Thursday, October 4, 2012
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 things discussed in this week’s edition:
An up-to-date list of the recruits expected in Austin for the West Virginia game.
ESPN 300 athlete ready to make his decision.
Injured Texas commit feeling better, will return to action soon.
Top 2014 safety excited for visit to Texas.
Texas targeting a top out-of-state 2014 defensive end.
Read The Heard after the jump.
Big weekend for Longhorns
Texas’ game against No. 8 West Virginia this weekend may very well be the Longhorns’ biggest home recruiting weekend of the season, at least until banquet week.
Here’s our most up-to-date list of expected visitors. We’ll be updating this list Saturday night on The Tower and talking to many visitors of the key visitors on Sunday, so stay tuned this weekend.
Right now, it looks like Luke will be the only official visitor for the weekend, though we’ve heard there might be one more 2013 prospect taking an official this weekend. Benenoch had talked about making this trip to Texas an official visit, but he informed me on Wednesday he’ll be taking an unofficial visit and heading home after the game.
Benenoch is not in a hurry to make a decision at this point, especially considering he’s scheduled an official visit to UCLA for after his senior season, so that’s not necessarily bad news for Texas.
This is a big weekend for Luke, though. The four-star corner is down to Texas, Oklahoma and Notre Dame and did visit Austin for the Orange-White game in April. Back then, he did not have a Texas offer as secondary coach Duane Akina continued to evaluate his options. Now he’ll be a top priority and get some serious red-carpet treatment.
– Max Olson
Collins close to making announcement
ESPN 300 athlete Chevoski Collins (Livingston, Texas/Livingston) knows where he is going to school.
ESPN 300 athlete Chevoski Collins is set to make his commitment next week.
“I know who I am going to pick,” he told GigEmNation’s Sam Khan Jr.
He’s just not telling anyone. At least not until he announce it to the public at 11:15 a.m. on Oct. 8 at his high school.
But the Longhorns should feel good about their chances.
“I’ve been knowing their coaching staff for a really long time,” Collins said. “I have a really good relationship with Bo Davis, [Duane] Akina, Darrell Wyatt, Mack Brown. There’s just really good things they’ve got going on at Texas.”
Texas hopes to get Collins in town for its huge game against West Virginia this weekend but Collins is unsure if he’ll be able to make the trip because he is taking the SAT on Saturday morning.
Even if he doesn’t make it, it seems like the Longhorns have done enough legwork to get him to Austin. Yes, even if they want him at defensive back when he’s long stated that playing offense would be preferred.
He has warmed up to the idea of playing in the secondary, which is a great sign for Texas, which will be waiting anxiously along with Oklahoma, Baylor and TCU for his decision next week.
- William Wilkerson
James recovery ahead of schedule
ESPN 150 center Darius James (Harker Heights, Texas/Harker Heights) celebrated his team’s victory on Friday like many players do these days, by jumping in the air and side bumping a teammate.
Thing is, James has a broken left foot, which he suffered in the season opener, and is required to wear a boot.
Probably not the smartest thing to do by the nation’s top-rated center, but he couldn’t resist and came down smiling. Those are all positive signs for both James and the Longhorns, who are counting on huge things from him over the next few seasons.
James was up walking up and down the sidelines with former teammate and current Longhorns redshirt freshman Camrhon Hughes during Harker Heights’ 7-0 victory. He said he’s been walking in the boot all week and is getting close to a return.
“I feel like I can play now,” he said. “I am just waiting to be cleared. I am just waiting to get my first X-ray.”
That first X-ray should come at some point this week. After that, James, the No. 17 player overall, will push himself as hard as he can to get back with his team.
“It’s going to be as far as I can push it,” James said. “Realistically, what I want to do is play [this week]. But I probably won’t be able to play for two more games.”
It’s been a frustrating last few months for James, who also broke his right foot.
“It’s hard because I know I can help my team,” he said. “Words aren’t enough. Actions speak louder than words. It’s hard to keep them hyped up when they are out here feeling down and we have players going down. It hurts because we came in to the season with such high expectations. It just hurts.”
James said he would get right back in the weight room to strengthen the foot as soon as he gets cleared by doctors. He’ll take a break from it all this weekend to attend Texas’ game against West Virginia.
- William Wilkerson
Oliver talks Treadwell, Robinson
Jake Oliver was the second verbal commit for Texas’ 2013 class and took it upon himself to be one of the leaders of the group. Nobody can top the effort Jake Raulerson has put in, of course, but Oliver is doing his share.
Oliver told me he and Raulerson will be patrolling the sidelines Saturday before the West Virginia game, meeting the Longhorns’ visitors and trying to help the staff’s recruiting efforts.
Texas has reached out to ESPN 150 wideout Laquon Treadwell.
Originally, he and Raulerson had talked about making this weekend their official visit. But after consulting with the UT staff, they’re saving their trip for banquet weekend in December.
“They said you get to know the coaches better and they pay a lot more attention to you during the banquet,” Oliver said. “But an unofficial is good too.”
The four-star receiver prospect will not be able to enroll early at Texas in January because he said Dallas Jesuit makes it impossible to pull it off academically. So far, only two Longhorn commits are officially planning to graduate early: tight end Durham Smythe and linebacker Deoundrei Davis. Raulerson and quarterback Tyrone Swoopes (Whitewright, Texas/Whitewright) are possibilities, too.
Though Oliver is confident Texas could get by just fine with him and Jacorey Warrick, he is well aware that the Longhorns could sign another wideout for this class. He hoped that would be Torii Hunter Jr., but he also knows plenty about ESPN 150 wideout Laquon Treadwell from their time together at The Opening in Oregon this summer.
“He’s very similar to me, I think,” Oliver said. “We’re about the same size, about the same speed, great hands, great route running ability. I’ve seen his highlight video once and he was impressive at The Opening.”
There’s another Opening recruit he’s keeping his eye on: A'Shawn Robinson. The fellow Texas commit has been looking around lately. If Robinson makes it to the West Virginia game, Oliver and Raulerson will be in his ear.
“I talked to A’Shawn a little this summer,” Oliver said. “I heard about the Florida State thing and that he’s taking an official to Alabama. I’ve heard he’s said he’s 100 percent on Texas, but I might need to give him a call.”
- Max Olson
When I spoke with Phoenix Brophy Prep receiver Devon Allen on Saturday morning, it seemed quite clear the Longhorns were out of it for the three-star prospect.
Allen is down to three schools -- UCLA, Stanford and his hometown program Arizona State -- and his decision to cancel his Texas visit was, it seems, a mutual one. He said the Longhorn coaches told him he could visit if he wanted but that, at this point, they were looking for something else at receiver.
This isn’t a great surprise. We’d been hearing that Texas’ staff preferred Torii Hunter Jr. to Allen, even though Allen had an offer and Hunter Jr. did not.
Allen also canceled his official visit to Notre Dame when he trimmed his list down to those three schools. His decision to cancel his Texas trip was as much about location as it was anything else. He wants to play close to him in the Pac-12.
Still, Allen told me he does continue to have a “little bit” of interest in the Longhorns and there is an outside chance he could take an official visit to Austin after his senior season ends, provided that Texas is still interested.
Allen expects the Longhorn track and field staff will continue to recruit him, so there is a possibility. Right now, though, I don’t like Texas’ chances of landing a visit.
What does it mean going forward, now that Allen and Hunter Jr. are both off the board? The search continues. As I’ve written in the past, don’t be surprised if Texas reaches a point where it begins contacting committed recruits. That worked wonders for the 2012 class and Texas’ strong start to this season -- and its reinvigorated passing attack -- only helps its case this time around.
ESPN Watch List safety Jamal Adams (Lewisville, Texas/Hebron) will make his third visit to Texas this weekend for the West Virginia game. At this point, after seeing everything he needed to see the first two times, he’s just looking forward to witnessing UT’s big-game atmosphere.
“It’s going to be great,” he said. “It’s going to be a big ballgame. I’m really excited to get down there, I can’t wait. It’s going to be fun because I have a bye week this week, so I can’t wait to see them play.”
The Longhorns don’t need to do a whole lot during this visit to impress Adams. He’s already a big fan of what Texas has to offer.
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“The first time I went to Texas, I really fell in love with it and the coaching staff and how much love they show,” Adams said. “Being back there, I can really see myself being coached by a great coach, coach [Duane] Akina. I really could see myself playing there.”
The 6-foot, 195-pound defensive back is also looking to take an unofficial visit to Texas A&M at some point this season, and he’s hoping to make one trip outside the state of Texas this fall, perhaps to Alabama. He also spoke with a Baylor assistant on Tuesday and has an invite to the Bears’ home game against TCU next weekend.
Adams has his recruitment on the back burner lately so he can focus on Hebron’s season. He said there are four schools, though, that have separated themselves among the rest in terms of how much attention they’re showing him: Texas, Oklahoma, Texas A&M and Alabama.
“That’s not in any particular order,” Adams said. “They’re the ones who show the most love, but I really couldn’t say if they’re my top schools. They’re up there.”
Right now, Adams would like to slow-play this recruiting process. He knows junior days are when most recruits start making their choices, but he’s in no hurry to make an announcement. He might even wait until the very end to decide.
“I’ve been saying it’s going to be signing day of my senior year, but I really don’t know,” he said. “I’m going to play it by ear.”
No matter when it happens, Texas has to like its chances of landing a pledge from Adams. He’s one of only two safeties that holds an early 2014 offer from Texas, along with Arlington (Texas) Bowie’s Edwin Freeman.
- Max Olson
Longhorns heavily recruiting Georgia DE
Class of 2014 defensive end Andrew Williams (McDonough, Ga/Eagles Landing Christian Academy) is terrorizing quarterbacks in the Peach State these days, and Texas coaches love it.
Longhorns defensive ends coach Oscar Giles stays in constant contact with the talented junior, who says he was offered by Texas a few months ago.
“Coach Giles has been contacting me a lot lately about Texas and how I am their No. 1 recruit for defensive ends in 2014,” said Williams, who already has 15 sacks this season. “He wants to get me down there for some games and was also discussing my game film and how he likes what he sees.”
Williams also holds offers from Alabama, Boston College, Clemson, Duke, Florida, Florida State, Missouri, Notre Dame, Syracuse, Texas A&M, USC and Virginia Tech.
The 6-foot-4, 235-pound Williams is utterly intrigued and flattered that a school like Texas would take interest in him.
“Texas football is a whole other thing from Georgia football,” he said. “I am humbled for the opportunity that would be provided if I ended up going there. The fact that Texas is interested is great. I didn’t let it get to my head but then again it was a big accomplishment because I have always been looking at Texas’ defensive ends and the way they operate.
“When they offered I was surprised. It was definitely because I’ve always been a big Texas fan since Brian Orakpo.”
When you watch him play it’s easily understandable to see why Texas would want him.
“From what I’ve heard from other coaches they really like my size,” he said. “I’ve trained so hard for the past three years to get this size, strength and speed. I don’t think there has been a day that I haven’t worked on that.”
Williams said he played at 215 pounds a season ago.
“Then my technique and skills,” he said. “Most offensive linemen at this level aren’t used to a good pass rush. I’ve been taking advantage of that.”
The Longhorns are going to have to fight off several suitors but they’ve made an impression on Williams already.
“There aren’t any top schools now. I am starting to narrow it down,” he said. “But the schools that are recruiting me the most are Texas, Florida, Oregon, LSU, FSU, Clemson and the in-state schools [Georgia and Georgia Tech].”
Williams said he would try his best to get to a Texas game this season.
“I was actually talking to Coach Giles about it,” he said. “If I can’t make a visit during the season I will definitely make one in the off-season to Texas.”
He’s already visited games at Georgia, Georgia Tech, Notre Dame and Clemson this season. He’ll be at Clemson again this weekend.
- William Wilkerson
Whitley considering visit for WVU game
He still has lots of details to work out, but there’s no question ESPN Watch List linebacker Zac Whitley (Houston/North Shore) is interested in making the drive up to Austin this weekend.
“Right now I have no idea if I can. I’m still trying to figure that out,” Whitley said. “But there is a chance I might be able to. I would love to see that game and see that defense with coach [Manny Diaz] and coach [Oscar] Giles.”
The 6-foot-2, 220-pound junior inside linebacker has yet to attend any games on unofficial visits this fall, but that’s not for lack of interest.
Whitley was hoping to attend Texas’ win over New Mexico last month, but car trouble prevented him from making the trip.
“I’m going to make it to a Texas game for sure. I know that for a fact,” he said. “I’m going to make it to at least one.”
Whitley was one of three 2014 in-state linebackers to receive an early offer this summer. He made an impression on Diaz during the Longhorns’ camp this summer, and the defensive coordinator told Whitley the staff loves the fact that, in addition to his physical prowess, he’s also a great listener. He took that as motivation.
So when the Longhorns ended up offering in August, Whitley couldn’t have been happier.
“I was very thankful. Not a lot of guys my age where I’m from get that opportunity,” Whitley said. “I think I was really blessed and I thank God, and I keep working my butt off every day knowing that every day is going to be a struggle. I need to keep grinding so it will all pay off in the end.”
Most people have deemed La Porte (Texas) junior Hoza Scott the consensus No. 1 linebacker in the state for 2014 and even perhaps the state’s top prospect overall.
Whitley would like to strongly dispute that claim.
“I know that I’m the best linebacker,” he said. “I just work my butt off every day, not caring about rankings and all that. I just focus on me and my team, just focus on getting better every day and the rest will take care of itself. All that is B.S. in my book. I’m not really worried about that.”
- Max Olson
Big basketball weekend as well
Football recruits won’t be the only ones coming to Austin this weekend. It will also be an important few days for Rick Barnes and his basketball program as they host two recruits on official visits in ESPN 100 shooting guard JaJuan Johnson (Memphis, Tenn./Southwind) and three-star center Joel Embiid (Gainsville, Fla./The Rock School).
Johnson, who informed our Reggie Rankin of his visit plans, has already visited Miami (Fla.) and Alabama.
“I am going to Texas this weekend and Marquette [Oct. 12-14], then I will think about it and make a decision,” Johnson told Rankin.
Johnson is a 6-foot-5, 181-pound wing rated as the No. 62 player in the country.
Embiid (6-foot-11, 230) informed our Dave Telep of his visit plans this weekend. He is the No. 11 center in the country.
His stock has really soared over the last couple of months. He’s relatively new to the sport as he has only been playing basketball for 18 months. A native of Cameroon, he was a volleyball player growing up.
Texas could have had a third visitor this weekend in three-star shooting guard Demarcus Croaker (Orlando, Fla.). But he told me that wouldn’t happen and odds are it won’t happen until next month at the earliest.
Croaker (6-foot-4, 178-pounds) was going to try and make his visit last week but he had to wait until he received his ACT test scores. He didn’t get them in time but has gotten them now.
“They weren’t the test scores I needed so I’m taking the test at the end of this month on the 27th and we’re going to go from there,” he said.
Croaker lists the Longhorns, Florida State and Murray State as his top schools right now.
He said he is interested in the program because of the coaching staff and the way it develops its players.
- William Wilkerson