Thursday, November 29, 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.
In this week’s addition of The Heard:
New safety offer talks Texas
Benenoch mulls offers
Gresham talks A’Shawn
Time for Texas to give up on top prospect?
Perkins talks immediate future/UT plans
Another safety to watch
GA Watch List OL interested in Texas
Read The Heard after the jump.
More on Texas’ newest offer
Texas’ decision to offer juco safety Shaquille Fluker (Meridian Miss./East Mississippi Community College) this close to Marcell Harris’ announcement date told you plenty.
The Longhorns likely weren’t expecting Harris (Orlando, Fla./Dr. Phillips) to commit to them when he announced his commitment earlier this morning. He chose Florida over Texas, Florida State and Oklahoma.
So they’ve inquired about Fluker, a Georgia commitment, who appears interested in at least seeing what the Longhorns have to offer.
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“I told him it interests me because I am willing to go somewhere that I can play off the bat,” he said. “I don’t want to go sit because knowing my talent I can play and know the playbook.”
That was apparently Bo Davis’ message to Fluker whenever the Texas defensive tackles coach visited him before the Thanksgiving break.
“He told me that when they watched my film they liked how I went after the ball and how I hit people,” he said. “That’s what they want their safety to do.
“He said they needed a safety to come and play, so he came and talked to me and offered me. I guess one of their safeties is going to be gone and they wanted someone to be able to come in and play.”
First for the positive news: Fluker is interested enough to take an official visit on Dec. 7 when he says he’ll also bring teammate, defensive end Za'Darius Smith.
Also, Georgia has five safety commitments in 2013, including juco Kennar Johnson. Fluker said those numbers don’t scare him.
“They did not tell me about them adding any other safeties, but that should not affect me,” Fluker said. “The other three are still coming out of high school, so I still have a chance to start when I get there.”
Now for the not so good news: He doesn’t know anything about the program.
“I don’t know too much about Texas,” he said. “I’ve never been there. I don’t know too much. I am just trying to get a good feel for things and see why I should go there.”
So it appears like the odds are stacked against Texas, but things tend to get interesting when recruits already committed somewhere visit elsewhere.
Fluker (6-foot-2, 200 pounds) committed to Georgia on August 14 in large part because the Bulldogs were his first offer and he wanted to see if things would open up once he committed. It worked as he picked up offers from Kansas, Kentucky, Nebraska and South Alabama.
He said he was originally going to play at Mississippi State out of high school but didn’t have the “proper grades.”
“So I went the juco route and things have started to fall in place,” he said. “I’m glad I have done this even though I didn’t want to at first.” – William Wilkerson
Tough choice ahead for Benenoch
With Demetrius Knox off the board, Texas’ next commitment could come from another offensive lineman. But right now, that’s not as guaranteed as it seemed a few weeks ago.
Andrew Billings’ decision is still on hold for now, but it appears Caleb Benenoch is getting closer and closer.
The four-star guard from Katy (Texas) Seven Lakes is down to his final official visit. He’s going to Baylor this weekend for the Bears’ shootout against Oklahoma State.
Believe it or not, this is a big visit for Benenoch. He’s coming off a very good official visit to UCLA, one that has the Bruins right on par with Texas.
“They’re right up there with them,” he said. “I’m going to take this trip to Baylor this weekend and talk to my parents and we’ll try to figure things out and make a decision for sure.”
In fact, it looks like Texas, UCLA and Baylor are pretty much tied up right now, with Oklahoma slightly behind that trio. It’s becoming an increasingly difficult decision for Benenoch, who considers himself a Texas fan but has to also consider what’s the best fit for his future.
“Yeah, it is getting tougher. I just want to make my decision, and it’s a four-year decision,” Benenoch said. “You’re still going to be an alumni of that school you go to long after you’re done playing. The choice you make is really important, and you’ve got to make the right one.”
One thing UCLA can offer that Texas might not be able to is immediate playing time.
Four of the Bruins’ starting linemen are freshmen or sophomores, but starting right guard Jeff Baca is a senior. That’s the spot Benenoch has his eye on.
“They want me to come in and play,” he said. “When I get on campus I’d get in shape, learn the offense and they’d expect me to compete for that spot. It’s on my shoulders if I choose to go to UCLA whether I get that spot or not.”
Now all he has to do is make that choice. Texas might still be the favorite, but it’s closer than you’d think. – Max Olson
Gresham’s take on Robinson
Count 2014 Longhorns running back commitment Daniel Gresham (Fort Worth, Texas/All Saints) as one of those out there not concerned about A'Shawn Robinson wanting to visit other schools.
Tom Hauck for ESPN.com
Can the Longhorns hang on to A'Shawn Robinson?
Robinson, the No. 10 defensive tackle and No. 107 player in the ESPN 150, has openly discussed the idea of visiting Alabama and USC.
He has already taken an official visit to Florida State and will take one to USC the weekend of the Longhorns’ football team banquet when the rest of Texas’ pledges are in Austin. A trip to Alabama for the Tide’s game against Texas A&M has yet to be rescheduled.
Even if Robinson does take all of these visits, especially the trip to USC, which is the team he grew up rooting for, Gresham thinks he’ll end up in Austin.
“I think he will,” he said. “I’ve had it go through my head but I’m not going to do it. When you are a huge top recruit and you know you can go to other colleges and look around. It’s not that you want to go there but you want to go have fun. And if someone wants to pay for a trip to California you take it.
“USC is a great school. He hasn’t really talked to me about where he is going to go. But I talked to him at the game and he didn’t really make it seem like he was going to de-commit. He was saying he was going to go up to USC because it was a free trip, go watch a good game and see the campus. I mean they are paying for a flight to California.”
USC appears to be the team to beat considering Robinson grew up rooting for the Trojans.
“Yeah, it is my favorite school,” Robinson said of USC. “That’s my favorite school because I grew up watching them. That’s why I like them, and their coaches are cool.
“I like Texas. I feel like Texas is the team I like, but then you still like the team you grew up watching.” – William Wilkerson
Time for Texas to give up?
It looks like the battle for arguably the top 2014 prospect in Texas could be ending very soon.
In today’s story on HornsNation, La Porte (Texas) linebacker Hoza Scott makes it perfectly clear he’s close to committing to Texas A&M, likely within the next few weeks.
That wouldn’t be a stunner, of course, since Scott has been calling the Aggies his No. 1 school ahead of Texas and LSU all year long.
Scott said the two schools he’s been talking to this fall are A&M and Texas. Major Applewhite and Manny Diaz have been working together on this recruitment and haven’t given up yet.
“Major Applewhite visited me the week before we went on break for Thanksgiving,” Scott said. “He told me they’re still gunning for me and they really want me and they don’t want me to take them out of the race.”
Earlier this fall, Diaz had been pitching Scott on an opportunity to replace Jordan Hicks in the Longhorns’ lineup when he graduates. Now that Hicks is likely receiving a medical redshirt and will have two seasons left, you can’t help but imagine what a linebacker corps of Scott with seniors Hicks and Steve Edmond would look like.
“He said I’d be in the race for a starting position,” Scott said. “He said it wasn’t guaranteed, but I could fight for it.”
That being said, Texas’ chances aren’t looking great right now. Scott didn’t make it to the TCU game as planned -- he had family come into town from North Carolina for Thanksgiving -- and he’s not looking to take any more visits before making his decision.
There is the possibility that Texas could get Scott on campus for a junior day and possibly even an official visit next year. But right now, he’s more interested in using those visits on out-of-state schools, so that he can better get a feel for if A&M is where he needs to be.
“When I commit, I might tell coach [Kevin] Sumlin that I want to take my five official visits my senior year just for the fun of it, just to see how it is,” Scott said.
That he’s already referring to Sumlin as his college coach just goes to show you Scott is going to be an Aggie pledge soon.
You have to think Texas will continue to pursue him after that commitment is official, but right now it’s not looking good for Texas. – Max Olson
Perkins sticking with wrestling again
Longhorns offensive tackle commitment Kent Perkins (Richardson, Texas/Lake Highlands) has spent the majority of his football-playing career at right tackle. But that’s likely to change once he gets to Austin.
Kent Perkins has been told he'll play left tackle for Texas.
“The coaches want me to play left tackle,” Perkins said. “My work ethic is crazy. I feel like I could do it, work real hard at it and pull it off."
Perkins has the ideal size and skill set to play on the left side but Lake Highlands kept him on the right side throughout his career because a left tackle was already in place when Perkins joined the varsity program.
He played a little left tackle this season and actually feels more comfortable with his left hand down.
In the grand scheme of things, Perkins will play on either side as long as he’s helping the program win. Despite another year of not meeting expectations, Perkins insists that good things are in store for this program in 2013.
“We can. It’s all about being a team and working as a team,” he said. “It’s just about how bad do you want it and how bad do you want to push past your comfort zone. I want it real bad.”
Perkins has grown familiar with pushing his body past his comfort zone. He picked up wrestling a few years ago to help with various aspects of his football game, and will continue to wrestle for Lake Highlands this season.
“It keeps my stamina up. It keeps my aggressiveness higher,” he said. “It helps me a lot with football.”
Perkins said wrestling equally heavy guys forces him to use different things besides his strength. His footwork has drastically improved as well. As has his physical shape.
“When we first start [a wrestling workout] we stretch and go to the weight room and do these things called ‘Super Sets’ and we do a weight that we can do for 50 seconds nonstop,” he said. “After that your arms are dead. You can’t even move. Then we go and hard wrestle for 50 minutes and then go outside and run.”
Doing all of that makes football workouts seem like a walk in the park.
“Football stamina and wrestling stamina are on different levels,” he said. “I feel like when I am working on wrestling it is so hard and when I come back to football it is so easy. I don’t get tired on the field.” – William Wilkerson
Another safety to watch
We wrote earlier this week and earlier in The Heard about Texas offering juco safety Shaquille Fluker, a Georgia commitment, who will officially visit Texas on Dec. 7.
But another safety to keep an eye on is Oklahoma State commitment Deric Robertson (Killeen, Texas/Killeen). He is a three-star prospect who is rated as the No. 81 safety in the country.
“I spoke to Coach [Manny] Diaz a couple of weeks ago and he asked me to send him a highlight tape,” Robertson said. “Once he finished it he was going to get back with me as soon as possible. He did and told me he liked it and that they would keep in contact with me.”
First things first: Robertson (6-foot-2, 200 pounds) is firmly committed to the Pokes and has been since May 29. But he is interested in getting more familiar with Texas if it continues to pursue him.
“I would definitely take a look at it and visit the school because Texas has a great program,” he said. “When I went down there with Darius [James] I got to see their locker room and everything so I would give it a look.”
Robertson came to Austin for the West Virginia game and was completely blown away by the atmosphere he found himself in.
“It was crazy,” he said. “Every play all you heard was ‘Ahhh.’ It was a sea of burnt orange everywhere. It was ridiculous.”
The fact that James, his good friend, is committed to Texas does help the Longhorns cause.
“I’ve known him since I was in 7th grade,” he said. “He’s like a brother to me and we do a lot together. It plays a part because we used to have this thing where wherever he would go to school I would come with him.”
Robertson originally committed to Oklahoma State in part because of the relationships he built with its coaching staff, as well as the memories he created in Stillwater as a young kid.
“Oklahoma State used to recruit a cousin of mine when I was younger and when he used to go to games I would go with him,” he said. “I always enjoyed it because it was crazy. When they started recruiting me I just felt really comfortable with them.”
Robertson said he had 54 tackles, 4 forced fumbles, a fumble recovery, two interceptions and a touchdown this season. He also said he has run a 4.3 40-yard dash. – William Wilkerson
Georgia Watch List OL interested in UT
Top 2014 offensive tackle Orlando Brown Jr. is open to the Longhorns.
An ESPN Watch List lineman from Duluth (Ga.) Peachtree Ridge, Brown has offers from nearly all of the nation’s top schools. He doesn’t have an offer from Texas -- yet.
After Knox committed on Monday, he told the Texas staff about Brown and the friendship they struck up and encouraged them to start recruiting the 6-foot-8, 370-pound tackle.
“They’re pumped about it and want me to give him their number,” Knox said Monday.
Brown said he and Knox struck up their long-distance friendship via Twitter and they’ve managed to keep in touch regularly over the past few months.
“We’re pretty close,” Brown said. “He told me Texas is where he was going and he wanted me to attend there with him. I told him I don’t have a problem with that at all.”
Brown hasn’t heard from the Texas coaching staff -- which is a bit surprising, considering offensive line coach Stacy Searels came to Texas from Georgia -- but that should change soon.
And Brown would be listen to what the Longhorns have to offer, especially now that his buddy is officially committed.
“Oh yeah, definitely I’m interested in Texas,” Brown said. “I know that they’ve got a pretty good program as far as winning and stuff like that. They’ve got a really good tradition of winning, and that’s something good to be a part of.”
Brown said he’ll most likely take an unofficial visit to Texas in February to join Knox at a UT junior day. That would be quite a coup for Texas, considering Brown has one of the most impressive offer lists of any 2014 prospect. He’s not bothered, by the way, that he hasn’t heard from the Longhorn staff yet.
“I know they recruit in-state a lot,” he said, “and they don’t have to leave the state much to sign guys when they have guys like Demetrius.”
Brown thought Knox made a good decision in going with Texas, and he admits he enjoys imagining what it would be like if they played together at the next level.
“That would definitely be pretty cool,” Brown said. “You know, we call ourselves the best college tackle 1-2 punch tandem ever.” – Max Olson