Ketchum intrigued by new staff
"They have a great new coaching staff that all wants to win," he said. "They are all very active. They were very talkative. Their coaching staff got better. They want to win."
Ketchum has been to Texas' campus several times so this trip was all about getting a feel for the new staff.
"I was anxious to see the coaching staff and see how more aggressive they were toward wanting to win," he said. "They were very aggressive."
How did this staff differ from the previous staff?
"The head coach was more active," Ketchum said. "He was talking with everyone. He is very strong-minded and about his business. He wants to do whatever it takes to win.
"This staff is way more active toward the players. The other coaching staff was basically ‘hello' and then move on. This staff really wanted to get to know you."
We have Ketchum rated as the No. 17 safety in the country but he's got his mind set on quarterback at the next level. That's the exact position Strong's staff sees him playing in their system, which was music to his ears.
"They mainly today told me about quarterback, strictly quarterback," Ketchum said. "They wasn't talking about any other position, just quarterback."
Ketchum did say that while it was nice to hear, all schools are equal right now.
What could eventually give the Longhorns the edge is quarterbacks coach Shawn Watson.
"Coach Watson is a great coach," Ketchum said. "He is very passionate about what he wants to do and what he wants out of his quarterbacks. He was very upfront with you, really.
"He said they want to have a balanced offense. You know he came from Teddy Bridgewater, who is a balanced quarterback. He said he wants to pass when needed and run when needed. Whatever it takes to win basically."
Asked if it helps Texas out that Watson just coached Bridgewater, who will be among the top quarterbacks selected in the NFL Draft, Ketchum responded: "You could say that."
Coach Talks Massive 2016 DT
With the previous staff, all it took was 2016 Killeen Shoemaker defensive tackle Kendell Jones walking into a room, a swear word or two about how he looked and an offer followed soon after. And while the new staff needed to see Jones for themselves, the process didn't play out all that differently.
As William wrote, Jones received an offer from the new coaching staff at JD2 on Saturday. And as Killeen Shoemaker defensive coordinator Kevin Ellison said, when asked when the offer came, "It happened as soon as he walked in."
"You can see that there's a difference between him and a lot of people," Ellison said.
No kidding. Texas measured Jones at 6-4.5 and 320 pounds on Saturday, and back during the season, he had 6 percent body fat.
LonghornDigest.com was the first site to mention Jones as a potential guy after seeing him play in person in Shoemaker's third game against Round Rock Stony Point. Then-Texas assistant Darrell Wyatt was in attendance watching both Jones and 2015 Stony Point WR Justin Gamble that night, and Texas invited Jones out to a game soon after.
Since then, per Ellison, he's visited Baylor and Texas A&M, though he's at such a preliminary stage in his recruitment that there aren't any favorites. Schools like Oklahoma and Arkansas have also tried to get him up on campus, but at this point, Jones is visiting the closer schools that the Shoemaker coaching staff is able to drive him to.
You could see that Jones was still figuring things out against Stony Point, though he did make a couple of 'WOW' plays that gave glimpses into his potential. I asked Ellison whether those plays became more frequent
"He had a couple of games in there where he had gotten cut a couple of times on his legs so he was hobbling a little bit," Ellison said. "So he spent two or three games where he was really recovering. But he started figuring out some stuff, and that's what this year was about for him: understanding what's happening and figuring out what's going on.
"He got a lot done to him this year," Ellison said. "Double teams, triple teams. We paused it one time, there were three guys and he's just sitting there holding them. Those are the kinds of things I show his teammates and say 'this is the kind of work guys like this have to do every play.'"
Shoemaker saw a huge improvement this year, jumping from 2-8 in 2012 to a 7-4 mark with a playoff loss to Mansfield Timberview in 2013. And Ellison said that would only help his young players, like Jones, continue to get better.
For now, he's a top-five prospect in-state for 2016, with a chance for serious national recognition down the road, and he's one of a few 2016s who can say they've been offered by the new Texas staff. (Flaherty)
Keke in line for offer?
Class of 2015 three-star defensive end Kingsley Keke (Richmond, Texas/George Ranch) isn't hurting for offers. But he wouldn't mind one from Texas either.
Keke (6-foot-4, 285 pounds) made the trip down for Texas' junior day on Saturday and found out that the Longhorns like him in the interior of the line instead of out wide, which was perfectly OK for him.
"They like me a lot there because I have good athleticism and good size," he said.
While no offer was extended, Keke seems to think that one could be on the way pretty soon.
"They want me to come back up here for the spring and call them next week," he said. "Hopefully they offer next week."
That's music to the ears of Keke, especially since he never even talked to the last staff. Despite his unfamiliarity with his surroundings on Saturday, the talented edge rusher felt right at home.
"I know it is a great school so if they offered me anything can happen," he said. "I would love to come to Texas."
Keke, who is being recruited by running backs coach Tommie Robinson, loved that Texas spent so much time stressing academics.
"We stood there for 30 minutes talking about academics, getting the right SAT score and stuff. It went great," he said.
He'll be visiting Oklahoma on March 30 and Oklahoma State on April 5. (Wilkerson)
QB Firmly On Texas's Radar
One of the more interesting positions on Texas's mind for the 2015 class is quarterback. The Longhorns have extended six offers to QBs in the 2015 class, and at this point, the plan appears to be to take two.
And because Texas doesn't seem to be in a great position for many they've offered — Ricky Town is committed to USC, Kyler Murray is a Texas A&M legacy and lean, Jarrett Stidham hasn't really been an option so far and Josh Rosen is a heavily recruited out-of-stater — it's opened up a truly intriguing 'B' list of guys who could get offers with guys like Southlake Carroll's Ryan Agnew, Kingswood Park's Jaylon Henderson and JD2 visitor Quinten Dormady of Boerne.
Dormady was the District 27 AAA Offensive MVP and Dave Campbell's 3A Sophomore of the Year in 2012, a year when he threw for 3,010 yards and 27 touchdowns to nine interceptions. But he tore his labrum playing baseball and didn't play as a junior.
According to his dad, Boerne head coach Mike Dormady, Quinten is back at 100 percent, and will soon start throwing practice with his teammates in 7-on-7 type situations.
"We like where he's at," Mike said. "Not only is he 100 percent, but he's throwing with more velocity than he had before the injury."
Dormady is also an excellent baseball player, but he's sitting out this spring to focus 100 percent on football. And his year off has done nice things for his frame, with him boosting his weight up to 210 pounds on his 6-foot-4 frame.
Per Mike, Texas didn't offer Quinten on Saturday, though he said that wasn't a problem. In fact, Mike said he was encouraged by the fact that the Longhorns appeared to be taking it slow at quarterback and not rushing into things.
Certainly, that would appear to be a major bonus for Dormady, who should have a chance to throw for the coaches this spring, and probably at a camp this summer, before making a decision on his status. Before the injury, Tennessee was pretty interested, and several other top schools figure to watch how he throws the ball once the spring evaluation period starts. (Flaherty)
Dallas-area WR has Texas in Top 5
One of the more intriguing prospects on campus Saturday was wide receiver Jaelan Austin (Grand Prairie, Texas/South Grand Prairie), simply because he could potentially play on either side of the ball.
"I prefer wide receiver but playing defense isn't a problem for me," he said. "I start at corner in high school so I could play it."
The Longhorns would like to use him at wide receiver if they end up offering. Because of that, Austin spent most of his time with wide receivers coach Les Koenning.
"He's a good coach. He basically broke it down to us that if you aren't a smart receiver then you can't play here," he said. "You have to be intellectually strong and be an athlete on the field."
Austin, who had visited Texas for a 1-day camp over the summer, said he could see a totally different mentality in the new staff.
"Totally different philosophy," he said. "They were being aggressive the whole time. It's going to be a completely different Texas program."
Austin said both staffs were aggressive but that the tempo of this staff "is times 10 right now."
Expect the Longhorns to watch Austin this spring.
In the meantime, he said he'd visit Iowa in a week and then Arkansas after that. (Wilkerson)
Antoine big on UT
Texas is taking a longer look at Louisiana, and one player the Longhorns have their eye on is 2016 cornerback Malik Antoine (Baton Rouge, La./University Laboratory School). Antoine was in attendance at Texas's second Junior Day, and said he really enjoyed the experience, including the campus, the coaching staff and the "opportunities they have here." But it was clear after talking to him that the thing that stood out most was "just the friendliness of the coaches."
"They treated me like I was their family and really their friend," Antoine said. "They were really kind to me and I liked that."
A big part of that was Antoine's developing relationship with defensive backs coach Chris Vaughn.
"The DB coach was great, Coach Vaughn, I talked to him a lot today," Antoine said Saturday. "I really liked the way he approached me and how he came to me. He told me where I stand in all this for him and where he sees me in the future. I really liked that about him."
Antoine didn't receive an offer, but one could be coming in the future.
"Coach Vaughn told me he really, really likes me," Antoine said. "He's coming to see me in the spring and he really wants me to come to camp this year.
"He wants more time to see me," Antoine said.
Antoine said Vaughn told him that he loved his highlights.
"He said he really enjoyed my ball skills," Antoine said. "He said every time there was a jump ball in the air, I was able to get it. He said I was more physical than others."
Antoine has been by the home state school*, LSU, several times over the past year, including a trip to LSU's Junior Day in February. And though his only offer is Akron, that figures to change pretty rapidly. Could one come from Texas? Put it this way: Antoine isn't against coming back and earning an offer on the practice fields at Frank Denius.
"I will be coming back for camp this summer," Antoine said. "I don't know which session I'll be going to, but I'll be coming back." (Flaherty)
* Calling LSU his "home state school" probably isn't telling the whole story. University Lab is actually affiliated with LSU, and sits right on LSU campus. So while Antoine has visited LSU several times this past year, he's there pretty much every day.
Staff makes strong impression on 2015 DT
The 6-foot-4, 305-pound lineman doesn't have any offers yet but feels he moved closer to getting one from the Longhorns.
"They are going to come out in the spring so they can evaluate me," Brown said. "I'll most definitely come back here for a camp this summer and probably come back for a spring practice."
Stacy Searels recruited him under Mack Brown so he had prior knowledge of Texas' program before he arrived Saturday. But he could sense a new direction under Charlie Strong.
"It just felt like a family," he said. "The new coaching staff and the players here, just a family. The coaching staff seems to be better than the last coaching staff. I really like the coaching staff."
What really garnered Brown's praise was Strong's attention to detail in all things academics.
"Coach Strong wasn't just harping on football but also education," he said. "The first thing he pointed out was education, education, education. You can worry about football later. That's how we do it at my school and how I do it in my personal life.
"They just showed us the standard that they want and what the NCAA requires. They just want us to exceed those standards. They told us about all the hours you are going to have to spend on studying. There won't be a lot of parties. That's fine with me."
One potential hold up with Brown could be that he needs to get his SAT scores into the staff. He plans to do so once he takes the test on April 16. (Wilkerson)
Surprise offensive lineman visits
Junior Days can be a bit like a kid opening presents under the Christmas Tree. Sure, some things are what you wanted, directly off the top of the wish list. Other gifts that were high on the list probably didn't make it under the tree. And every kid gets some surprise gifts that weren't on his list. Some of those turn out to be duds, others turn out to be outstanding presents.
One pleasant surprise, at least from an on-the-hoof standpoint, was Aaron Wiltz (Baton Rouge, La./Catholic). A 2015 offensive guard who helps to pave the way for Longhorn running back offer Derrius Guice, Wiltz wasn't on anybody's JD2 list, but was high on the "Who's THAT guy?!" list in walking up to Moncrief.
At 6-5 270 and displaying a nice motor on tape, Wiltz is a bit of a mystery as far as the recruiting scene goes with no offers so far.
On one hand, it's early enough in the process that it's not altogether shocking that the offers haven't come in yet. And Texas offensive line coach Joe Wickline has excelled at taking under-the-radar guys and fine tuning their game.
Wiltz said after Texas's Junior Day that the Longhorns didn't discuss an offer, but he also mentioned that "it's definitely an option for me to to go here," and "it's definitely on my list."
Wiltz said Texas was "a nice school" and added that he enjoyed the bond that the football program had with academics.
He added that he wants to work on his short area quickness and continue to get stronger in the offseason.
With schools flocking by to see Guice this spring, among others, Wiltz shouldn't be a surprise for much longer. He'll certainly be one to watch through the spring evaluation period and on into summer camp season.
New safety target emerges
The Longhorns have already targeted their top safety prospects in 2015, but with two of those committed to Texas A&M and one pledged to Alabama they are forced to look elsewhere.
One target that has come to light is three-star Kahlil Haughton (Waco, Texas/Midway).
The No. 31 safety in the country was at Texas' junior day and got positive feedback from the staff, in particularly defensive backs coach Chris Vaughn.
"They said they'd be recruiting me pretty hard," he said. "Right now they just wanted me to come down and meet the staff in person and get a better feel for them so they could get a better feel for me."
Haughton said that, with him at least, the day wasn't spent all on x's and o's.
"We didn't talk much about the position itself or the defense, but what they expect from us as far as off the field and how they want us to be trained as a person," he said. "Definitely was a great impression. They not only want to make you better football players but better men in life."