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Thursday, December 13, 2012
The Heard: UT recruiting news and notes

By William Wilkerson and Max Olson

Welcome to The Heard, HornsNation’s weekly in-depth look inside the never-ending world of Longhorns recruiting with news, notes and interesting tidbits on the latest happenings around the program. We’ll release this every Thursday.

Talk about it in our forum and, if there’s a recruit out there you’d like to hear more from, let us know.

A few of the notes in today's The Heard:
Read The Heard after the jump.

Smythe discusses decommitment

For Durham Smythe, there was no one thing that caused him to decommit from Texas on Wednesday afternoon.

This wasn’t all about Bryan Harsin leaving or playing time or how Texas uses its tight ends. It’s easy to forget that sometimes that not all broken commitments are motivated by selfish demands.

Miller Safrit/
Tight end Durham Smythe says he's not considering Texas anymore.

In fact, what prompted the four-star tight end to back out is something that’s bothered him for a few months: Texas just didn’t feel like the right fit.

“Decommitting was something that was really hard for me to do,” he said. “This is a scenario where it wasn’t like I was unhappy with the school or they did something to anger me or something like that.”

Instead, Smythe admitted he felt he rushed to a decision in a quick one-month recruiting process. As the months passed and he got closer to becoming a Longhorn, he knew his heart wasn’t really in it.

“I think the No. 1 reason is something you can’t really put your finger on,” he said. “You have to be excited about where you’re going to play college football. That’s a big commitment. Over the last couple months I really tried to get excited about playing for Texas, but I felt like something was missing. That’s just a personal thing.”

The fact that Harsin left for Arkansas State, he said, did play a small role in Smythe feeling ready to open up his recruitment. But he said that alone wasn’t the reason.

He made the call to Manny Diaz, his recruiter, and said the defensive coordinator did a “fantastic job” of recruiting Smythe and making him feel comfortable. He just didn’t feel Texas was the place for him.

It was easy to jump to conclusions Wednesday and wonder if Smythe’s decommitment came from a fear about the direction of the program. He said that wasn’t an issue for him.

“I’m a firm believe that the program is back on the way up,” he said.

So what’s next for Smythe? He said Stanford, Notre Dame and Florida are the three schools he’s focused on right now. Smythe said several other schools -- perhaps even Oklahoma -- reached out to Belton coach Rodney Southern following the decommitment, and he’ll sit down with the coach Thursday to sort out the new options.

“I really don’t have any runaway favorites right now as far as another choice,” Smythe said. “Over these next few weeks I’ll try to evaluate things.”

He’ll take a few official visits before reaching a new decision. Smythe doesn’t think he’ll commit anywhere soon, but he’s also not looking to wait until signing day to announce.

Is there any chance that, between now and then, Texas could get back in the mix and convince Smythe to stay?

“No, there’s not,” he said, “just because I feel like I know all that I need to know about them.”

What’s next for Texas? Tight end Geoff Swaim will join the program this spring. D.J. Grant and Barrett Matthews both graduate. It’s hard to know if there’s a tight end out there whom tight ends coach Bruce Chambers would want to replace Smythe.

We’ll keep an eye on this position, but the fact Texas did convert defensive linemen Greg Daniels and Caleb Bluiett to tight end might suggest they’re not in bad shape when it comes to numbers. – Max Olson

What’s Robinson going to do?

Longtime Texas commit A'Shawn Robinson (Fort Worth, Texas/Arlington Heights) came back from his weekend official visit to USC and hasn’t granted an interview since. He’s laying low while working to decide whether he’s sticking with Texas or flipping to the Trojans.

Talk to people who have been following his recruitment in California and there’s a strong sense that USC has a chance to pull this off. One source I spoke with said there’s a sense at USC that the Trojans have about a 60/40 chance of landing Robinson. By all accounts, Robinson had a far better time at USC than even he’d expected.

Here’s what USC commit Kyle Fitts had to say to WeAreSC’s Blair Angulo about Robinson: "I think he liked his visit a lot. He seemed to be enjoying it a lot. I think he's definitely going to consider coming here and I hope he can come here. But he probably won't make a call soon. He said he'll probably decide later on, maybe at the Army game."

The key to this decision appears to be Robinson’s mother. Ever since Robinson started pondering a USC visit this summer, she has declined to be interviewed. But USC is far, far away from Fort Worth. Texas is a less than three-hour drive. That’s a factor for her.

There had been talk about rescheduling his official visit to Alabama, but right now it seems like this is a pretty clear Texas-USC battle.

The fact that Texas is permitting Robinson to take these visits and isn’t deeming him uncommitted tells you how much he means to this class. Other than going out and finding a defensive tackle from the juco ranks, there really would be no replacing the ESPN 150 prospect.

And Texas’ commits know that. Dallas Jesuit receiver pledge Jake Oliver said he and Jake Raulerson have been doing their best to stay in touch with Robinson and remind him how important he is to the future Longhorns.

“We just want to make sure we keep A’Shawn,” Oliver said. “With him, we have the four best linemen in the state of Texas, offensive and defensive: Raulerson, Kent Perkins, Darius James and A’Shawn. We want the best of the best, and A’Shawn is one of the best.”

We’ll keep our ears open for more but right now it’s hard to gauge what Robinson is doing. This battle has only gotten closer thanks to the official visit and it’s safe to say Texas has some work to do over the course of the next month. – Max Olson

Anyone's guess with Smith

East Mississippi Community College head coach Buddy Stephens is even having a hard time reading what Za'Darius Smith is thinking right now.

Smith, his 6-foot-6, 255-pound defensive end, who visited Texas over the weekend is being heavily recruited by several big-time programs including, Auburn, Florida State, Miami, Mississippi State, Missouri, Texas A&M and West Virginia.

“I asked him who his top five were and he said, ‘I couldn’t tell you coach. I don’t know.’ I said, ‘OK,’ " Stephens said.

Smith is an exceptional talent who probably hasn’t tapped into just how good of a football player he can be yet. He was a basketball player growing up and only played one season of organized football in high school, finishing that season with 31 tackles and eight sacks.

“I mean he’s a really good pass rusher, a big, tall kid,” Stephens said. “He graduates mid-term and he is a good athlete, a good football player.”

The Longhorns aren’t desperate for a defensive end in 2013. They’ve got Jackson Jeffcoat returning from injury along with holdovers Reggie Wilson, Cedric Reed, Shiro Davis, Hassan Ridgeway and Bryce Cottrell.

Texas will also have 2013 commitment Jake Raulerson start his career as a defensive end.

That said, bringing someone in like Smith can never hurt. In a league as pass-happy as the Big 12, it’s always nice to have a fresh plethora of DEs to rotate. – William Wilkerson

Heard finding rhythm

The game has really slowed down for Jerrod Heard (Denton, Texas/Guyer).

Take Saturday’s fourth-round game as a perfect example. Guyer won the game 52-42 in large part to what the 2014 Texas quarterback commitment was able to do with his arms and legs.

He rushed 16 times for 167 yards (10.4 yards per carry) and scored on touchdowns of 11 and 8 yards. He also completed 11 of 15 passes (a few of those drops should have been easy completions) and threw scores of 43, 6 and 3 yards.
Heard seemed to make his best plays with his back against a wall, the pocket closing in on him with Birdville defenders.

“It feels slower,” Heard said. “I feel faster out there. I am quicker out there, faster with my reads. It is a good thing.”

He was able to use his experience from last season, his first season as a starter, to get him out of those sticky situations.

“It helped me a lot, especially in 5A,” Heard said. “Starting as a sophomore was very tough playing against teams like Southlake [Carroll]. It really prepared me for this season and I think we have something great here.”

Heard has completed 141 of 227 passes for 1,829 yards, 15 touchdowns and six interceptions. He’s also run 192 times for 1,677 yards and 26 touchdowns.

He says the biggest difference between himself this season and last is his passing game.

“Just making the right reads,” Heard said. “Last year I was really just reading the safety. Now I am reading the outside linebacker and then the safety. I got way better at that and I am very excited.”

Of course he couldn’t be having this success without his offensive line, which he was quick to give credit to after Guyer’s most recent victory.

“I couldn’t ask for anything better,” he said. “[TCU commitment] Patrick Morris is a great lineman. He’s a heck of a player. Just that whole line, that whole front is just something great to have.”

A win against Tyler John Tyler on Friday and he’ll play for a state championship at Cowboys Stadium in Arlington next week. – William Wilkerson

Juco QB recruiting: Game over?

AP Photo/Michael Thomas
Bryan Harsin left Texas to be the head coach at Arkansas State.

The news of Bryan Harsin leaving for Arkansas State sure makes you wonder if Texas’ pursuit of junior college quarterbacks is dead or merely on hold.

We do know this much: Jake Waters isn’t an option. He’s going to Kansas State. And Tanner McEvoy is essentially off the radar too. He’s going to West Virginia this weekend on an official visit. I definitely wouldn’t be surprised if he commits if offered -- McEvoy wants to enroll early, so he’s in a hurry to pick a school and WVU would be his first offer. Plus, Geno Smith leaving means he’s battling with two backups for the starting job.

That leaves Nick Marshall. He hasn’t heard from a Texas coach in quite a while. Harsin was the lead recruiter there, as he was with the other two. I asked Marshall if Harsin leaving means Texas is no longer an option for him.

“I don’t know,” he said. “Just have to wait to see what happens.”

We’ll see if Major Applewhite has any interest in adding another passer to the stable or if he’s always been content with the five that are, for now, expected to be on campus this spring.

You have to wonder, too, who exactly came up with the idea to go after juco QBs. Harsin was the one sent out to meet the three quarterbacks. We’ll know soon whether he was the one motivated to do so, or if it was a Mack Brown idea that now falls on Applewhite’s lap. – Max Olson

Mack Brown stops by for in-home visit with Raulerson

Class of 2013 Longhorns defensive end commitment Jake Raulerson (Celina, Texas/Celina) is so entrenched within the Texas program already that when coach Mack Brown stopped by Celina High School for an in-home visit on Wednesday, it was more an autograph signing than business meeting.

Raulerson, Texas’ first commit of 2013, said there were about 30 people waiting to get autographs and pictures with Brown when he stopped by the school at 1 p.m.

“I mean we really didn’t talk about anything,” he said. “We just had a bunch of family and friends, coaches just meeting Coach Brown, getting stuff signed. It was just a big ordeal of pictures, shaking hands, stories.

“We just had a casual conversation. I wasn’t a recruit for a day. I was just a normal kid. I had fun with it. I didn’t get into details. We just took a lot of pictures. It wasn’t a huge deal.” – William Wilkerson

Davis becoming a class leader

Everyone knows Raulerson is the leader of the Longhorns’ 2013 class. He’s the bell cow, the recruiter, the salesman.

Max Olson/
Cornerback Antwuan Davis has a chance to play early for the Longhorns.

But sometimes even the best salesman can use a good sidekick. For Raulerson, that guy is Antwuan Davis.

The ESPN 150 cornerback commit plans to be Raulerson’s roommate when they get to Texas, and the inseparable future teammates made it their mission to recruit the three junior college prospects visiting Austin last weekend.

“That’s what we did,” Davis said. “I really do think they were impressed. I’m looking forward to hopefully having them be my teammates next year. They were chill. Texas was brand new to them, but you could tell they’re grown men. We definitely had some good talks.”

The guy who made the biggest impression on Davis? East Mississippi Community College defensive end Za’Darius Smith.

“That one dude was big,” Davis said. “He was big. I was like, man, we definitely need you, bro.”

Davis got even closer with Texas’ defensive backs. Josh Turner was his host for the weekend, and the four-star corner was heavily involved in Texas’ practice. Turner, the rest of the defensive backs and coach Duane Akina took time to teach him plays during the session.

That learning should do Davis some good. After talking with the Longhorns coaching staff, he fully expects to play right away when he gets to campus.

“I talked to coach Akina and he was telling me they’re still recruiting corners,” Davis said. “But he said, ‘You’re big, you’re fast, you’re strong. You should see the field.’ That makes me happy.”

The visit only made David regret that he isn’t enrolling early with Raulerson. It’s too late for that now, but experiencing a live practice made Davis confident he can hang with any Texas cornerback. – Max Olson

Warrick ready to return

Two months ago, a torn meniscus in his right knee ended the senior season of ESPN 150 receiver Jacorey Warrick.

The Texas commit never saw it coming, especially since he didn’t think the injury was in any way significant when it occurred. Now he’s on the road to recovery and confident he won’t lose any of the speed that made him such a dangerous threat in the slot.

“It’s going well. No more pain or anything,” Warrick said. “I’m still taking it pretty slow, but the rehab should be done in another month or two. It’s a little frustrating but I’m just trying to do what they tell me to do so I come back the correct way and it doesn’t happen again.”

The 5-foot-10, 170-pound wideout said his official visit to Texas last weekend “exceeded all expectations,” and he was especially excited to see the city of Austin and watch practice.

Warrick is confident the commits who made it to Texas last weekend -- remember, Smythe wasn’t one of them -- will stick to their word and stay with the class.

“Everyone that’s committed seems to be fully committed,” he said. “We’re all coming closer.”

Though he already knew Deoundrei Davis well considering their schools are six miles apart, Warrick said he enjoyed getting to better know Davis, Chevoski Collins, Jake Oliver and Kent Perkins during the trip.

He also got to sit down with Mack Brown and discuss his role in the Texas offense next year. Warrick has his eye on the vacancy that speedster Marquise Goodwin is leaving when he graduates.

“I had a talk with the coaches and they see me fitting in, of course, with the speed department,” Warrick said. “They need some more speed because that’s what the game is turning into, guys who can get the ball and score fast.” – Max Olson

Why McCrane didn’t pick Texas

Brownwood (Texas) kicker Matthew McCrane is a huge Longhorns fan. Huge.

He thought seriously about walking on at Texas next season since the Longhorns won’t be taking a scholarship kicker in 2013. But the scholarship offer and situation he’ll be walking into at Kansas State was just too much to pass up.

“UT would have had to be a gray[shirt] or redshirt and offer for me to attend,” he said. “I am excited about Kansas State and working with [KSU special teams coordinator] coach Sean Snyder. It is such a good fit as they really focus on special teams.”

The numbers just make more sense at Kansas State than they do at Texas. McCrane has been told he’ll be the only scholarship kicker next season.

Meanwhile, the Longhorns will have Anthony Fera (senior), Will Russ (junior), Nick Jordan (sophomore), Nick Rose (Sophomore) and Ben Pruitt (sophomore) all returning.

“I understand with the number of kickers Texas has that it would be almost impossible for them to offer a scholarship to another kicker,” he said. “Fera will heal and the other kickers will improve.

To come in as a freshman and be in that environment must be tough. With me being a quarterback as well, all of the pressure and thought process for that position are tremendous so kicking is not as difficult. I also have had good training and preparation from my kicking coaches.”

McCrane has worked with plenty of them including KickNation (Chris Shaw), Kohl’s (Jamie Kohl), Kornblue Kicking (Brandon Kornblue), One on One Kicking (Nick Gatto) and the one that started him off two years ago Kicking World (Brent Grablachoff).

They have paid off. McCrane, who also had an Air Force offer, made 4 of 6 field goals with a long of 47 yards this season. His career long 52 yards. He also made more than 30 touchbacks and made 26 of 27 extra points. – William Wilkerson

Joe staying put

One recruit that the Longhorns shouldn’t have to worry about looking elsewhere with Bryan Harsin now gone is 2014 wide receiver Lorenzo Joe (Abilene, Texas/Cooper), the class’ first commitment.

“No, it doesn’t have any affect on me,” Joe said. “I really didn’t talk to him much. With him leaving it hasn’t affected my decision because I know with Coach [Major Applewhite] we are still going to be good.”

Joe said that he probably spoke to Harsin on only a few occasions while he was in Austin but has mainly built a connection with defensive tackles coach Bo Davis and new co-offensive coordinator/wide receiver coach Darrell Wyatt. The fact that Wyatt is not only his position coach but a co-offensive coordinator along with Applewhite really makes Joe excited for what’s to come once he gets to Austin.

In the meantime, Joe is worried about getting into basketball shape. – William Wilkerson