Thursday, February 7, 2013
The Heard: UT recruiting news and notes
By Max Olson and William Wilkerson
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 2014-heavy edition of The Heard:
Texas commit Demetrius Knox is taking the lead for the Horns' Class of 2014.
“Me and all the other commits are going to try and go all out for this whole thing,” Knox said. “We will get there the 9th and some of the other guys will be there too. We are going to visit all of Austin and go out with our coaches and parents so we can wake up in the morning and already know each other. Hopefully it will make them more comfortable so they will go ahead and commit to Texas.”
It’s a unique opportunity for those commitments simply because this is the first junior day in Mack Brown’s tenure at Texas that he’ll have numerous commitments already on board. So not only will he and his staff be recruiting but his seven commitments will too.
That’s never something the coaches asked Knox to do. But once they found out he and the rest of the commitments were taking that upon themselves “they were happy.”
“I figure it’s a part of my job since I’m going to be a part of the program,” Knox said. “So why not make us better. The more people that we can get that are great players the better we will be.”
Going 22-16 over the past three seasons doesn’t make Texas the easy sell it once was. At least not to everyone. So Knox doesn’t just stick to football criteria when trying to sale the Longhorns. He sales the university and not the program.
“I ask them a few questions: Can you find a better school for yourself? I mean UT has great academics that will help you after college,” Knox said. “You will get great connections along the way. There is a great coaching staff. With the 2013 class they have now, crazy talent. If you can’t work with that talent then that’s crazy.
“There’s no better place. If the whole NFL thing doesn’t work out but you have a degree from Texas you are set.”
Knox is such a believer in what the Longhorns have going for themselves right now he’s ready to make a bold prediction.
“In my opinion, by the end of my sophomore year in college, if the pieces fall into place UT will win a national championship by then.” – William Wilkerson
Top Dallas LB anxious to get to Austin
One of the biggest names that will be on campus, committed or not, will be uncommitted linebacker Cameron Hampton.
The ESPN Watch List prospect from Dallas Carter will make his second trip down to Austin, this time with his parents, brother and sister. He’s particularly excited about letting them meet one person in particular.
“I’m really just excited about being down there and seeing [defensive coordinator] Coach [Manny] Diaz,” said Hampton, who will get to Austin on Saturday in anticipation for Sunday’s event. “He said he is going to spend some 1-on- 1 time with me and my family. Coach [Mack] Brown said the same thing.”
This is a really good sign that Hampton is eager to see Diaz as his relationship with perhaps the top linebacker on Texas’ board, at least in-state, is all about having a great relationship with the recruiter of the school he’ll be choosing.
Oklahoma co-offensive coordinator Jay Norvell has frequented Carter High since the Sooners started recruiting Hampton and has already built a strong relationship with him.
Diaz was at Carter’s basketball game last week, making sure Hampton understands how important he is to Texas’ future.
“I can’t really say [who I have a better relationship with] but I have a pretty good relationship with Coach Diaz,” Hampton said. “He actually came to see one of my basketball games last week. I talked to him the day before we played at my school. He was saying that he was looking forward to seeing me, hanging out with me and spending some more time with my family.”
Right now he’s got the Longhorns and Sooners at the top of his list and Texas shouldn’t have a problem staying in that top two pair. But if it wants to end at No. 1 the Longhorns are going to have to win his parents over on Sunday.
“They really are a big part of all of this,” Hampton said. “At the end of the day they have a huge say so. They play a huge part in this.”
Hampton did say that his parents didn’t have a preference where he went to school as of now.
“My parents just want me to go to school,” he said. – William Wilkerson
Texas A&M commit will visit
Mack Brown isn’t going to let his 2014 commits take visit elsewhere if they intend to stay committed, but the Longhorns will host one recruit this weekend who’s already made an early pledge to Texas A&M.
Receiver Jamal Jeffery will be one of a many Lufkin (Texas) junior and even sophomore prospects on campus on Sunday.
Sam Khan Jr./ESPN.com
Junior receiver Jamal Jeffery, a Texas A&M commit, will be in Austin on Sunday.
The 5-foot-8, 165-pound slot receiver committed to the Aggies in December. Since then, he has received a flood of interest.
“A lot more schools are sending me stuff now,” he said. “Alabama has been sending me stuff, Northwestern, Texas Tech, Mississippi State, Baylor and a lot more schools. I can’t name them all off the top of my head.”
He’s looking forward to finding out just how interested Texas might be. Jeffery said defensive tackle D.J. Williams, 2015 lineman Erik McCoy and 2015 athlete Keke Countee are just a few of the many Panthers who plans to check out what Austin has to offer. One he got word his teammates were all going, Jeffery decided he should too.
“I’m just going to see what it’s like down there,” Jeffery said.
Jeffery isn’t planning to take any other junior day visits and said he’s still plenty happy with his commitment to A&M, though he hasn’t told the staff about his plans to see Texas.
While Jeffery admitted being the son of an Aggie was a big motivation for his pledge, he has no problem admitting the Longhorns are appealing too.
“I think Texas got a real good program,” he said. “I like their program. The thing that got me is A&M passes a bit more than Texas does and they have a spread offense.”
With K.D. Cannon not expected to visit this weekend – he’ll be on a junior day trip to Texas Tech – it’ll be interesting to see if any new receiver targets emerge for Texas. Lorenzo Joe and Roderick Bernard have already given their pledges, and the last-second addition of Montrel Meander for the 2013 class means receiver might not be a major priority from a numbers standpoint with this next class. – Max Olson
Thomas ready to compare OU, Texas
Another one of the top targets that will be in Austin this weekend is ESPN Watch List defensive tackle Solomon Thomas (Coppell, Texas/Coppell).
Thomas is fresh off of a very satisfying trip to Norman, Okla., for the Sooners’ junior day on Feb. 2.
“They showed us the facilities and got to talk to all of the coaches,” he said. “We saw the academic facilities and had a good time.”
Thomas got some quality one-on-one time with Oklahoma head coach Bob Stoops, who reiterated to Thomas that he was a wanted man north of the Red River.
“He was just letting me know more about the program and that they want me there,” Thomas said. “[He] told me I need to make the right decision for myself, that a lot of schools are going to come after me but it’s all about where I fit in and where I think I’ll be best.”
In addition to talking with Stoops, Thomas also spent some time with Sooners defensive ends coach Bobby Jack Wright about the idea of early playing time.
“I talked to Coach Wright about that and said that’s all about me,” he said. “It all depends on how I come in and handle two-a-days and how I work to get better. They are in need of D-linemen. A bunch went pro two years ago. They are getting two in 2013 and two in my class so there would be an even chance to go in and play.”
Defensive end is also a position of need for the Longhorns in 2014, and they’ve already began to address the spot with the commitment of Derick Roberson. Thomas is aware of this and plans on talking to Mack Brown, Oscar Giles and others about it on Sunday.
“I am looking forward to just getting back and talking with the coaches, getting a good feel for them and talking with other recruits,” he said. “Just building my comfortability with everyone down there.”
With Thomas’ offers list seemingly growing by the day, there has been some discussion out there that he may have fallen out of favor with the Longhorns. Thomas said “Not at all.”
“No one has fallen out of favor,” he said. “I am jut going out and experiencing new things. I haven’t fallen out with Texas at all. I am just looking for a place that I can be comfortable at. I want to have fun for four years. Can I see myself there without football?”
Texas has to hope he can get the answers to some of those questions on Sunday. – William Wilkerson
ATH taking another Texas trip
The obvious question going into any junior day: Who could commit?
Brenham (Texas) athlete Darrion Johnson is one guy worth keeping an eye on. Texas has had its eye on him for quite a while as a defensive back.
Making an early pledge has never really been the plan all along for the 5-foot-10, 180-pound prospect. Johnson said he has long dreamed of making his big commitment at an All-America game after his senior season.
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But pulling the trigger before then could get tempting, especially while he’s in Austin. Johnson said he’s already visited the school at least five times in the past two years.
“I’m looking forward to the visit,” Johnson said. “It’s important to me. Texas junior day is an important one to visit.”
Johnson recently picks up new offers from Oklahoma State and TCU. They joined his early short list that also includes Oklahoma, Texas and Texas A&M.
“They’re all even right now,” he said.
He’s still holding onto his dreams of a postseason announcement, but Johnson did admit it “could be a possibility” that he finds what he’s looking for before then.
Johnson plans to hit SMU’s junior day next weekend, possibly Oklahoma down the road and would like to take trips out to Notre Dame and Oregon at some point during his recruitment.
Texas secondary coach Duane Akina stopped by Brenham last month to check in and make sure Johnson had his junior day invite.
“I talked to coach Akina the other day and he’s pretty cool,” Johnson said. “They were talking about wanting me to come back and visit again.”
He’s looking forward to catching up with former Brenham teammates Malcom Brown and Tim Cole during his time on campus. Johnson said the biggest thing he wants to learn more about this weekend his what Texas has to offer academically.
“I’m just looking for a school that fits me,” Johnson said.
Texas is in good shape and has already offered, but a successful visit could prompt Johnson to start rethinking his decision plans. With how the rest of the 2014 defensive backs class is playing out, Johnson might be a recruit worth scooping up early if possible. – Max Olson
Joe gets back to receiver
On Sunday, Jan. 27, for a day at least, Longhorns wide receiver commit Lorenzo Joe (Abilene, Texas/Cooper) was actually, well, a wide receiver.
The ESPN Watch List prospect knows that’s where he’ll play once he gets to Austin but right now he’s lining up under center for his high school.
So the Next Level Athlete Top 100 combine in Lancaster gave him the perfect opportunity to hone his craft out wide and he was among the better WR in attendance.
“I was a little rusty with the receiver stuff,” Joe smiled. “It felt a little different because I haven’t done it in a while. It felt good to come out here. It was a neat experience going against so many great DBs. It just felt good to get my feet back under me and my hands going.”
Joe’s football offseason is comprised of basketball in-season so he doesn’t have a ton of time to keep his hands fresh nowadays. But he is making due.
“I’m a busy guy,” he said. “That’s the life of the high school athlete. But I balance it out. I’ll lift with the guys and practice basketball after school. But I’ll throw the ball around on the weekends.”
Joe said he felt his hands were “good” on Sunday but was disappointed in himself for dropping one that hit him right in his hands.
That’s a ball Joe likely snags without hesitancy once he gets back into focusing in on just being a receiver. But that’ll have to wait until he’s finished at Cooper whre he’ll remain a quarterback his senior season.
“It’s been fun even though the coaches have been switching me around in high school,” Joe said. “But I know receiver is what I’m going to play in college. But it is going to help me out playing quarterback because I am going to know what quarterbacks are doing to us and where the DBs are in defenses. So it’s a big plus.”
It speaks to Joe’s talents that the Longhorns offered him as a WR without even seeing him play a down of it as a junior. They saw all they needed to his sophomore year.
“Coach [Bo] Davis came down a couple of times during the spring,” he said. My coach showed him my film and was very impressed with my receiving stuff. So he said he wanted me to come down that summer and go to a camp. So that’s when it happened.” - William Wilkerson
Does Pruitt have UT offer?
When Texas began sending out offers to 2014 prospects back in August, one guy who wasn’t sure where he stood was Dallas Bishop Dunne lineman Jovan Pruitt.
The 6-foot-6, 295-pound offensive tackle was sure he had an offer after his performance at a Texas camp in June. He’d like to get some clarity this weekend.
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“They basically offered me in 2012,” he said. “It was at one of their camps, they pulled me aside to say I had one.”
Pruitt said he even went so far as to meet with Mack Brown that day. He’s confident he does have an offer, but he’ll find out for sure (or at least for now) this weekend.
Pruitt is taking in Texas’ first junior day with touted teammate Nick Watkins. One thing he and the corner still haven’t figured out is whether they want to stick together at the college level.
“The visit will be pretty good for both of us,” Pruitt said. “Maybe we’ll end up going to the same college. I’m not sure yet. I might end up going somewhere else. But it’ll be good for us.”
Oklahoma, Notre Dame and Baylor have all taken notice and offered Pruitt. He’s in the process of doing his research about those three, just to figure out if they’re worth serious consideration. But he’s had his eye on Texas for a while now.
If Texas coaches did confirm Pruitt’s offer this weekend, would a verbal commitment come shortly thereafter?
“I have strong feelings about them but I’m not sure about a commitment yet,” Pruitt said. “I’m still figuring out all these colleges. I’m not about to go somewhere that I wont end up liking.”
Pruitt will visit SMU next week and has a few other junior day visit plans in the works.
Even with the loaded line class Texas signed on Wednesday, getting the right linemen right away in 2014 will be critical. The Longhorns already have Knox in the fold. How many more can they add?
Pruitt will try to find out on Sunday. – Max Olson
2014 DE coming to first junior day
Texas didn’t end up landing four-star guard Caleb Benenoch, but its coaches are not done recruiting Katy (Texas) Seven Lakes.
Seven Lakes 2014 defensive end Jarrett Johnson has received an invite to Texas’ first junior day and said he plans to attend.
The 6-foot-3, 225-pound defensive lineman recently picked up his first two offers from Missouri and Northwestern and already considers three schools his early favorites: Texas, Texas A&M and LSU.
The Aggies just recently began talking to Johnson after visiting Seven Lakes, and Johnson said he did receive a junior day invite from LSU. He didn’t think Texas would do the same.
“That really surprised me, I didn’t expect them to come by,” Johnson said. “I like Texas and I like living in Texas, so going to a school like that would be something I’d prefer.”
Johnson said he was more of a basketball guy growing up, but once he got interested in football the Longhorns were one of his favorite programs.
“I like the idea of them,” he said. “I’m definitely going down there to check it out. An offer would mean a lot to me.”
More schools are entering the picture every day, but Texas has a chance to make a big impression on Johnson at its first junior day. Most of those schools are recruiting him to play defensive end, though depending on the scheme he thinks he could do a variety of things at the college level.
“I definitely have to learn more about the game, but I plan on picking it up quickly,” Johnson said. “I think I can be versatile and make a big impact.”
With Derick Roberson already in the fold, Texas will obviously make Solomon Thomas one of its biggest priorities. Johnson and Denton Ryan’s Sekou Clark could be two guys who gets on the radar after the junior day, though, especially with Myles Garrett (Arlington, Texas/Martin) seeming more and more like a Texas A&M lean. - Max Olson