Texas Longhorns: Derick Roberson

Derick Roberson arrived on Texas' campus this month with every intention of becoming a difference-maker for the Longhorns in 2014. The 2014 ESPN 300 defensive end from San Antonio Brennan was the Longhorns' top-rated signee and committed on the spot when offered before his junior season. He's waited a long time for this opportunity.

Before he left for Austin, Roberson had plenty on his mind: his first impression of the new Texas staff, his senior year and state title game loss to new teammate Jerrod Heard and Denton Guyer, his impressive showing (and lost bet) at the Under Armour All-America Game, and his plan for improving as a freshman.

Our summer series of weekly Q&As with the Big 12's best incoming freshmen continues with Roberson, who ranked No. 78 in the final 2014 ESPN 300.

[+] EnlargeDerick Roberson
Miller Safrit/ESPNAn Under Armour All-American in high school, incoming freshman Derick Roberson has big expectations for his first season at Texas.
What do you think about getting started at Texas?

Derick Roberson: I just can't wait to get everything started and lifting weights, meeting with the strength coach, putting some weight on my self and getting going. I want to get some playing time. I need to get back in shape to go against those Big 12 guys.

What have they told you about your chances of playing?

DR: They told me they don't have a position for me, I've just got to come in and prove myself. They told me I could be a stand-up defensive end/outside linebacker type. I talked to (defensive coordinator Vance) Bedford a couple times this spring about that when he came to my school. We talked defensive schemes and all that. I liked him; he's outgoing and real competitive.

What did you think when you heard the news Mack Brown was resigning?

DR: When I heard the news, I had kind of expected that he was retiring. It happens. If things aren't working right, you bring in someone else. I just went along with it, waited to see which coaches were coming in and stuck with Texas. I didn't know much about Coach (Charlie) Strong, but I did my research and he's a good defensive coach.

What are you always going to remember about playing against Jerrod Heard in the state title game?

DR: Playing against Jerrod was a really nice experience, knowing that he's going to be on my team next year. He's a real good player, he knows what he's doing. I hope he gets some playing time next year, too. They put a lot of bodies on me in that game, more than I expected, but I kept fighting and almost got to him a couple times. He's a good cat. They had a good game plan.

Are you worried he's going to tease you by pulling that championship ring out this year?

DR: Oh, no. He can pull it out. I've got a couple rings myself. It's all good.

You had a monster senior season (111 tackles, 39 TFLs, 20 sacks). What did it mean to you to end your high school career like that?

DR: Coming into my senior year, I told myself I had to get at least 20 sacks. It was time to go all out. I'm pretty happy with myself to achieve those goals. Would've been great to win state, but you know, not many teams make it to state. Honestly, I could've got more sacks if I played all game. Most of the time I'd play until halftime. I'd go in and try to get four sacks. On the first series, I go in and get to know the person who's blocking me. After that, it's a mind game with him, and I get my sacks and get my plays.

What did you learn from playing in the Under Armour All-America Game?

DR: Everybody there was top notch. In that game, I held my own pretty good, even better than most guys. Only person that had a better game than me was probably (Texas A&M signee) Myles Garrett, and we were on the same team. Before the game, we had a bet. We bet each other $20 who was going to get the first sack. I could've had one on the first drive, but he got it. I paid him after the game.

You committed to Texas as early as possible. Was it tough to stay committed from August 2012 all the way to February 2014?

DR: Texas, that was my dream school. It is a long relationship, but you've got to stay committed. What they were offering me, you just had to stay with it. And then when Charlie Strong came in, he stuck with the commitment, too. He saw the same potential in me. When I was on my official visit, he told me he wanted to speak to me first before anybody else.

What did you take away from watching the spring game?

DR: I thought the defense looked way better than last year. They were more active, more hands-on, more hitting. They did a lot of blitzes, too. The spring game looked a lot better than last year, if you ask me.

Do you think the coaching change is what Texas needed?

DR: Yes. He's talking about putting the "T" back in Texas. I think this was the right move as far as doing what was best for the football team, especially with Charlie Strong coming in.

You know Texas already has Cedric Reed and some good defensive ends, but what are you expecting from yourself in 2014?

DR: I want to have better games than Cedric Reed and Shiro Davis. That's what I've got to do, have better games than both of them. I want to get on their level and learn as much from them as I can. I've talked to Ced Reed, and he was telling me I'm going to chill with him and he's going to teach me things. I want to build a good relationship with him and pick up some things.

2014 Big 12 recruiting draft: Round 2

May, 8, 2014
May 8
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Earlier this afternoon, we began the 2014 Big 12 recruiting draft with Round 1. We continue the draft with Round 2:

1. Kansas -- DE Derick Roberson
Signed with: Texas
Brandon Chatmon: With Jerrod Heard secured as the face of the offense, let’s get someone to be the face of the defense. The lanky, athletic defensive end could develop into a terror for opposing defenses, and his natural pass rush skills would help him make an immediate impact on the Jayhawks’ defensive front.

2. Iowa State -- DT Terrell Clinkscales
Signed with: Kansas State
Jake Trotter: I actually thought about taking Clinkscales with Iowa State's first pick, so I'm thrilled I was able to still grab him here with the Cyclones' second selection. After booting two DTs during the spring, Iowa State is in major need of immediate impact in the position. As one of the top juco DTs in the country, Clinkscales is just what the doctor would have ordered in Ames.

3. West Virginia -- CB Dravon Henry
Signed with: West Virginia
Chatmon: Obviously, I think coach Dana Holgorsen and Co. did a great job on the recruiting trail with my selection of back-to-back WVU signees in the first two rounds. With Daryl Worley on one side and Henry on the other, the Mountaineers could have the Big 12’s top cornerback duo in the near future. In a league that likes to spread you out and expose weak links in the secondary, great cornerback play can be the difference.

4. TCU -- OLB Edwin Freeman
Signed with: Texas
Max Olson: This selection makes a lot of sense when you remember that Freeman's former high school coach, Kenny Perry, is now the cornerbacks coach for the Horned Frogs. TCU made a run at Freeman, who ended up choosing Texas over Texas A&M, and he fits in well with this defense. He likes playing safety, but Freeman's future is probably at linebacker and he could've been a darn good for TCU.

5. Texas Tech -- DT Poona Ford
Signed with: Texas
Trotter: After ranking ninth in the Big 12 in rushing defense, and after graduating its top two D-linemen from last season in Kerry Hyder and Dartwan Bush, Texas Tech needs some beef. As the only ESPN 300 DT to sign in the Big 12, Ford would bring the beef. He would also eventually give Tech the inside presence it so desperately needs defensively.

6. Kansas State -- LB Kyron Watson
Signed with: Kansas
Chatmon: The Wildcats' defense was missing an impact linebacker in the mold of Arthur Brown a season ago. Watson can fill that void. He’s versatile enough to play inside or outside and has the speed and instincts to make plays from sideline to sideline. And he’d be a special teams demon for Bill Snyder’s squad. Watson is a no-brainer for the Wildcats’ pick.

7. Texas -- WR Armanti Foreman
Signed with: Texas
Olson: Heartbroken over losing out on Ford at this spot, and with few elite defenders left on the board, the Longhorns reluctantly go the receiver route and take the highest-rated one on the board. Foreman is the choice over Allen Lazard simply because he's capable of starring as either a wideout or as a cornerback, the spot where he earned all-state honors in 2013.

8. Oklahoma State -- QB Justice Hansen
Signed with: Oklahoma
Trotter: With Mason Rudolph, Jerrod Heard and William Crest gone, the Cowboys grab the final ESPN 300 QB on the board in Hansen, whose size and mobility makes for a good fit in Stillwater. I foresee many Hansen-to-K.D. Cannon TDs coming to Boone Pickens Stadium.

9. Oklahoma -- WR Lamar Parker
Signed with: West Virginia
Chatmon: The undersized Parker (5-8, 155 pounds) reminds me of Jalen Saunders. Much like the former OU receiver, Parker would bring speed, competitiveness and return ability to the Sooners. With OU's increased focus on the running game, Parker would provide a big-play threat to keep defenses honest.

10. Baylor -- RB Samaje Perine
Signed with: Oklahoma
Olson: Baylor thinks very highly of the running back it did sign, Terence Williams, and he'd be a fine pick here. But it's too tempting to go with Perine, a bruising power back who would bring a lot of muscle to the run game that loses Lache Seastrunk. Though he didn't hold an offer from BU in real life, Perine would be the thunder to the Bears' lighting pass game, a great short-yardage option early on. He's absolutely ripped now, but imagine what strength coach Kaz Kazadi could do with him.
AUSTIN, Texas -- Our five to watch series continues this week with a closer look at a group of incoming freshmen who could be in line to help the Longhorns right away in 2014. You won't see Texas' highest-rated pledge at the top of the list, because this is not exclusively about star ratings. It's about fit and function.

1. DT Poona Ford

There's a reason why this guy was priority No. 1 for Charlie Strong and his staff on national signing day. Ford, who was once Louisville's highest-rated pledge before the coaching changes, was a must-get for Texas to fix an area that might be relatively concerning.

Malcom Brown and Desmond Jackson are legit, but the depth behind them is unproven at best. Hassan Ridgeway could turn it on and be a key piece this fall, but Alex Norman and Paul Boyette Jr. have not panned out entering year three in the program, and Texas failed to sign any defensive linemen in 2013 after losing A'Shawn Robinson to Alabama late.

So yeah, Ford walks into an ideal situation in terms of opportunity. There's a lot to like about what the 6-foot, 285-pound defensive tackle put on his senior tape. If Ford gets the defense down and come along quickly, you're going to see him this fall.

2. OLB Edwin Freeman

The first big commitment of the Strong era, Freeman is a safety in a linebacker's body. At 6-1 and nearly 215 pounds, he's the right kind of package to play some kind of a rover role and produce in the back seven.

A product of Arlington (Texas) Bowie who chose the Horns over Texas A&M despite Mack Brown's departure, Freeman is an explosive and smart downhill tackler who seems ready-made to knock heads on special teams as a freshman and find his way onto the field in the right situations.

These hybrid tweener types such as Freeman and Naashon Hughes seem poised to find a niche in Strong's defense, at least based on how he ran things at Louisville. You want guys like Freeman in a Big 12 defense.

3. WR Armanti Foreman

The Texas City native brings speed and attitude to Texas, plus the ability to play either receiver or defensive back.

Whether it's Foreman, Lorenzo Joe, Dorian Leonard or another one of the many Texas receiver signees, it seems likely at least one of these freshmen will prove to the cream of the crop by the end of fall camp and see early playing time.

The new staff had to put in some time to convince Armanti and his brother, D'Onta Foreman, to stay on board, and they nearly took a visit to Missouri. But both are ready to show up in Austin with the hopes of playing right away, and D'Onta is the kind of weapon Texas can put in the slot and make some noise with in the future.

4. DE Derick Roberson

Why is Roberson, the Longhorns' highest-rated ESPN 300 signee, so low on this list? Only because of Texas' solid depth along the defensive line. When you have a potential All-American in Cedric Reed and two exciting third-year ends in Shiro Davis and Caleb Bluiett, you're in good shape.

Roberson can make that group much better if he shows up ready to play. He'll bulk up in his first year under strength coach Pat Moorer and could turn into even more of a freak by Year 2. For that reason, a redshirt wouldn't be inexcusable.

But as a speed rusher who racked up more than 20 sacks in his senior year at San Antonio Brennan, Roberson is, at the very least, a passing-down rusher who creates problems in the backfield. Don't be surprised if he finds his way onto the second unit and excels when he sees the field.

5. QB Jerrod Heard

Texas fans might not be happy about this ranking, since Heard is the next great beloved quarterback (aren't they all?). Truth is, after watching Heard become a two-time state champion at Denton Guyer, it's easy to buy in and see him as the guy of the future.

That doesn't guarantee playing time in 2014, however. He's as polished as any freshman quarterback in the country and mature beyond his years. He's got the makeup you'd ideally want if you had to throw him out on the field as a rookie. Considering Texas' instability at QB, would anyone really be that surprised if Heard is the starting quarterback by November?

How far he gets this fall depends on how prepared he is this summer and what he proves to Shawn Watson. But assuming Max Wittek does end up in Austin and David Ash recovers to 100 percent as expected, Heard seems more likely to sit than play early on. Considering the expectations he faces, that might be for the best.
Editor's note: This week we're taking a closer look at five key takeaways from Texas' spring practices, which wrapped up earlier this month, as well as what they mean for the summer and beyond.

AUSTIN, Texas -- The new defensive line coach has a saying. Well, he has a lot of sayings. But he’s particularly proud of this one: In his eyes, there are two types of players.

The CEPs and the PSPs.

[+] EnlargeCedric Reed
Joe Robbins/Getty ImagesCedric Reed is the pass-rushing headliner of Texas' loaded defensive line.
Chris Rumph wants to surround himself with CEPs: Contract extension players. Rumph loves those kind of guys. They make him look good. You do not, however, want to be a PSP.

“Some other guys that you won’t see out there on Saturdays, they are PSPs: Pink slip players,” Rumph said this spring. “So I want me some CEPs.”

The former Alabama assistant has inherited four dudes who get the job done on the Longhorns defensive line, a group that can set up every other starting defender for success when playing at its disruptive best.

Cedric Reed, the 6-foot-6 senior defensive end who earned All-Big 12 honors last fall as the tag-team partner of Jackson Jeffcoat is a known commodity. Only Buffalo’s Khalil Mack, a potential top-10 NFL draft pick, matched Reed last year in the production of sacks (10), forced fumbles (five) and pass breakups (four).

Reed has CEP written all over him. So does Malcom Brown, the monstrous defensive tackle who enters his junior season with 13 career starts and All-America potential.

Coaches say Brown is as good as he wants to be. He’s become more vocal, unafraid now to point out his peers’ mistakes during film sessions and offer advice. When he talks, they listen.

“They know I’m going to do what I have to do,” Brown said. “I’ve got it down. I know what I’m doing and I’ll tell them when I’m doing something wrong before they even have to tell me.”

Desmond Jackson knows what he’s doing, too. The senior nose tackle who goes by "Tank" has 38 games under his belt and knows exactly what he can bring to this line. When he and Brown clog the middle and break through to the backfield, this defense gets dangerous.

Coming off the other edge is Shiro Davis, who’s beginning to play up to the hype he earned when he flipped from LSU to Texas in the final hour of his recruitment. Now a junior, Davis did more than enough this spring to lock down a starting job.

Altogether, it’s a line that has all the size, strength and speed a first-year coach like Rumph could demand. And nothing pleases Jackson, the veteran of the group, more than to see guys like Brown and Davis on the rise.

[+] EnlargeDerick Roberson
Miller Safrit/ESPNIncoming freshman Derick Roberson could be hard to keep off the field.
“They’re like my brothers to me. Anytime they make a good play, I’m the first one over there hyped up,” Jackson said. “We’re all brothers. That’s like family right there. I’d do anything for them. To see them make huge jumps makes me feel good.”

But the Longhorns will need more than that, and the depth behind them remains an area of uncertainty. Caleb Bluiett will play plenty, and so could fellow third-year end Bryce Cottrell. Hassan Ridgeway is practically a lock to be the third tackle, but still has a way to go. Alex Norman and more backups must emerge, and true freshmen Poona Ford and Derick Roberson could contribute immediately.

No matter who makes the two-deep, the addition of Rumph has brought this group even closer together. In recent years, Oscar Giles oversaw the ends and Bo Davis coached tackles. Nothing wrong with that, but Texas’ defensive linemen are already picking up on the benefits of having one man run the show.

“It’s real different,” Brown said. “I’ve done drills this year that I’ve never done before, that the defensive ends do. We’re all on the same page. We’re all being taught the same thing and doing the same drills. It’s nice, and it has its perks.”

In between telling his guys they’re playing like sasquatches and billy goats, and taunting the quarterback, and threating to send underperformers home with mayonnaise sandwiches, the high-energy Rumph has made clear his expectations.

Close enough doesn’t fly with Rumph or head coach Charlie Strong, not when they’ve been preaching all spring that they intend to win games up front.

“It always starts up front. That’s what they always emphasize,” Brown said. “If we come out the first play and hit somebody in the mouth, they already know we’re there for the whole game and we’re gonna fight for the whole game.”

That's what a CEP sounds like, and Texas could have a bunch of them.
Last year, just a pair of true freshmen received votes for Big 12 Defensive Freshman of the Year honors: Iowa State cornerback Nigel Tribune and the winner of the award, Oklahoma linebacker Dominique Alexander.

This year, the immediate impact from the incoming freshman class could be much greater. Collectively, the league signed 11 defensive players ranked in the ESPN 300. And several could vie for time from the moment they step on campus.

But who among them will make the biggest impact? There are some notable contenders.

Nigel Bethel II was the gem of the Texas Tech recruiting class, and he fits the profile of an instant-impact recruit. A four-star signee out of Miami whom Tech flipped from the University of Miami late in the recruiting window, Bethel II brings a level of speed the Red Raiders just don’t possess elsewhere on defense. Given that two-year starter Bruce Jones is gone, the opportunity for playing time at corner is there for Bethel, too.

Playing-time opportunities are also there for Oklahoma State linebacker Gyasi Akem. The Cowboys graduated three key linebackers, including starters Shaun Lewis and Caleb Lavey. With the lone returning starter, Ryan Simmons, moving to the middle this spring, the Cowboys have a hole on the weak side. Akem, who was Oklahoma State’s top defensive signee, has the closing speed and physicality to help fill it.

SportsNation

Which of these defenders will have the biggest impact as true freshmen?

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    26%
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Discuss (Total votes: 4,720)

Steven Parker II, Oklahoma's top defensive recruit, also might carve out a role rather quickly. The safety out of Jenks, Okla., could help the Sooners replace another safety from Jenks (Gabe Lynn). Oklahoma has some other intriguing young defenders vying for time at the back end of their defense, notably Ahmad Thomas and Hatari Byrd. But Parker has the potential to make an immediate impression.

West Virginia, meanwhile, returns both its starting cornerbacks in Ishmael Banks and Daryl Worley, who started as a true freshman. But it won’t be easy keeping Dravon Henry off the field. Henry, the top-ranked player from the state of Pennsylvania this year, had offers from Alabama, Florida State and Ohio State before picking the Mountaineers. He is a ball hawk who will bring a playmaking reputation to the West Virginia secondary when he gets his chance. That might come sooner, rather than later.

Henry, Parker, Akem and Bethel are all elite prospects. But the top-rated defensive signee in the Big 12 this year is Texas defensive end Derick Roberson, who was the No. 78 overall recruit in the ESPN 300. Even though he’s still slight, Roberson can get after the quarterback. The Longhorns are in terrific shape at one end with returning All-Big 12 performer Cedric Reed. Roberson has the skill set to break into the rotation on the other side in the fall.

Among a few others, any of the five above could make a huge splash next season. So we put it to you in a poll: Of Akem, Bethel II, Henry, Parker II and Roberson, which true freshman defender will have biggest impact in 2014?
Editor's note: This is the second part of a week-long series breaking down Texas’ most important spring position battles when the Longhorns begin practice in two weeks.

Moving on: Jackson Jeffcoat, Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year and All-America defensive end. Good luck finding another one of those, Texas! (Ah, wait, Cedric Reed is very good, too.) Jeffcoat overcame injuries and played up to his five-star potential in his final season as a senior. He was versatile enough to play on several spots on the Horns’ defensive line under Greg Robinson, and Jeffcoat’s production will be difficult to replicate. Texas also loses top backup Reggie Wilson, a fellow senior.

[+] EnlargeDerick Roberson
Miller Safrit/ESPN Derick Roberson, Texas' top-rated signee, should make an impact on the defensive line in his freshman season.
The contenders: We know Reed is the real deal. But who’s ready to earn a starting job and line up on the other side of the senior-to-be?

The top contenders are Shiro Davis, Caleb Bluiett and Bryce Cottrell. Each one is entering his third year in the program and contributed to some extent last season.

There’s also Derick Roberson, a true freshman from San Antonio who was an Under Armour All-American and Texas’ top-rated signee at No. 78 in the ESPN 300. Texas could also consider signee Jake McMillon an end, though the previous staff that recruited him projected the Abilene (Texas) lineman as a defensive tackle.

Moving forward: The most touted of the veteran trio is Davis, a Shreveport, La., native who flipped from LSU to Texas on signing day two years ago. He played as a true freshman and sophomore, primarily in mop-up time and as a rotational backup. He has shown he can rush the passer.

Bluiett is an interested case study in being too versatile. He’s a terrific athlete -- you should’ve seen him on a baseball diamond in high school -- who has floated around between defensive end and tight end during his two seasons with the program. He earned a start against Oregon in the Valero Alamo Bowl at defensive end and one of his two career tackles was an 11-yard sack.

Cottrell, another late find in the 2012 class, played in 11 games this past season and had one sack and a pass breakup. Even if two of these three do not start, they’re poised to see the field plenty in 2014.

And then there’s the much-hyped Roberson, who could stand to spend a year in the weight room with Pat Moorer putting good weight onto his long frame. But chances are he’s too talented to keep on the sidelines this fall. He’s more like Davis than the other two -- a speed rusher who can at least help on third downs early in his career.

Predictions: Davis does just enough in the spring to hold onto his front-runner status, and Bluiett emerges as the most likely to challenge the junior for the gig. Expect Davis to win out in the end if he brings his best. Roberson arrives in the summer and turns heads from the beginning, prompting Chris Rumph to work him into the rotation as a freshman. Rumph wasn’t afraid to play freshmen at Alabama last season, and he’ll put Roberson to work in a limited role.

Big 12 pre-spring breakdown: DL

February, 24, 2014
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As we wait for the start of spring ball, we’re examining and ranking the positional situations of every team in the Big 12, continuing Monday with defensive line. Some of these outlooks will look different after the spring. But here’s how we see the defensive lines at the moment:

[+] EnlargeAmari Cooper
Kevin C. Cox/Getty ImagesOklahoma end Charles Tapper will lead the Big 12's best defensive line in 2014.
1. Oklahoma: D-line began as a weakness but quickly turned into a strength under first-year position coach Jerry Montgomery. End Charles Tapper was an All-Big 12 selection as a sophomore, and tackle Jordan Phillips was on his way to earning similar honors before a back injury ended his season prematurely. Both players are back. So is Geneo Grissom, who had three sacks in the bowl win over Alabama. Nose guard Jordan Wade earned a starting role late in 2013, and Chuka Ndulue will be a starter for a third season. Basically, the entire rotation returns. If Phillips rebounds from the injury, this could prove to be Oklahoma’s finest D-line since 2009, when NFL All-Pro Gerald McCoy roamed the middle.

2. TCU: DE Devonte Fields, the Associated Press’ Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year as a freshman in 2012, had an empty season in 2013 thanks to a suspension, then a season-ending foot injury. If Fields can return to the player he was, TCU will be formidable up front. Chucky Hunter was a second-team All-Big 12 pick inside last season, and he’ll be flanked by an array of experienced tackles in Davion Pierson, Jon Lewis and Tevin Lawson, who were all part of the rotation last season. Ends Terrell Lathan, James McFarland and Mike Tuaua, who combined for 11 sacks in 2013, all return as well. TCU's D-line figures to be as deep as any in the league.

3. Texas: Cedric Reed, one of the best sack men in the Big 12 last season, returns after giving the NFL a cursory thought. The Longhorns have to replace Big 12 co-Defensive Player of the Year Jackson Jeffcoat on the other side, but ESPN 300 recruit Derick Roberson, the No. 8 DE in the Class of 2014, could help right away. The Longhorns should also be stout inside, with run-stuffing tackles Malcom Brown and Desmond Jackson back to clog the middle.

4. Kansas State: Ryan Mueller, who was eighth nationally with 11.5 sacks last season, comes back after a breakout All-Big 12 season. Travis Britz is an all-conference-caliber tackle and gives K-State one of the better one-two punches on the D-line in the league. Joining them will be Terrell Clinkscales, who was the No. 4 junior college DT in the 2014 class. The Wildcats pried Clinkscales away from Nebraska, and at 315 pounds he could be the perfect complement to Britz, who relies more on quickness.

[+] EnlargeShawn Oakman
John Rivera/Icon SMIBaylor defensive end Shawn Oakman will play a bigger role next season.
5. Oklahoma State: The Cowboys lose two-time All-Big 12 tackle Calvin Barnett. James Castleman, however, will be a three-year starter, and end Jimmy Bean had a career night in the Cotton Bowl with three tackles for loss. The key to the Cowboys fielding one of the better lines in the league again will be whether Ben Hughes, Vincent Taylor and/or Vili Leveni can emerge inside after redshirting in 2013. All three are promising prospects, especially Taylor, who was an ESPN 300 recruit in the 2013 class.

6. Baylor: The Bears feature two of the more intriguing defensive linemen in the league. DE Shawn Oakman, a former Penn State transfer with tremendous length at 6-foot-9, finished sixth in the league with 12.5 tackles for loss last season, but he tailed off in Big 12 play. Baylor will ask him to play a much bigger role along the line, and he has the potential to give the Bears a unique playmaker there. On the inside, Baylor will lean more on Andrew Billings, who was part of the DT rotation as a freshman. If both Billings and Oakman play up to their vast potential, Baylor could be a handful up front.

7. Texas Tech: The Red Raiders lose their two best defensive linemen in Kerry Hyder and Dartwan Bush, and Tech got pushed around up front anyway last season. Coach Kliff Kingsbury recognized this deficiency and signed four juco defensive linemen, all of whom have a chance to play immediately. Of the returning linemen, Branden Jackson was by far the most productive, totaling nine tackles for loss and four sacks as a starter.

8. Iowa State: Like Texas Tech, Iowa State loaded up on immediate defensive line help, signing three juco defensive ends in Dalyou Pierson, Terry Ayeni and Gabe Luna, who is enrolled already for spring ball. Those three together with All-Big 12 honorable-mention selection Cory Morrissey and sophomore Mitchell Meyers should give Iowa State a solid rotation at end. Rodney Coe, who started the last four games, will anchor the Cyclones inside.

9. West Virginia: The Mountaineers lose two of three starters along the D-line, including second-team All-Big 12 end Will Clarke. West Virginia is hoping for big things from DE Kyle Rose, who started as a sophomore last season. Dontrill Hyman will likely fill a starting role on the other side, though he could get pushed for time by Eric Kinsey and Noble Nwachukwu, who both will be in their third year in the program. The Mountaineers will lean on Christian Brown and Darrien Howard at nose guard. Howard was an ESPN 300 recruit last year and played as a freshman. There’s some talent and potential here.

10. Kansas: Despite also losing two starters, the Jayhawks have experience up front. Defensive captain Keon Stowers is back after manning the middle in 2013. Ben Goodman returns as well in Kansas’ “buck” role, and he is coming off a very solid sophomore season. Goodman’s backup, Michael Reynolds, and rotation players Tedarian Johnson and Ty McKinney give the Jayhawks depth.

Incoming impact countdown: Nos. 1-3

February, 21, 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.

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 1.

This week we broke 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. Here are our final three.

Edwin Freeman
William Wilkerson/ESPNEdwin Freeman should make an immediate impact on Texas' defense.
3. LB Edwin Freeman
Arlington Bowie | 6-1, 215


2013: 101 tackles, 7.5 sacks, 12 TFLs, 5 forced fumbles, 3 pass breakups

When Freeman arrives at Texas, he’ll have to face a question that has followed him throughout his recruitment: Is he a safety or a linebacker? We say linebacker, because it seems like an obvious outcome for his growth, but the truth is the answer might be somewhere in the middle. Finding a more hybrid-type role might make sense here.

But regardless, Freeman has some nice tools and a real knack for stripping the ball, which will come in handy when competing with so many veteran Longhorn linebackers. Easy to see him getting his first shot as a special teams enforcer before moving up to bigger responsibilities. This was a big-time get for Charlie Strong and one who should pay dividends right away.

2. WR Armanti Foreman
Texas City | 6-0, 180

2013: 42 receptions, 750 receiving yards, 9 receiving TDs, 182 rushing yards, 1 rushing TD, 20 tackles, 6 interceptions, 3 INTs returning for TDs, 1 fumble recovery, 1 punt return TD

As you can see from the above résumé, Foreman is a young man of many talents. Getting him to stick with Texas and sign wasn’t an easy task for this new coaching staff, but he was worth the challenge. “Money,” as he calls himself, can change games in a variety of ways and was right up there with K.D. Cannon as one of the state’s most explosive receivers.

Whether he can put in the hard work required to see the field this fall is the real question. After his years of stardom in Texas City, it might take a bit of an attitude adjustment before Foreman earns the full trust of his coaches and gets his big break. But if you want someone capable of scoring at any moment, here’s your guy.

1. DE Derick Roberson
San Antonio Brennan | 6-3, 235


2013: 111 tackles, 20 sacks, 39 TFLs, 39 QB pressures, 4 pass deflections, 3 fumble recoveries, 1 forced fumble

What a phenomenal senior season, which ended with a trip to the state title game against Jerrod Heard and Denton Guyer. Roberson played like an absolute freak, and it’s easy to see why he can be a pass-rushing specialist as a freshman who enters the game in opportune situations and creates havoc.

A skeptic might look at Roberson and believe a year in the weight program is a must if he wants to thrive early on. He’s going to grow into his big frame nicely in time under new strength coach Pat Moorer, and that growth will be a priority. There are promising options at defensive end alongside Cedric Reed, most notably Shiro Davis and the third-year guys from his class, but Roberson has proven he’ll be an instant impact talent. That’s why he’s No. 1 on our list.

The final list

1. DE Derick Roberson
2. WR Armanti Foreman
3. LB Edwin Freeman
4. DT Poona Ford
5. QB Jerrod Heard
6. RB Donald Catalon
7. CB Jermaine Roberts
8. WR Lorenzo Joe
9. TE Blake Whiteley
10. S John Bonney
11. LB Andrew Beck
12. LB Cameron Hampton
13. WR Garrett Gray
14. WR Dorian Leonard
15. OG Alex Anderson
16. C Terrell Cuney
17. ATH Roderick Bernard
18. DT Chris Nelson
19. DT Jake McMillon
20. S Jason Hall
21. RB D’Onta Foreman
22. OT Elijah Rodriguez
23. RB Kevin Shorter

Top position classes: DL 

February, 14, 2014
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With national signing day in the books, RecruitingNation is looking at the top position classes. For the full series, click here.

Nationally (and SEC)
Texas A&M went into the 2014 class knowing that size and athleticism was an absolute must on its defensive front. And Kevin Sumlin and staff delivered on those glaring needs. Leading the way is No. 1 defensive end and five-star player Myles Garrett (Arlington, Texas/James Martin), who has the size, speed and power combination to be a difference-maker early on next fall. The 6-foot-5, 247-pound Garrett is joined at defensive end by ESPN 300 No. 203 Qualen Cunningham (Chandler, Ariz./Hamilton), and high three-star Jarrett Johnson (Katy, Texas/Seven Lakes), who has a nonstop motor. While the Aggies have some talented young defensive tackles, continuing to add size and athleticism to the interior was a must. No. 150 DeShawn Washington (Nederland, Texas/Nederland) and four-star early enrollee Zaycoven Henderson (Longview, Texas/Longview) add disruptive explosiveness and athleticism.

The Aggies had the nation’s best defensive line class; here’s which schools had the best in each of the remaining power conferences:

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


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Editor's Note: Henderson on Tuesday afternoon recommitted to Texas Insider following a conversation with new Longhorns coach Charlie Strong.

The once-mighty Texas defensive line class for the Class of 2014 is now half of what it used to be. Literally.

A Texas source confirmed that four-star defensive tackle Zaycoven Henderson (Longview, Texas/Longview) has decommitted from the Longhorns. A 6-foot-1, 318-pound Semper Fidelis All-American, Henderson is looking at other options after learning on Tuesday that defensive line coach Bo Davis left Texas for a similar position at USC.

Henderson joins fellow four-star defensive tackles Trey Lealaimatafao (San Antonio/Warren) and Courtney Garnett (New Orleans/St. Augustine) as former Texas commits. All three made their decisions Tuesday evening, hours after hearing the news about Davis.

Texas entered the week with six commitments on the defensive line. The Longhorns now have three in three-star defensive end Sione Teuhema (Keller, Texas/Keller), three-star defensive tackle Jake McMillon (Abilene, Texas/Abilene) and ESPN 300 defensive end Derick Roberson (San Antonio/Brennan), the team’s top-ranked commit.

Henderson originally committed to TCU last February but decommitted in September. On Dec. 9, Henderson gave Texas his verbal pledge during a ceremony at his school. He chose Texas over Baylor and Texas Tech.

 

Texas commits respond to Strong hire 

January, 5, 2014
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Charlie Strong has officially been named Mack Brown’s successor at Texas. It’s a move that appears to get thumbs up from many of his future athletes.

As 2014 Texas recruits waited to hear who would be their future head coach, many of them were hoping for the right fit. Strong’s résumé -- 23-3 in his past two seasons at Louisville, 3-1 in four bowl game appearances and an outstanding recruiting reputation -- says he fits the bill.

In short, Strong gets it, and while Texas commits had the utmost respect for Brown, they now feel they’re in good hands.

“I think he can do pretty good there,” four-star offensive lineman Terrell Cuney (Jasper, Texas/Jasper) said. “I don’t think anyone can live up to what Mack did, but he’ll come in and do big things.

"Bring it on, man! 'Hook ‘Em all day!'”


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Manziel or Winston? Prospects weigh in

December, 29, 2013
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ORLANDO, Fla. -- There are many topics of conversation among prospects playing in the 2014 Under Armour All-America Game. One of them centers around the past two Heisman Trophy winners.

On Saturday, upon checking in for the prestigious game, a number of prospects weighed in on a hot topic involving Texas A&M's Johnny Manziel and Florida State's Jameis Winston.

If they had to choose between the two, who would the players take as their college quarterback? Here are their responses:

[+] EnlargeMarlon Humphrey
Courtesy of IntersportNo. 9 overall prospect Marlon Humphrey likes how Johnny Manziel makes others around him better.
Five-star cornerback Marlon Humphrey (Hoover, Al./Hoover High): Ah man, I think I’m going to have to go with Johnny Manziel. I just feel like he kind of made a team out of nothing. Jameis Winston is a great quarterback too, but he doesn’t have the scrambling skills that Manziel has. This year, you could tell that his teams defense wasn’t that good, the players around him weren’t as good, but he kept making his team better. He’s has the fight in him I would want on my team.

Florida commit and No. 20-ranked Dalvin Cook (Miami/Central High): I would say Jameis Winston. He’s really a pure quarterback, and I think he sets up things more for a running back than Johnny Manziel does.

Auburn running back commit Racean Thomas (Oxford, Al./Oxford High): I would probably pick Jameis Winston. The reason behind that is because he is more of a leader for a young quarterback, and I think he can make his team a more mature team. I really think he would be a great quarterback to play with.

Florida wide receiver commit and No. 28 Ermon Lane (Homestead, Fla./Homestead Senior High): Whew, I don’t know. I think Jameis Winston. I look at how both of them played as a freshman, and I like how Jameis Winston leads his team. He is also more pro-ready than Manziel.

Texas defensive end commit and No. 78-overall Derick Roberson (San Antonio, Texas/William J. Brennan High): I guess I would say Johnny Manziel. I like how he plays with his swagger and confidence the most, so I would probably say him.

Notre Dame commit and No. 76-ranked Tyler Luatua (la Mirada, Calif./La Mirada High): I would take Manziel just because of the way he plays. If he doesn’t have a wide receiver open, he can make plays himself. He can get the ball to his players if and when he wants to, but can also do it on his own when he needs to.

No. 38 overall John Smith (Long Beach, Calif./Long Beach Polytechnic High School): That’s a hard one. As of right now, I would go with Jameis Winston. Overall, he’s a great player. I think Winston has an awesome football IQ. Johnny had his year too, but I think Winston is just a great player. Outstanding.

Dylan Sumner-Gardner: Jameis Winston, man. I feel comfortable with Jameis Winston as my quarterback because he’s smart and accurate. Johnny is accurate too, but Johnny is Johnny. How he runs around, people may get nervous. I would just feel more comfortable with Jameis as my quarterback.

No. 22 overall Laurence Jones (Monroe, La./Neville High): That’s a hard one right there. Let me think ... maybe Johnny Manziel because I don’t think I’ve ever seen a white boy get down like that. It would have to be Johnny Manziel.

Penn State wide receiver commit Chris Godwin (Middletown, De./Middletown High): I think Jameis Winston. I think overall he’s a better passer. I want a quarterback back there that can get me the ball on a consistent basis, but Johnny Manziel is a great player, too. I’m actually a big fan of both of them.

Five-star and Virginia defensive tackle commit Andrew Brown (Chesapeake, VA
Oscar Frommel Smith High)
: Dang, that’s a good question, man. I would go with Jameis Winston. His leadership qualities, coming in as a freshman and doing the things he is doing is definitely uncommon. It just foreshadows what he is going to do in the future, too. He’s already established a great foundation for himself, and I would definitely take him in the future.

Maryland commit Will Ulmer (Washington, D.C./Saint John’s High): I’m going with Johnny Manziel. I think he’s more dynamic, and more of a game-changer. Jameis Winston is a great quarterback too, but you have to think about all the dudes he has around him at FSU -- all the great receivers and good running backs. I would go with Manziel because if you put him on the Florida State team, or a stacked team like that, it would be a scary sight.

Top Big 12 Under Armour Game targets 

December, 26, 2013
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The Under Armour All-America Game is a week away, and several players are preparing to prove themselves against equally talented athletes on one of high school football’s biggest stages.

Currently, four UA All-Americans -- Texas defensive end commit Derick Roberson (San Antonio/Brennan) and cornerback commit Jermaine Roberts (New Orleans/St. Augustine), Oklahoma dual-threat quarterback pledge Justice Hansen (Edmond, Okla./Santa Fe) and Kansas offensive lineman commit Jacob Bragg (Nacogdoches, Texas/Nacogdoches) -- are committed to Big 12 schools.

Here are five uncommitted players who are considered major targets within the Big 12:

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Next Texas coach getting star in Heard 

December, 23, 2013
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ARLINGTON, Texas -- Lee Vallejo has a tradition. For some reason, it brings out the best in Jerrod Heard.

The Denton Guyer quarterbacks coach sits down with his prized passer every Friday before a game and opens up YouTube. Before every game, they review the same mixtape: Cam Newton highlights.

Reviewing the finest plays of his Heisman-winning season at Auburn gets Heard fired up. And that’s how his coaches see the future Texas quarterback: A 6-foot-2 version on Newton.


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