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Friday, April 26, 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.

In this week's edition of The Heard:

Read The Heard after the jump.

The latest in Brown's recruitment

In the few times he has found reprieve from his busy track season, ESPN 150 cornerback Tony Brown has managed to get out of town for two big spring game visits.

Things are moving so fast, though, that Brown has had little time to sit down and think things through. His grand plan is being made up on the fly right now.

“Both of those spring games came out of nowhere for me, honestly,” he said.

The Beaumont (Texas) Ozen standout took spring visits to Alabama and Florida State and had good things to say about both trips. Others can fixate on him picking LSU, but right now Brown is open to all schools.

Tom Hauck for Student Sports
ESPN 150 cornerback Tony Brown recently visited Alabama and Florida State. But he's in no rush to decide on a school.

He’s already been to Tuscaloosa several times, so in returning for the Tide’s A-Day spring game he already had a good idea of what to expect. He was still impressed.

“It was crazy how many people showed up for the game because it’s just a spring game,” Brown said. “I didn’t see anything new, really. I got a chance to talk to coach Saban and just be around the fans. I like it a lot and I like the city. I like the fans, the fans like me. A lot of people knew who I was, and I signed some autographs and took some pictures. I thought that was really cool.”

Brown hung out mostly with 2015 Bama commit Deionte Thompson (Orange, Texas/West Orange-Stark) during his visit and enjoying getting to know the fellow Golden Triangle stud.

“He’s good. He’s long and rangy and he only has room for improvement,” Brown said. “He’s a little raw, but I’ll start working with him.”

While Brown liked his trip to Alabama, he loved Florida State. The Seminoles emerged as a legitimate contender for Brown’s pledge by the time he headed home.

Brown had been hearing quite a bit from new FSU recruiter Tim Brewster -- a former UT assistant -- and the Seminoles lived up to the coach’s hype.

“That was awesome. I love it there in Tallahassee. It was a really good visit,” Brown said. “The school was great. The game was very lively, a lot of big hits. First time talking to coach [Jimbo] Fisher face-to-face and seeing coach Brewster and the whole staff.”

Another plus for FSU is its addition of new defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt. Brown had a prior relationship with him from his time coaching the secondary at Alabama and enjoyed catching up with him.

Where do all the other schools stand? Brown isn’t ready to put out a top five yet, but he did say he continues to call coaches at LSU, Texas, Florida State, Ohio State and Alabama on a regular basis.

Major Applewhite and Duane Akina have been keeping up with him, and Brown said he already received a visit from Bo Davis during the spring evaluation period.

Brown hasn’t planned any more visits for the near future, but he’ll be back in Austin on May 10 and 11 for the state track championships.

Brown’s goal? He’s already No. 1 in the nation in the 110 hurdles. Now he wants to run the fastest time ever.

“I’m aiming for 12.98. That would be the fastest time ever run in high school in the 110 hurdles,” Brown said. “I feel like it is obtainable. It’s hard to push yourself when everyone is running behind you, but I’ll find a way. I know I will.”

After that, he’s in for a lot more track this summer. Brown has already been invited to The Opening but isn’t sure how many school camps he’ll end up doing.

Track may force him to the sidelines, but Brown has a hard time envisioning going to college camps and not participating.

“I hate going somewhere where guys are looking at me and I’m not doing anything,” he said. “So if I go somewhere, hopefully I’m going there to do something.”

Brown hasn’t made any plans yet, but Texas has an opportunity to get him on campus in May for state and in June for camp. If he follows through and meets with the Longhorn staff on both occasions, you’d have to feel good about Texas staying in the hunt for the state’s top cornerback prospect. – Max Olson

New Longhorns offer willing to learn more

The Longhorns have had a player on their roster from Florida since 1992 in freshman kicker Phil Brodkin. That’ll change in 2014 as long as Andrew Beck (Tampa, Fla./Plant) sticks with his commitment.

Now, Texas is hoping to add another Floridian to the fold after it offered Miami Northwestern linebacker Michael Smith on Tuesday.

“I didn’t have any idea that they were looking at me,” he said. “I was told Texas never comes this way to look for kids.”

Texas doesn’t very often but it appears the Longhorns are looking that way more now that they are going out-of-state more so than any other time in Mack Brown’s tenure.

Smith is happy that’s the case. He doesn’t know a lot about the Longhorns but is interested in them nonetheless.

“I know a little about Texas,” he said. “I always watch them. I really watched them this past season and loved the way the defense flew around and made plays.”

Everyone is jumbled up right now, according to Smith, who is 6-2 and 210 pounds. But the Texas offer could be a game-changer if he can get down to Austin and see first-hand with the Longhorns have to offer.

“I am really going to take them serious,” he said. “It’s a big program and I know they put guys in the league. I’m really trying to find a place that I can develop my skills and turn into an NFL caliber type of player.”

Smith has lived in Miami all his life but is entertained by the idea of leaving South Beach for college.

“I wouldn’t have an issue leaving Miami as long as the college that I go to is a home away from home,” he said. “I don’t want to feel homesick. I also want to be able to get a good education. I want to get a good degree and want my college to be able to help me find a job after college.”

Smith likes to compare his game to that of Seattle Seahawks linebacker Bruce Irvin, and says he considers himself a very smart player who makes plays more so with his brain than raw athletic ability.

“I’m a real smart player,” he said. – William Wilkerson

More on Knox’s decision

Now that the dust has settled on Demetrius Knox’s decommitment, let’s take a better look at what went down.

As we reported Monday, Knox didn’t get into why he backed out on Texas other than that the two parties had “grown apart,” and he said right now he can’t see himself ending up back in the Longhorns’ top-ranked class.

Miller Safrit/
Four-star offensive lineman Demetrius Knox isn't talking about which schools he favors now.

While we all could’ve seen this move coming considering his previous actions, Knox said his decision to decommit late last week during a talk with the coaching staff was received with disbelief.

“The coaches were very surprised,” he said. “They kind of thought I was joking at first.”

Knox actually did end up talking to the Texas coaches on Monday, by the way, to make sure they were on the same page about releasing the news that he had backed out of his pledge.

“I didn’t want to put it on social media or talk to anybody until they felt it was right to put it out there,” he said. “They said they could keep me on their commit list until I openly told the public I was going to take visits somewhere else. I told them it was best to take me off.”

Immediately after he privately decommitted last week, Knox informed his friends in the Texas class. That was one of the more difficult aspects of his decision, since Knox has become close with Jerrod Heard, Lorenzo Joe and several other Longhorn commits.

Based on what he told those commits, it sounds like Knox is prepared for the likelihood that he won’t play with them in college.

“That was big, real big,” Knox said. “We’re pretty much all brothers. They were cool about the situation and said you’ve got to do what’s best for you. They told me they hope I go to a school that UT plays so we can meet up at midfield before and after the game. We’ll always stay close.”

As for Daniel Gresham, immediately after Knox’s decommitment went public on Monday he reaffirmed that he was staying committed and wasn’t tethered to Knox and his new plans.

How did Knox feel about that? He understood the move. Even if they’ve said they’re a package deal, the circumstances have changed since last August.

“He said the same thing, that at the end of the day I have to do whatever is best for me.” Knox said.

When asked if he thinks he and Gresham will still end up playing together, he said: “I don’t know. Maybe one day.”

What Knox does know is that his decommitment has made him more unpopular with the Longhorns fan base than he already was. That rocky relationship, which we detailed in this March story, got worse on Monday. Knox said some Texas fans somehow got ahold of his phone number and sent him a barrage of offensive (“They said some words I can’t repeat,” he said) and angry messages.

Whether Texas coaches would even want Knox back or not, the fact that the fans don’t is something Knox is very mindful of, and it would be a barrier for him choosing to re-commit down the road.

“The fans, they finally get what they want,” Knox said. “At the end of the day, the recruit is the boss of the whole situation. If your play on the field can back up all of it, you should be able to pick where you want to go in a respectable manner.” – Max Olson

Saunders getting interest from top schools

The Longhorns have long been evaluating Mavin Saunders. But on Tuesday they finally let him know just how interested they are by sending running backs coach Larry Porter out to Houston Kinkaid to check out the 2014 tight end.

“They are really interested in me,” Saunders said. “They haven’t offered me. I’m not sure what the conversation with my coach was. But they seem really interested and I hope that can turn into something else.”

As we reported in a previous The Heard, Saunders moved from the Bahamas to Houston in ninth grade and seemed destined for a career in 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.

But he’s putting basketball on the backburner with hopes of fulfilling his newly acquired dream of playing football full time. If he had his way, Texas would be the school at which he continues that dream.

“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.”

Saunders (6-5, 233 pounds) hopes that he’ll be able to make one of Texas’ summer camps and that his play there will lead to an offer.

“A lot of people are asking how interested they are,” he said. “A lot of people know that is the school I want to go to.”

Saunders isn’t hurting for offers. It seems like he adds a new one to the list every week now. Arkansas, Florida State, Houston, Illinois, Mississippi State, Missouri, Texas Tech and Utah all want him. Florida stopped by his school on Tuesday as well.

Even with a little warning from his coach, Saunders couldn’t have imagined all of the attention he’d be getting after only playing one season of football.

“It’s been crazy. I told someone today, the goal when I went out for football was, you know, I enjoyed the games and wanted to go out for the fun of it,” Saunders said. “I had offers in basketball so if it didn’t work out I could always fall back on basketball.

“Now it is overwhelming. All these coaches are contacting me in many different ways. Now that they can talk to me it is hectic. I appreciate it though. It’s better for it to be like this than not have any interest. It’s been really crazy. My coach told me it was going to get crazy but I don’t know if he was talking this type of crazy. It’s been shocking.”

Even though Saunders has plenty of offers he knows there is a lot of improvement left in his game, especially his route running, which is a facet he’ll zone in on this offseason.

“That comes with repetition. I don’t have that repletion yet because I have only been playing a year,” he said. “I can catch pretty well and can run and jump.” – William Wilkerson

Mayes on Texas' radar

In the wake of Knox’s decommitment, an offensive linemen worth keeping an eye on is Connor Mayes (Van Alystyne, Texas/Van Alstyne).

The Longhorns are recruiting the 6-4, 330-pound lineman as a interior line prospect but have yet to offer. Stacy Searles recently stopped by Van Alstyne to check up on Mayes.

“A couple coaches came by last week,” Mayes said. “Coach Searels came by and wanted to say hi, and coach [Randy] Clements from Baylor came to watch me work out.”

Mayes, who visited for a UT junior day, has been told the coaching staff wants him to come back to Austin for a summer camp so that he can be reevaluated.

Considering he’s generally considered a center prospect and the Longhorns already have a center pledge in Terrell Cuney (Jasper, Texas/Jasper), that camp showing would give Mayes an opportunity to prove he’s capable of making an impact at multiple spots on the line.

Mayes is certainly interested in the tryout and has had his eye on Texas for a while now.

“Texas is awesome. They have a great program and I love all those coaches there,” he said. “An offer from them would be pretty big. I’d also have to evaluate them again, though, because they’re pretty slow with recruiting me right now.”

The thing is, Mayes has lots of options right now. Other linemen get more way attention, but Mayes has quietly picked up 17 offers this year.

“I’ve got a few offers and the Big 12 schools started recruited me pretty hard recently,” he said. “I’m starting to get a couple looks from schools like Auburn and LSU.”

Baylor and Kansas State are the only two Big 12 programs to offer thus far. In addition to Texas, Mayes would like to find out if Texas A&M is interested in offering.

“I know we have family who loves A&M, and Texas is a huge opportunity that’s hard to pass up,” Mayes said.
He’s looking to make a decision before two-a-days begin this summer and said he’d like to take several visits before then.

Texas will almost certainly get a visit for one of its mini camps in June. Considering there isn’t exactly a surplus of great in-state linemen in this 2014 class, Mayes could have a shot to emerge this summer as one of the state’s best. – Max Olson

Barrett wants Texas offer

One guy who wasn’t too stunned by Demetrius Knox’s decommitment was Ty Barrett.

The Dallas Skyline three-star offensive tackle said he’s kept up with Knox throughout the spring and got the sense this move was coming sooner or later.

“I really talk to him a lot. I don’t know if he was comfortable or not,” Barrett said. “He really didn’t give off the vibe to me that he was very comfortable about what was going on.”

Could Knox’s departure end up being good news for Barrett and his chances of landing a Texas offer? He admitted that crossed his mind this week, and he knows losing Knox was a blow for Texas’ class.

“It is big. That’s a big hit,” Barrett said. “But I’m sure Coach [Mack] Brown is going to go out and get somebody. He’s a good recruiter. I know he’ll start searching.”

Barrett hopes he’s still on the radar. Skyline begins its first spring practice today, and he knows there will be a ton of schools passing through in the next month to check him and his teammates out. Texas will surely be one of them.

Though most people speculate that Oklahoma and Ole Miss are out in front for the 6-5, 310-pound tackle, a Texas offer would mean a lot to Barrett.

“That would be big,” he said. “Any offer is big, but it seems like if you get a Texas offer there’s something very, very big about it. It would be a great offer.”

Whenever Texas coaches stop by Skyline, Barrett said he’s going to make a big impression. He’s been working on his kick steps and said extra workouts this offseason have him in great shape.

He’ll work as hard for the UT coaches as he would for any other school, but Barrett did admit he gets fired up when he thinks about not having that offer yet.

“There’s a lot of motivation. A lot,” Barrett said. “I’m not a perfect, but I’ve got to work with a chip on my shoulder because that’s my home state school and they still haven’t offered me. It’s a chip on my shoulder. If they do come out here, it’s going to be a very, very good practice. I’ll make it intense.”

Barrett has been keeping up with coaches at OU, Ole Miss, Texas Tech, Oklahoma State and several other schools, and he’s looking forward to more getting in the mix this spring. He announced on his Twitter account on Thursday night that he plans to cut his list down to six on May 24.

His former Skyline teammates, Devante Kincade and Ra'Shaad Samples, both made their announcements last July, in an effort to put the recruiting distraction aside for their senior seasons. Barrett would like to emulate that plan if possible and will narrow things down at the end of the spring.

By the way, that speculation about OU vs. Ole Miss? Barrett laughs about it. He knows some people think he’s already made up his mind, but that’s far from the case.

“Nobody knows. ... I’m still in the middle of the process,” Barrett said. “It’s like, 'Wow, they think I’m going here.' My mom is just like, 'I heard they’re talking about you going to OU.' It’s funny. We’re going to see how it is when the process is over for me.”

At this point, Texas would seem to be on the outside looking in with Barrett, even if an offer came tomorrow. But tackle is a priority now, more so than guard, so he’s still worth keeping an eye on. – Max Olson

For what it’s worth

The Longhorns stopped by Nederland (Texas) High School on April 18 to check in on Texas A&M defensive tackle commitment DeShawn Washington.

Washington, if you’ll recall, has a Texas offer and seemed to be impressed by what the Longhorns had to offer when he attended one of their junior days. But he ended up committing to the Aggies not long after he went to Texas A&M’s junior day.

So, is there mutual interest between Washington and the Longhorns?

“There’s a lot of time until signing day but I’m still pretty content with A&M,” he said.

Washington also has offers from Baylor, Colorado, Oklahoma, SMU, Texas Tech and Tulsa. – William Wilkerson