John Chiles

John Chiles has always been a tremendous athlete. The New Orleans Saints thought highly enough of Chiles to sign him as an undrafted free agent in 2011, as did the St. Louis Rams after signing him to become a part of their practice squad later in the season before he was cut. Chiles worked out with this year’s crop of NFL prospects at Texas’ Pro Day on Tuesday, in hopes of being added to another professional roster. In the two years since his departure from the Texas football program, Chiles has had a cup of tea in the NFL and has also played for the Jacksonville Sharks of the Arena Football League. Given Chiles’ experience as a backup quarterback and wide receiver at Texas and his training with the U.S. Track and Field Olympic team, he has another good case for NFL teams to give him a shot. For Chiles and his family, that’s all they can hope for at this point.

“The NFL is moving more toward John’s style of play,” John Chiles Sr. said while watching his son catch passes from Vince Young. “The training he has done with the Olympic team and sprinter Darvis Patton has really helped his speed. John is still light on his feet.”

 

Monroe, Hills share shoes, hopes of NFL career

D.J. Monroe and Jeremy Hills may have had a minimal impact during their time at Texas, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t hungry to get a piece of the NFL pie as well. Monroe and Hills even shared a pair of shoes while clocking their 40-yard dash times during Pro Day. After Hills’ second go at the dash, Monroe congratulated his teammate on his run but requested he take off the socks he was wearing as they belonged to Monroe. Hills couldn’t find his socks but he didn’t need them as he posted one of the faster times of the day in the dash. Both Hills and Monroe offer speed and agility for teams in the market for shifty players that can take off in an instant.

 

Young talks to “Ashley” before throwing

Vince Young didn’t speak with the media but his newfound friend David “Ashley” Ash was on hand to see what the former Texas great had to show everyone inside the Longhorns’ practice bubble Tuesday afternoon. The two exchanged a few words before Young took to the field to distribute passes to the likes of Marquise Goodwin and D.J. Grant.

 

“DBU” out in full force

Texas defensive backs coach Duane Akina had a veritable family reunion as more than a few of his former defensive backs showed up in support of the draft-ready Longhorns. Aaron Williams, Cedric Griffin, Michael Huff, Blake Gideon, Chykie Brown and Earl Thomas were all seen reminiscing with Akina and his staff throughout the day. After Marquise Goodwin exploded from a stand still to tally a 42-inch vertical, Williams’ father Anthony quickly reminded those standing around him that Aaron himself reached the upper portion of the vertical measurement tool during his Pro Day back in 2011.

John Chiles, who spent the latter half of his college career as a receiver, will have a chance to join New Orleans' squad. (Daily Texan file photo)

Photo Credit: Derek Stout | Daily Texan Staff

This summer’s NFL Lockout created an interesting situation that disallowed contact between players and teams for nearly four months. While there were stipulations that allowed for a normal draft, it didn’t help the undrafted free agents in any sense. For a group of former Longhorns, all that could be done was to stay in shape, and hope for a phone call when the lockout was over. For most of them, that call finally came.

John Chiles
Chiles had an interesting career as a Longhorn to say the least. After pre-college hype comparing him to a hybrid Vince Young, Chiles didn’t disappoint but didn’t necessarily impress either. His brief stint at backup didn’t evoke a new Young, and he was switched to slot receiver, where he finished his career. Chiles filled a niche with his speed and versatility, and the coaches couldn’t leave him off the field. Chiles’ free-agent contract with New Orleans is a good match, as Saints quarterback Drew Brees has always been good at spreading the ball around to various targets.

James Kirkendoll
A native of Central Texas, Kirkendoll was a quick, dependable receiver, who will forever be remembered in Longhorn lore for his catch in the final minutes of Texas’ 2009 Fiesta Bowl win. The Tennessee Titans signed Kirkendoll to a contract and, while he’s certainly undersized 5-foot-10, his work ethic could land him a roster spot.

Kyle Hix and Michael Huey
Neither of the offensive linemen was ever dominant at Texas, but both players offer something general managers look for: size. But even with their big frames (Hix is 6-foot-7, 325 lbs. and Huey, an offensive guard, is 6-foot-4 and around 300 lbs.), neither was drafted, maybe in part because of a lack of a run game in the Longhorn offense last year. They’ll both have to fight for a roster spot; Hix with the Patriots and Huey with the Seahawks.

John Gold
Fans never had many complaints about the former walk-on, a guy who punted and punted well. But kickers and punters have a more difficult time making professional rosters in a league in which teams sometimes keep only one kicker on the payroll to save cap space. Case in point: Hunter Lawrence, arguably the greatest kicker in Texas history, didn’t even get a spot on the Buccaneers after being signed to a free-agent contract in the offseason. While Gold has a slim chance of making the Seahawks roster, he’ll have his shot.

Greg Smith
Smith is one of the more overlooked tight ends in school history. From his early role as a blocking tight end, Smith showed promise and versatility, clearing out defensive ends for Jamaal Charles and deep snapping on the side. Like Hix and Huey, Smith’s final year wasn’t one to boast about. The 2010 Longhorn offense was just plain stagnant, and Smith never had a chance to do much — just nine receptions for 60 total yards. Smith will never be confused with elite pass-catching tight ends, but he does have a unique opportunity to make the Carolina Panthers roster as a savvy blocking specialist.

Some undrafted players who have yet to sign: Eddie Jones, Dustin Earnest and Britt Mitchell.

With his time at Texas winding down, senior John Chiles sat in front of his locker, head buried in his hands, wondering what has gone so miserably wrong.

“A lot of things in life don’t go your way,” Chiles said. “That’s what I’m learning to try to take from all of this.”
He had forgotten the submerged and suffocating feeling of being on a losing team. In the midst of Texas’ monumental fall from grace, Chiles might be the biggest victim of Texas’ stubbornness on offense.

“We’ve taken everything for granted for a long time, and now those little things are starting to come back to bite us,” he said.

If there’s anything or anyone that has been taken for granted, it’s Chiles. Being mishandled and misused is nothing new for him.

“We want Chiles, we want Chiles,” Longhorn fans often chanted in 2007 during his freshman year. As the backup quarterback to Colt McCoy for his first two seasons, Chiles was a popular guy. McCoy struggled at times, and when Chiles had his chances, he shined. For fans still hung over from the 2005 national championship, the dual-threat quarterback was much more like Vince Young than McCoy would ever be.

But McCoy’s stardom took off, and Chiles was forced to rummage for opportunities. He was far too talented to sit the bench, so coaches used him as quarterback, running back and receiver in his sophomore season. In everything he was asked to do, he excelled.

Chiles was always an anomaly for Texas coaches. Despite his success at quarterback in high school, Chiles was a five-star recruit at receiver out of Mansfield Summit. By most accounts, he was a better receiver than current NFL rookies Dez Bryant, Golden Tate and Joe Haden. He was a more heralded recruit than current Heisman candidates Cam Newton of Auburn and Kellen Moore of Boise State.

“He’s a heck of an athlete,” said Texas offensive coordinator Greg Davis when Chiles arrived in 2007. “I don’t think there’s any question about that.”

So what has gone wrong for Chiles at Texas?

Texas head coach Mack Brown told him that he would have a chance to play quarterback. But McCoy’s success foiled that, and after his sophomore year, Chiles had finally had enough.

“I talked to my family, the coaches and everyone close to me and came to the realization that I can really help the team at receiver,” Chiles said at the time. “I’m willing to do anything to help us win games and make another run at a championship, which is the ultimate goal.”

Chiles had no bitterness about the move and had finally found a way to emerge from the shadows to. His 34 catches for 319 yards in 2009 helped Texas reach the national championship game.

Enter Garrett Gilbert.

With Chiles no longer McCoy’s successor at quarterback, the coaches put all of their faith in Gilbert. But now Texas is 4-5, and digging a continuously deeper hole with Gilbert at the helm. Human nature would presumably instill discontent in the man who was meant to be the star.

But that’s not the case for Chiles. Instead of hounding coaches for his right to win at Texas like he had envisioned, Chiles is there to mentor Gilbert. He experienced the same head-swirling side effects of the position.

“I talk to him almost every series to make sure he’s not getting frustrated,” Chiles said. “When he’s flustered, our whole offense is shot.”

In a few weeks, Chiles will wear the Texas uniform for the final time. It has been a turbulent three years of moving, watching from the sideline and making a lot out of a little. It’s impossible to predict his future and whether there’s a place for him in the NFL. But the biggest curiosity is not what he could become but rather what he could have been.

“Losing really frustrates me at night,” Chiles said. “Most of the time, I don’t get much sleep. But whatever happens, we have to hold our heads high.” 

Michael Huey (63) looks for a block in the national championship game. Huey is one of the strongest players on the team.

Photo Credit: Stephen Keller | Daily Texan Staff

Texas is already more than halfway through with its spring practices, which means the days of Colt McCoy and Jordan Shipley are fading farther and farther away in the rearview mirror. It was no secret that Shipley was McCoy’s go-to receiver, but now the question is, who will be Garrett Gilbert’s?

“I’m not sure exactly,” wide receiver John Chiles said. “You’ll see James [Kirkendoll] make a play, then you’ll see Malcolm [Williams] make a play, and I’ll make a play. It’s sort of all over the place right now. He’s spreading the ball really well.”

While no one receiver has fully distinguished himself as Gilbert’s go-to man, those three veterans have begun to distance themselves from the rest of the pack.

“I think there’s some separation,” Chiles said. “Malcolm, James and myself. I think there’s separation, we’re definitely the starters. We’ve been working hard to push each other.”

Despite all three having seen game action and catching a combined nine touchdowns last year, they’re having to make the adjustment to catching balls from Gilbert instead of McCoy.

“I think he has a faster release a little bit,” Chiles said about Gilbert’s passes compared to McCoy’s. “It’s not exactly blazing fast, but it’s faster. It [arrives] a little bit quicker.”

Five-finger discount
Texas is stealing plays from everybody this off-season.

OK, so it’s not stealing if they give it to you, but still, the Horns are taking some pages, literally, from other teams’ playbooks. Earlier this offseason, Texas brought in some of the coaches from Boise State to help learn some new trick plays to keep defenses guessing and to keep things fun for the players.

Now the Horns have brought in someone new to help: Jim Caldwell, coach of the Indianapolis Colts.

Caldwell came in and introduced a stretch play to help with Texas’ new emphasis on the running game. The play can be used as either a run or a play-action pass, which fits perfectly in Texas’ new offensive strategy. The stretch, which is, in a way, replacing the zone-option, is nearly as versatile as Texas’ stable of running backs.

“In our system, they taught us all well how to run the play and what to look for to read the play, so we’re all capable of running that play,” running back Fozzy Whittaker said.

The players also get some extra benefit in the film room when studying the play beyond just learning how it works.

“We watch snaps on the Colts to see how they do it,” Whittaker said “It helps us realize the play a little bit better and helps us get a full understanding of how they do it in the League, which we’re all pursuing.”

Huey the hulk
Maybe they should start calling Michael Huey the “Hulk,” given that everyone seems to think he’s one of the strongest guys on the team with a nasty mean streak.

“I think Mikey Huey has been the nastiest out there,” Whittaker said. “I’ve seen him get in a couple of defensive tackles’ personal bubble.”

“I might have to say Michel Huey,” Kheeston Randall said when asked who the strongest guy on the team was. “I’d say [he benches] 500 [pounds].”
Randall’s max on bench is only 445 lbs.

Huey is not alone, though. The one area that was looking to be one of Texas’ weakest points is its strongest ­— at least in the weight room.

“They’re pretty strong,” Randall said of the offensive line. “I’d probably say they’re strongest overall.”

Despite having already made a smooth transition from right guard to left, Huey is going to need that strength to help him while he continues to adjust to the move.

“He’s fine,” said Kyle Hix, who also moved from the right side of the line to the left at tackle. “It takes a couple days to get used to it. Really, it’s not too big of a deal for him. He’s played both sides before.”