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Thursday, January 24, 2013
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.
Read The Heard after the jump.

Texas still on top for Robinson

A'Shawn Robinson broke his silence Wednesday night to tell HornsNation that Texas remains his No. 1 school following his official visit to Alabama last week.

The ESPN 150 defensive tackle from Fort Worth (Texas) Arlington Heights is giving Texas his final visit this weekend. While he’s already been to junior days, camps and home games, he’s looking forward to one more chance to see UT.

Max Olson/
Texas DT commit A'Shawn Robinson might be the lone official visitor in Austin this weekend.

“It’ll be good,” Robinson said. “I just want to make sure I’m making the right decision so I’m going down there.”

Robinson said he liked his trip to Tuscaloosa “about the same” as the one he took to USC in December. Those are the two schools fighting to flip Robinson from his longtime Texas pledge. He said he’s still down to those three schools and won’t take any more visits after seeing Texas this weekend.

“Alabama was good. I had a fun time,” he said. “The best part was having breakfast at Coach [Nick] Saban’s house. That was pretty cool.”

There is one difference about how Alabama is recruiting him: The Crimson Tide want Robinson to play defensive end in their 3-4 scheme.

That’s just fine by him, especially after he primarily played on the outside in a 5-2 defense for Arlington Heights as a senior.

“It’s good, I like that,” he said. “They said I’d work well at defensive end.”

Robinson has stayed in touch with Texas coaches throughout the process, and Mack Brown visited his school last week prior to his trip to Alabama.

“They were just checking in on me to see how things were going,” Robinson said.

While he has been on campus in Austin several times, Robinson still says he’s has high expectations going into the visit.

It’s likely he’ll be Texas’ only visitor this weekend, but he said he thinks it will be nice to have more one-on-one time with the coaching staff and players.

After that official visit is over, Robinson will start thinking about his signing day decision. He’s excited for that Feb. 6 day to come, in part because it will end a long, hectic recruiting process.

Despite how this has all played out, Robinson has stuck with his commitment to Texas. This weekend could reaffirm that. Or it could set him up for a big signing day surprise.

“We’ll see how it goes,” Robinson said. – Max Olson

Two sports an option for CB commit?

ESPN 150 cornerback Antwuan Davis (Bastrop, Texas/Bastrop) had to play mediator of sorts between shell-shocked classmates and Mack Brown when Texas’ head coach stopped by BHS on Tuesday.

“Oh man, everyone was just coming out of class and they couldn’t believe it,” Davis said. “There is this young dude named Tyler. He is a huge Texas fan. We talk about Texas all the time. So me and Mack were talking in the hallway and Tyler turns the corner, sees Mack and turns away. I was like ‘Nah, Tyler, come here.’ He was shaking.

“Then one of my teachers was trying to take a picture and she was shaking so much. It was funny because we went into these classes and everyone was like ‘That’s really him.’ He took pictures with everybody. All of my secretaries were excited.”

Brown and Akina both took the short trip east to Bastrop to check on their cornerback commitment. There were plenty of topics discussed, including the possibility of Davis also running track at Texas.

Davis is one of the fastest high school runners in the state. He came in second in the Class 4A 100-meter dash at the UIL State Track and Field Championships, missing gold by .01 seconds.

He knows where his future resides, however, and said that he is “60-40” on not running track this season.

“I’m a runner. I know that much,” said Davis, who blocked a field goal and deflected another at the U.S. Army All-American Bowl. “But I am a football player first.”

Davis was in Houston over the weekend participating in a track meet where he ran into former Longhorn two-sport star Jamaal Charles and picked his brain about the prospect of also running track at Texas.

“See, that’s the thing, he never pointed me in a direction [of whether I should or shouldn’t],” Davis said. “He left the slate still clean right there.

“He was telling me to make sure I keep my head straight and that I was going to have a lot of free time so to make sure that I am on top of my game at all times.”

Davis brought that up to Brown and Akina.

“Mack would tell me that Jamaal would do all the football stuff and then I would let him run in the Big 12 Championship and he’d win it,” he said. “So I’m thinking he might try and do the same with me but it depends on what my status is at that time.”

Davis did say that he has spoken to Texas’ track coaches and they’ve informed him that running track is an option if he wants to do it.

“I am really going to see how it goes,” Davis said. “I probably won’t do track my freshman or sophomore years. If I choose to go to the league, it depends on that. I know I have to get the defense down. Coach Akina was hinting at that today. He said to make sure you get good at something before you try to get good at something else. I’ll take that into consideration.” – William Wilkerson

More on new juco WR target

The Texas coaching staff’s search for a third receiver prospect for 2013 has led them to Contra Costa (Calif.) College’s Ronald Butler. Here’s a little more on him that didn’t make it into Wednesday’s story.

Courtesy of Contra Costa College
Texas sis evaluating juco wideout Ronald Butler.

Butler was a dynamic athlete at the high school level. He led Jersey City (N.J.) Lincoln to a state title game appearance as a senior while playing quarterback, receiver and defensive back. He even had an offer from Rutgers back then and interest from Pitt.

But he know he couldn’t come close to getting the grades to play Division I football. Through some connections he would up at Contra Costa, and he enjoyed a breakout year in 2012 despite playing in a more pro-style offense. Butler’s 13 touchdown catches broke a school record, and he earned bowl game MVP and all-conference honors.

As you can imagine, besides Butler no one would be happier about seeing him land with the Longhorns than new commit Desmond Harrison.

“Dez got all excited when he heard they were talking about Ronald,” Contra Costa coach Alonzo Carter said. “He was big for us this year.”

If Texas doesn’t end up offering, Butler will probably end up at Utah State. He took an official visit to the program last weekend and liked what they had to offer.

“It’s not as big as Texas, but meeting everybody and going around the school, they were showing me love,” Butler said. “I liked it. That visit went well.”

He can’t imagine how it would feel if the Longhorns actually do take a chance on him after his meeting with its coaches today. But he’s got big goals, both for himself and Harrison, and he knows there’s no matching the visibility one gets by playing for UT.

“I’ve got great talent and I can play with the best of them, I promise you that much,” he said. “You can mark my words: Two years from now, my name is going to be big. Being able to play with Dez would be huge. I know for sure he’s going to the NFL. That kid, with his height and size, he moves too good. Playing with him and running behind him on screens would be really good.”

We’ll see how quickly this recruitment progresses after Darrell Wyatt and Bo Davis check out Butler on Thursday. The staff has been evaluating all of its options at receiver, but with only A’Shawn Robinson slated to be in Austin this weekend, they’re down to only one more weekend to host an official visitor. – Max Olson

Running back search continues

You get the feeling things are back to looking bleak when it comes to Texas’ search for a 2013 running back.

Peyton Barber will not visit Texas today as planned. He’ll be at Ole Miss this weekend and he’ll likely stick with the Rebels from there. As we told you last week, it was a long shot to even get him to consider leaving the SEC. Same goes for Alex Collins -- no time to get him on campus at this point, and Texas just entered the race way too late.

What about Ezekiel Elliott, the Ohio State commit from St. Louis Burroughs who said he has an offer? Texas has been talking to the ESPN 150 back, but it would be quite a surprise if he took a visit. Even though the Buckeyes are bringing Dontre Wilson in on a visit this weekend, Ohio State has assured Elliott he’s their one and only back for the 2013 class, and he hasn’t shown signs of wavering.

Whether he was offered by Texas this week or not, it was more an effort to gauge his interest. Don’t expect much to develop there.

I checked in with Houston Alief Taylor recruiting coordinator Cedric Hardeman this week to see if there’s any chance Trevorris Johnson is the next back Texas goes after.

Larry Porter visited the school this week and sat down to watch his film. Hardeman said it seemed Porter was “real impressed” with the TCU commit. Despite that, he was fairly noncommmital when it came to talking about an offer or visit.

“I know he likes him, so that’s a good sign,” Hardeman said. “But I don’t know about Trevorris. He just got back from a TCU visit and he really liked TCU a lot. I don’t know, this far in the process, where Texas is with building a relationship with him.”

There’s been some talk Johnson will visit Oregon before signing day, thought that’s a tad up in the air as the Ducks put together their remodeled coaching staff. The Ducks have offered, though, and have been by the school several times.

Johnson definitely merits some attention after the senior season he had: 271 carries, 2,115 yards, 19 rushing touchdowns. He finished among the top 10 rushers in the Houston area this fall.

“I know Adam Taylor really got going in the playoffs, but I don’t think there was a more productive back than Trevorris,” Hardeman said. “He went 300-plus two times and had some big games, put together some of the best film we’ve ever seen.”

And then there’s Ke'aun Kinner, the little back from Little Elm, Texas. He’s still very interested in Texas, but he hasn’t heard from Larry Porter since Porter took over the running backs job.

He’s taking the SAT this Saturday and retaking the ACT on Feb. 9. Kinner is doing everything he can to quality and prove he’s worth an offer. We’ll see if Texas comes up short on other targets and makes a last-second move for him. – Max Olson

Longhorns in contention for Las Vegas RB

Texas, Oklahoma, USC and Notre Dame remain the top four schools for ESPN Watch List running back Nathan Starks (Las Vegas/Bishop Gorman). But right now the Sooners are the team to beat for a few simple reasons.
  1. The relationship he has built with OU recruiting coordinator Cale Gundy, which Starks spoke about in my Q&A with him on Wednesday.
  2. The Sooners have a history of recruiting Bishop Gorman.
  3. Adrian Peterson is his favorite running back.

Courtesy Starks Family
Class of 2014 RB Nathan Starks considers Oklahoma his top school.

If Texas wants to move closer toward accompanying or even surpassing its rival then it is going to have to pick up its communication with him.

“Honestly, lately, I haven’t really heard a lot from Texas,” Starks said. “”During the season they definitely let me know that they wanted me. I got a lot of letters from Mack Brown. It was pretty cool seeing that because I’ve known about him for a while. I would definitely like to hear a lot more from them because I haven’t heard from them lately.”

There’s a lot about the Longhorns that interest Starks. Not all of it is football related either.

“I have never been to Texas,” he said. “But I hear a lot of great things about Austin and that’s one of the main reasons I want to visit them so bad.”

That probably won’t happen during either of Texas’ junior days just because of the finances he’d have to put up to travel to Texas for the day event. But it could happen over the summer or on an official visit.

Texas, OU, Notre Dame and Arizona are the junior days he told me he would like to attend if money wasn’t an issue. Arizona is the only one he realistically is thinking about going to right now.

One football factor that does peek Starks’ interest is the lineage of running backs that have honed their craft at UT.

“I mean, yeah, I have always kept up with Texas in the past and I know they have had some great running backs in the past,” he said. “It is just going to depend on how they perform and how I would fit in when I get there.” – William Wilkerson

Huhn ready to be a Horn

Because his Cibolo (Texas) Steele team was still in the playoffs, safety Erik Huhn didn’t get to join the rest of his fellow Texas commits on the banquet weekend.

He made up for that with an official visit last weekend and got lots of one-on-one time as one of only two visits along with Rami Hammad.

By the end of the trip, the four-star safety had no doubts about signing with Texas next month.

“I had an unbelievable amount of fun,” he said. “It was awesome. I loved it. It was everything I thought it was going to be and more.”

Former Steele teammate Malcolm Brown was his host for the weekend, and they hung with Hammad and his host Alex De La Torre throughout Huhn’s two days in town. Huhn and Brown go way back -- his brother, UTEP safety Shane Huhn, was one of Brown’s best friends in high school.

“I’ve been friends with him all through high school and when he was at high school,” Huhn said. “I’ve known him forever, but I hadn’t seen him in a while so it was fun to see what he does up there.”

Huhn enjoyed catching up with Mack Brown and Duane Akina, who also came down to visit him at Steele this week. He assured them he’ll be ready to go in June and his knee will be no issue by then.

He’s running again now and expects to be cleared to play sports in late March. He might even run track this spring just to work on his conditioning.

“We didn’t talk too much scheme stuff, but [Akina] said he’s glad I’m going to be up there and be ready to play and be healthy," Huhn said.

After getting the full tour, Huhn said he fell in love with the Texas campus and can’t wait to join the program. He’s also excited to play with Hammad next season after spending so much time together this weekend.

“He was real cool, and he’s huge,” Huhn said. “He’s only 17, so I can only imagine what he’s going to look like. He was a genuinely nice guy and I have fun hanging out with him. He can only help our class. He showed me some of his film and he’s a monster.”

Though Huhn has continued to hear from recruiters since committing to Texas, he said after this weekend he can’t imagine spending his college years anywhere else.

“You start realizing, man, this is what it’s like for the next 5 years?” he said. “If it is, I’m going to love it.” – Max Olson

Dallas safety to attend UT junior day

Add another name to the ridiculously loaded list of talented defensive backs in the state of Texas for 2014: Jyaz Jones (Dallas/South Oak Cliff).

The 6-foot-0, 180-pound safety has flown under the radar for most of his recruitment but that isn’t because of a lack of talent. He tore a hamstring in SOC’s first scrimmage last season and was never able to return.

But schools are starting to take notice of his talent. Colorado State and New Mexico State have already offered and several have extended invitations for their junior days. That includes Texas.

“Coach [Bruce] Chambers came by the school and he talked to my coaches about it,” Jones said.

Jones will attend the second junior day on Feb. 23. He’ll also attend junior days at Baylor, LSU and Oklahoma.

He’s especially eager to get down to Austin because the Longhorns are a team he grew up rooting for.

“I think it is a very good program just knowing that a lot of famous DBs came out of that program,” he said. “I think it would be a very good program for me.”

Chambers’ stop by SOC wasn’t the first time Jones crossed paths with Texas’ staff. He said a member of the staff took in one of his spring practices his sophomore year.

In addition to Texas, Jones said he is drawing increased interest from LSU and Oklahoma.

“I grew up looking at Texas but then when LSU started recruiting me I fell for them,” said Jones, who recorded 53 tackles, five sacks and three interceptions in 2012.

Colorado State could have the inside edge on Jones, though. The Rams recently garnered a commitment from his brother, 2013 prospect Anjeus Jones (Dallas/South Oak Cliff).

“I am looking at them more,” Jones said. – William Wilkerson

2014 OL coming to 1st junior day

Texas has been chasing Dallas Bishop Dunne cornerback Nick Watkins for a long time, and now one of his teammates is on the radar too.

Bishop Dunne offensive tackle Jovan Pruitt will be joining Watkins at Texas’ Feb. 10 junior day and hopes that trip turns into an offer.

“I think that’s going to be a great trip,” he said. “I’ve been there already and I liked the environment so I want to go back and explore campus a little more.”

A 6-foot-6, 295-pound lineman, Pruitt also has junior day invites to Oklahoma and Baylor. He’s planning to attend the one at Baylor on Feb. 2 but doesn’t think he’ll make it to Norman.

The biggest reason for Pruitt’s interest in Texas was the Longhorn camp he attended this summer.

“I went in the summer time for their camp and I put in some work,” he said. “It was a really good camp, there was a lot of good talent there. I loved the way we competed with each other, we all made each other better that day.”

Since then, he said offensive line coach Stacy Searels has been keeping in touch and bad and insisted he come back to get the junior day experience.

Though Pruitt said there hasn’t been much discussion of one, an offer from Texas would be a big step for him and provide plenty of motivation. So far he only has an offer from Colorado State.

He’s not getting jealous of the fact that Watkins has offers from anyone and everyone. Actually, it inspires Pruitt. He’s confident if he keeps working on his grades more schools will enter the picture.

What about the possibility of playing with Watkins in college, perhaps at Texas? That’s something Pruitt has definitely pondered.

“It would be really good for the both of us,” he said. “If we both got offered there, we might just keep building our chemistry there. Or we might separate and go somewhere different. Nothing is promised.”

With Demetrius Knox already in the fold, it’ll be interesting to see which tackles Searels targets going forward. Dallas Skyline’s Ty Barrett is also expected to attend on Feb. 10, and I’m sure there will be more linemen in Austin that day. There don’t seem to be a ton of proven, must-have linemen in this state for 2014, so expect some of the good ones to be off the board quickly. – Max Olson

Houston WR not interested in Texas

Class of 2014 wide receiver Keenen Brown wasn’t at Houston Alief Taylor High School when Longhorns running backs coach Larry Porter stopped by on Tuesday to check on him and a few other prospects.

Judging from Brown’s interest level in the Longhorns, though, it wouldn’t have mattered all that much if he was present.

Brown, one of the highest rising receiver prospects out of the Houston area, reiterated to me on Tuesday that he isn’t interested in Texas.

“It’s still the case. I don’t know,” he said. “Their offense runs the ball first. I want to go to a pass-first team.”

One school that Brown (6-foot-3, 193 pounds) is interested in hearing from is Georgia.

“I really like Georgia a lot. They pass a lot,” he said. “They pass first and have a nice young quarterback.”

The Bulldogs haven’t spoken to Brown at this point but have sent him numerous letters.

TCU and Texas A&M are two school who have spoken to Brown.

“They have both talked to me a lot,” he said.

Neither has offered but he’s confident both will in the coming months.

“They have told me they will look at my film and will most likely offer by the end of the summer,” Brown said.

Michigan State, Indiana, Missouri, Ole Miss, SMU, Utah and West Virginia have offered Brown already. The Spartans offered him on Wednesday.

The only junior day invite he is aware of is from Oklahoma, which he said he would attend. – William Wilkerson