas needed.

By their junior season nearly 50 percent of the class was starting with three being all-Big 12 selections -- wide receiver Limas Sweed, defensive back Michael Griffin and defensive end Tim Crowder.

This class became one that successfully helped bridged the gap between 2002’s class -- the one largely responsible for the national title in 2005 -- and the 2005 class -- the one largely responsible for run in 2008-2009.

In the end, the class also produced a few draft picks. Sweed was the highest going 53rd overall in 2008 to Pittsburgh. Tight end Tony Hills, who overcame a serious knee injury, went 130th to the Steelers.

In 2007, Griffin went 19th overall to Tennessee. Crowder went to the Denver Broncos in the second round. Also picked that year was defensive back Tarell Brown in the fifth round by San Francisco.

Most underrated: Michael Griffin
It wasn’t that people didn’t know about Griffin. It’s just that most knew of him as an offensive star. The Bowie (Austin) High product was one of the most explosive running backs in central Texas. In his final two seasons, Griffin had more than 2,100 rushing yards, 25 touchdowns and averaged more than 24 yards per reception.

But that was not where he would make his mark in college. Griffin was recruited as a defensive back and while not considered one of the premier guys at that position -- fellow signee Tarell Brown was considered better – nationally, Griffin was still highly sought after.

As it turned out, the only defensive back in the 2003 class selected ahead of Griffin in the NFL draft was Donte Whitner. The Ohio State product went No. 8 to the Buffalo Bills in 2006.) Antonio Cromartie, who was also rated higher than Griffin, went 19 in 2006, the same position where Griffin was selected in 2007.

At Texas Griffin started 25 of his last 26 games including the national championship in which he had eight tackles, broke up a pass and intercepted a USC pass in the end zone.

Biggest Get: Tony Hills
Hills was rated the top prospect in the class. He was a 6-foot-6 tight end out of Elsik (Alief, Texas) who projected to make an immediate impact for Texas. Mack Brown had called him the greatest tight end he had ever seen.

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