Friday, April 19, 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 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.
ESPN 150 cornerback Nick Watkins is keeping his recruitment close to the chest, but Texas is in a good position.
But what about Jovan Pruitt? It’s been difficult to gauge what’s going on there, considering Pruitt still has not taken a visit to Texas’ campus in 2013.
The tackle missed two UT junior days, the spring game and probably could’ve shown up for the sophomore day too. While he believes he already has an offer, that won’t be official until he gets to Austin and receives one from coach Mack Brown.
We caught up with Dallas Bishop Dunne coach Michael Williams this week following Bruce Chambers’ visit to the school on Monday. That visit went very well, and he’s confident things aren’t over (before they even really began) between Pruitt and Texas.
“I think they’re very interested in him,” Johnson said. “Jovan has transformed his body since the last time he talked to them. He went to their camp last year but was still sloppy in his technique.
“There’s just not a lot of guys his size at 6-6, and he’s up to 290 now. You just don’t see them that athletic. He’s one of the best tackles in this class. That’s not coming from me, that’s coming from coaches we’ve talked to.”
Johnson said the biggest reason why Pruitt didn’t visit Texas this spring was simply that he couldn’t find a ride whenever he wanted to make the trip.
He doesn’t know when Pruitt will finally visit, but after talking with Chambers the coach believes Texas still wants the big tackle prospect.
“Once he gets out there, I do think they’ll extend an offer to him,” Johnson said.
Watkins continues to play things close to the vest -- both with reporters and with Johnson -- on where Texas and all the other schools stand on his list. But he did visit Notre Dame last weekend and had nothing but good things to say about his time in South Bend.
“He was able to get up to Notre Dame’s campus and see it for himself and see all the differences and the staff. He loved it,” Johnson said. “He got to see the school and it was huge for him. He left very impressed. But they’re just one school. He’s going to see multiple schools before he decides.”
It’s safe to say Texas will be one of them, considering how many times Watkins has already visited in the past year. Still, Johnson is as in the dark as everyone else when it comes to talking decision dates.
“He wants to be able to see every school that he’s truly interested in and then start trying to narrow that list down,” Johnson said. “If it takes into his official visits, that’s what he’s going to do. He’s just taking it one day at a time.”
Thanks to Chambers’ visit this week, Texas is now looking into a third Bishop Dunne prospect: Safety Payton Hendrix.
The recent Red Oak (Texas) High transfer picked up his fifth offer this week from Stanford, and the 6-foot-3, 188-pound junior’s stock is on the rise since he joined the program this spring.
“Coach Chambers feels that they want to evaluate him and that he’ll be a guy that definitely should be getting an offer based on everything he saw Monday,” Johnson said. “He watched us practice and said Payton has the frame and the size to be good. They loved Payton’s film, so he’s somebody they would love to try to get on their campus for camp.”
Keep this in mind: Duane Akina has a big, big say in which DBs Texas offers. He was scheduled to join Chambers at Bishop Dunne on Monday, Johnson said, but he missed out while visiting another school.
He’ll be back up at Bishop Dunne later this spring to watch some practice and possibly take a longer look at Hendrix.
“One coach said to me -- and I won’t name the school -- that he’s more physical than Tony Brown. And that’s saying a lot,” Johnson said. “With his range, his upside is tremendous. He has all the tools for a safety.”
Hendrix told me he grew up a Texas fan and would definitely be interested in attending the Longhorns’ summer camp if he gets an invite. He’s someone to keep an eye on as the spring progress and his stock continues to rise. – Max Olson
Mack appears destined for A&M
Well Longhorns fans, any hopes you had of 2015 defensive tackle Daylon Mack (Gladewater, Texas/Gladewater) ending up in Austin are about to go out the window.
If you missed the latest update on Mack from Sam Khan Jr. and myself, here it is. The gist of it is fairly simple. He’s going to commit soon.
“Maybe one or two weeks,” he said.
And will decide between three schools.
“Texas A&M, Texas and Oklahoma [are my top three in that order],” he said.
But it’s clear after this next answer where Mack will most likely end up when he announces.
Asked what he liked so much about the school he will pick, Mack responded, “I just feel good being around they feel like the perfect school being in the SEC in Texas and they are an upward going program right now. It just feels like I would make the right decision.”
Not exactly the news Texas fans were hoping for. But, hey, look on the bright side. At least you all finished ahead of Oklahoma. – William Wilkerson
New Orleans TE wants to hear from UT
The Longhorns are still trying to figure out who exactly to pursue at tight end and how many to take in 2014.
They’ve offered Koda Martin (Manvel, Texas/Manvel), but he could very well end up on the offensive line once he gets to college and seems to have his eyes set on a few other schools right now.
That said, there is one tight end prospect that would love a Longhorns offer and would likely accept it.
Anthony Jones (New Orleans/Edna Karr) has been a life-long Texas fan and is keeping his fingers crossed.
“I love Texas and that’s where I hope to be one day,” Jones said. “That’s my dream school. That’s still my school. I really do like Texas. They haven’t offered me yet so I am just hoping to get the offer. That’s one of my goals is to get that school.”
There’s a chance that could happen over the spring evaluation period as he recently spoke with Texas running backs coach Larry Porter, who wants to visit soon.
“I talked to Coach Larry Porter two weeks ago and he was like, ‘I want to let you know that we are still on you high and am going to try to come see me this spring,' " Jones said.
Jones, who is 6-foot-6 and 231 pounds, is still relatively new to the game. He’s only been playing for a few years and didn’t play much at all last season because Miami signee Standish Dobard was getting most of the reps.
That hasn’t stopped programs from coming after him. He has offers from Auburn, Florida State, Louisiana-Lafayette, Louisiana-Monroe, Louisville, LSU, Missouri, Oregon and Southern Miss.
Contrary to popular belief, LSU is not his top school.
“It’s not true that LSU is my top school,” he said.
It is, however, a school he is taking into consideration after an impressive visit last week.
“I spoke with Les Miles and saw them scrimmage,” Jones said. “It was a great experience. I really enjoyed myself there. I got to hang out with some of the players there, chill, and relax myself. I got to see how the coaches interact with the players.”
Jones picked up his Seminoles offer on Tuesday and said he’d visit soon. He is on spring break next week and plans to visit Florida and Louisville. – William Wilkerson
Everything on track for Harrison?
Another priority to kick off the first week of spring evaluations was checking in on juco signee Desmond Harrison.
The Contra Costa (Calif.) College tackle received a visit from offensive line coach Stacy Searels on Monday and is working hard to make sure he graduates on time to get to Texas as quickly as possible.
When asked what message Searels sent during his visit to the school, Contra Costa coach Alonzo Carter said it was pretty simple: “They’re counting on him!
“He came up to re-emphasize that and check up on him and eyeball him," Carter said. "[Searels] let him know how important it is for him to finish up strong in the classroom and how they want him done by May. That way, he can get there in the summer and learn the playbook, learn the system so he can compete to play. He’s important to their program.”
With Harrison seemingly penciled in the take over the starting left tackle job this fall, getting him to Austin as quickly as possible is crucial. He won’t have the benefit of a few extra months of practice and training that Donald Hawkins got last spring.
Is there any chance Harrison will have problems getting the grades or getting done on time? That’s a question Searels had to ask, and Carter isn’t worried.
“The main thing is, he’s taking a heavy academic load so he can graduate in May,” Carter said. “He’s working out a couple days a week, getting in the weight room, but the biggest focus is academics and getting everything on point. He’s taking night classes and is doing a little bit of everything to finish up and get his degree.”
Harrison is on track to get his degree at the end of May. If for any reason he’s unable to finish by then, he does have one backup plan. Carter said the school offers an abbreviated three-week summer session that ends in early June, though he’s hoping it doesn’t come to that.
When you’ve only got a few months to learn the playbook and work with strength coach Bennie Wylie, and a starting job is very much on the line, every week counts. Harrison developing into a first-string-caliber lineman quickly would have a big effect on Texas’ plans along the rest of its line.
While Harrison knows he’s got a chance to start from day one, Carter is quick to point out that the No. 4 ranked juco tackle recruit can’t take that for granted.
“He knows he has that type of potential and upside, but he can’t just show up and start at a Division I level without putting work in,” Carter said. “He needs to get there this summer. He’s been really focusing on his classes. We knew that when he signed, but now we’ve got to make sure he’s finished.”
Texas might not be done recruiting Contra Costa in the near future. Here’s one name to know and store away for the future: Edward Muldrow.
The 6-foot-3, 200-pound outside linebacker already holds offers from Arizona State and West Virginia. He began his career at South Carolina but transferred in January 2012 after redshirting as a freshman.
As a backup for Contra Costa last fall, he recorded 19 tackles, four sacks and six tackles for loss. Bo Davis watched his film with the Contra Costa staff this winter and was blown away.
“He really liked him,” Carter said. “He was impressed by how explosive and fast he was and how he was making plays all over the field. He was like, ‘Who is that?’ He re-emphasized how much he liked him in February. He said if they’re recruiting a [junior college] linebacker, he’s definitely someone they’d be very, very interested in.”
Will that happen? Hard to say right now. Texas already has three linebacker commits for 2014 and took two for its previous class. Even if guys like Zach Whitley Jr. and Dillon Bates commit elsewhere, there might not be a need unless some linebackers transfer from the program. – Max Olson
Bonney still high on UT
Will John Bonney become Texas’ next defensive back commit? Little has changed in his recruitment, and that means the Longhorns are still a safe favorite for the Houston Lamar safety.
Sam Khan Jr./ESPN
Defensive back John Bonney has only visited Texas this spring due to track obligations.
Bonney and his parents both attended the first UT junior day and the spring game, and the Longhorns certainly haven’t fallen behind any other programs at this point.
“They’re not necessarily the favorite, but they’re definitely at the top of my list,” Bonney said. “I know my dad really likes the situation and my mom likes their academics. It’s a school we’ve been by a lot and my dad really likes them and I do too. My dad likes [Duane] Akina as well. He’s a real good coach and has a great track record.”
That his parents are both quite comfortable with Texas is definitely a good sign. So is the fact that, despite expressing interest, Bonney still hasn’t ended up taking any other key visits elsewhere thus far.
Bonney had talked about hoping to visit multiple schools during the spring in an effort to narrow down his choices. Track season has ended up preventing that, so those plans now get pushed back to the summer.
“I’ll definitely check with my dad on which schools I’m going to,” he said. “I don’t know what my schedule is going to be like with 7-on-7 and all that. But right now, I don’t know.”
If Bonney does get a chance to leave the state, two big-time programs have a very good chance of getting visits: Stanford and Ohio State.
Both have been working hard to recruit him and have a lot to offer, but Bonney also admitted that Akina has been the one working the hardest to land him.
“I feel really good about that,” he said. “I feel like they really need me.”
During the spring game, Bonney kept a close eye on where he’d fit in the secondary. Akina has been recruiting him as a field safety that can cover fast slot receivers, and he said he got a lot out of the experience of watching Akina’s players in action.
Bonney isn’t waiting on more schools to enter the picture at this point. He’s content with where things stand now. He just wants to take a few visits before he’ll be ready to commit.
“I’m still going to take some time,” he said. “I don’t feel like I need to make a decision right now. I haven’t got to that point yet.” – Max Olson
2015 LB still has Longhorns No. 1
Texas might be falling behind for Daylon Mack, but that isn’t the case for another one of the state’s elite 2015 defensive prospects.
If he absolutely had to make a decision today, Mesquite (Texas) Poteet linebacker Malik Jefferson said he would be a Longhorn.
“Just because I’ve visited Texas and there’s so much more available down there, it would be Texas right now if I did have to commit,” he said.
But, as a sophomore, he does not have to choose anytime soon. Jefferson said there’s still plenty of time for other colleges to wow him. And they’re starting to line up.
The 6-foot-2, 212-pound outside linebacker prospect has already been offered by UT, Texas A&M, Oklahoma, Ole Miss and Baylor. He hears from Ole Miss quite a bit, but at this point Texas is getting most of Jefferson’s attention.
A lot of that has to do with the relationship he’s developing with Manny Diaz. Texas sent Diaz and Bruce Chambers to Poteet see Jefferson on Tuesday. While he couldn’t talk to the coaches, he did feel he made a good impression.
“They follow the [contact] rules and I understand that, but they did watch me practice a little bit and watched me do power cleans and some shuttle drills,” Jefferson said. “That went good.”
Jefferson said he calls Diaz as often as he can and has an easy time seeing himself playing for the Longhorns’ defensive coordinator and linebackers coach.
“I love the way he coaches, and even away from football he’s a great life mentor,” Jefferson said. “I know if anything happened, he’d be a great mentor and coach for me.”
He has kept a close eye on the recruiting momentum Texas is enjoying right now. Landing a commitment from Jefferson would be huge, but getting this done early isn’t what he has in mind.
“Nope. I’m going to stick to my plan and wait until the time comes,” he said.
Jefferson would like to visit all the schools that have offered him during this summer, though no firm plans have been made yet. He’d also like to see Oregon and USC start recruiting him at some point.
All the attention Jefferson has garnered this spring has been rewarding, but as Poteet gets ready for spring ball he says he’s more determined than ever to go out and prove himself.
“The offers motivate me every day,” he said. “Now I know I’m on a top pedestal and I have to play to a high-level standard if I really want to play college ball.”
An awful lot can and will change between now and February 2015 when Jefferson signs his letter of intent, but right now all signs point to Texas being a heavy favorite for his pledge. – Max Olson
Texas DT commit warming up
Defensive tackle Trey Lealaimatafao committed to the Longhorns just two weeks after being offered.
If Trey Lealaimatafao (San Antonio/Warren) were back in Eielson, Alaska, right now, where it’s a toasty 37 degrees, he’d unquestionably be in shorts right now.
Heck, if it were 30, even 40 degrees colder, Texas’ lone 2015 defensive tackles commit might still be in shorts. Seriously.
Just as Texans get use to the 100-degree heat, Alaskans grow accustomed to the coldest of cold. For three years Lealaimatafao found himself becoming comfortable in that Alaskan weather.
“I had to get used to it definitely,” he said. “It would be negative-10. It was cold. You would catch people walking around in shorts. I would to because you get used to it.”
Lealaimatafao has since thawed out after six years in Texas, where he now enjoys all the perks of Texas high school football and what it can offer you if you’re good enough to play in college.
That includes playing in double-digit games every season and not eight like he had to in Alaska because of the weather.
“It was a real cool deal when I first got here [to San Antonio],” said Lealaimatafao, who grew up a USC fan. “I played middle school ball here and we weren’t too good. But when I got up to high school and we started winning games -- we went 11-2 last year -- I just wasn’t used to losing at all.” – William Wilkerson
Ketchum slowly getting familiar with process
Class of 2015 quarterback J.W. Ketchum (Fort Bend, Texas/Marshall) is slowly starting to get used to the recruiting process. But he’s still hesitant to let on about many of his feelings.
“He’s a little skeptical. He doesn’t know how far to go with it,” said his mother, Auntreek Rhoades.
That's understandable. Ketchum is, after all, just a sophomore.
That can be a fact lost on a dynamic prospect trying to slice out a bit of normalcy. But he’s making due despite his name already being of the household variety.
“It’s been another process,” Ketchum said. “I just do the usual, just trying to take care of my grades, play football. It’s a great experience going to different schools, experiencing different environments. It’s cool.”
Trips to Texas and Texas A&M have already taken place, and both schools have offered. Baylor has as well.
When asked how his trip to Austin went both he and his family all lit up.
“It was great. It’s my home,” he said. “I feel good. It was a real good day. I really enjoyed it.”
It’s easy to see why he already holds three offers. The dual-threat quarterback completed 59 of 95 passes for 744 yards and 12 touchdowns (six interceptions), and rushed 118 times for 1,165 yards and 28 scores last season.
What might not be widely known is the fact that Ketchum is left-handed, a trait that he showed off in impressive fashion at the Nike Football Training Camp in Allen on April 7.
Ketchum, who is pretty matter-of-fact when it comes to his business, didn’t feel like there was anything abnormal or unusual about his southpaw ways even though he was one of just a few that took part in the Elite 11 at Valley Ranch on April 6.
“Just like anyone else, if you want to be great you got to work at it,” he said. “The same thing goes for being left-handed. There are no disadvantages or advantages. I just go out there and do what I was taught.” – William Wilkerson