Texas Longhorns: Blake Whiteley

Spring primer: Texas Longhorns

March, 13, 2014
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Texas takes the field for its first spring practice next week, and it has plenty it needs to accomplish under new head coach Charlie Strong. Here are a few of the many, many items on the Longhorns’ to-do list for spring ball:

Offensive returner ready to take next step: Hate to state the obvious here, but David Ash needs to take one big step in the right direction this spring. After playing in only three games last season because of concussion issues, Ash will be cleared for full practice participation and wear a green no-contact jersey. His return to the weight room this winter was encouraging, but he has a brand-new offense to master and has a new quarterbacks coach for the third straight season. He needs to get comfortable and confident once again this spring.

[+] EnlargeMalcom Brown
John Albright/Icon SMIMalcom Brown is ready to become a star on Texas' defensive line.
Defensive returner ready to take the next step: Watch out for defensive tackle Malcom Brown, because the junior’s next step is to be an All-Big 12 and All-America-caliber player. He was clearly Texas’ most talented defensive tackle as a true sophomore and will be a focal point of the defensive line no matter if Texas is in a 3-4 or 4-3 defense. New defensive line coach Chris Rumph is ready to maximize Brown's potential.

Redshirt freshman to watch: Plenty to choose from, but cornerback Antwuan Davis stands out. Former coach Mack Brown was very tempted to throw the freshman from Bastrop, Texas, on the field in 2013 but held off. Great measurables, track speed and a fiery competitiveness make Davis a second-year guy capable of fighting his way into a role in this secondary.

Most significant position battle: We outlined that in this post, but it’s worth repeating: kicker and punter. With consensus All-American and Lou Groza Award finalist Anthony Fera gone, Texas faces some big question marks at both spots. New special teams coach Chris Vaughn wants to see all his options in action and put each kicker and punter through pressure situations to see who comes out on top.

Key midterm enrollee: This is a shorter list than usual this year, as only three signees joined the program in January. But tight end Blake Whiteley will be the most interesting to watch. The Arizona Western Community College transfer has everything you’d want in the size department -- 6-foot-5, 245 pounds -- and was a 1,000-yard receiver during his high school days. Texas hasn't had a feared pass-catcher at that spot in a long time.

Question that could be answered: Which players can hang with the new brand of Texas football? That’s been the critical question throughout offseason workouts, and Strong and his staff will get much more definitive answers in the next month. Those who can keep up will stand out. Those who can’t might not be on the roster much longer. Expect some attrition after spring ball ends, as is often the case with new regimes.

Question that won’t be answered until fall: The quarterback job. It’s possible USC transfer Max Wittek does not reach a final decision on his destination until April or May, and freshman Jerrod Heard arrives not long after that. Both will make a run at the job (if Wittek chooses UT), and we won’t know where things stand with Ash’s long-term health until he starts taking hits again. He won’t see any in spring ball, that’s for sure. Texas coaches are excited about having Ash for two more seasons, but they’ll also put a high value on competition.
Across the Big 12, teams are looking for instant impact from their recruiting classes. Several of those potential instant impact players have enrolled at their schools early, looking for a chance to play right away.

Below is a breakdown of all the Big 12 early enrollees, and their outlooks for the spring:

BAYLOR

Juco

OG Jarell Broxton: Could grab a starting role with All-American guard Cyril Richardson gone.

CB Chris Sanders: Was a favorite to start, but is out for the spring after shoulder surgery.

CB Tion Wright: Less highly-touted than Sanders, but has an opportunity with Sanders out.

LB Grant Campbell: With All-Big 12 LB Eddie Lackey gone, Bears hoping Campbell can fill a starting role alongside Bryce Hager.

High school

WR Davion Hall: Recruited as a receiver, Hall is a powerful athlete who gives Baylor another potential dynamic playmaker.

RB Terence Williams: A bruising runner destined to someday fill the role held last season by Glasco Martin.

TE Jordan Feuerbacher: Baylor lost tight ends Jordan Najvar and Jerod Monk off last season's team so there’s an opportunity for Feuerbacher.

IOWA STATE

Juco

LB Jordan Harris: Harris was the No. 5 juco ILB in the country, and will help ease the sting of losing All-Big 12 LB Jeremiah George.

S Devron Moore: The Cyclones graduated both Jacques Washington and Deon Broomfield so help is needed here.

DE Gabe Luna: Luna is one of three juco DEs the Cyclones signed, but the first to arrive on campus.

KANSAS

Juco

OG/C Keyon Haughton: Charlie Weis calls him “a bad muchacho,” and the Jayhawks will need him to play right away.

CB Ronnie Davis: The Jayhawks return starting cornerbacks Dexter McDonald and JaCorey Shepherd, but you can never have enough corners in the Big 12.

S Anthony Smithson: Adds depth and versatility to an already deep and experienced secondary.

KANSAS STATE

Juco

WR Andre Davis: All-Big 12 WR Tyler Lockett needs someone to emerge on the other side, and the No. 5-ranked juco WR has a great chance to do just that.

OT Luke Hayes: Could answer the call at a key spot vacated by departing All-Big 12 OT Cornelius Lucas.

CB Danzel McDaniel: One of the top juco corners in the country, McDaniel could lock up a starting role quickly.

Grayshirt

TE Dayton Valentine: Adds depth as a blocking tight end.

OL Bryce Fitzner: Will have time to fill out his 6-7 frame.

OKLAHOMA

Juco

TE Isaac Ijalana: The No. 1 juco TE in the country, Ijalana could help stabilize a position that has given the Sooners trouble the past couple seasons.

LB Devante Bond: Bond adds depth to what potentially could be one of the best linebacking corps in the country.

High school

QB Justice Hansen: Will be the third-team QB with Blake Bell moving to TE and Baker Mayfield ineligible until 2015.

FB Dimitri Flowers: The Sooners need a replacement for departing all-conference blocking fullback Trey Millard.

OKLAHOMA STATE

Juco

LB Devante Averette: The hard-hitting Averette has an opportunity to nail down a starting role this spring with All-Big LBs Caleb Lavey and Shaun Lewis gone.

WR Tyreek Hill: Hill is running track this spring and has already broken several records; he gives the Cowboys a speedy playmaker to help ease the early loss of Josh Stewart.

High school

QB Mason Rudolph: One of the highest-rated QBs ever to sign with the Cowboys, Rudolph will battle J.W. Walsh immediately for the starting job.

RB Devon Thomas: Thomas was the highest-rated running back from the state of Oklahoma, and adds depth to a position that could use some help.

TCU

Juco

S Kenny Iloka: Iloka has already impressed, and pads a deep and talented safety rotation at TCU.

OG Frank Kee: Will be asked to fill a starting job inside on the TCU offensive line.

TEXAS

Juco

TE Blake Whiteley: The nation’s No. 2 juco tight end, the Longhorns signed to fill a position that’s been inconsistent for them.

High school

OLB Andrew Beck: With Texas’ depth at LB, Beck most likely is a redshirt candidate.

OG Alex Anderson: Recruited by Joe Wickline when still at Oklahoma State, Anderson was a late addition to the class.

TEXAS TECH

Juco

S Josh Keys: The nation’s No. 5 juco safety, Keys could step into the spot vacated be departing veteran Tre’ Porter.

DT Keland McElrath: Has been dealing with a foot stress fracture, but the Red Raiders need help at DT with Kerry Hyder and Dartwan Bush gone.

WR Devin Lauderdale: Was a four-star player coming out of high school and will give QB Davis Webb another weapon on the inside.

WEST VIRGINIA

Juco

QB Skyler Howard: Has a chance to make a move on the QB competition, especially with Clint Trickett out for the spring.

S Keishawn Richardson: Opened up the spring as the second-string cornerback behind Daryl Worley, who started as a true freshman in 2013.

LB Edward Muldrow II: Currently backing up returning starter Isaiah Bruce as the Sam linebacker.

OT Sylvester Townes: The Mountaineers have two holes at tackle, giving Townes a chance to make an instant impact.

High school

DE Davonte James: The ESPN 300 signee brings speed to West Virginia’s D-end position.

WR Ricky Rogers: Rogers is a redshirt candidate with the entire West Virginia WR rotation back from last season.

Incoming impact countdown: Nos. 9-13

February, 19, 2014
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Now that they’ve signed their letters of intent, Texas’ incoming recruits can officially toss their stars in the trash. They don’t matter now.

While such ratings and rankings are helpful throughout the recruiting process, they mean nothing once a kid sets foot on campus and joins the program.

[+] EnlargeJohn Bonney
Steve Dipaola/NikeWith question marks already at safety for Texas, John Bonney has a chance to earn early playing time.
Gold stars won’t decide who gets to play as a freshman. Preparation, fit, need, raw talent, confidence, some good fortune -- a whole lot of real stuff matters now. Which members of Texas’ 2014 class have a chance to help out the Longhorns from day one?

This week we’re breaking down the Texas signees by their ability to make an early impact during their time on the 40 Acres, counting down from No. 23 to No. 1. If you missed it, here were the first two portions of the list.

13. WR Garrett Gray
Marble Falls | 6-foot-4, 210 pounds


2013: 78 receptions, 1,267 receiving yards, 17 receiving TDs, 197 rushing yards, 3 rushing TDs, 1 kick return TD

Gray flew under the radar during his recruitment before running a 4.4 at UT camp and committing soon after getting offered. What’s underappreciated about him, it seems, is his freaky athleticism. Like Dorian Leonard, he brings a basketball background to the game and is a major leaper who exploded in Todd Dodge’s offense.

Like all the other receiver signees in this class, Gray is facing an uphill climb if he wants to play as a true freshman. He might be the sleeper find of this class, whether he plays early or not, and could have enough raw tools to impress receivers coach Les Koenning.

12. LB Cameron Hampton
Dallas Carter | 6-0, 200


2013: 93 tackles, 15 sacks

Hampton might be more of a developmental prospect compared to his peers in this group, but the dude can hit and plays with intensity. He’s quick enough that it’s not hard to envision Hampton emerging as a playmaker on special teams coverage and carving out a role there as a freshman.

Stacked might not be the right word, but Texas has a lot of linebackers returning this season. All of them, actually, pending any offseason departures. Dalton Santos and Steve Edmond are the incumbent starters at inside linebacker, but Hampton can push them and make them better.

11. LB Andrew Beck
Tampa (Fla.) Plant | 6-3, 230

2013: 110 tackles, 7 sacks, 3 fumble recoveries, 1 forced fumble

Beck wanted to be a Longhorn no matter what, even after Manny Diaz and Greg Robinson both left, and stuck with his plans to enroll early throughout the turmoil. He was serious about getting to Austin and getting to work. What can he do in Year 1?

As is the case with Hampton, Beck is looking at a bit of a logjam when it comes to playing time this fall. But he’s an athletic prospect who will put on good weight, can play any linebacker position -- and maybe even some tight end -- and proved at Texas camp he can develop into a playmaker in the years to come.

10. S John Bonney
Houston Lamar | 6-1, 180


2013: 36 tackles, 8 passes defended

Bonney could move up this list quickly when he joins the program for several reasons. Texas has some real question marks at safety going into 2014, and new DB coaches mean a clean slate and a chance for the two best players to play.

Bonney is a sharp, polished product who brings leadership and ball skills. He can help this secondary. Texas has a few promising defenders -- Leroy Scott and Adrian Colbert, for starters -- who could rise this offseason and relegate Bonney to the sidelines this fall, but Bonney was one of the best safeties any Big 12 school signed and shouldn’t get overlooked.

9. TE Blake Whiteley
Arizona Western C.C. | 6-5, 245


2013: 8 receptions, 67 receiving yards, 2 TDs

Nobody is a lock to play right away, but Whiteley might be the closest. The early enrollee and junior college transfer joins a tight end group that needs bodies (and pass-catchers), and he’ll get to play for the coach (Bruce Chambers) that recruited him. So he’s in good shape from the get-go, as long as he can get the playbook down.

What does he bring as a tight end? Whiteley had a reputation for his receiving skills during his high school days in Canada, and his blocking was still a work in progress at the juco level. He’d be a good fit to split out in the slot and make plays over the middle if he adjusts well.

Texas position groups to improve: No. 5

February, 10, 2014
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Texas is getting off to a later-than-usual start to its spring practices this year, with Charlie Strong set to lead the Longhorns onto the practice field for the first time on March 18.

Until then, we’re counting down everything you need to know entering next season and the next era of Texas football. This week, we’re breaking down the five position groups with the most room to improve in 2014. Here’s No. 5 on the list.

[+] EnlargeJohnathan Gray, Geoff Swaim
Brendan Maloney/USA TODAY SportsGeoff Swaim (left) had three receptions but spent most of his time blocking for the Longhorns..
5. Tight Ends

The players: Geoff Swaim, Greg Daniels, M.J. McFarland, Blake Whiteley

Last year: Swaim, a junior college transfer, started nine games and caught three passes for 14 yards. Daniels also hauled in three passes and picked up 28 yards in six starts. McFarland did not record a reception and appeared in 11 games, mostly on special teams. Whiteley joined the program in January after one season at Arizona Western Community College.

What’s missing: You saw those receiving stats, right? The Longhorns haven’t had a tight end record 20 catches in a season since Jermichael Finley left campus. His last year in burnt orange? 2007.

Louisville made good use of Gerald Christian (28-426-4 TDs) last season, and Joe Wickline and Shawn Watson have relied on pass-catching tight ends in the past (Brandon Pettigrew at Oklahoma State, Mike McNeill at Nebraska). Is this finally the year of the tight end revival at Texas?

Moving forward: Swaim and Daniels were asked to be blockers in Texas’ power run-heavy attack, and on that front they did an impressive job in 2013. Bruce Chambers returns as the tight ends coach and knows what those two can do in the run game, but will either see an expanded role?

McFarland was supposed to be the long-term answer at tight end before his demotion last season. It’s time for him to put it all together. Whiteley is an unknown commodity but was a big-time receiver in high school. Getting him in the program a semester early is a real plus. There’s hope for these guys, and how they’re utilized in the new offense will be interesting to watch.

Three-star OG Anderson flips to Texas

January, 21, 2014
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Three-star offensive lineman Alex Anderson (New Orleans/O. Perry Walker) had a tough decision to make and no time to make it. Late Monday night, he knew, in his gut, that he was ready to choose.

Anderson backed out of his pledge to Arizona State and committed to Texas on Monday, becoming the 22nd member of new coach Charlie Strong’s class.

The 6-foot-3, 275-pound offensive guard will enroll early at Texas and said he’s hoping to be on campus for his first classes on Wednesday.

I'm coming in to play, and they dont have much depth and are in a predicament. I'll come in and be a high-impact player right off the bat.

-- OL Alex Anderson, after committing to Texas
The decision came after Anderson made back-to-back officials to Texas and ASU, a trip that began in Austin on Thursday and ended on Monday after two days at both schools.

What the decision came down to, he said, was family.

“I visited Arizona State, and the campus was outstanding. I really loved it and wanted to be there, but I had to see the reality of it,” Anderson said. “My family really couldn’t afford [visiting], and I didn’t feel too much at home. So that’s why I had to go in a different direction. I just really wanted to be close to home.”

Anderson had been committed to the Sun Devils since July but quietly reopened his recruitment recently, initially in the hopes of attending Oklahoma State. And then OSU offensive line coach Joe Wickline left to become the offensive coordinator and line coach at Texas.

While Anderson believed he was closing in on an offer from the previous Longhorn staff, the new one made it clear right away that he was a priority.

“When Coach Strong and Coach Wickline came in, they threw me an offer the first day they were there,” Anderson said.

Landing Anderson was crucial for a Texas class that has only one other lineman, four-star center Terrell Cuney (Jasper, Texas/Jasper).

Both of Texas’ starting offensive guards, Trey Hopkins and Mason Walters, are graduating. There’s opportunity to play right away, and Anderson likes his chances.

“I’m coming in to play, and they don’t have much depth and are in a predicament,” he said. “I’ll come in and be a high-impact player right off the bat.”

He never would’ve guessed a few weeks ago that he’d end up at Texas, that’s for sure. When Wickline joined the Longhorns, Anderson knew he had to reconsider things and take a visit. He likes Wickline’s intensity, and he was wowed by the impression Strong made during the official visit.

“He’s a disciplined coach,” Anderson said. “He’s not going to expect nothing but greatness from you. I like that. He wants you to be the best, and he’ll push you to be the best. That’s a program I want to be a part of. I feel like the old Texas is about to be back in effect.”

Anderson will be Texas’ third early enrollee in the 2014 class after tight end Blake Whiteley and linebacker Andrew Beck enrolled last week.

Longhorns land ESPN 300 S/LB hybrid

January, 16, 2014
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Just when the Texas Longhorns needed some good news from the defensive side of their recruiting class, an ESPN 300 safety/linebacker delivered it with a verbal commitment.

Edwin Freeman (Arlington, Texas/Bowie) pledged to new coach Charlie Strong on Thursday afternoon, giving the Longhorns another ESPN 300 prospect and further quieting the grumblings of the Longhorns losing three four-star defensive tackles last week. Freeman, No. 128 in the ESPN 300, became the Longhorns’ 21st commit of the 2014 class.

Freeman, who confirmed the commitment via text message, chose the Longhorns over Texas A&M. The two in-state schools had been his top choices for several months, but Freeman has always had a love for Texas.

“I’ve liked Texas ever since I was a kid,” Freeman said in an interview shortly after Texas and former coach Mack Brown parted ways. “I just want to wait and see who the new coach is.”

In Strong, Texas will get a no-nonsense coach and someone who expects perfection with his defense. That was one of the winning points with Freeman, a hybrid defender.

At 6-foot-2 and 210 pounds, Freeman is quick enough to play safety, powerful enough to play outside linebacker and a hard-enough hitter to excel at both spots. Freeman said that while he doesn’t mind playing outside linebacker, safety is “where my heart’s at.”

Baylor, LSU, Notre Dame, Ohio State, Oklahoma and USC were among the many schools to offer Freeman. Assistant coach Bruce Chambers, who remained on the Texas staff after Brown’s departure, recruited Freeman to the Longhorns.

The news on Freeman helps offset the recent decommitments of defensive tackles Trey Lealaimatafao (San Antonio/Warren), Courtney Garnett (New Orleans/St. Augustine) and Zaycoven Henderson (Longview, Texas/Longview).

In addition to Freeman’s pledge, a Texas spokesperson, per ESPN’s Max Olson, also confirmed Thursday that tight end Blake Whiteley (Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada/Arizona Western College) and linebacker Andrew Beck (Tampa, Fla./Plant) have enrolled early and are now on campus.

Texas coaches back on the road recruiting 

January, 16, 2014
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The dead period is over and it’s time to hit the road. Charlie Strong has his new coaching staff in place and is ready to get back to work on closing out Texas’ recruiting class.

The Longhorns currently have 21 committed prospects, though several are looking to take official visits elsewhere this month. There are big-time recruits still available. And don’t forget the new names who are sure to pop up on Texas’ radar in the next few weeks.

Here’s a rundown of where things stand and what names you should know entering the end of the dead period.

Solid commitments

Weekend recruiting wrap: Big 12 

January, 13, 2014
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With a little more than three weeks until signing day, schools are now in the 11th hour of recruiting for 2014 targets. While some programs will try to land the big fish still uncommitted, other programs will try to make some commits have a change of heart just in time for the Feb. 5 signing day.

Texas picked up junior college tight end Blake Whiteley (Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada/Arizona Western College), but the Longhorns losing three defensive lineman commitments proved to be the talk of last week. Oklahoma, however, managed to add two to its growing class and Kansas State and Texas Tech also got big-time commitments. Expect a lot more fireworks this week, as several athletes will take game-changing official visits.
Here are some of this past week’s highlights:

Biggest commitment: Few commits last week were bigger -- or arguably more shocking -- than ESPN 300 cornerback Nigel Bethel II (Miami/Booker T. Washington), who switched his pledge from Miami to Texas Tech. The 5-foot-9, 172-pound cornerback became the Red Raiders’ first ESPN 300 commit, and he’ll offer immediate help for Kliff Kingsbury’s secondary. Bethel, No. 233 in the ESPN 300 and the nation’s 19th-ranked cornerback, is a true cover corner, and in the Big 12, defenders of his caliber are always welcomed.

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The Early Offer is RecruitingNation's regular feature, giving you a daily dose of recruiting in the mornings. Today’s offerings: Louisville’s class is in free fall after Charlie Strong’s departure for Texas, but would Bobby Petrino be able to salvage things? And, Wednesday produced a mix of both bad and good news for Strong.

Louisville’s class needs a shepherd

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Big 12 class rankings analysis 

January, 8, 2014
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A solid weekend resulted in a bump in the ESPN class rankings for Oklahoma. The Sooners picked up two players who should help the offense in ESPN 300 running back Joe Mixon (Oakley, Calif./Freedom) and four-star offensive guard Natrell Curtis (Phoenix/Mountain Pointe). Both are U.S. Army All-Americans.

With the commitments, Oklahoma jumped from No. 21 to No. 18 in the latest rankings. Oklahoma also jumped ahead of Baylor for the No. 2 spot among Big 12 schools. Texas still leads the conference at the No. 13 spot.

Baylor fell from No. 17 to No. 19, and Oklahoma State moved up a spot from No. 24 to No. 23. Texas Tech and West Virginia remained at Nos. 38 and 39, respectively, to round out the national top 40.

Here is a more in-depth look at the Big 12 class rankings:


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Juco TE Whiteley picks Longhorns

January, 8, 2014
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Texas picked up its first verbal commitment of the Charlie Strong era on Wednesday.

Arizona Western Community College tight end Blake Whiteley chose the Longhorns over Arkansas, Virginia, Purdue and several other offers, his father confirmed Wednesday.

The three-star prospect, a native of Canada, is 6-foot-5, 240 pounds and has four years to play three seasons at Texas.

Whiteley took an official visit to Texas in December, on the weekend coach Mack Brown announced his resignation, and decided the Longhorns were the right place for him even with Brown resigning.

In his lone season at Arizona Western, Whiteley caught eight passes for 67 yards and two touchdowns. He had more than 70 catches during his senior season at West Vancouver Secondary.

Whiteley was offered in early December after tight end John Thomas of Trinity Valley (Texas) Community College decommitted from the Longhorns. He fills a major need, since the Longhorns will have two seniors at the position in 2014.

Geoff Swaim and Greg Daniels emerged as trusted blockers in Texas’ run-heavy attack this season but were non-factors in the passing game, combining for six catches on the year. Whiteley provides a long-term option at tight end, but still has some growing to do.

Arizona Western coach Tom Minnick said Whiteley had little experience weight lifting or playing on the line coming from Canada. He learned plenty about blocking and lifting in his year of junior college ball.

“He was raw coming out of Canada,” Minnick said, “but he’s got the signs of being a great one when it’s all said and done.

Following the Tuesday decommitments of defensive tackles Trey Lealaimatafao and Courtney Garnett, Whitley is the 22nd commit of Texas’ 2014 class.

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BIG 12 SCOREBOARD

Saturday, 12/20
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