Texas Longhorns: Trey Lealaimatafao

Signing day: Big 12 wrapup

February, 5, 2014
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As hectic of a day as it was, national signing day was a success for all Big 12 programs. Coaches were up early manning their fax machines and showing excitement with every national letter of intent submitted via fax.

Nearly 250 football players signed letters of intent to play Big 12 football on Wednesday. Here are five of the biggest storylines -- and a bonus storyline that could have an ending Thursday -- from the conference.

Oklahoma takes over top spot in Big 12

In the past 48 hours, everything seemed to go Oklahoma’s way.

[+] EnlargeMichiah Quick
Courtesy of Nike ESPN 300 ATH Michiah Quick was a big part of Oklahoma's final rush, a rush that gave the Sooners the top class in the Big 12.
After getting a Tuesday commitment from ESPN 300 safety Steven Parker II (Jenks, Okla./Jenks), the Sooners got Wednesday pledges from ESPN 300 athlete Michiah Quick (Fresno, Calif./Central East) and high three-star offensive tackles Kenyon Frison (West Valley City, Utah/Granger) and Orlando Brown Jr. (Duluth, Ga./Peachtree Ridge).

All four players were a part of Oklahoma’s signing class of 26 on Wednesday -- helping the Sooners take over the top spot in the Big 12 class rankings. Oklahoma’s class is No. 13 nationally, three spots better than previous top dog Texas.

Oklahoma in previous years has been very good at finishing strong in recruiting. It managed to sign Frison, who committed to Utah last February before decommitting last month, as well as Brown, who had been committed to Tennessee since May before making an 11th-hour change.

Strong, Longhorns get their DTs

New Texas coach Charlie Strong wanted two players he recruited to play at Louisville, and by Wednesday afternoon, he had them.

ESPN 300 defensive tackle Poona Ford (Hilton Head, S.C./Hilton Head) and three-star defensive tackle Chris Nelson (Lakeland, Fla./Victory Christian Academy) signed with the Longhorns and were two of 23 to submit national letters of intent. They also helped erase the sting of the Longhorns losing three four-star defensive tackle commitments in LSU signee Trey Lealaimatafao (San Antonio/Warren), Oklahoma signee Courtney Garnett (New Orleans/St. Augustine) and Texas A&M signee Zaycoven Henderson (Longview, Texas/Longview) last month.

Collectively, Ford and Nelson recorded 235 tackles, 9.5 sacks, 35 quarterback pressures and four forced fumbles. The duo also had 37.5 tackles for loss.

Receivers ‘No. 1’ to Baylor coach

Baylor coach Art Briles made a bold statement about his new wide receivers -- one that might be challenged by some but co-signed by others.

“The thing that we feel really good about,” Briles said, “is that we've signed the No. 1 receiving class in America -- I don't think that's up for debate.”

Briles has an argument with four ESPN 300 receivers in K.D. Cannon (Mount Pleasant, Texas/Mount Pleasant), Davion Hall (Texarkana, Texas/Liberty-Eylau), Ishmael Zamora (Houston/Alief Elsik) and Chris Platt (Willis, Texas/Willis). The quartet helped to give Baylor a top-25 national recruiting class.

Rhoads fired up about lone in-state signee

To say Paul Rhoads is excited about his top-ranked signee, ESPN 300 wide receiver Allen Lazard (Urbandale, Iowa/Urbandale) is an understatement.

While Rhoads is pumped about the entire class, there’s something special about Lazard, as he is this year’s only in-state signee. Lazard, No. 148 in the ESPN 300, had opportunities to sign with other programs, but he chose to honor his original commitment and also follow the footsteps of his father Kevin Lazard, who played in the secondary for the Cyclones in the early 1990s.

“This is a young man who has gotten phenomenal national attention and was recruited by the traditional historical programs in college football and kept on turning them away to stay true to his word to be an Iowa State Cyclone,” Rhoads said in a statement of Lazard, the No. 2 prospect out of the state of Iowa behind Alabama offensive lineman signee Ross Pierschbacher (Cedar Falls, Iowa/Cedar Falls).

West Virginia adds depth in class

Adding depth was the objective for West Virginia coach Dana Holgorsen, as he signed 22 players on Wednesday. Holgorsen was fortunate to add depth from coast to coast.

Of the 22 commits, only one -- three-star offensive tackle Amanii Brown (Morgantown, W.Va./Morgantown) -- is an in-state signee. The Mountaineers hit points all over the Lower 48, from California to Texas to Florida, to get players who can be contributors early and help the program return to star status.

West Virginia’s class is led by five ESPN 300 players. Running back Donte Thomas-Williams (Durham, N.C./Hillside), the class’ top-ranked player, was the last to commit early Wednesday afternoon. He joins defensive back Dravon Henry (Aliquippa, Pa./Aliquippa), linebacker Davonte James (Springfield, Ohio/Springfield) and receivers Lamar Parker (Miami/Booker T. Washington) and Jake McCrary (Miami/Coral Reef) in the class.

Bonus: Could the Sooners add one more?

LSU signed 22 players on Wednesday. The Tigers were hoping to sign 23.

Deondre Clark (Oklahoma City/Douglass) has been verbally committed to LSU since July, but the ESPN 300 defensive end also has high interest in Oklahoma. There were conflicting reports on Wednesday regarding whether Clark actually signed and submitted his letter of intent to LSU.

ESPN’s David Ching said an LSU spokesperson confirmed the letter of intent was at LSU and cleared compliance. Outside reports, however, say Clark did not submit the letter of intent, and a tweet from Clark's Twitter account said that “nothing is final.” His mother Dorshell also told The Oklahoman that her son “has not signed with LSU.”

Oklahoma City schools were closed on Wednesday because of bad weather, so Clark didn’t fax anything by way of Douglass High School. He is expected to announce his final decision on Thursday.

If it's true that Clark has not signed with LSU, look for Oklahoma to be a key player in his final decision. Ranked No. 273 in the ESPN 300, Clark has built a great relationship with the Sooners' coaching staff, particularly defensive line coach Jerry Montgomery.

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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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.

 

Four-star DT decommits from Texas 

January, 7, 2014
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Many felt it was only a matter of time for Trey Lealaimatafao (San Antonio/Warren).

No Mack Brown? Not the biggest blow, but a blow nonetheless. No position coach, however? Big problem -- the last straw, even.

With new head coach Charlie Strong set to bring in members of his own staff, defensive tackles coach Bo Davis opted to accept a position coaching defensive linemen at USC. No Davis at Texas next season was enough to force Lealaimatafao, a four-star defensive tackle and U.S. Army All-American, to officially decommit on Tuesday and explore his other options.


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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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Army Bowl notebook: Jan. 2 

January, 2, 2014
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SAN ANTONIO -- Thursday’s practice session for the U.S. Army All-American Bowl saw players in more of a rhythm on offense, but it also saw defensive players showing their skills. If Thursday is any indication, Saturday’s contest could be a low-scoring affair.

Here are a few notes:

Cannon reaffirms Baylor commitment … again.

For the Baylor fans who read the late-Wednesday tweet coming from ESPN 300 receiver K.D. Cannon (Mount Pleasant, Texas/Mount Pleasant), don’t read anything into it.


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Four-star DT Lealaimatafao explains status 

December, 29, 2013
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SAN ANTONIO -- Aside from a social media message here or there, four-star defensive tackle Trey Lealaimatafao (San Antonio/Warren) has been relatively mum about his recruiting. Lealaimatafao is a Texas commit who has made three outside official visits and has one more remaining.


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Big 12 recruiting storylines: Dec. 12 

December, 12, 2013
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With the high school playoffs coming to an end and junior college bowl games behind us, it’s time for many athletes to put recruiting back in the forefront. Several athletes are either in the middle of finishing up their official visit schedules, or they’re in the right mindset to make the big announcement that will shape their lives for the next few years.

Here are some attractive storylines in the Big 12:

Four-star DT still tight with Texas?

This weekend marks the big banquet weekend for Texas, an important event when many commits come to Austin and several targets look to take official visit. With Mack Brown expected to announce his resignation very soon, this weekend could also serve as a time to keep an eye out for Texas commits who choose to reopen their recruiting because of Brown’s departure.


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Big 12 class rankings analysis 

December, 11, 2013
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Two Big 12 teams made positive moves in the latest ESPN class rankings. West Virginia cracked the top 40, coming in at No. 39, and Oklahoma State continued its ascension, climbing from No. 24 to No. 22.

Texas still holds the No. 8 spot, while Baylor remains at No. 16. Oklahoma fell one spot from No. 23 to No. 24, and Texas Tech remained in the top 40 at No. 36.

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

Trending up: West Virginia and Iowa State both saw spikes in their 2014 recruiting, but the Mountaineers are the hottest of the two, particularly after picking up ESPN 300 athlete Dravon Henry (Aliquippa, Pa./Aliquippa), the top-ranked recruit in the state of Pennsylvania. West Virginia also landed junior college quarterback Skyler Howard (White Settlement, Texas/Riverside Community College), who threw for more than 3,100 yards and 33 touchdowns this season. Let’s also give credit to Iowa State, who scored five commitments in the first 10 days of the month, the latest being junior college defenders Jordan Harris (Wesson, Miss./Copiah-Lincoln Community College), an inside linebacker, and Gabe Luna (Garden City, Kan./Butler Community College), a defensive end.


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Five recruiting needs for Texas' 2014 class

December, 10, 2013
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AUSTIN, Texas -- Immediately after returning from Waco, Texas’ coaching staff hit the road on Sunday to begin visiting its committed recruits and targets. Mack Brown is expected to join them today for in-home visits.

The Longhorns picked up commit No. 23 on Monday but still have plenty of work to do. Here’s a look at the positions where Texas needs the most help going into 2014. It’s a safe bet Texas’ final pledges will come from these five spots:

1. Quarterback

After putting this move off for two consecutive offseasons, Texas needs to bring in a transfer quarterback. The Longhorns briefly pursued Bo Wallace, Nick Marshall and other juco options in recent years, but opted to stick with Case McCoy as the backup.

Now McCoy is graduating, David Ash is recovering, Tyrone Swoopes is still inexperienced and touted commit Jerrod Heard (Denton, Texas/Guyer) won’t arrive until the summer.

There are no five-star, big-time options at the junior college level this year. So Texas’ best bet is pursuing a graduate transfer. One QB that Texas and several others major programs are keeping an eye on is Florida State’s Jacob Coker, who would have two seasons of eligibility if he leaves.

2. Defensive end

Jackson Jeffcoat is off to the pros. Cedric Reed could opt to leave early and join him. If he does, Texas will need an end or two who is ready to play right away in 2014. Hence its recent interest in junior college prospects.

New Mexico Military Institute teammates Edmond Boateng and Terry Ayeni will both visit Texas this week. Boateng, ESPN’s No. 3 ranked juco defensive end prospect, arrives Wednesday and will also visit Arizona State this weekend. Ayeni will be in town Friday for the banquet. They want to play together at the next level if possible.

ESPN 300 commit Derick Roberson, out of San Antonio Brennan, has the potential to play right away, and Texas will keep pushing for Solomon Thomas. But guys who can enroll in January are a must now.

3. Running back

Next season, Texas will enter fall camp with two senior running backs and a junior, Johnathan Gray, who might not be healthy until August following a torn Achilles. That has made taking three running backs in this class a priority. Three are currently committed, but it’s an interesting group.


D’Onta Foreman , (Texas City, Texas/Texas City) had a huge senior year, but could be a close call in terms of qualifying. Kevin Shorter (Newton, Texas/Newton) suffered a spinal injury this fall that could end his playing career. Longtime pledge Donald Catalon (Houston/Eisenhower) is solid, but has shown potential as a DB as well.

So Texas is looking. Two names to keep an eye on are Corey Avery, the Dallas Carter teammate of pledge Cameron Hampton, and recent Arizona State decommitment Darrel Williams (Marrero, La./Ehret).

4. Defensive back

Of the many ESPN 300 targets still uncommitted, you’d have to say Jamal Adams is at the top of Texas’ board. Tony Brown is a high priority, too, but Adams is a must-get. He’d play right away and possible even start for the Longhorns in 2014.

Adams keeps to himself when it comes to this process, but at the moment this seems to be a battle between Florida, LSU and Texas. Texas already has two safety pledges in Jason Hall (Grand Prairie, Texas/South Grand Prairie) and John Bonney (Houston/Lamar), but Adrian Phillips is set to graduate and the Longhorns haven’t exactly received consistent play from their other safeties this season.

5. Defensive tackle

This priority gets bumped down the list after four-star defensive tackle Zaycoven Henderson (Longview, Texas/Longview) announced his commitment to Texas on Monday, but Texas isn’t done shopping at this spot.

Longtime four-star commit Trey Lealaimatafao (San Antonio/Warren) has taken official visits to UCLA, Arizona State and Ole Miss this fall. Since Lealaimatafao is looking around, so will Texas. The Longhorn staff must operate under the assumption he’s no longer committed. If Lealaimatafao doesn’t reaffirm his pledge this weekend at the banquet, don’t be surprised if Texas pursues other options, including at the junior college level.

Henderson, Jake McMillon (Abilene, Texas/Abilene) and Courtney Garnett (New Orleans/St. Augustine) are solid, but losing Chris Whaley and the transfer of Ashton Dorsey made this spot a need, and 2012 signees Paul Boyette Jr. and Alex Norman haven’t panned out.

Most important targets: Big 12 

December, 10, 2013
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Most of the Big 12 programs have all but filled their 2014 recruiting classes, sans one or two spots, and national signing day in February is expected to be a great day. There’s still plenty of room to add players for TCU, Kansas, Iowa State, Kansas State and Oklahoma, but all 10 teams in the conference can improve their stock with one or two ESPN 300 commits from now until Feb. 5.

Each school can truly benefit from specific targets. Here is a look at some of the most important targets who could end up signing Big 12 national letters of intent.

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Weekend recruiting wrap: Big 12 

December, 2, 2013
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As we inch closer to signing day, more and more schools are filling up their 2014 recruiting classes, and more and more elite athletes are preparing to make big announcements. While college football week saw one of its greatest weeks in a long time, many commits and targets were trying to balance their time watching college games with playing in their own high school playoff contests.

Here are some of this past week’s highlights:

Biggest commitment: Oklahoma State picked up its 23rd commitment when three-star defensive end Trey Carter (Dallas/Pinkston) gave his verbal pledge. Carter became the third defensive end and fifth defensive lineman to commit to the Cowboys. At 6-foot-5 and 255 pounds, Carter said he chose Oklahoma State for the athletic and academic opportunities. “Coach [Mike] Gundy said it didn’t matter if I get hurt; he still was going to promise me an education. No matter what, I’d still get my education,” said Carter, who wants to major in law enforcement and become a district attorney. “I didn’t hear that from the other schools.”

Biggest offer: Junior college quarterback Skyler Howard (White Settlement, Texas/Riverside Community College) has been impressive in Southern California Football Association play, throwing for more than 3,100 yards, 33 touchdowns and six interceptions. Howard had offers from New Mexico State and Northern Colorado, but the 6-0, 205-pound quarterback recently earned his first BCS offer from West Virginia. Recruited to West Virginia by offensive coordinator Shannon Dawson, Howard has Big 12 interest and could be a great addition to the Mountaineers. Wherever he plays, he will have three years of eligibility, as he was an academic qualifier out of high school.

Best performance by a commit/target: In arguably the biggest game of the year for his high school team, Texas Tech commit Ian Sadler (Argyle, Texas/Argyle) put on a show Friday night. Sadler accounted for 220 rushing and receiving yards and five touchdowns in a 45-38 win against Gilmer, Texas, a team Argyle has played four consecutive years and earned victories in three out of four games. Sadler, recruited to play inside receiver for the Red Raiders, rushed for 182 yards and four touchdowns and also caught two passes for 38 yards and a fifth score.

Afterward, Sadler took to Twitter to show some love to his teammates.

Most important visit: Texas isn’t a fan of its commits taking official visits to other schools. Four-star defensive tackle Trey Lealaimatafao (San Antonio/Warren) is still solid to the Longhorns, but he made the trip to Tempe, Ariz., to check out the Arizona State campus. Ranked as the nation’s No. 27 defensive tackle, Lealaimatafao has visited Arizona State and UCLA, and he’s expected to take his official visit to Texas the weekend of Dec. 13. The 6-1, 301-pound defender committed to Texas on March 30.

Biggest answer: While TCU didn’t get the win against Baylor on Saturday, the Horned Frogs silenced the critics who thought Gary Patterson’s group hung up their cleats early. Baylor needed all 60 minutes to beat TCU, 41-38, and it was enough to impress the Horned Frogs’ commits -- particularly, TCU’s top-ranked recruit, four-star quarterback Foster Sawyer (Fort Worth, Texas/All Saints Episcopal).

The Texas Longhorns will have had 12 days to stew over their 38-13 loss to Oklahoma State by the time they kick off against Texas Tech on Thursday. So they’ll be anxious to get back on the field to try and right the ship in their last home game of the season. Who knows, it could be Mack Brown's last home game as Texas' head coach.

Because of impending weather and high school playoffs, it’s unclear which recruits will be in attendance. But here are a few names to keep an eye on.


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