Thursday, February 14, 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.
A few of the notes in today's 2014-heavy edition of The Heard:
Thomas takes in Austin
Cannon ready to see Texas
Knox sold on Texas?
Catalon still solid with UT
Bates has strong Texas ties
Barrett expects UT offer
Who leads for Johnson?
Joe growing comfortable as commitment
Fla. LB likes Texas
Read The Heard after the jump.
Thomas takes in Austin
One of the most high-profile recruits to arrive in Austin on Sunday was ESPN Watch List defensive end Solomon Thomas (Coppell, Texas/Coppell).
Oklahoma had just made its pitch to him at its junior day on Feb. 2 so this was the Longhorns’ chance to impress, and they did.
Watch List DE Solomon Thomas has already been to junior days at Texas and Oklahoma.
Thomas has been to Texas’ campus before so he knew the ins and outs of it. His purpose of the trip was to get to know the coaches and commits more, which he felt he did.
“[The coaches] were just telling me that they want me a lot and that this is a good fit for me and them,” Thomas said. “This is a place that I can succeed. They said that they were going to come after me hard no matter what until the end.”
Defensive end is no doubt a position of need in 2014 for the Longhorns, who already have one commitment at the position in Derick Roberson. Adding Thomas would be a huge victory for Mack Brown and Co.
Brown left no stone unturned in Thomas’ eyes. Thomas had numerous conversations with Brown, defensive ends coach Oscar Giles, receivers coach Darrell Wyatt, defensive tackles coach Bo Davis, defensive coordinator Manny Diaz and strength and conditioning coach Bennie Wylie.
“It was a good day,” Thomas said. “I got some academic information and learned a lot about the program and what they are wanting to bring in, what kind of players they want to recruit.”
Thomas also spent a lot of time being recruited by Texas’ current commits.
“It was good because those guys are the ones that have been committed there since the beginning so they know the most about Texas,” Thomas said. “It was good to talk to them because those are the guys that are going to be there until the end.”
Thomas said he is probably done with junior days but will get to several spring practices and also spring games. Baylor and TCU are the two in-state schools he mentioned wanting to visit.
He also wants to visit Ohio State and Alabama in the coming months.
“I don’t know for sure yet but I really want to go up there,” Thomas said. – William Wilkerson
Cannon ready to see Texas
K.D. Cannon is already starting to get questions about when he’ll be ready to make a decision. For the Mount Pleasant (Texas) receiver, the answer is pretty simple: After he’s seen everything he needs to see.
“I’ve got to see all the campuses first before I make my decision,” he said.
The ESPN Watch List standout visited Texas Tech last weekend. He’s tentatively planning to visit Oklahoma State this weekend and Texas’ second junior day on Feb. 23.
Where does his relationship with the Longhorns stand at this point? With receivers Lorenzo Joe and Roderick Bernard already committed, Cannon knows he’s now a major priority for Texas.
“They’ve been telling me how I’m basically the only receiver they’re trying to recruit in my class,” he said. “It’s an honor. It just lets me know I’m doing what I’m supposed to do on the field.”
Texas coaches have made a strong push for Cannon since Major Applewhite took over as playcaller, and they’ve told him their new high-tempo offensive scheme will be a good fit for his abilities.
Still, talk is cheap. Cannon is excited to get on campus for junior day and see how different the Texas offense looks during the spring practice he’ll attend.
“I’ve got to see it on the field first,” he said. “They can say a lot but not do it. If I see it on the field, that’ll be pretty good to see.”
Cannon came away impressed with his visit to Texas Tech. New coach Kliff Kingsbury sold him on a chance to play the “Z” outside receiver position and explained what kind of offensive identity he’ll bring to a program long known for its pass-heavy offense.
“He said he’s going to do it how he did it at Houston,” Cannon said. “It’s Air Raid. Get the ball to the playmakers a lot. Their offense is going to be pretty good. They showed me how I’d fit in, because we kind of run the same offense now at my high school.”
Where that visit puts Tech on Cannon’s list of top schools, he won’t say. He says everyone is even right now until he takes more visits. That being said, one school has made a stronger push than most.
“Right now, Baylor is working the hardest,” Cannon said. “They come by the school almost every weekend and I get on the phone with them almost every weekend to talk. They’ve had great receivers come in the past few years and to hear I can be the next great one is pretty good.”
Cannon is focused on his upcoming track season right now -- he’s going run the 100, 200 and sprint relays -- and the 6-foot-1 wideout is up a few pounds to 168.
When he talks to recruiters, though, they’re confident the K.D. Cannon you see today won’t be the one that takes the field in college. He’s not done growing.
“They say by the way my frame is, they see me growing a couple more inches before I graduate from high school,” he said.
That speed plus that size? Hard to beat. When asked if a few more inches would make him the top receiver in the nation for 2014, he has a simple answer: “Yes sir.”
Cannon wants to also visit Oklahoma, Baylor and as many in-state junior days as possible. He said he’s not planning to make a final decision until the fall, potentially after his senior season. – Max Olson
Texas commit Demetrius Knox says he's solid with the Longhorns.
Here it is if you need a refresher: “I feel like, regardless, if you are committed or not, you should be allowed to take visits and official visits to other colleges because, what happens your freshman and sophomore year if you are at a university and you didn't take those visits? You might have second thoughts or whatever. If you went on those visits you get to decide what school is best for you so you can never have second thoughts."
This comes a few weeks after Knox told me that he wouldn’t rule out the possibility of visiting Alabama, after Nick Saban stopped by the area for his last pitch efforts for A’Shawn Robinson.
Well maybe this will make you feel a little better.
“I’d have to say my favorite part of the junior day was putting on that No. 78 jersey and walking onto the field,” Knox said. “I was ready to play football right then and there. I was ready to go. Everyone was hyped and ready to go. Just doing that felt right.”
The fact that it just felt right should ease some tension. He and coach Mack Brown spoke about the new policy on Sunday and are on the same page, according to Knox.
Another thing that should ease the tension a bit are the friendships he is forming with his fellow commits. Sunday was their first time to really spend time with each other and it couldn’t have gone any better.
“It was real cool,” he said. “I was pretty surprised actually because it seemed like we have known each other for years. We are real close now. We talk to each other on a regular basis, making jokes, just chillin'.”
Knox is all on board when it comes to recruiting for the university. In the end it’s only going to help him to do so.
“Big time. That’s part of our job as commits to the university,” he said. “I mean, whoever else good we can get on board to sign with Texas too. I mean, it not only helps us but the university.”
Knox said he spoke with everyone but the commitments were really trying to talk the Longhorns up to defensive end Solomon Thomas.
“He really hasn’t made up his mind yet but from what I talked to him about he really does like Texas and did like his visit,” he said. – William Wilkerson
RB commit still solid
ESPN Watch List running back Donald Catalon (Houston/Eisenhower) committed to Texas in August, but that hasn’t stopped powerhouses from stopping by his school this spring.
“Last week, USC, Alabama and TCU all came by,” he said. “TCU is really trying to get me.”
And what did Catalon have to say to those visiting recruiters?
“It’s cool, but I’m staying with Texas,” he said. “If they come to the school, we can talk. But I’m staying with Texas.”
After visiting Texas for its junior day on Sunday, Catalon went home feeling even more confident about the commitment he made last year.
He’d camped at Texas in the summer, but getting the full tour was an eye-opener. The amenities -- dorm rooms, weight room, the fingerprint scanner to enter the locker room -- blew him away, but building a good relationship with his fellow commits was just as important.
Until Bernard committed, Catalon was Texas’ only 2014 pledge from the Houston area. He was looking forward to meeting the commit from the DFW area who’d already built up a strong bond.
“They’re cool, I like them,” Catalon said. “And the new commit, the linebacker Cameron Hampton, I saw his highlights and he’s good. We should have a good class.”
Catalon said he’s been talking with Jerrod Heard via Facebook for months, so when they met up Sunday it felt like they’d been longtime friends. Bernard started texting Catalon the day after he committed, and they’ve kept in touch ever since.
Another plus from the junior day trip was getting to catch up with Applewhite and running backs coach Larry Porter. Catalon said his relationship with the new running backs coach is off to a good start.
He’s excited about the direction of the offense going forward, but whether Texas runs more of a spread offense or not going forward doesn’t make a big difference to Catalon.
“It really doesn’t matter what I play in,” he said. “I just play.” – Max Olson
Bates has strong Texas ties
Class of 2014 linebacker Dillon Bates (Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla./Ponte Vedra Beach) still considers himself a Texan even though he’s lived in Florida for nearly a decade.
He lived in Plano with his family as his father, Bill Bates, became one of the most renowned special teams players in NFL history for the Dallas Cowboys.
So when he received his offer from the Longhorns on junior day, in the first of two phone calls with Manny Diaz and Mack Brown that day, it meant more to him than one might believe.
“It’s a big offer,” Bates said. “Just growing up in Texas for the first eight years of my life. You saw burnt orange everywhere. It means a lot coming from the state and being from the state. It means a lot.”
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But what type of chance do the Longhorns have with him?
Because his father played for Tennessee it’s easy to automatically assume that the Volunteers are first in line for his signature. But that’s not the case.
“When we sit down and talk about it he’s always told me to go where I feel I am most comfortable,” Bates said. “Growing up in Tennessee there is always that pull to go there. But he tells me not to listen to that and to go where I think I best fit in and will feel comfortable going for the next three to four to five years.”
What should be comforting to the Longhorns is the fact that Dillon has already had two brothers go to college outside of Florida so the idea of playing away from home is one he is definitely considering.
“I had two brothers that just got finished playing college football,” he said. “One played at Northwestern and the other played at Arkansas State. So being close to home isn’t too big of a problem.”
Dillon added that his father travels to Texas numerous times per month.
The two have a very close relationship and, as you might expect, the younger Bates has learned a few things from his father’s playing days.
Not the biggest, fastest or strongest player in the league, Bill Bates made a name for himself with unwavering hustle, grit and determination. They are all things the younger Bates has incorporated into his game.
“The best thing that I take from him is the advice that he gives me and the work that he put into this is something that I strongly take notes from and try to implement,” Bates said. “Just little things like not taking a rep off. Just listening to him talk about the process and what it’s going to take to take me from a good player to a great player, and from a great player to the best player I can be. It’s all those mental things that really a lot of players don’t have as a mentor. It’s a big thing to me.” – William Wilkerson
Barrett expects UT offer
Texas has Knox on board, but it’s hard to tell which other 2014 offensive linemen are the biggest priorities at this point for line coach Stacy Searels.
Dallas Skyline offensive tackle Ty Barrett visited Texas on Sunday and went home without an offer. He wasn’t disappointed by that, because Barrett vowed he’s going to be patient with the process.
“Coach Searels told me I was a great player. He said be patient with us,” Barrett said. “I was talking to one of the other guys on the team who was an Oklahoma State commit, and he told me you’ve got to be patient with them. There’s a lot of things they’ve got to evaluate.
“It’s the University of Texas. Everyone likes Texas. You know you’ve got to be patient with them. Coach told me to keep calling them during the week and stuff like that.”
That being said, Barrett did come away from his visit confident that he’ll receive a Texas offer eventually. And getting one would be a big deal to him.
Barrett has been loading up on offers lately -- Baylor, TCU and SMU all offered in the past two days -- but he’s not in a hurry yet to figure out where he’ll play his college ball.
This was Barrett’s second junior day trip after checking out Oklahoma last weekend. The 6-foot-5, 285-pound lineman said from the moment he arrived on campus he was impressed by what Texas had to offer.
“It was a very family oriented school, and that’s one thing I really liked,” he said. “I got to meet coach Searels’ wife and Miss Sally, Coach Brown’s wife at the start of the visit. I got to meet all the coaches’ wives, and that was very family oriented.”
Another thing that stood out to Barrett: He’s already tight with most of Texas’ 2014 commits. He already knew Knox, Daniel Gresham and Jerrod Heard well, but Barrett said he enjoyed getting to meet Lorenzo Joe and being treated like one of the guys in that group.
“That’s a factor,” he said. “If you already know guys like them, that’s chemistry.”
One of the visit highlights Barrett was looking forward to was getting to hang out with former teammate and close friend Peter Jinkens. The Texas freshman linebacker watched film with Barrett and explained why he should join Jinkins in Austin.
“He told me they’re going to push you your hardest and bring the player out of you,” Barrett said. “I mean, his whole body has changed since he got there. We looked at their workouts and they’re very intense. I want my body to look like Peter’s.”
Next up is a trip to Oklahoma State this weekend, then Texas Tech the following weekend. By now, Barrett is used to being courted by his Skyline teammates during this process. Ra'Shaad Samples has been in his ear about checking out OSU, and Devante Kincade got him interested in Ole Miss.
Once Barrett wraps up his spring visit schedule, he’ll start pondering the right time to make a pledge.
“After that we’re going to sit and wait a while and see how everything is going,” he said. “Going into summer or early senior year is when I’ll make my decision. But if I feel deep down that I’m ready at any time, I’ll do it.” – Max Olson
Who leads for Johnson?
The race for ESPN Watch List athlete Darrion Johnson is starting to heat up, and Texas is officially in it.
Texas ended some serious confusion when Mack Brown offered Johnson a scholarship on Wednesday. Back on Dec. 14, Johnson said he picked up an offer from UT. Since then, though, all involved have said they weren’t sure if he had one.
Now that the Longhorns’ offer is legitimate, what are they up against? All those recruiters who passed through Brenham to check out Malcom Brown and Tim Cole in 2011 are coming back, and they want a shot at landing the Cubs’ next star.
“I think everybody is very impressed with him, from what I’m hearing,” Brenham coach Glen West said. “Based on what people have said, I feel like he’ll have a lot to choose from.”
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And West can’t say he’s surprised. The junior did it all for Brenham this season, on both sides of the ball. His coach knows the best fit for Johnson and all the physical tools he brings to the table is cornerback or safety, but he’s capable of much more.
“He’s a complete player,” West said. “He has great hands, great ball instincts, aggressive, fast, good runner, good returner, very good defensive player who can play corner but also safety.
“So he’s got a lot of flexibility. I’d say he’s an athlete who should definitely play cornerback.”
Johnson has told HornsNation in the past that Texas, Oklahoma and Oklahoma State have separated themselves early on, with OSU and TCU both recently offering.
But West said Johnson is certainly starting to get more national attention, including from the SEC powerhouses. Johnson has said it’s his dream to announce his decision at the Under Armour All-America Game, and right now all he’s focused on is building up good relationships with the coaches recruiting him.
For Texas, that’s Duane Akina and Oscar Giles. West said both coaches have done a great job so far, and that Akina recently stopped by the school and had “a lot of really good things to say” about the 5-foot-10, 180-pound defensive back.
Texas was already in good shape with Johnson, and his junior day visit on Sunday only helped.
“I think he’s extremely interested,” West said. “I know it was a good experience at the junior day. I haven’t talked to him that much about that at this time, but I know he was impressed. I know he was.”
Expect Texas to be a major player for Johnson throughout the year, even if he takes his decision all the way into next January. – Max Olson
Joe growing comfortable as a commitment
If you follow any of Texas’ commitments on Twitter you’ll figure out pretty quickly that the bond between some of them is already tightknit.
That especially rings true for Lorenzo Joe (Abilene, Texas/Cooper), the class' first commitment, Jerrod Heard (Denton, Texas/Guyer) and Fort Worth (Texas) All Saints teammates Daniel Gresham and Demetrius Knox.
“This was our first day to really sit down and hang out with each other,” Joe said. “We’ve met at games and camps before. But to actually hang out with them for the day, it felt like we have known each other forever. That’s what my parents were telling me. My mom was laughing about it. We’ve built a pretty close bond for the short time that we’ve known each other.”
The four of them have even discussed the idea of getting Longhorns tattoos at some point. Knox told me he’d get his during his freshman season.
Joe hung out with those three the most but had an enjoyable time getting to know all of the commitments, including Cameron Hampton (Dallas/Carter), who committed that day.
“I was excited to be back in Austin and to get another commit was a big plus for us,” Joe said. “Hopefully some of those guys will think on it and commit to. It was a pretty fun day.”
Joe has been to Texas’ campus a couple of times before, so that wasn’t new to him. But what became even more apparent was how much of a straight-shooter Mack Brown is.
“Coach Brown is going to be 100 percent with you,” Joe said. “He talked about the new policy. He said if you commit he doesn’t want you to look around. If you are going to make a commitment to them, they are going to make a commitment to you. They are very trustworthy and a great group of guys.”
Joe doesn’t have an issue with the policy.
“To me it doesn’t have any affect because I am 100 percent all the way,” he said. “I’m 100 percent Texas. Other people might have a problem with it. I kind of like the rule because if you are committed here then they have a commitment to you. If you are still looking around then you must not be 100 percent with your decision. That’s why I’m 100 percent. The new policy doesn’t concern me.”
Asked if he felt the policy might have kept some other recruits from committing on Sunday, Joe said, “I really don’t know. It might but I think some of those guys are going to have to deal with it and just make up their mind for what’s best for them.” – William Wilkerson
Florida LB likes Texas
It’s not too often an out-of-state prospect goes out of his way to tell Texas he’s interested, but that’s exactly what Greg Miclisse did.
The Palm Day (Fla.) Bayside 2014 linebacker got in touch with Mack Brown on Facebook a few weeks ago. The Texas staff checked out his film, started showing interest and put him in touch with defensive coordinator Manny Diaz.
“They’ve said I’m one of their targets and they’re going to offer me,” Miclisse said. “They’re definitely one of my top schools.”
That trip to the DFW area made a serious impression on Miclisse, who grew up a fan of Vince Young and Brian Orakpo during their Longhorn careers. While he’s already got offers from Tennessee, Nebraska, Louisville, Cincinnati, Wake Forest and several other programs, he’d strongly consider a chance to spend his college career in the state of Texas.
“I loved it this summer,” he said. “Texas is a good place to live in. It’s hot as hell in Texas, but it would be a fun place to live and I’ve got a few friends there now.” – Max Olson