Friday, April 12, 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 will now release this every Friday.
Talk about it in our forum and, if there’s a recruit out there you’d like to hear more from, let us know.
Jermaine Roberts flies into Austin on Friday morning, and the New Orleans St. Augustine cornerback admits this unofficial visit could be a big one.
Before he and his parents leave Texas on Saturday morning, there’s a chance -- and apparently a good one -- that he could pull the trigger on a Texas commitment.
“If it goes well,” he said. “They’re high on my board right now. With my parents, they’re No. 1 on their board and ahead of Texas A&M. If it goes really well, I might commit on Friday or Saturday.”
The ESPN Watch List prospect and future Under Armour All-American is excited to make the visit with his mother, who was unable to join him on his Texas junior day trip. He’s interested to get her feedback and see how comfortable she feels.
Going into the visit, though, she may already have her mind made up.
More on Texas
For full coverage of the Longhorns, check out the Texas blog, part of ESPN's College Football Nation. Blog
“My mom, I think she’s ready for me to commit,” Roberts said. “It’ll be about me and how I feel about the situation.”
The situation got a lot more appealing in the past week now that his teammate Courtney Garnett is a Longhorns commit.
The defensive tackle has been in Roberts’ ear, urging the 5-foot-9, 166-pound corner to join him at Texas.
“We talk about it every day,” Roberts said. “He actually is trying to get everybody to Texas. He’s trying to get Joseph Paul, even though he’s committed to Florida.”
Roberts said Texas and Texas A&M have shown the most interest this spring, and Arkansas and Ole Miss are right behind them. The process is getting a tad stressful, because right now there are four or five schools he could see himself playing at.
Thanks to a strong first impression made at the Feb. 23 junior day, Texas has been right at the top of the list for a while now.
“It’s in a great city in Austin and it’s a great school for academics,” he said. “And also there’s coach [Duane] Akina and how many guys he coached and put in the league and how he does a great job coaching. I talk to him and coach [Larry] Porter probably once a week.”
If Roberts does decide to make it official this weekend, he’d be commit No. 15 for the Longhorns and the class’ first defensive back pledge. It would also come at a time when Garnett’s status with Texas is still a bit up in the air due to grade issues. If Roberts knows that and still commits, it’s an impressive coup.
They’re a close-knit duo. In fact, it was actually Roberts who first announced Garnett’s pledge on Twitter on Sunday afternoon. Now he may be in for his own weekend to remember.
The addition of Roberts and Garnett would strengthen Texas’ chances of swaying Paul, the ESPN Watch List guard who picked UF on March 19.
But what effect would it have on Leonard Fournette? The elite running back recently took an unofficial visit and continues to keep Texas on his short list.
“I don’t know where he stands right now,” Roberts said. “I kind of think he’s going to the SEC. But he did visit Texas. He said he enjoyed the trip. That’s the only school he’s mentioned in his top schools that isn’t an SEC school.”
We’ll see how things play out, but all signs point to this being a potentially big recruiting weekend for Texas – even with only one visitor on campus. – Max Olson
Roberson still solid?
Derick Roberson (San Antonio/Brennan) was one of the first members of Texas’ 2014 class, committing back on Aug. 2 when all those early offers first went out. Since then, he hasn’t visited any other schools or pondered decommitting.
But every so often, he’ll drop not-so-subtle hints on his Twitter account that he’s willing to look around. One of the more glaring examples came in this April 2 post (sic): “Idk where I want to go to college, but im low-key trying to get out of Texas though.”
I got a chance to catch up with Roberson in San Antonio on Wednesday. He said things are still “pretty good” with Texas and he’s committed. When asked about those tweets, though, he was honest.
“Basically it’s just like, you don’t get a chance to travel much and this is my chance to travel,” he said. “I’m kind of solid with Texas. ... It’s good to keep your options open. But as of right now, I’m sticking with Texas.”
That being said, Roberson said he hasn’t been talking to other recruits. If he’s picked up any new offers since LSU on Feb. 27, Roberson is unaware of them.
Right now, he’s not worried about recruiting. Just the offseason, weight training and performing the shot put for Brennan this spring in track. His father is handling the phone calls and interest.
“My dad, he deals with all that stuff. We haven’t talked about it lately,” Roberson said. “There’s schools that have been talking to him, he just hasn’t let me know. He hasn’t given me any information yet. I told him, ‘Not right now.’ ”
The 6-foot-4 defensive end said he’s up to 235 pounds right now. He visited Texas twice this spring, for the first junior day and also during his time in Austin for state basketball.
When asked if he’s looking to take any visits this summer, Roberson said he doesn’t have any in mind right now. He’s continued to keep in touch with Texas coaches and likes the plans they’ve laid out for him.
“They feel pretty good about where I’m at,” Roberson said. “Basically, they want me to start as soon as I get there and play a big role in their defense.”
He’d play strongside defensive end for the Longhorns. Roberson said Texas has mentioned the possibility of having him enroll early, but he doesn’t think that will happen.
Roberson is excited about the fact a fellow San Antonio prospect, Trey Lealaimatafao (San Antonio/Warren), recently joined the Longhorns’ class, and he's been impressed by Texas’ recruiting efforts thus far.
“That’s pretty nice,” he said. “They’re doing well. They’re trying to get that title next year.”
Back when LSU made that offer, Roberson publicly declared that he was sticking with Texas, period, end of story. He wasn’t interested. Has that changed?
“Every time a school offers me, everybody starts hitting me up and telling me to stay committed to Texas,” he said. “Some schools are going to put pressure on me. I’ve just got to look past all that.”
It’s easy to read between the lines of some of Roberson’s quotes and suggest that he’s not as solid as he says, but the fact that he’s not talking to other coaches at least suggest that he’s not looking to stray from Texas.
Could that change between now and February? That door doesn’t seem to be completely closed. It’s worth keeping an eye on. Don’t expect other schools to stop pursuing, but right now Roberson doesn’t seem interested. – Max Olson
Garrett taking his time, has visits lined up
ESPN Watch List defensive end Myles Garrett (Arlington, Texas/Martin) is just trying to enjoy his time as a high school junior.
It’s difficult given his prowess on the football field, but he does the best he can with the time he has.
ESPN Watch List defensive end Myles Garrett
Instead of diving head first into the depths of recruiting Garrett has chosen to take his time with the process. He won’t consider things seriously until after track season.
“Pretty soon, right after track season I am going to sit down and really start thinking about it,” Garrett said. “I just want to take my time and really enjoy the experience of being a high school student as it is.”
Garrett (6-5, 247 pounds) has offers from the likes of Alabama, Miami, Michigan, Notre Dame, Ohio State, Oklahoma, TCU, Texas and Texas A&M. Those types of offers make it difficult for him to live the normal high school life. College coaches and reporters constantly try to get an inside track on where his thoughts are.
“I understand it. It’s kind of funny,” Garrett said. “I am really anti-social about these things but it doesn’t really bother me.”
His playing style is very similar to how he has handled recruiting to this point. He’s very unassuming but you can always count on him to get the job done.
“I’m just reserved,” he said. “I’m calm, I’m cool, I’m not mad at anybody. I’m not frustrated. I couldn’t tell you the last time I was mad.”
After track comes to an end Garrett said he’d visit Alabama, LSU and USC.
Texas A&M has long been considered one of the top contenders in large part to his sister, Brea Garrett, being part of the Aggies’ track and field team.
As for Texas, well, Garrett will consider the Longhorns. But to what degree is the question. Odds are Texas is going to be on the outside looking in at his leaders.
I caught up with Garrett at the Texas Relays and to that point in the weekend -- the middle of the afternoon -- he’d only briefly run into Longhorns recruiting coordinator Bruce Chambers while he was warming up for shot put.
“We talked for a little bit,” Garrett said.
When asked what he liked about Texas, Garrett said, “Great school with lots of money coming in for new projects.”
That doesn’t exactly scream enthusiasm. – William Wilkerson
Texas moving up list for Watch List CB
The recruitment of ESPN Watch List corner Arrion Springs (San Antonio/Roosevelt) will be one of the more interesting to watch during the spring evaluation period that starts April 15.
Springs has two schools on top of his list right now. And neither have offered a scholarship. Right behind them is Texas, who has and is working hard to land the talented defensive back.
Oregon and Miami are holding down those top spots right now. The Ducks will visit Roosevelt in the first week of May to evaluated Springs and possibly offer, and Miami is expected to send coaches in the first two weeks of May.
If they offer, they’ll be in very good shape to land the 5-foot-11, 190-pound standout. And if, for some reason, they decline to, you’d have to consider Texas the frontrunner.
So what exactly has put those two out-of-state schools ahead of the field?
“I really like Oregon and the way their DBs play. They all play fast,” Springs said. “Coach [John] Neal said they’d have me all over the place -- I could play corner, nickel or safety. I’d have a lot of opportunity to make plays. At Miami, there’s a lot of tradition there and they put a lot of guys in the league and have great coaches.”
In the event either school does offer, Springs said he’s not planning to make a commitment on the spot. He’d like to take some more unofficial visits this summer before he’ll be comfortable with deciding.
Two schools behind Texas on the short list right now are Texas Tech and Arizona. The Red Raiders were the first to offer and have been working hard to land Springs. Several other schools are in contention -- Tennessee and Michigan State both offered this week -- so Springs isn’t ready to name a definitive top five just yet.
Ever since Texas offered during a brief visit on March 23, secondary coach Duane Akina has built up a strong bond with Springs. That offer went a long way toward giving the Longhorns a chance.
“At first, they weren’t really on my radar,” Spring said. “I wanted to go visit and get an offer. Coach Akina showed he really wants me, so that helped a lot.”
Another advantage for Texas: Springs and Trey Lealaimatafao are good friends. They text each other constantly and, prior to Lealaimatafao’s commitment to Texas, even had a competition to see who could land the most scholarship offers.
The Texas defensive tackle commit landed 14 before he made his pledge. Springs is now up to 17, and the list seems to grow on a daily basis.
He hasn’t made any visit plans for the near future, but Springs did say he’ll likely ride along with Lealaimatafao and make another trip to Texas in the near future. – Max Olson
2015 OLB has Texas on top
Dallas Skyline’s Anthony Wheeler may come off as fairly quiet, but when he’s asked about the offer he received from Texas last weekend he can’t hide his excitement.
The 2015 outside linebacker was in Austin on Saturday morning for Texas Relays and the spring game when the UT coaching staff told him to stop by the football stadium. He was taken to Mack Brown’s office right away.
“They called me in and wanted to meet up,” Wheeler said. “I was nervous. I didn’t think they were going to offer me until they told me I was meeting Mack Brown. Then I figured it out.”
Class of 2015 linebacker Anthony Wheeler says Texas is his favorite school.
Wheeler said Texas is now his No. 1 school after receiving that offer and hearing what Brown had to say during the visit.
“He said I have a good personality and he likes the way I play,” Wheeler said. “He likes that I’ve got a good family that supports me and he’d like to see me commit to them. I feel pretty good that they see the potential in me becoming a good player and see it on film.”
The Longhorns have always been a school he liked, but like most of his sophomore peers he never really expected an offer to come this early in his Skyline career.
“I was a Texas fan growing up. I like them,” he said. “I like the players and how they play. I like the coaches and the staff. My junior day visit left a good impression. I like the facilities, the school, the atmosphere around here. They treat each other like family. I like that.”
A 6-foot-1, 220-pound prospect who could also move down and play defensive end in college if he keeps growing, Wheeler said he brings speed and quick decision-making to the linebacker spot.
But don’t expect a decision to come soon on his recruitment. Texas and SMU are his only offers so far, and Brown warned him that more schools should be offering soon now that UT has.
“I really wasn’t thinking about committing yet,” he said. “I want to see what other offers I can get and narrow it down.”
Still, Wheeler called the offer “big-time” and he likes the possibility of playing with Skyline alum Peter Jinkens in Texas’ linebacker corps. He’s not planning any more visits at the moment and the Longhorns are firmly out in front when it comes to this recruitment. – Max Olson
Bahamian transplant wants to hear from UT
If you’ve never heard of a recruit whose played football for all of one season, ever, in his life, and already hold football offers from Florida State and Mississippi State, then you’ve heard of one now.
Saunders (6-5, 233 pounds) has only lived in the states since his ninth-grade year. He came over from the Bahamas via a program from former Olympic athlete and Bahamian native Frank Rutherford, which facilities their ability to earn athletic scholarships and further their education at the college level.
Saunders’ first love before he came stateside was basketball. He's ranked as the eighth-best player in Texas and 23rd nationally among small forwards. He’s earned scholarship offers from Connecticut, USC and Auburn.
Much more on his journey from the Bahamas to Houston can be found in this writeup. That one successful season on the football field, though, has made Saunders rethink which sport he’s going to pursue in college.
“I’m just going to do football most likely,” he said. “I saw that injury the other night [Louisville’s Kevin Ware] and I am second-guessing even playing AAU ball now. I know injuries don’t happen a lot. But if I am going to focus on one sport it makes sense taking that risk in something you are trying to accomplish something in instead of something you are doing for fun. I’m really second-guessing AAU now. It’s a big part of my summer but I am thinking a lot about that.”
That one season saw him catch 30 passes for 510 yards and eight touchdowns. He’s thankful for the two offers he has at the moment. But he’d love to hear from one school in particular: Texas.
“Most of the people from my school that’s where they go,” he said. “It’s close to home. I classify Texas as home now. It’s really A&M and UT that I’ve always wanted to go to because I am used to Texas. It’s pretty much my home.”
Saunders has yet to hear from the Longhorns but he’s confident that another solid season could make it hard for Texas not to reach out.
“I know Austin, I know people that go there and know it’s a good school,” he said. “All the sports are big-time. It’s always been my top school when they would ask where I would want to go. I’d never tell anyone that until now.”
Don’t be fooled by the fact that Saunders hasn’t been stateside for long, and that he doesn’t know the history of Texas football. He knows what he needs to.
“I watch football and know Vince Young and Ricky Williams,” he said. “I know the history. I want to go and be a part of it. It’s really big time. I’ve never been to a game or anything but I understand how passionate people are up there just like it is in College Station. I know it’s big time up there.”
Saunders has never visited Texas but he hopes to one day soon. He will head over to Texas A&M today and is in the process of setting something up with Texas Tech. – William Wilkerson
Luginbill talks Texas prospects
I caught up with ESPN National Director of Recruiting Tom Luginbill at the Nike Football Training Camp in Allen on Sunday to get his thoughts on a few notable Texas targets. Here is what he had to say:
Tom Hauck for Student Sports
Texas commit Lorenzo Joe was named the MVP of the receivers at the Dallas NFTC.
On 2014 Texas WR commit Lorenzo Joe (Abilene, Texas/Cooper): “Lorenzo is one of those prospects that you get excited about because he has that combination of measurable that are outstanding. He’s tall and has a wide wingspan. But you are also having to make a serious projection because he’s playing quarterback for his high school team. So you are making some assumptions based on his raw athleticism that you think will pan out but you don’t know for sure until he’s at the WR position. What he is going to need to do is learn the little nuances of the wide receiver position. He is very, very gifted.”
On 2014 LSU S commit Ed Paris (Mansfield, Texas/Timberview) and 2014 S Jamal Adams (Lewisville, Texas/Hebron): “Ed Paris and Jamal Adams are very similar in terms of physical measurable. They are physical, big and rangy. Adams is probably a better player in space right now than Paris. I’m not so sure Paris won’t develop into a weak side linebacker, a walk down into the box type of strong safety. Both are very impressive.”
On 2014 CB Tony Brown (Beaumont, Texas/Ozen) and 2014 CB Arrion Springs (San Antonio/Roosevelt): “Tony Brown and Arrion Springs are very similar to each other both in speed, endurance, quickness and lateral movement. Both ran sub 4.4s. Two of the better corners in this class nationally.”
On 2014 WR K.D. Cannon (Mount Pleasant, Texas/Mount Pleasant): “I think it’s just the versatility. I think he can play inside, outside. I think he can play wildcat quarterback. He can be that dynamic utility weapon. He can stretch the field and make plays in space. He could be an all-three level guy. He can make the short grab and turn it 80 yards. He’s got the savvy to run routes in the intermediate levels and then he can stretch it.”
On 2015 Texas DT commit Bryce English (DeSoto, Texas/DeSoto): “He is explosive, great leverage, lacks height, but can anchor. Really active and plays with a motor. Size is a question.”
On 2015 Alabama S commit Deionte Thompson (Orange, Texas/West Orange Stark): “Typical Alabama type safety. He’s tall, long arms, lots of range. He can cover a lot of ground in a short period of time. He kind of fits the mold of what they want in a safety prospect.”
On 2015 OLB Anthony Wheeler (Dallas/Skyline): “Typical Skyline player with great size and speed. He actually reminds us of Raekwon McMillan out of this class, out of Georgia. He’s physical and big. Certainly one of the things you are always going to have to track with those guys is how well they play in space. That’s one thing I’ll continue to evaluate with him.”
On 2015 QB J.W. Ketchum (Fort Bend, Texas/Marshall): “May be an athlete type, lacks ideal measurable for the QB spot. May need to be a zone-read run presence in order to remain at QB. Could be a wide receiver/DB likely.”
On 2015 WR DaMarkus Lodge (Cedar Hill, Texas/Cedar Hill): “Lodge has good length and is fluid with natural separation skills. Under-the-radar guy that should emerge significantly now as a go-to guy.” – William Wilkerson