NCF On The Trail: Patrick Vahe

#SceneAndHeard Lunch Break: Sept. 8 

September, 8, 2014
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In today’s lunch break, it’s time to take a look at the top offensive line classes in 2015. If you are a fan of Clemson, the future is very bright in the trenches. On the West Coast, Erik McKinney breaks it down on a pair of ESPN 300 prospects.

Where's the beef in 2015?

With the dead period hitting last week and coaches taking much-needed vacations, the recruiting trail is as quiet as it gets during the year during the next week or so. Here’s the latest in recruiting around the Big 12:

BAYLOR
Total commits: 10
ESPN 300 commits: 3
The latest: The Bears have had a couple of decommits in recent weeks but are still in terrific shape at the skill positions. Adding some beef up front, particularly along the offensive line, will be key for Baylor as this recruiting cycle progresses.

IOWA STATE
Total commits: 6
ESPN 300 commits: 0
The latest: The Cyclones' recruiting class looks much better today than it did early last month with Paul Rhoads' program landing five commitments in June including Austin (Texas) Westlake quarterback Dominic DeLira. It will be important for the Cyclones to hold off other suitors for DeLira and build this class around him now that he is on their commit list.

KANSAS
Total commits: 10
ESPN 300 commits: 0
The latest: The Jayhawks added another junior college commitment when Trinity Valley Community College (Texas) defensive back L.B. Bates picked KU on June 29. Bates is a 6-foot, 175-pounder who is originally from Allen, Texas, and can play cornerback or safety.

KANSAS STATE
Total commits: 6
ESPN 300 commits: 0
The latest: K-State has two commitments from Georgia -- running back Kalin Heath and Isaiah Zuber -- among their six total commitments. Bill Snyder’s program is one of many Big 12 schools that have recognized the opportunity to land overlooked hidden gems in SEC country.

OKLAHOMA
Total commits: 7
ESPN 300 commits: 5
The latest: OU added alternate uniforms last week, with an eye on giving its recruiting a boost while maintaining its tradition. Several recruits liked the move, which had been in the works since last year with the help of former players Trey Millard, Aaron Colvin and Gabe Ikard contributing to the design.

OKLAHOMA STATE
Total commits: 8
ESPN 300 commits: 3
The latest: The Cowboys are off to a solid start on the recruiting trail, particularly at the skill positions. Nacogdoches (Texas) cornerback Jaylon Lane, a current Cowboys commit, is at The Opening this week and is considered one of the top cornerbacks in the nation.

TCU
Total commits: 16
ESPN 300 commits: 0
The latest: The Horned Frogs might be in the best shape of any Big 12 school with more than half of its recruiting class already secured. TCU, which doesn’t have a ESPN300 member on its commit list, can now focus on rounding out its class with elite signees.

TEXAS
Total commits: 10
ESPN 300 commits: 5
The latest: The Longhorns are in solid shape along the offensive front with three offensive linemen on their commit list including ESPN300 members Toby Weathersby of Houston, Texas/Westfield and Patrick Vahe of Euless, Texas/Trinity.

TEXAS TECH
Total commits: 7
ESPN 300 commits: 2
The latest: Kliff Kingsbury’s program got terrific news last week when ESPN300 defensive tackle Breiden Fehoko of Honolulu, Hawaii/Farrington decided he would not take any more recruiting trips and is 100 percent committed to the Red Raiders. He will also take part in The Opening this week.

WEST VIRGINIA
Total commits: 11
ESPN 300 commits: 2
The latest: The Mountaineers are late to the party but WVU threw its hat into the mix in the race to sign elite Class of 2017 prospect Anthony Hines III of Plano, Texas/East. Hines has 43 total offers but has been committed to Mississippi State since Oct. 13.

Tale of the tape: Texas-Texas A&M 

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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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Days after the NFL draft, some Texas Longhorns fans still scratch their heads in disbelief. How a celebrated college football program -- one with decorated, award-winning athletes -- have zero players drafted into the NFL?

For the first time since before World War II, a Longhorn wasn’t selected in the draft. It became national news, and it’s news that no program wants to have attached to it, let alone one of the nation’s most established programs. When Memphis safety Lonnie Ballentine was selected by the Houston Texans as the 256th pick -- the last pick of the seven-round draft -- it opened the floodgates for barbs thrown by Texas antagonists.

What the draft ineffectiveness failed to do, however, was steer recruits -- committed and uncommitted -- away from the program’s future. If anything, it’s drawn some closer to the vision of new coach Charlie Strong and his staff.

“Some people are taking it all over the top,” uncommitted ESPN 300 linebacker Malik Jefferson said. “Those weren’t Charlie’s people; he didn’t develop any of those kids. Why would people want to change their minds off going to a great school like Texas because of something they couldn’t control?”

[+] EnlargeKendall Sheffield
Sam Khan Jr./ESPNKendall Sheffield, the top-ranked player in Texas, said the fact the Longhorns had no draft picks has no bearing on his recruitment.
The draft has forced recruits to answer questions some might feel are slightly unnecessary:

“Will the draft affect your thoughts on Texas?”

“Can you trust the Longhorns to groom you into a pro-ready athlete after college?”

“Do you want to be a part of the laughingstock of college football?”

ESPN 300 cornerback Kendall Sheffield has had to answer some of these questions this week. The top-ranked player in Texas, Sheffield said he still has the Longhorns high on a list of several schools, a list that includes Texas A&M, Alabama, Baylor, Florida State, LSU, Oklahoma, Oregon and USC.

Sheffield admitted to being shocked that the Longhorns didn’t have a draft pick, but to look at the program with a side eye -- particularly with a new coach in charge -- is something that never crossed his mind.

“I don’t know if it plays a role in recruiting. I mean, they’ve still got to rebuild,” Sheffield said. “I know they’re going to still get some big recruits in. For me, I’m going to find the school that’s the best fit for me and the place I feel has the best position coach. The draft won’t have nothing to do with it.”

Jefferson, believed to have Texas high on his list along with Texas A&M, Baylor, Alabama and others, reminded people that while the Longhorns went without a drafted player, Strong's former team at Louisville had three first-round picks in safety Calvin Pryor (No. 18 overall to the Jets), defensive end Marcus Smith (No. 26, Eagles) and quarterback Teddy Bridgewater (No. 32, Vikings).

“He knows what he’s doing,” Jefferson said of Strong.

During the Mack Brown era, 58 Longhorns were drafted. Safety Kenny Vaccaro was a first-round pick by the Saints last year. Receiver/return specialist Marquise Goodwin (Bills) and defensive end Alex Okafor (Cardinals) were selected in the third and fourth rounds in 2013.

This year’s crop of undrafted talent included defensive end Jackson Jeffcoat and receiver Mike Davis. Jeffcoat was the Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year and the Ted Hendricks Award recipient, recognizing the nation's top defensive end. Davis caught 200 passes in his college career and is one of only four players in school history with 200 or more receptions.

Jeffcoat and Davis, as well as other Longhorns, signed with NFL teams as undrafted free agents, which is another reason why recruits aren’t worried about the draft results. ESPN 300 offensive lineman Patrick Vahe -- who committed to Texas during the Brown era and chose to stay committed under Strong -- believes the draft is in full control of a player and not the coach.

Texas’ ability to produce NFL offensive linemen has been sliding in recent years. The Longhorns haven’t had an offensive lineman drafted since tackle Tony Hills in 2008. To assist in further developing linemen, Strong hired former Oklahoma State coach Joe Wickline, who coached NFL linemen Russell Okung, Corey Hilliard and Charlie Johnson at the college level. Okung is fresh off winning a Super Bowl with the Seahawks.

Vahe said he’ll worry about being a pro athlete when that time comes. Right now, he’s focused on being the best college athlete possible, and the 2014 draft isn’t weighing on his decision.

“I think I can learn a lot from [Wickline].” Vahe said. “We talked about his game plan, and I’m putting a lot of trust with him. The rest of it … I think people are just taking it over the top.”

Todd Dodge, head coach at Austin Westlake High School, former head coach at North Texas and a former quarterback for the Longhorns, said a draft should never have an effect on a recruit’s decision.

Dodge played at Texas from 1982-85. In that span, he saw several teammates drafted, including first-round cornerbacks Mossy Cade and Jerry Gray. The 1984 draft class featured 17 Longhorns.

Not having a draftee was an eye-opener, Dodge said, but it shouldn’t be a discussion piece in relation to Texas’ recruiting -- particularly with the changing of the guard at head coach.

“If Coach Strong and his staff are on the road making their rounds and people are using common sense, they’ll judge them by what they see,” Dodge said. “Texas has always been in the hunt for great players in the state of Texas. If there’s any doubt, you can always point to the players drafted from Louisville. Coach Strong has a track record that’s proven.”

As for the jokes from rival schools, Vahe understands that they come will with the territory, whether the program goes winless or earns a BCS championship. He also understands that the way to silence some of the jokes is by producing in practices and games and later during NFL combines and workouts. He believes a change for the better is near for the program.

“People love to talk, but it’s nothing big, really,” Vahe said. “I know [Strong] just got there, and they’re all going to start a new era. Hopefully I’ll be one of those who helps start the new era.”
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 spring game draws loaded list 

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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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Dallas NFTC notebook 

April, 5, 2014
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DeSOTO, Texas -- Rain flirted with the Dallas Nike Football Training Camp on Saturday, but held off long enough for seven athletes to earn invitations to The Opening this summer.

Quarterback Kyler Murray, linebacker Malik Jefferson, wide receiver DaMarkus Lodge, offensive lineman Patrick Vahe (Texas commit) and defensive backs Justin Dunning (Texas A&M commit), Will Sunderland Jr and P.J. Mbanasor. all earned golden tickets after stellar performances at DeSoto High School. Murray, Jefferson, Lodge, Vahe and Sunderland were named camp MVPs of their respective positions.


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video Texas got stronger on Saturday with a commitment from an Under Armour All-American offensive lineman.

Houston Westfield offensive tackle Toby Weathersby became commit No. 9 for the Longhorns in the 2015 class when he gave his pledge after attending a spring practice.


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Strong first impressions at junior day

February, 23, 2014
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AUSTIN, Texas -- In the midst of the January recruiting frenzy, a process far more hectic than usual for Texas’ brand new coaching staff, defensive coordinator Vance Bedford submitted a plea on his Twitter account to the class of 2015: Be patient.

The new Longhorns coaches were scrambling to crisscross the state and finish off the recruiting class they inherited. They needed every day they could get.

Once the fax machine was turned off for good on signing day, the next battle began. Charlie Strong and his coaches had 16 days to plan for its first junior day and, truly, its first impression with a brand new batch of recruits.

That big day arrived Saturday. When it was over, the visiting recruits offered a common reaction as they left campus. Texas, they said, seemed different.

[+] EnlargeCameron Townsend
Max Olson/ESPNLinebacker Cameron Townsend says the new Texas coaching staff has made a strong early impression.
“Coach Strong and Coach Mack Brown are two totally different people. But, you know, I still get similar vibes,” Missouri City (Texas) Ridge Point linebacker Cameron Townsend said. “I definitely like the new coaching staff a lot. I really like Coach Strong. He seems like a really legit guy.”

Based on the standards his predecessor established, Strong’s first Texas junior day wasn’t filled with fireworks or countless rapid-fire commitments. But the first step in a long year of recruiting was a successful one.

Offensive tackle Ronnie Major switched his commitment from Baylor to the Longhorns midway through the day. The Huntsville, Texas, lineman landed his offer during the visit and committed on the spot.

Parting ways with Baylor wasn’t easy -- Major had been committed since August -- but it was the relationship he built with Joe Wickline and the staff in the past month that sealed the deal.

“That’s a great coaching staff,” Major said. “I’m going to like playing for them. They said when I come to Texas, we’ll have a great program and I’ll get a lot better.”

Major was one of seven visiting recruits who left town with scholarship offers. Those new offers went to ESPN 300 cornerback Holton Hill, receiver Ryan Newsome, safety DeShon Elliott, defensive end Charles Omenihu, Houston cornerback pledge Jordan Tolbert and a 2016 prospect, tight end Kaden Smith.

Smith already holds offers from the likes of Alabama, Oklahoma, Clemson, Texas A&M and Michigan but had never visited the Longhorns. Strong made it clear just how much Texas needed him.

“We were definitely impressed with Coach Strong,” said Janell Smith, his mother. “He has a lot of energy and it looks like a great future here.”

Hill, a corner from Houston Lamar, received the second offer of the day and admitted he’s built up a stronger relationship with this staff in a short period of time than he had with previous Texas coaches.

“I actually liked it better,” Hill said of the coaching change. “I like the coaching staff. I feel like I’ll have a better connection to them.”

Former LSU commit Xavier Lewis (Laplace, La./East St. John) remembers the first thing Strong said to him Saturday when they shook hands was simple: “I want you here.”

“Coach [Chris] Vaughn and Coach Bedford, they’re not all just about football,” the ESPN 300 cornerback said. “They’re about building you up as a man. I liked that [Strong] was really hands-on with everybody and moving around and talking to everybody.”

The experience had to be somewhat surreal for the six prospects committed to Texas. Brown and his assistants had recruited them for nearly a full year and convinced them they belonged on the 40 Acres. How would the new staff make them feel wanted?

That’s a question ESPN 300 running back Jordan Stevenson wanted to answer. The Dallas South Oak Cliff standout was recently offered by Alabama but says he’s confident he’ll still feel comfortable at Texas, no matter who’s coaching him.

Stevenson made his verbal pledge one day after Texas’ stunning Red River Rivalry victory over Oklahoma in October. A lot has changed since then.

“Everything happened so fast,” he said. “But now I’m stronger and prouder of the decision I made. I don’t ever question that. It’s a blessing.”

When his cousins Sione Teuhema and Maea Teuhema decommitted from Texas earlier this month and chose LSU, Patrick Vahe knew many expected him to do the same.

The ESPN 300 offensive guard from Euless (Texas) Trinity said he isn’t having second thoughts after spending time with Strong and his coaches. He brought his entire family along for the visit and was proud of what he witnessed.

“The coaches had a really close bond, and it only took them a few weeks to get that,” Vahe said. “That said a lot about them, about how they communicate with each other and get on the same page. I feel like they’ll do the same with the players.

“I’m not following people. I’ve thought about it and I think UT is the best place for me. Coach Strong, he showed us a lot.”

Corpus Christi (Texas) Flour Bluff cornerback Jalen Campbell is one of the leaders of that committed class. He still has lots of love for Brown and what he did at Texas.

But after Saturday, Campbell can’t wait to see what’s coming next.

“You could tell everybody was ready to go. The main goal is winning,” Campbell said. “I think, for the most part, the coaches were more serious. They were smiling, but they’re ready to go.”

Strong, Texas hosting first junior day 

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Texas takes its first big step toward building up its 2015 recruiting class under new coach Charlie Strong on Saturday, with the Longhorns’ first junior day of the year.

The Longhorns are reportedly bringing in as many as 70 prospects for unofficial campus visits this weekend, including six committed prospects and more than a dozen ranked in the ESPN 300.


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Big 12 recruiting storylines: Sept. 5 

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College football is in full effect, but high school football opened with a bang as well. From SportsCenter-worthy catches to conflicting reports about a Big 12 commit -- or decommit, depending on which side you believe -- the weekend is expected to provide a lot of enthusiasm and excitement.

Here’s a look at some of the Big 12 storylines:


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RecruitingNation released its first ever ESPN junior 300 in mid-July, and a slew of already committed prospects have put six programs off to an electric start in the 2015 recruiting cycle. With the college season just days away, here are the fast starters with future commitments on the horizon.


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Texas landed commit No. 8 for its 2015 class on Sunday, and once again the pledge came from a member of the ESPN Junior 300.

Euless (Texas) Trinity offensive guard Patrick Vahe became the fourth lineman to commit to the Longhorns’ next class during the Longhorn’s Texas Stampede recruiting event on Saturday, but didn’t announce it until a day later.

“It feels amazing,” Vahe said. “It feels good. I’m very blessed.”

Vahe is ranked No. 4 ranked among guard prospects and No. 79 in the ESPN 300, and Texas was the first and only school to offer him thus far. The 6-foot-4, 280-pound junior also received interest from Utah, Utah State and Nevada.

Word got out of Vahe’s pledge to UT on Saturday night, but he said he didn’t announce it because his cellphone died on his way home from the visit. It was the second visit Vahe had made to Texas’ campus in a week after an unofficial visit on Monday.

“It was really fun on Saturday,” Vahe said. “Everyone made me feel at home. I just wanted my family to be able to watch me play in college, and that was one of the reasons. I liked the opportunity and I feel like I should be a part of their team.”

For Vahe, a commitment to the Longhorns was no surprise after his cousins, Keller (Texas) 2014 defensive end Sione Teuhema and 2015 tackle Maea Teuhema, committed in May.

Vahe was expected to attend the program’s new “Texas Stampede” recruiting event this Saturday, but he instead chose to do his visit to Austin to better get to know the coaching staff and all that the Longhorns have to offer.

He’d considered pulling the trigger on a commitment at Texas camp in June, but Vahe was unable to attend. He made up for that with a pair of visits that sold him on joining the Longhorns’ impressive 2015 class.

“I told them at the end of the day I was committing,” Vahe said. “It was really exciting. I just liked the way they brought me into their school and showed me around and made me feel at home.”

Vahe is the fourth offensive lineman in the Longhorns’ 2015 class, joining Teuhema and fellow ESPN 300 prospects Aaron Garza (Sherman, Texas/Sherman) and Connor Lanfear (Buda, Texas/Hays).

In fact, all eight members of the Longhorns’ 2015 class made ESPN’s initial Junior 300. Vahe becomes the No. 2 rated prospect in the class behind Teuhema, and he’s ranked No. 11 in the state of Texas.

He’d considered waiting until after his junior season to make a decision, but a chance to stick with the Teuhema brothers at the next level was too good to turn down.

“They were really happy that we’re all going to go to college together,” Vahe said. “I’m happy, too.”

Summer Recruit Wrap: Texas 

July, 23, 2013
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Here is a look at five things we’ve learned about Longhorns recruiting this summer.

1. Suddes making big impact

Patrick Suddes, Texas’ Director of Player Personnel, could go down as one of coach Mack Brown’s best hires in his time at UT. All Suddes has done since coming on board in March is help make smart, innovative decisions that have helped the Longhorns appeal to recruits despite not winning like they’re used to on the field.


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