Texas Longhorns: Barrett Matthews

Question of the Week: Horns on the verge 

June, 6, 2013
AUSTIN, Texas -- It’s difficult to fathom that a team such as Texas, a squad so meticulously picked over and scrutinized from every angle, could have any under-the-radar players.

But there are still players to be found who have not lived up to their potential but are on the verge of doing just that. And, like always, there is plenty of debate over just who those players might be. For our weekly debate at HornsNations, we decided to take on the question of just who would be the next player or players to step from the shadows and into the spotlight.

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.

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The departures of Thomas Ashcraft, Kyle Kriegel and Trey Graham from the Texas program is more tough news for a 2009 recruiting class that was already much-maligned.

That No. 3-ranked class included 20 promising future Longhorns. Transfers and departures left Texas with only two senior leaders from that group this season: Kenny Vaccaro and Alex Okafor.

In fact, Ashcraft, Kriegel and Graham giving up their final season means that only six signees from 2009 -- Okafor, Vaccaro, Barrett Matthews, Chris Whaley, Mason Walters and Garrett Porter -- will play out their full eligibility as Longhorns.

Ashcraft was among Texas’ most highly touted members of that class. The 6-foot-5, 315-pound offensive lineman was an Under Armour All-American, a member of the ESPN 150 and ranked No. 5 among guard prospects.

The Cedar Hill (Texas) grad played in 35 games but never broke into the starting lineup. Most of his snaps came on special teams or in reserve roles. He was Mason Walters’ top backup at right guard in 2012.

For Kriegel, playing time was just as elusive. Opportunity finally did present itself in 2012 when he played in five games, but had he come back he would’ve faced plenty of competition for limited snaps in his final season.

The 6-foot-5, 280-pound Kriegel was ranked No. 45 among defensive end prospects out of Elysian Fields (Texas) High and finished with one tackle in seven career games.

Unfortunately, Graham never got that opportunity. After the No. 8-ranked tight end recruit redshirted as a freshman, right knee injuries cost him two full seasons. He returned to the practice field this fall but did not appear in a game in his career.

Now they’ll prepare for a life after football. All three will be University of Texas graduates by the end of the spring. Their scholarships were by no means wasted.

By giving up their senior seasons, they open up spots in the 85-man roster for members of another promising Texas recruiting class, one that will need plenty of its signees to pan out if the Longhorns hopes to compete for national titles again.

3 Up, 3 Down: Texas 33, Iowa State 7 

November, 11, 2012
With a balanced offense and a defense that appears to now at least in position to make plays, Texas has become closer to the team coach Mack Brown thought it would have back in September.

"It is the team we wanted to get to," he said.


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AUSTIN, Texas -- The Longhorns relied on plenty of their usual suspects to overcome Baylor 56-50 on Saturday. But there were some lesser-known players who contributed greatly to Texas ending the Bears’ two-game winning streak in the series.

Safety Josh Turner and tight end M.J. McFarland played arguably their best games as Longhorns and could see expanded roles because of their efforts.

[+] EnlargeJosh Turner
Cal Sport Media via AP ImagesTexas defensive back Josh Turner had a big interception against Baylor.
Turner is listed as the backup to Kenny Vaccaro at strong safety but really played a starting role because Texas had to stay in its dime package to match Baylor’s five-wide sets.

He really made his presence known over a two-play period in the middle of the second quarter with the game tied at 28-28. The smaller Turner, who is listed at 6-foot and 177 pounds, stuffed Baylor quarterback Nick Florence for no gain and followed that up by intercepting him on the following snap.

“It was a great read,” Turner said. “It mainly came from our defensive line. They had a great push, and I was in the right place at the right time.”

After an official review upheld the pick, Texas took the ball and capped a five-play drive with a Johnathan Gray 25-yard touchdown, his first score as a Longhorn. The Longhorns never trailed again.

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AUSTIN, Texas -- Believe it or not, there was a time not long ago when tight end was a position of strength for the Longhorns.

David Thomas caught everything thrown his way while acting as Vince Young's security blanket during Texas’ run to the 2005 BCS national championship. When he left for the NFL, the Longhorns made a seamless transition to Jermichael Finley, a better athlete who produced at such a rate that he only stayed for two years before being picked 91st overall by the Green Bay Packers.

The evolution of the position was supposed to continue upward with the arrival of Californian Blaine Irby, and his wavy surfer-boy hair, in 2007. But injuries decimated his career, which he finished on a high note during his senior season in 2011, by playing in all 13 games.

Not only did Irby miss all of 2009 and 2010 with a knee injury but his backup, current Longhorns senior D.J. Grant, was also relegated to the sideline over that span with a knee injury of his own.

[+] EnlargeGreg Daniels
Ric Tapia/Icon SMIGreg Daniels, a converted defensive end, has shown 'progress' for the Longhorns during the preseason.
That left Texas with little wiggle room at a position that seems to still be recovering from seasons devoid of a certifiable pass threat. It’s a recovery process that seems to be lingering as the 2012 season rapidly approaches.

Texas head coach Mack Brown listed tight ends as one of his two main concerns when he met with the media on Wednesday. In the Longhorns’ first scrimmage of fall camp, Brown said that they dropped at least five passes and that they “did not get done what we want to get done.”

What they want to get done varies. The position has always been an essential part of co-offensive coordinator Bryan Harsin’s offensive philosophy.

Whether it’s putting them in a three-point stance and asking them to seal the edge, motioning them to H-back or out wide to create mismatches with slower linebackers and smaller defensive backs, Harsin, who coached Boise State's tight ends from 2002-05, has always made tight ends a vital part of his game plan.

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HornsNation, will analyze each of the scholarship players currently on the Texas roster. (The bulk of the 2012 class is not currently on the roster.) We will look at the player’s past contributions, what he might do for Texas this year and the future impact he could have on the program. Starting with No. 1 Mike Davis we will go through the roster numerically before ending with No. 99 Desmond Jackson.

No. 89
Barrett Matthews
Tight end, 6-2, 235, senior

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60 days, 60 stats: No. 16 

July, 18, 2012
Each day, as a countdown to fall camp opening Aug. 2, we are going to provide you with a number that was important in 2011 and let you know why it will be important in 2012.

D.J. Grant went into the record books against UCLA.

His three touchdown receptions tied a record for Texas tight end when it came to getting into the end zone in one game. That it was just the third game of the season and Grant still was recovering from major injuries gave the appearance that his game against the Bruins might be a sign of things to come.

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Here is a quick look around the college football world and the things that are affecting Texas.

1st down: Nobody knows what to think about the 2012 Longhorns
Texas was 5 – 7 in 2010 and made a turnaround to 8 – 5 with a bowl win in 2011. While Texas did not finished the 2011 season ranked, most Longhorns fans believe that Texas is on track to return to the top 10.

Even a cross-section of media polls done this spring can’t agree on where Texas should start the season:

The Big Show

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AUSTIN, Texas -- Texas has blockers.

And it has receivers.

What the Longhorns don’t have is a combination of both. In other words, a tight end.

“Still a concern,” said Texas coach Mack Brown, when asked about it recently.

That’s pretty much been his standard answer for going on, well, years now. The concern is more pressing these days because of the shift in offensive philosophy Texas has employed under co-offensive coordinator Bryan Harsin.
D.J. Grant
Gary A. Vasquez/US PresswireD.J. Grant, who is a converted wide receiver, had three touchdowns last season.

“What we did (in previous years), is we had a spread offense that we took a bunch of receivers and had them beef up and become tight ends,” Brown said. “And now we’re probably going to have to start looking at a different type of tight end coming in.”

The type that can block and catch.

That is the type Harsin had at Boise State. Not only did having a complete tight end allow the Broncos to set the edge in the run game, but there was production in the passing game as well.

In Harsin’s final three years as offensive coordinator with the Broncos, the tight ends averaged 540 receiving yards and seven touchdowns per year. Texas had 223 receiving yards and four touchdowns from the tight end position in 2011. Three of those four touchdowns came in one game. The other was to tackle Luke Poehlmann in a goal line situation where he was used at tight end.

“We've got to get settled and be better at tight end,” Brown said.

Yeah, no kidding.

Texas is trying to do just that. But, again, personnel is an issue.

D.J. Grant, the player Texas thought could become the tight end it needed, has suffered through knee injuries. Grant was far and away the most productive tight end in 2011 with 16 catches for 180 yards and the three touchdowns. But Grant, who was a wide receiver in high school, sorely lacks the blocking skills necessary to be an every down player.

Barrett Matthews can block but not catch. Plus Texas wants to take a look at him as a fullback because of depth issues there.

That leaves Greg Daniels, a converted defensive lineman who cannot participate in spring drills because of an injury, sophomore Darius Terrell and redshirt freshman M.J. McFarland. Each has his advantages and disadvantages but none of them are the complete package Texas needs.

“We’d like to get past the point where we have to put Luke Poehlmann in to block every time we’re going to run,” Brown said. “And put one of those other guys in every time were going to pass.

“It’s such a tendency that we need to find the right guys here. And that’s one of the issues with the last nine practices here. We want to figure out who we are at tight end and what we have to do with this offense to get better.”

McFarland appears as if he might be that guy.

“Where he is now, and with not going through the entire season and getting the reps, he has done a nice job,” Harsin said. “We will really see with him that second half of spring, once it's all in, where he takes the next step offensively for us.”

But it is clear he has the skill set necessary to block and catch for Texas.

“He's a big dude that is physical and can run,” Harsin said. “He's made some catches out there, and he is into it. He enjoys practice. He enjoys preparing out there.”

Still there are issues.

“He’s got everything we need,” Brown said. “But he has not been a blocker in his life. And we’ve worked on it everyday it’s legal since he’s been here to get him to be lower in his stance. He stood up as a wide receiver. He’s never been in a stance. So all of this is different for him.”

It’s all different for all of them. That’s the problem. And that is why it is a concern for Brown.


Texas Longhorns Show Out On Pro Day
The Texas Longhorns produced several eligible NFL Draft athletes who participated in Pro Day Tuesday afternoon in Austin, Texas.