NCF On The Trail: DeShon Elliott

UA jersey tour: DeShon Elliott

October, 28, 2014
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HEATH, Texas -- DeShon Elliott has heard the rumors.

Will he stay committed to Texas? Is he going to stay in state but go to a rival school?

Tuesday morning was more than just the day of Elliott's Under Armour jersey presentation. It was his opportunity to kill all rumors regarding his commitment to the Longhorns. And, while wearing a burnt orange shirt with "UT Longhorns" stitched near the left chest, the ESPN 300 safety put on his Under Armour jersey, flashed the "Hook 'Em Horns" sign and gave a big smile to family, friends and teammates at the Rockwall-Heath High School library.

"Hook 'Em," Elliott said. "That's it."



The nation's No. 5 safety, Elliott is the Longhorns' top-ranked defensive pledge. And while he's heard about possibly flipping to different schools, Elliott said he was ready for everything coach Charlie Strong brings to his table at the college level. Playing in the UA Game in January will help him to prepare for the talent he'll see each weekend as a Longhorn.

"It's a blessing. As much time as I put in, my coaches put in and my teammates put in, it's a blessing," Elliott said of being an All-American. "We've all put in a lot of work for all this. I love it.

"I'm sure coach Strong's going to want me to work as hard as possible to earn a starting spot. I know it won't be given to me. I expect a lot from myself. It's all about making some moves. I'm ready for it."

Elliott, a 6-foot-2, 205-pound safety, is ranked No. 96 in the ESPN 300. He is one of nine ESPN 300 commitments and one of 18 pledges overall for Texas.

Quick hits with DeShon Elliott

Best player in the UA game: "Leonard Fournette. I mean, have you seen that man? That's a specimen."

Who are you looking forward to seeing? "DaMarkus Lodge. Definitely."

Favorite football memory: "My sophomore year, my first varsity game, it was a playoff game. I made a big tackle, and I did the Superman. I got a flag for it, but I did the Superman."

Why do you wear your number? "I've been wearing No. 4 for a minute. It's just my number."

In any sport on any level, who would you challenge? "LeBron James. I'd smash LeBron in basketball. My crossover game is serious."

DeShon Elliott "did you know": "I'm scared of the dark."

#SceneAndHeard Lunch Break: Sept. 17 

September, 17, 2014
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It’s time to take a look at some of the top committed prospects being placed on “Flip Watch." To date, more than 25 prospects in the 2015 ESPN 300 have decommitted or flipped their commitments. As signing day inches closer, expect that number to increase to over 35 with more than 40 possible.

Here are a handful of more than 15 to watch in the coming weeks and months:

No. 238 Pat Allen, OT
Commitment: Georgia
The Bulldogs verbal made an official visit to Oklahoma last weekend and came away impressed as expected. The offensive tackle with a 6-foot-10 wingspan will visit Michigan Sept. 26 followed by trips to Tennessee Oct. 3 and Arkansas Oct. 10 before concluding his visits with a trip to Athens Nov. 14 when the Bulldogs play host to Auburn. While I still like Georgia’s chances, I wouldn’t characterize this as a solid commitment at this point.

Flip percentage: 40 percent

Tale of the tape: Texas-Texas A&M 

May, 23, 2014
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There are those who believe the rivalry between Texas and Texas A&M is dead because the two programs are no longer in the same conference.

[+] EnlargeKendall Sheffield
Sam Khan Jr./ESPNTexas and Texas A&M are both after Kendall Sheffield, the No. 2 CB in the nation.
Those people are misguided. And emphatically incorrect.

Two words in February by new Texas head coach Charlie Strong helped light a new spark in the rivalry between two of the most respected programs in the Lone Star State. When asked about A&M’s recruiting methods -- which includes coach Kevin Sumlin making player visits in a helicopter dubbed the “Swagcopter” -- Strong said the Longhorns didn’t need to be a “gadget program,” as the university and its prestige still was enough to attract recruits.

The rest of the spring and the upcoming summer will be perfect opportunities to gauge where both programs stand among some of the elite athletes who are still uncommitted. Which school will dominate in recruiting the 2015 class?


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Editor's note: This week we're taking a closer look at five key takeaways from Texas' spring practices and what they mean for the summer and beyond.

AUSTIN, Texas -- High school kids like new. In hindsight, we really shouldn’t have underestimated that.

New uniforms, new helmets, new stadiums. All critical assets in recruiting. Just ask Kevin Sumlin, who, seemingly overnight, changed the perception of Texas A&M.

[+] EnlargeToby Weathersby
Max Olson/ESPNToby Weathersby is one of six four-star commits in Texas' 2015 class.
Texas isn’t changing its uniform or its helmets this year. Its stadium isn’t expanding just yet. But the Longhorns have a brand new coach, and that has made a world of difference on the trail this spring.

For all the disadvantages Charlie Strong and his staff faced when they first arrived, it’s hard to call the early results anything other than impressive. Texas’ staff has assembled the No. 11 recruiting class in the nation and is well on its way to transforming the way recruits look at the Longhorns.

Defensive end Charles Omenihu, one of nine verbal commits in the class, was hooked from the very beginning of his junior day visit. New Texas defensive coordinator Vance Bedford’s pitch was simple and compelling: “Why not Texas?”

“He was right. Why would you not want to go to Texas if you live in the state of Texas?” Omenihu said. “Why wouldn’t you want to play big ball at a place with a tradition for winning? That really stayed in my mind.”

The three-star defensive end from Rowlett, Texas, committed two days later and has become one of the leaders of the class, constantly staying in touch with his fellow commits and countless blue-chip targets.

He didn’t think much of Texas in recent years. The new staff got his attention, however, and convinced him that the Longhorns’ glory days are coming again, and soon.

“I remember visibly when they won it all in 2006 and them guys were flying around and looked good doing it, too,” Omenihu said. “They looked good, played hard and beat people up. You could see that in practice this spring. You could just tell.”

For the new staff, that rebranding of Texas football in the spring helped make up for a lot of lost time. Keep in mind, Strong, Bedford and several other assistants hardly recruited the Lone Star State at Louisville and they risked falling behind with the 2015 class with all the time they expended to secure the glass that inked in Februarby.

While Texas scrambled to close out that group, Texas A&M and other in-state foes were already hosting early junior days. Everyone else had a head start.

But the Longhorn staff had their house and their recruiting board in order by the time they hosted that first junior day on Feb. 23. The event led to commitments from Omenihu, Ronnie Major and DeShon Elliott, and also ensured Patrick Vahe would stay on board. That’s when the #letsride momentum starting rolling.

Since that first event, Texas has secured eight new verbal commitments and completed a major overhaul of the class Strong inherited. Only two of the nine verbal commitments Mack Brown landed for 2015 are still on the commit list.

Five of those early pledges elected to decommit. The other two, defensive backs Jalen Campbell and Johnny Shaw, will continue to be evaluated by the new staff this spring and summer.

As it stands today, the revamped class has pledges from five ESPN 300 prospects. Offensive tackle Toby Weathersby, the nation’s No. 138 recruit, bought in one month after his junior day trip.

“It’s just the way they go about doing things,” Weathersby said. “They get to the point. Real demanding. Coach Strong wants them to get back to a winning tradition and he’s doing everything the way he wants it to go. Let’s get it done.”

The intensity was just what he was looking for, he said, because he plays on a tight ship at Houston Westfield. And how did Strong take it when Weathersby declared he was ready to commit?

“Well, I had to catch him,” Weathersby said. “He jumped in my arms.”

Like Omenihu, Weathersby had his own beliefs about what was wrong with the Longhorns. He felt that in terms of intensity, Texas was “like a golf club” in Brown’s final years. Strong drastically flipped his perspective on the program’s future.

“I can’t really go into detail, because it would take me months and months,” Weathersby said with a laugh. “But the way he changed everything, I think it’s a more strict football program and, with his way of doing things, it’s for the better.”

Omenihu’s wish list for this Texas class is ambitious, and includes ESPN 300 recruits Malik Jefferson, Chris Warren III, Holton Hill, Kris Boyd, Ryan Newsome and Cameron Townsend. And he doesn’t intend to give up on five-star Texas A&M commit Daylon Mack.

“I wonder why great defensive players would choose to go to A&M,” Omenihu said. “It boggles my mind. They don’t really play defense. If I’m wrong, someone please tell me.”

Worse things were being said about the Longhorns before Strong showed up, that's for sure. This is a game of perception, and so far, Texas' head coach is already changing the game.

Texas lands DB Ramsey after spring game 

April, 19, 2014
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AUSTIN, Texas -- Texas' Orange-White spring game ended Saturday afternoon with a boom from the Longhorns' traditional cannon, and then another boom on the recruiting trail.

Shortly after the scrimmage wrapped up, Texas landed a verbal commitment from Converse (Texas) Judson defensive back Keivon Ramsey.


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Texas spring game draws loaded list 

April, 18, 2014
Apr 18
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AUSTIN, Texas -- Charlie Strong’s #letsride movement is picking up momentum, and it’s going to the next level on Saturday at Texas’ Orange-White spring game.

Strong and his coaching staff already have picked up seven verbal commitments since taking over and could have a chance to lock up a few more at the annual spring game. As many as 100 prospects from the 2014, 2015, 2016 and even 2017 classes are expected to be on the sidelines and in the stands for the unofficial first game of the Strong era.

The highlight of that lengthy list? Texas is expected to receive unofficial visits from the following members of the newly released ESPN 300:

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Charlie Strong asked for a couple of months to let the dust settle and establish himself. That’s all the time he needed to get his point across as the new coach at Texas.

Since taking over in early January, Strong has visited multiple high school campuses throughout the state, hosted junior day events and used countless cellphone minutes to connect with players, coaches and parents. Gone, for now, is the perception that the job of replacing Mack Brown -- an iconic figure in college football -- would be too difficult for Strong.

The reality -- Strong’s directness, his X’s and O’s knowledge and win-now attitude -- is setting in with the Class of 2015 recruits. Strong is now the face of what many believe is the new Texas. The transformation took roughly 90 days.


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Weekly commitment roundup

March, 21, 2014
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ACC

Boston College
Lukas Denis, ATH
HT: 6-0 WT: 175
Positional Rank: N/A
Stars: Evaluation pending

Chris Lindstrom, OG
HT: 6-4 WT: 250
Positional Rank: N/A
Stars: Evaluation pending

Miami
Bowman Archibald, TE-Y
HT: 6-5 WT: 240
Positional Rank: N/A
Stars: Evaluation pending

North Carolina
Corey Bell Jr., CB
HT: 5-10 WT: 168
Positional Rank: N/A
Stars: 3

Chris Clark, TE-Y
HT: 6-6 WT: 247
Positional Rank: N/A
Stars: 3

Big 12

Texas
DeShon Elliott, S
HT: 6-2 WT: 205
Positional Rank: N/A
Stars: Evaluation pending

Big Ten

Penn State
Juwan Johnson, ATH
HT: 6-5 WT: 195
Positional Rank: No. 19 ATH
Stars: 4
ESPN Junior 300: No. 214

Pac-12

Oregon State
Treshon Broughton, CB
HT: 6-0 WT: 180
Positional Rank: N/A (juco)
Stars: Evaluation pending

UCLA
Josh Rosen, QB-PP
HT: 6-4 WT: 200
Positional Rank: No. 1 QB-PP
Stars: 4
ESPN Junior 300: No. 16

SEC

Arkansas
Justin Cantrell, TE
HT: 6-3 WT: 245
Positional Rank: N/A
Stars: Evaluation pending

Auburn
Montavious Atkinson, OLB
HT: 6-2 WT: 205
Positional Rank: N/A
Stars: 3

South Carolina
Michael Bowman, WR
HT: 6-0 WT: 195
Positional Rank: No. 19 WR
Stars: 4
ESPN Junior 300: No. 147

Tennessee
Stephen Griffin, S
HT: 6-2 WT: 185
Positional Rank: N/A
Stars: Evaluation pending

American

South Florida
Deundre Pickett-White, ATH
HT: 6-0 WT: 192
Positional Rank: N/A
Stars: 3

Trevon Sands, RB
HT: 5-11 WT: 181
Positional Rank: N/A
Stars: 3

Independents

BYU
Kimane Domena, QB-DT
HT: 6-1 WT: 188
Positional Rank: N/A
Stars: 3

C-USA

Louisiana Tech
LaDante Davenport, DT
HT: 6-2 WT: 260

Brandon Durman, ILB
HT: 6-1 WT: 215

Aaron Roberson, CB
HT: 5-10 WT: 181

Trey Spencer, ATH
HT: 5-11 WT: 160

Dwaine Thomas, OLB
HT: 6-2 WT: 210

Rice
Ross Donelly, DT
HT: 6-2 WT: 300
Positional Rank: No. 21 DT
Stars: 4
ESPN Junior 300: No. 229

Hunter Herndon, ATH
HT: 6-4 WT: 236

Tulane
Devin Glenn, RB
HT: 5-8 WT: 142

UAB
Ryan Barbour, TE-Y
HT: 6-4 WT: 240

Jamarius Henderson, RB
HT: 5-11 WT: 205
Positional Rank: N/A
Stars: 3

Mid-American

Central Michigan
Romello Ross, RB
HT: 5-10 WT: 175
Positional Rank: N/A
Stars: 3

Western Michigan
Parker Underwood, TE-Y
HT: 6-4 WT: 235

Safety Elliott commits to Longhorns

March, 18, 2014
Mar 18
8:17
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Charlie Strong and his Texas coaching staff made DeShon Elliott a priority, and that move paid off on Tuesday.

Elliott, a safety, became the Longhorns' eighth verbal commitment for their 2015 class after announcing his decision on his Twitter account.



Elliott chose Texas over Texas A&M and also held offers from Baylor, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, TCU, Texas Tech, Ole Miss, Iowa and Colorado.

The hard-hitting 6-foot-2, 205-pound defensive back could have a future at safety or outside linebacker at the college level and fits the type of hybrid role that Strong and defensive coordinator Vance Bedford are looking for as they build their base defense. As a junior, he recorded 70 tackles, seven tackles for loss, four sacks, three interceptions and forced three fumbles.

Elliott was one of the first recruits to receive an offer from Strong and the new staff at its first junior day in February, and ever since then Elliott had been flirting with the idea of wrapping up his recruitment. He joins offensive tackle Ronnie Major and defensive end Charles Omenihu as the third 2015 recruit to give a pledge to Texas since Strong took over.

It's a recruiting victory for Texas not only because Elliott fits a need and offers legitimate playmaking ability, but also because it's a victory over Texas A&M in a battle for a defensive back that every other in-state Big 12 program wanted.

The Aggies had flipped three former Texas commits -- 2014 defensive tackle Zaycoven Henderson, 2014 linebacker Otaro Alaka and 2015 offensive tackle Connor Lanfear -- since Mack Brown's departure, but the secondary continues to be an area of need for A&M's defense in this recruiting cycle and the Aggies already had a verbal pledge from Elliott's teammate Trevor Elbert, an ESPN 300 tackle.

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