Wednesday, May 15, 2013
Track meet prime recruiting time for Texas
By Max Olson
AUSTIN, Texas -- Texas might not be the sexiest football program in the state right now, but Longhorns coach Mack Brown is making up for that with smarts.
The Longhorns showed off their savvy once again this weekend by turning the state track meet into a sneaky-big recruiting weekend.
Class of 2014 receiver Ishmael Zamora turned heads by winning the Class 5A 110-meter hurdles event.
The state’s best athletes descended on Austin on Thursday, Friday and Saturday to compete in the UIL track and field championships. The Texas coaching staff awaited them with open arms.
Considering the track meet at Mike A. Myers Stadium is literally across the street from DKR-Texas Memorial Stadium and Texas’ football offices, capitalizing couldn’t have been easier.
While Longhorns coaches aren’t permitted to attend the state meet, there’s nothing stopping them from inviting recruits and their families to make the short walk over before or after they compete.
So the coaches hung around the facilities, waiting for big-name prospects and potential new targets to drop by. Those who visited got tours, met with coaches and even played video games and pool in the players’ lounge.
And finding elite recruits at the meet -- either as competitors or spectators -- was like shooting fish in a barrel. More than 20 prospects stopped by to check out UT while in town, and that’s likely a serious underestimate.
Included in that group was at least four ESPN 150 recruits -- cornerback Tony Brown (Beaumont, Texas/Ozen), receiver K.D. Cannon (Mount Pleasant, Texas/Mount Pleasant), corner Arrion Springs (San Antonio/Roosevelt) and quarterback commit Jerrod Heard (Denton, Texas/Guyer).
“I always like visiting Austin, because this is the biggest stage to run in Texas,” Brown said. “It’s always exciting to be here. Plus, relationships built the more you talk to people, so I’ve enjoyed my conversations with coach [Duane] Akina, [Major] Applewhite and Mack Brown.”
Like many others, Springs didn’t actually run in the meet. He simply drove up on Saturday morning to check in with the coaches. That was also the case for versatile lineman Koda Martin, linebacker Cameron Townsend and brothers Sione Teuhema and Maea Teuhema. The Longhorns' open house gave them all the more reason to visit Austin.
Texas did the same thing back in March when it leveraged Texas Relays, the elite national track meet, with its spring game. The final day of Relays wrapped up less than two hours before the Orange-White game kicked off, ensuring a loaded crowd of recruits would attend. That move yielded four new commits in two days.
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Texas didn’t pick up any pledges over the weekend and might’ve made only one new offer -- to Newton (Texas) running back Kevin Shorter -- but this weekend was as much about meeting new targets as catching up with the familiar ones.
Two who caught Texas’ attention were Houston Alief Elsik receiver Ishmael Zamora and 2015 Splendora (Texas) running back Jay Bradford. Zamora took home the title in the Class 5A 110-meter hurdles, while Bradford won gold in the 3A 100-meter dash. And yes, both visited Texas before their events.
Right after he got into town, Zamora stopped by to meet coaches and even hoist a Heisman trophy in Mack Brown’s office. Bradford called the visit “an amazing experience.”
“I think it’s a nice place, a wonderful place,” Bradford said. “I’ve been running track since my freshman year, so I’ve gotten familiar with this place.”
Little advantages like might be exactly what the Longhorns need to keep battling Texas A&M and the rest of the state’s rising Big 12 programs in recruiting.