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Thursday, February 28, 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:
Read The Heard after the jump.

New OLB offer close to deciding

How close did Otaro Alaka come to committing to Texas last weekend? Had he been offered during Texas’ Saturday junior day, the Houston Cypress Falls linebacker says he was ready to make his move.

Max Olson/
Class of 2014 linebacker Otaro Alaka could have a decision very soon.

“I told myself that if they offered I was going to commit there,” he said.

But Texas instead waited two days after and called up Cy Falls on Monday to officially offer. As excited as Alaka was about that news, he has come up with a new plan for when he might make a commitment.

Alaka now says he will not decide until after this weekend. That’s because his father, Femi, is in Nigeria this week on business. The lawyer returns home on Saturday morning.

On that day, Alaka said he plans to be at Texas A&M’s junior day. His father will not be coming with him on the trip. The Aggies have yet to offer the suddenly coveted outside linebacker prospect, but an offer on Saturday might not have much sway with Alaka.

“That would be a good offer, since they’re also a good program,” Alaka said. “It would put them high on the list.”

But would it put A&M even with or ahead of Texas?

“I’m not sure. Probably not,” he said. “But I haven’t visited yet, so I don’t really know what to expect.”

After that visit, Alaka wants to sit down with his father, explain what his options are and discuss the possibility of making a commitment next week.

That was never the original plan for the 6-foot-3, 196-pound linebacker. But he didn’t expect to get a Texas offer this early when he originally planned things out.

“I thought about making my decision after spring football,” he said. “But now, I’m having second thoughts. I want to talk to my dad.”

Alaka said at this point he does not think he’ll wait until late May to reach that final decision. Had his father come with him on the Texas visit and UT offered, Alaka said he definitely would have gone home a commit.

Instead, he’ll wait a few more days. It’s safe to say a decision is expected next week. Unless A&M really blows him away, things are looking very good for Texas. – Max Olson

OU commit open to looking around

ESPN Watch List wide receiver Armanti Foreman (Texas City, Texas/Texas City) can’t believe how much his popularity has grown.

Things had remained relatively quite since he committed to Oklahoma on Oct. 1. But a trip to Texas’ junior day on Saturday with his twin brother, Texas City running back, D’Onta Foreman, changed all that.

The Longhorns offered that day. Texas A&M offered on Monday and Florida has since joined.

“I’m just wowed by everything,” Foreman said. “I wasn’t even expecting the Texas A&M offer. It just came really out of nowhere. I have interest in all of the schools that have offered me. Right now I am still committed to Oklahoma but things could change probably.”

The offer from the Longhorns came as a surprise as well.

“They knew I was committed to OU but they want me to get there and help them beat Oklahoma because they’ve struggled the last few years,” he said. “It all sounded good to me.”

Texas already has two wide receiver commitments, including a slot receiver in Roderick Bernard, but view using Foreman in similar fashion.

“They said I would be a slot receiver doing a lot of screens, reverses, some deep balls, everything,” he said. “Special teams, coming out of the backfield and catching passes so I can go one-on-one with a linebacker. They see me as a game-changer.”

As for Texas A&M, well, not surprisingly, the fact that the Aggies play in the SEC intrigues him.

“Yeah it does and they have a great team,” said Foreman, who might go to Texas A&M junior day this weekend. “They’ve been building a whole lot. I feel like I could do the same thing there as I would at Texas. I feel like I could go to anyone of those schools and fit in great with each of them.”

Foreman said he hasn’t spoken to Oklahoma’s coaches since signing day. He’d like to know if the Sooners have any interest in his brother because that could be a determining factor in where he ends up.

“So really the first school to come to him then maybe I can consider that because I want to play with my brother,” he said. “If it doesn’t work out that way then it doesn’t work out that way. But that’s what we want to do. We want to play together.”

According to Armanti, D’Onta Foreman had conversations with Texas’ coaches about where the Longhorns would use him. But the two sides couldn’t come to a conclusion.

“Texas is still looking at him but not at running back,” he said. “They don’t know where to put him. They told him they’d still look at him and try and find a place for him. They were also talking to him about linebacker. But they have a lot of linebackers so I really don’t know.” – William Wilkerson

Watch List DE impressed by UT

Texas didn’t get receiver Speedy Noil on campus last weekend, but you could argue a visit from Gerald Willis III was even more important this spring.

Everyone wants the New Orleans Edna Karr defensive end, with Florida, LSU and Alabama considered among the top contenders for his pledge. Now Texas is on that list.

If you missed the story on Saturday, Willis had nothing but praise for Texas and his experience on campus. The Longhorns made a serious move this weekend.

“It exceeded my expectations,” Willis said. “I got a chance to see what it was all like and I really liked it.”

Miller Safrit/
Watch List defensive end Gerald Willis III is planning to visit Texas again soon.

He’ll be back again, possibly for the Orange-White spring game and likely for Texas’ summer camp in June.

What Willis didn’t mention after his visit was that the friend that tagged along with him on the visit was Anthony Jones, Edna Karr’s tight end. Though Jones reported earlier this week that he has a Texas offer, it’s likely going to take at least one more visit to campus for the 6-foot-6, 211-pound prospect to have an official and committable offer.

If anything, that might actually help Texas’ chances with Willis. A source close to both prospects say Jones is seriously considering committing to Texas later this spring, and that move would definitely get Willis’ attention.

For Willis, one of the surprises of the day was the relationship he struck up with one of Texas’ top defenders.

“I mingled with Jackson Jeffcoat, the defensive end, a lot,” Willis said. “I hung out with him a little bit. He was nice, real nice. A real polite and cool guy.”

The departure of Jeffcoat and Reggie Wilson after this season means Texas is serious about finding high-caliber defensive ends for its 2014 class. Willis would be a significant coup at a need position.

“That’s what they told me,” Willis said. “I haven’t really done a whole lot of homework on the roster, but I’ll get more familiar with it by the time I get back in for a camp or visit.”

Florida was the early leader for Willis, but his brother Landon Collins is at Alabama and his mother is still a serious LSU fan.

Until he takes more visits, Willis said he’s not ready to start naming favorites. These are the first of many visits, and Texas certainly helped its chances with its first one.

“Nobody is on top. There’s no particular order right now,” Willis said. “I’m just going to evaluate, get out there and see what I have to see and then make my decision at an all-star game.” – Max Olson

Texas still No. 1 for safety

Houston Lamar safety John Bonney told HornsNation in a Wednesday Q&A that he’s getting closer to a decision, though he feels he may need a few more unofficial visits before he’s ready.

One thing is certain: Bonney taking time is not a reflection of his interest in Texas. The Longhorns are still at the top of his list and continue to seriously recruit him.

Above all else, it might be Bonney’s appreciation for secondary coach Duane Akina that has made Texas the school to beat in this recruitment.

“His track record is definitely great,” Bonney said. “He’s one of the best in the nation and it shows with the NFL players he’s got now, and I’m sure Kenny Vaccaro will do real well in the combine this week. And then, just him as a person and as a coach is definitely great.”

Bonney has a chance to be the first defensive back in Texas’ 2014 class. Considering how loaded the state is with defensive backs this year, that honor may come with a bit of a responsibility.

Could Bonney see himself being a guy who recruits others for the Longhorns? He said that would be a great role for him, and he has been impressed by the work Texas’ current commits have been putting in to land him.

“The people that already committed have been doing that,” he said. “I’ve heard from Jerrod Heard and Daniel Gresham. They’re great athletes and football players. It’s cool. They don’t recruit too hard, but they talk good about Texas. A lot of the stuff I already knew, but it felt pretty good to have those guys in my ear and everything.”

Bonney has yet to line up any unofficial visit plans other than to check out Texas’ spring game. He’s planning to sit down with his father soon and map out a plan for the rest of the spring.

With a hectic spring track schedule ahead, Bonney knows it’s quite possible he doesn’t get to see many spring practices. But that’s his goal for now.

His father is going to play a key role in this decision, and Bonney said the Longhorns have already done a good job of winning him over with the junior day visit.

“He definitely likes Texas and he really likes coach Akina,” Bonney said. “He felt really comfortable with the whole coaching staff and everything. He likes it.”

For that reason and many more, Texas has to like its chances right now. – Max Olson

DL prospects still waiting

Going into last weekend, Texas had a very good chance of landing San Antonio (Texas) Madison defensive end C.J. Reese and Rowlett (Texas) defensive tackle Cedric Johnson had either been offered a scholarship.

But both talented defensive linemen went home empty-handed this time. Reese and Johnson are hopeful they’ll still get offers, but now they have to play the waiting game.

“They told me they’re only signing three more defensive ends so they’re going to come look at me this spring,” Reese said. “They have Derick [Roberson] and they want three more.

“I mean, I really don’t know what to say other than that I definitely want to be one of those three.”

Reese said Texas is going to recruit him as an end who can also move down to tackle, and he was glad to see the Longhorn staff remembered him from camp. He does think the coaches are interested. He just doesn’t know what to expect next.

“They’re still my No. 1 school,” Reese said. “The whole day went real well. I was really pleased by how it went.”

Reese said he spent a good chunk of his junior day walking and talking with Johnson. Texas has still only offered one defensive tackle -- Nederland’s DeShawn Washington -- and Johnson was a bit disappointed that he didn’t get to talk extensively with the coaching staff about his offer status.

“My recruiting coach, coach [Darrell] Wyatt, was saying they’ll still keep me posted and they will check me out in the spring and stuff like that.”

Johnson said an offer from Texas would’ve been the biggest one he’s received so far, and he might visit Texas A&M this weekend to see how interested the Aggies are.

“I’m just going to see how things play out,” he said.

At this point, it’s still hard to know where Texas is going to find top-end defensive tackles for its 2014 class. Washington may be a slight UT lean, but there doesn’t seem to be an overwhelming amount of elite talent at the position in this state.

If a guy like Johnson doesn’t get offered, you have to wonder if the solution will eventually be found out-of-state or from the junior college ranks. – Max Olson

2015 DT has ties to Texas coach

The Longhorns have an upper hand in the recruitment of 2015 defensive tackle Bryce English (DeSoto, Texas/DeSoto). His godfather is none other than Texas tight ends coach and recruiting coordinator Bruce Chambers.

“Texas has been at the top since I was a freshmen,” English said. “I’ve always kept them high. The atmosphere, the players. It’s like a brotherhood. They have a great campus and top academics.”

Chambers emailed DeSoto head coach Claude Mathis early last week to extend the invite to his godson and two other 2015 prospects Jatory Sparks and Lamont Johnson.

“I went down there Friday night then this morning I got to campus real early,” English said. “I took a tour of the campus. They had some pretty nice dorms. I went to practice and saw how fast-tempo everything was and got a feel for the college lifestyle a bit. We got to go on the field and get a feel for how the stadium was and got to try on some jerseys. It was a pretty good experience being a sophomore.”

English, who is 5-10 and 280 pounds, said his favorite part of the visit was spending time in meetings with defensive tackles coach Bo Davis and other DTs.

“They were jut going over plays and going over the first spring practice and what they did wrong or need to work on,” he said.

Davis asked English to come down to one of Texas’ camps this summer to which English agreed. He attended a Longhorns summer camp last year too.

LSU, Texas Tech and Arizona State are also likely summer camp destinations he’ll be attending. – William Wilkerson

WR Davis fulfills dream

Class of 2014 wide receiver Fonzale Davis (Dallas/South Oak Cliff) had a dream come true when he made it down to Texas’ junior day on Saturday.

“I grew up liking the Longhorns,” he said. “I’ve been wanting to go there since I was little.”

Davis, who is 5-11 and 175 pounds, like the majority of the attendees, really appreciated the fact that he got to see the Longhorns practice and get a better feel for the new up-tempo offense.

He was also able to catch up with good friend Mike Davis, who frequents SOC when he makes it back to Dallas.

“It was real nice,” he said. “He was just telling me to take advantage of the time that you have when you are down there.”

Davis was one of several wide receivers in Austin over the weekend who feels like, at the very least, he took a positive step with Texas’ coaches.

“They were just talking about how they enjoyed me and liked my tape,” he said. “They wanted me to get down to the camp, which I’ll make.”

Davis made the trek south with two of his teammates, safety Jyaz Jones and defensive end Silvester Hayes.

“We let it know that SOC is a good school to go to,” Davis said. “It’s not a bad school like people think it is.”
Not at all. In fact, look for SOC to make some noise in 2013.

Up next for Davis will hopefully be a trip to junior days at Washington and Boise State. He went to Oklahoma State the weekend before last. – William Wilkerson

2015 DT enjoyed visit

Rami Hammad knew teammate Davious Ballard was going to be a special prospect someday. He’s glad Texas is already starting to acknowledge that.

The 6-foot-4, 290-pound defensive tackle may be a 2015 prospect, but that doesn’t mean he’s not ready to start thinking about recruiting. He visited Texas’ junior day on Saturday along with Irving (Texas) teammate Michael Coley, a 2014 receiver, and liked what he saw.

“It was pretty good. It was a pretty nice atmosphere and it was cool,” Ballard said. “What really got me was that the football players get their own dorm rooms, and that they’re really dedicated.”

Ballard said he’d heard good things about the program from Hammad, the Longhorns’ offensive line signee, and the visit lived up to the hype.

“Getting that invite was a pretty big deal,” Ballard said. “I liked getting to meet the players, the coaching staff and seeing the campus.”

Ballard said he played five games on varsity in 2012 and racked up 29 tackles. He’s in line for a bigger role as a junior and is working hard to get ready for spring ball.

Going up against Hammad and Oklahoma State guard signee Jaxon Salinas in practices last season raised Ballard’s game, and he’s looking forward to showing off his talents in 2013.

Ballard said he talked primarily with defensive tackles coach Bo Davis during his visit, and liked seeing how Davis runs his practice sessions.

“He’s a pretty good coach,” Ballard said. “I feel like he’s really dedicated to his job and really wants to help young men get to the next level.”

Ballard said his recruitment is only just beginning and he’s not sure which schools are serious about him yet, but expect Texas to be in the mix whenever that begins. – Max Olson