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Have Texas Longhorns lost DFW recruiting buzz?
February 15, 2011By Tim Polzer of VYPE MAGAZINE - Dallas
Big gets for the Longhorns included DeSoto offensive lineman Curtis Riser, who many believed to be destined for LSU, Denton Ryan linebacker Alex De La Torre and fast-rising Bishop Dunne defensive lineman Alex Norman.
But Texas boosters and chat rooms are worried: Has a program one season removed from playing for a national championship lost its buzz among Dallas-Fort Worth recruits?
Columnists and reporters following UT’s Junior Day results are using terms like, "surprisingly small" and the Horns’ commits as “relatively small.”
Four area players who were offered did not immediately commit to Texas. Denton Ryan defensive end Mario Edwards made a surprise visit to UT’s Junior Day. Aledo running back Johnathan Gray, Skyline receiver Thomas Johnson and Mansfield defensive end Hassan Ridgeway were also offered, but have elected to consider other offers from other schools before committing.
Gray was a high-profile invite, who used the Junior Day weekend to get to know UT’s new offensive staff and ask questions about the program’s offensive scheme.
Edwards was a surprise visitor to Junior Day. Florida State, the alma mater of his father, former Dallas Cowboys defensive back Mario Edwards, is also on his list.
Johnson’s speed has made him a target for recruiters from Big 12 and Pac 10 schools, so he’s in no hurry to commit.
Ridgeway (6-4, 215) is being eyed as a tall, quick defensive end or tight end. He also has offers from TCU and Texas A&M.
A pair of A. Maceo Smith players, safety LaDarrell McNeil and athlete Damien Lawry, attended Texas Junior Day, but offers were unconfirmed.
These talented early UT commits are nothing to sneeze at, but their number is dwarfed by the 13 commits Brown and his staff landed at last year’s Junior Day.
What are the factors behind this reduction in numbers?
The Longhorns’ profile with 2012 recruits may have been weakened by the offseason turnover of UT’s coaching staff. Many junior prospects are entering a “get-to-know-you” period with new offensive coordinator Bryan Harsin and defensive coordinator Manny Diaz, and new faces on their staffs. Plenty of time remains to win over Texas and DFW recruits.
But the early vibe around the area is that Texas isn’t necessarily first in mind for many 2012 recruits.
“Texas recruiting will have more of a national flavor this year,” said VYPE DFW recruiting expert David McNabb. “It’s not so much the new coaching staff. Texas is not so hot on as many Texas kids or DFW kids as they have been. There just isn’t much of a UT buzz.”
The commitment of quarterback Connor Brewer from Chaparral High School in Scottsdale, Ariz., may not be an aberration. Texas’ Class of 2012 commitments could include several out-of-state recruits but very few Dallas-Fort Worth area players. Look to the small number of area players who signed with Texas on Feb. 2.
Of the Longhorns’ 22 2011 signees, three were from DFW schools – running back Joe Bergeron (North Mesquite), offensive lineman Marcus Hutchins (DeSoto) and receiver Miles Onyegbule (Arlington). The trio represents the smallest number of DFW signees in a Texas class in the last five years.
Perhaps the emergence of TCU to national football prominence is stealing some of the DFW thunder of a program one year removed from playing for a national championship. Or maybe it’s just cyclical. The Horns’ class of 2010 was heavy with 11 DFW area signees.
One 2012 commitment could definitely create a firestorm of buzz across North Texas, the state and the nation is Gray, Aledo’s running back and No. 1 on VYPE DFW’s list of area 2012 recruits.
Gray’s father, James, told VYPE DFW that he and his son were impressed with Texas’ new offensive co-coordinators Bryan Harsin and Major Applewhite, and the Horns’ emphasis on running the ball.
“Having a chance to meet the new staff was important because it gave us an idea of which direction they’re going,” James Gray told VYPE DFW. “Offensively, they’re trying to get back to running the football and that is impressive.
“Coach Harsin and Coach Applewhite seem to have a good relationship,” James Gray said. “We also had a chance to meet and talk to returning players. They were excited about the challenge ahead of them.”
"It was really an honor to be invited.”
Longhorns boosters love to hear that, but Gray has yet to accept UT’s offer. The Horns appear to still be on Gray’s list, though Oklahoma, TCU, Texas A&M and Texas Tech remain in contention. He is scheduled to visit Texas A&M’s Junior Day on Feb. 20.
If Gray ends up signing with Texas in 2012, few will question the Longhorns’ recruiting of Dallas-Fort Worth.