Texas Longhorns: Kyle Hicks

With spring ball done, we’re reexamining and reranking the positional situations of every Big 12 team, continuing Tuesday with running backs. These outlooks will look different in August. But here’s how we see them post-spring:


1. West Virginia (pre-spring ranking: 4): West Virginia running backs coach JaJuan Seider has one of the best and most difficult jobs in the Big 12. Seider has an embarrassment of riches at his position in Dreamius Smith (the No. 1 juco back in 2013), Wendell Smallwood (who played last year as a true freshman), Rushel Shell (who before transferring from Pitt set the Pennsylvania state high school rushing record), Andrew Buie (the team’s leading rusher in 2012) and Dustin Garrison, West Virginia’s leading rusher from 2011, who, finally healthy again, enjoyed a resurgent spring. The Mountaineers also will add four-star signee Donte Thomas-Williams in the summer. The difficult part for Seider will be divvying up carries to so many capable backs. But if the Mountaineers can keep everyone happy and find the right combination, this could become a devastating and versatile running back stable.

2. Texas (1): Coach Charlie Strong delivered promising news on Monday in San Antonio, suggesting Johnathan Gray could be cleared from his Achilles injury by mid-June. Strong also said that Joe Bergeron will be rejoining the team shortly, too, after sitting out the spring to focus on academics. When healthy and eligible, the trio of Malcolm Brown, Gray and Bergeron is a formidable bunch and the backbone of the Texas offense.

3. Baylor (3): Shock Linwood and Devin Chafin exited spring as the co-starters, but Johnny Jefferson left the biggest impression in the spring game. The Bears have a track record of spreading carries around, which means Big 12 fans will become very acquainted with the talented redshirt freshman next season.

4. Oklahoma State (5): One of the biggest surprises of the spring was how much the Cowboys used Tyreek Hill at running back. Oklahoma State is planning to utilize the nation’s top juco playmaker the way West Virginia did Tavon Austin two years ago. In other words, Hill could line up in the backfield one play then slot receiver the next. Either way, arguably the fastest player in college football gives the Cowboys a dynamic lightning component to complement the thunderous running of senior Desmond Roland, who led all Big 12 backs in touchdowns last season.

5. Oklahoma (3): There might not be a Big 12 backfield with more upside than Oklahoma’s. Of course, with that upside comes little experience. Sophomore Keith Ford has the potential to be a punishing inside runner, but he had fumbling issues last season as a freshman that re-emerged during the spring. If he can’t hang onto the ball, he won’t play, no matter how tough he runs between the tackles. After getting passed by Ford on the depth chart last year, Alex Ross bounced back with an impressive spring. Early enrollee Dimitri Flowers was a revelation this spring as a powerful run-blocking fullback in the mold of Trey Millard. If fellow incoming freshman Joe Mixon lives up to his recruiting hype, the Sooners could feature their most potent rushing attack in years.

6. Iowa State (8): The most underrated one-two punch at running back in the league resides in Ames. According to first-year offensive coordinator Mark Mangino, Aaron Wimberly and DeVondrick Nealy were sharp all spring and will spearhead an offense that could surprise in 2014. The key will be keeping the slight but explosive Wimberly relatively healthy, which he never really was before and after rushing for 137 and 117 yards back to back against Tulsa and Texas. Wimberly, however, was 100 percent all spring, and it showed, as he racked up 68 yards on just nine touches in the spring game.

7. TCU (7): TCU had to make do without its three top backs in the spring due to injuries. Aaron Green suffered a broken collarbone, Kyle Hicks had a shoulder bruise, and returning leading rusher B.J. Catalon dealt with a nagging hamstring injury. All three, however, should be fine for the fall, and could form a reliable rotation at running back. Four-star recruit Shaun Nixon could help out, too, once he arrives on campus.

8. Texas Tech (6): The Red Raiders dropped two spots, largely because returning starter Kenny Williams played outside linebacker all spring and could remain there for good. But even if Williams becomes a full-time linebacker, Tech still could be solid at running back with veteran DeAndre Washington, sophomore Quinton White and incoming four-star freshman Justin Stockton, whom the Texas Tech coaching staff is very high on. Head coach and offensive play-caller Kliff Kingsbury wouldn’t have given Williams the go-ahead to move to defense if he didn’t feel optimistic about what remained in the backfield.

9. Kansas (9): Though they come in ninth here, running back could be a position of strength for the Jayhawks next season. Brandon Bourbon, the favorite to start, rushed for 96 yards on 12 carries in the spring game, but Taylor Cox (63 yards on 15 carries) and Darrian Miller (50 yards on seven carries) had nice outings, as well. The Jayhawks also will welcome De’Andre Mann, the nation’s fifth-best juco running back, in the summer, as well as four-star freshmen Traevohn Wrench and Corey Avery. Until they start winning more games, it’s difficult to give the Jayhawks the benefit of the doubt in these position rankings. But with this collection of runners, they might not miss All-Big 12 performer James Sims as much as first thought.

10. Kansas State (10): The spring brought little clarity about who John Hubert’s primary replacement will be. Jarvis Leverett and Charles Jones both ran hard in K-State’s spring game, though neither broke a run for longer than 11 yards. Meanwhile, DeMarcus Robinson, who has the most experience of the three, sat out the scrimmage with an injury. As a result, incoming freshman Dalvin Warmack, who rushed for 4,500 yards and 70 touchdowns while averaging almost 9 yards per carry his final two years in high school, will have an opportunity to be a factor once he joins the team this summer.

Big 12 pre-spring breakdown: RBs

February, 19, 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, continuing Wednesday with running backs. Some of these outlooks will look different after the spring. But here’s how they compare at the moment:

1. Texas: The three-headed monster of Johnathan Gray, Malcolm Brown and Joe Bergeron gives Texas the best 1-2-3 punch in the league. Whether this group goes from good to great hinges on a healthy return for Gray, who is coming back from an Achilles injury and will sit out spring drills. Either way, this will be the backbone of Charlie Strong’s first offense.

[+] EnlargeShock Linwood
Matthew Emmons/USA TODAY SportsShock Linwood showed breakaway ability as a Baylor reserve in 2013.
2. Baylor: Shock Linwood takes over in the backfield after a dynamic freshman season in which he finished seventh in the league in rushing despite being a third-team running back. The competition for carries after Linwood will be interesting. Devin Chafin is the favorite to be Linwood’s wing man, but he could be pressed by Johnny Jefferson and/or incoming four-star freshman Terence Williams, who is already on campus.

3. Oklahoma: The potential of this running back crop has no bounds. But it will be young and inexperienced after seniors Brennan Clay, Roy Finch and Damien Williams (until he was kicked off the team) hoarded the carries last season. Keith Ford, who was the nation’s No. 3 running back recruit in the 2013 class, will take over the starting role. Joe Mixon, this year’s No. 6 RB recruit, won’t get to Norman until the summer, but he should supply the lightning to Ford’s thunder. Alex Ross, who was the nation’s No. 7 RB recruit in the 2012 class, rounds out a fearsome threesome with tremendous pedigree.

4. West Virginia: The Mountaineers lose All-Big 12 performer Charles Sims, but still claim a glut of capable rushers. Dreamius Smith and Wendell Smallwood thrived playing behind Sims last year. West Virginia also has Dustin Garrison and Andrew Buie, its leading rushers from 2011 and 2012, respectively. (Buie is back after leaving school for a semester.) On top of all that, Pittsburgh transfer Rushel Shell figures to be in the mix. Shell was the No. 26 overall recruit in the country coming out of high school after becoming the all-time leading rusher in Pennsylvania high school history. If that weren’t enough, the gem of the incoming recruiting class, Donte Thomas-Williams, is also a running back. Suffice to say, the competition for carries will be fierce in the league’s deepest backfield.

5. Oklahoma State: Desmond Roland helped fuel Oklahoma State’s midseason turnaround after seizing a starting role. Roland was great in short yardage and led the Big 12 with 13 touchdowns, but he wasn’t a big-play runner, with an average of only 4.6 yards per carry (14th in the league). The Cowboys are banking that Rennie Childs can complement Roland as the breakaway back. Childs showed flashes as a true freshman. Roland and Childs can form a solid combo, but four-star freshman Devon Thomas, who is enrolled for the spring, should not be discounted, nor should Sione Palelei, who has the good hands that past Oklahoma State running backs also possessed.

6. Texas Tech: The returning trio of Kenny Williams, DeAndre Washington and Sadale Foster won’t do much damage between the tackles. All three, however, are excellent pass-catchers, making them supreme fits for Kliff Kingsbury’s spread attack. Together they combined for 82 receptions, and that number should go up in 2014 as quarterback Davis Webb settles in as a sophomore.

7. TCU: The Horned Frogs were a disaster offensively last year, but the potential at running back is a reason why TCU could be equipped for a bounce-back season. Aaron Green, Kyle Hicks and incoming freshman Shaun Nixon were all ESPN 300 recruits. That doesn’t include B.J. Catalon, either, who led the Frogs with 569 yards and six touchdowns last season. With a new regime making the play calls, there’s reason to believe this could become one of the better units in the league.

[+] EnlargeDalton Santos
David Purdy/Getty ImagesIf Aaron Wimberly can stay healthy, Iowa State has a potentially dynamic returning running back.
8. Iowa State: When healthy, Aaron Wimberly can be a game-breaker. He torched Texas for 137 yards as the Cyclones nearly pulled off a Thursday night upset. Wimberly, however, was never really healthy the rest of the season, and never had the same impact. After Wimberly, though, the Cyclones don’t have much returning firepower. Firepower, however, could be on the way. Oklahoma native Michael Warren went overlooked in recruiting, but he can fly; he rushed for more than 2,500 yards as a high school senior.

9. Kansas: The Jayhawks gradated their heart and soul in James Sims, who was an all-conference selection even though Kansas won only one Big 12 game. Tony Pierson returns as an electric playmaker, but he has never been a full-time running back, often flexing out as a receiver. It will be interesting to see who emerges in Sims’ shoes. Brandon Bourbon (191 yards) will have the first crack in the spring, but newcomers De'Andre Mann and Traevohn Wrench could vie for time once they arrive in the summer.

10. Kansas State: It’s difficult to believe K-State will be at the bottom here once the season starts, but running back is a major hole for the Wildcats going into the spring. That’s because longtime starter John Hubert is gone. Hubert, senior backup Robert Rose and QBs Jake Waters and Daniel Sams combined for 492 carries last season. Nobody else had more than five. Rising senior DeMarcus Robinson, who has only 11 career carries, will probably be atop the depth chart going into the spring. It’s also possible that Sams will get a look at running back with Waters having nailed down the full-time QB job. But the player to watch here is freshman Dalvin Warmack, who rushed for more than 4,500 yards and 70 touchdowns his final two seasons in Blue Springs, Mo. Warmack isn’t big at 5-foot-8 and 185 pounds. But his size fits the mold of past K-State running backs Hubert and Darren Sproles.
AUSTIN, Texas -- Mack Brown refused to talk about the five recruits Texas didn't get on signing day.

But the Texas coach did have a message for players that might be interested in the Longhorns in the future.

[+] EnlargeMack Brown
Kevin Jairaj/US PresswireTexas coach Mack Brown stressed the quality of his 2013 class but was clearly disappointed in the five recruits who decommitted.
"The thing that we will do is we have allowed the kids to commit and still look around the last couple of years -- we're not doing that anymore," Brown said on Wednesday. “If you are committed to us be committed. If you're going to go look, we're going to go look."

It was a strong message and it permeated a signing day that dripped with disappointment over who Texas didn't get -- A'Shawn Robinson (Alabama), Daeshon Hall (Texas A&M), Ricky Seals-Jones (Texas A&M), Durham Smythe (Notre Dame) and Kyle Hicks (TCU) -- as much as the day was held up and celebrated for the 15 players Texas did get.

"What we found is the 15 [recruits] that we got are very passionate about being at Texas and that is what we want," Brown said. "And very honestly if a young person tells you they're coming and their parents tell you they're coming and then they don't, you wouldn't want them to be here.

"You may be disappointed on the day it happened but you want people that will look you in the eye and tell you the truth and you want people who want to be at your school.”

This signing day Texas didn't need that many people at its school. It only had room for about 16. So the search was for quality over quantity. Brown, who because of all the decommitments and misses seemingly has gone from coach February to Father Time with this class, tried to hammer that point home repeatedly.

(Read full post)

AUSTIN, Texas -- When the Longhorns began to recruit ESPN 300 lineman Andrew Billings (Waco, Texas/Waco) as a defensive lineman, his preferred position, rather than at offensive lineman, where they originally sought him, they seemed to have put themselves in position to garner his commitment, which he announced today.

“Oh, they probably went to third in the bunch to ... they went up from third, I’ll tell you that much,” Waco High coach Marty Herbst said a few weeks ago.

ESPN 150 DT decommits from Texas 

February, 3, 2013
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Texas' 2013 recruiting class had already suffered four decommitments. Just four days before signing day, the Longhorns suffered another one that was more stunning than the rest.


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Three-star RB hopes for late Texas offer 

January, 29, 2013
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One in-state prospect is crossing his fingers and hoping good news starts coming his way.


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Sleeper RB Kinner wants to be a Longhorn 

December, 19, 2012
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How have you never heard of Ke'aun Kinner?

At 5-foot-9 and 180 pounds from a small but fast-growing town called Little Elm that’s tucked away north of Dallas, he can be easy to miss.

He set out to make a name for himself with his senior season. He did a little better than that, producing one of the state’s most remarkable seasons in only 10 games.

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Every Friday, HornsNation recruiting writers William Wilkerson and Max Olson will answer a question about the Longhorns.

This week's question: Texas has seen Ricky Seals-Jones, Daeshon Hall, Kyle Hicks and now Durham Smythe decommit from the 2013 class. Who is the one recruit Texas can't afford to lose before signing day?

William Wilkerson: There are several choices here but I’m going with ESPN 150 DB Antwuan Davis because of Texas’ struggles recruiting the secondary in this class.

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DeSoto (Texas) High School coach Claude Mathis is one of the more popular names being tossed around as a potential candidate for Texas' vacant running backs coach position.

Whether or not he is a legitimate candidate, Mathis doesn’t have the time to concern himself with rumors right now. He has a state playoff game to win Saturday.

“I am not even thinking about it,” Mathis said. “The only thing I am thinking about is Allen. That’s it.”

DeSoto, the No. 5 team in the ESPN 25 Power Rankings, faces No. 15 Allen at 6 p.m. CT Saturday at SMU’s Ford Stadium. The winner will play for a Class 5A Division I state championship game at Cowboys Stadium in Arlington at 8 p.m. Dec. 22.

“I can’t even think about Texas right now,” he said. “It’s not fair to my kids right now.”

(Read full post)

TE Durham Smythe decommits from Texas 

December, 12, 2012
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Texas’ 2013 recruiting class has suffered another defection.

[+] EnlargeDurham Smythe
Miller Safrit/ESPN.comTight end Durham Smythe is the Longhorns' fourth decommitment for the Class of 2013.
Four-star tight end Durham Smythe (Belton, Texas/Belton) decommitted from the Longhorns on Tuesday. The longtime Texas commit confirmed his decision in a text message to HornsNation.

"I have nothing but respect for the coaches, commits, players and program," Smythe said, "but I had to do what I thought was right for me personally."

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What Kyle Hicks flipping means for Texas 

December, 3, 2012
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Kyle Hicks’ decision to flip to TCU leaves Texas in a bit of a tough spot.

The Arlington (Texas) Martin running back had been committed to Texas since February and was really the only true tailback the Longhorns seriously pursued during the spring.


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ESPN 300 running back Kyle Hicks (Arlington, Texas/Martin) can’t deny what his heart is feeling.

Kyle Hicks
William Wilkerson/ESPN.comKyle Hicks said he has formed a bond at TCU and that's where his 'heart is at.'
For the last few months he has contemplated the idea of playing football closer to home, closer to his mother and close to his good friend and former high school teammate Devonte Fields.

Today, his heart couldn’t take it any longer.

Hicks called Texas co-recruiting coordinator Bruce Chambers and told him he had decided to switch commitments from the Longhorns to TCU.

“One, I get to play for an outstanding football team,” Hicks said. “Two, I get a good education from a private school, and three, it is 15 minutes from home.”

Hicks was Texas’ lone running back recruit in the Class of 2013. He had been committed to the Longhorns since Feb. 18.

“It was the hardest thing I’ve ever done in my life,” Hicks said. “Talking to Chambers on the phone, my body was shaking. I never thought I would decommit from Texas. I created a big bond with Chambers for nine months. Just to decommit was the hardest thing ever.

“Of course he was disappointed. He wanted to know why. It was just a decision I had to make.”

Martin coach Bob Wager was in his office with Hicks when Hicks made the call to Chambers.

“He’s been agonizing over it for months,” Wager said. “He just called Coach Chambers 15 minutes ago in my office. Torn up, distraught, very apologetic. But very sincere. It’s the hardest thing he’s ever had to do. I was there watching him, and pain was showing all over his face.”

Hicks (5-foot-11, 190 pounds) is rated at No. 20 among running backs and No. 219 overall in the country.

He had to step in at quarterback for Martin this season and fared well. He threw for 458 yards and six touchdowns without an interception. But his bread and butter was still the run, which he did 177 times to the tune of 1,113 yards and 22 touchdowns.

Hicks tore his left ACL and meniscus Oct. 26 and is scheduled to have surgery Tuesday. It was the second serious injury for him in the last two seasons.

Last year, during the third round of the playoffs, he broke his foot on the first play of Martin’s game against Euless Trinity. He continued to play and finished the game with 20 carries for 113 yards and a 19-yard, game-clinching touchdown.

Hicks is confident that he’ll be fully healthy in six months and ready for fall camp with the Frogs.

“It was where my heart is at,” Hicks said. “I feel at home with TCU. Whenever I got the chance to visit TCU I just knew that was where I wanted to be. Great football team and it’s close to my mom. I can’t pass that down.”

Texas RB commit Kyle Hicks tears ACL 

November, 19, 2012
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If there is one thing you can say about Longhorns running back commitment Kyle Hicks (Arlington, Texas/Martin) it’s that he is as tough as they come.

For the second time in two seasons Hicks has suffered a serious injury at the end of his football season, the latest is a tear of his left ACL and meniscus.

Kyle Hicks
William Wilkerson/ESPN.comTailback Kyle Hicks suffered his second serious leg injury two weeks ago.
Hicks said he was injured on Oct. 26 in a 42-21 win over Arlington Lamar, but that he didn’t do the most damage until two weeks later in a 44-26 loss to Arlington Bowie.

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Top HS playoff games with Longhorns ties 

November, 14, 2012
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It's playoff time in Texas. Nine of the Longhorns' 2013 commitments and all five of its 2014 commitments will partake in the bi-district round of the Texas state playoffs this week, beginning on Thursday.

For 2013, commitments Darius James, Jake Raulerson, Jacorey Warrick, Kent Perkins, Jake Oliver, Kyle Hicks, Chevoski Collins, Erik Huhn and Naashon Hughes will be playing while Duke Catalon, Daniel Gresham, Jerrod Heard, Lorenzo Joe and Derick Roberson will represent the Longhorns' class of 2014.

[+] EnlargeDontre Wilson
Tom Hauck for ESPN.comFormer Texas target Dontre Wilson will be going against two Longhorns commits.
Here are five games that should be of particular interest to Texas fans:

• DeSoto (10-0) vs. Harker Heights (4-6) | Waco ISD Stadium, 1:30 p.m. on Saturday
Players of interest: 2013 Texas commitments Darius James (OL) and Naashon Hughes (LB) of Harker Heights; 2013 Oregon commitment Dontre Wilson (RB) of DeSoto

Harker Heights is going to have its hands full with one of the state's most explosive and athletic teams, but it could get a boost with the return of James. The nation's top center could return from a broken foot he suffered in the first game of the season, which would obviously be a huge help for the Knights.

Hughes is going to have to play like a man possessed on defense, and get plenty of help and some lucky breaks, if he wants Heights to pull off the upset.

One of the main players he'll be trying to corral is ESPN 150 athlete Dontre Wilson, an Oregon commitment who has 1,352 rushing yards and 26 rushing touchdowns as well as 462 receiving yards and four scores. His 26 rushing touchdowns and 194 points scored are the most in the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex. Wilson, who chose the Ducks over Texas, is one of several explosive players for an Eagles offense that averages 521.1 yards per game, which is the most in DFW.

• Southlake Carroll (9-1) vs. Arlington Martin (7-3) | Cowboys Stadium, 6 p.m. on Friday
Players of interest: 2013 Texas commitment Kyle Hicks (RB) of Martin; 2014 Texas offer Myles Garrett (DE); 2013 Texas A&M commitment Kenny Hill of Carroll

This will be one of the most intriguing games to watch across the state this weekend. It's a little unfortunate that they have to meet so early as these two teams could easily each make it a few rounds deep.

If Martin hopes to advance it will have to have an all-around superb game by Hicks, who has rushed for 1,114 yards and 22 touchdowns this season while also playing quarterback.

The mystique of Hicks really took off in the third round of last season's playoffs when he broke his foot on the first play of the game against Euless Trinity, kept playing and scored the game-clinching touchdown. He's much healthier this season, which bodes well for Bob Wager and Co.

Garrett, one of the premiere DEs in the state regardless of classification, will be tasked with applying pressure on Hill, who has thrown for 2,288 yards and 20 touchdowns against only two interceptions.

• Colleyville Heritage (9-1) vs. Lewisville Hebron (6-4) | Cowboys Stadium, 8 p.m. on Saturday
Players of interest: 2014 Texas offer Jamal Adams (safety); 2013 Oklahoma commitment Cody Thomas (QB)

It's not often that Adams gets tested, even at safety, but he'll likely get his fair share of opportunities to make plays Saturday night when he goes up against one of the country's top quarterbacks. Thomas has a cannon for an arm. He has completed 206 of 322 passing attempts (63.9 percent) for 3,363 yards and 38 touchdowns against only five interceptions. His passing yards and touchdowns thrown both lead the Dallas area.

• Waco (7-3) vs. Fort Worth Wyatt (6-4) | DeSoto's Eagle Stadium, 7:30 p.m. on Friday

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Warrick makes jump in new ESPN 150 

November, 7, 2012
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Wide receiver Jacorey Warrick made the biggest jump of any Longhorns commitment in the ESPN 150, which was updated today. Warrick, who has been out since tearing the meniscus in his right knee on Oct. 4, moved up from No. 114 to No. 59. He is now the No. 8 wide receiver.

Darius James remains the Longhorns’ top-ranked player at No. 17 overall, which also makes him the No. 1 center. Jake Raulerson dropped a spot to No. 56 and remains the No. 3 offensive tackle.

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