It will have all the latest team and recruiting news and what we're hearing in an easy, one-stop shopping format. If you read only one thing all week at HD (and we want you to read everything!), make sure you read this.
Without further delay, we present to you HD Only.
One of the byproducts of a head football coach who has a full sweat going by 6 am every day (because of a 6-mile run at 4:30 am), is the coach having a constant presence in a 6 am study hall for roughly a dozen players last semester.
So when the entire team wasn't working out at 6 am, there were heads in books at 6 am, and Strong and his coaches were right there with them.
With finals completed last week, the results of those 6 am study halls and a coaching staff willing to invest that same time, side by side, appear to have paid off in all the right ways.
"Players considered on the fence as far as buy-in dating to last year – players whose names are well known because of previous academic or off-field turbulence – Daje Johnson, Desmond Harrison, Kennedy Estelle and Jalen Overstreet – all turned in strong spring semesters."
Players considered on the fence as far as buy-in dating to last year – players whose names are well known because of previous academic or off-field turbulence – Daje Johnson, Desmond Harrison, Kennedy Estelle and Jalen Overstreet – all turned in strong spring semesters.
And Joe Bergeron, who may have questioned authority at every turn in the past, now seems to realize Charlie Strong and his coaching staff aren't just talk. The word is Bergeron has so turned around his attitude and approach - to everything - after last semester that coaches expect him to be a team leader.
That may sound like fluff. But Bergeron had a reputation as a locker room lawyer, a guy whose anger might cause his mouth to get him trouble - especially with coaches.
The sense when Bergeron was basically excused from football by Strong to focus on his academics during spring football was Bergeron could bolt. Transfer. Even though he's going into his senior year.
Strong wasn't going to let that happen. Not if Bergeron truly wanted to listen. And Bergeron wanted to listen.
"Strong has said he can't count how many times he's had black players in his coaching career who were not used to male authority - away from home - because those players were raised in a single-parent household by their mother."
Strong has said he can't count how many times he's had black players in his coaching career who were not used to male authority - away from home - because those players were raised in a single-parent household by their mother.
Getting those players to understand why they might resist men telling them what to do is another matter. And that's why Strong himself spends so much time around his players, pushing, prodding, dictating, teasing, laughing but ultimately listening.
They have to know he cares. He and his staff, led by strength coach Pat Moorer, are going to move the finish line in terms of grind, sweat and expectations. But because of the personal investment by Strong and his staff, the players know all the tough love is to improve a kid's life. Not his football. His life.
Strong doesn't harp on making sure kids are in class and paying attention as some form of punishment (when other students at UT may skip classes on a whim).
At his other coaching stops - at Notre Dame and South Carolina under Lou Holtz, at Florida under Ron Zook and Urban Meyer and as head coach at Louisville - players eventually find out Strong's mission is a personal one to give players the tools for a successful life - whether or not they ever make it as a football player.
"And Strong doesn't let up. The 6 am study halls aren't a shitty part of the job for him. It's the most important part of the job for him."
And Strong doesn't let up. The 6 am study halls aren't a shitty part of the job for him. It's the most important part of the job for him. When Shawn Watson told me Strong "parents" his players. This is the tough love aspect of the job where Strong wins the hearts and minds of his players by going into their personal foxhole.
No one wants to go to a 6 am study hall. But in that time before sunrise, player and coach are getting to know each other in ways neither expected. The player's bullshit excuses are exposed for what they are. But if the coach exposes it in a way that pushes, pulls but ultimately praises the player, then the player knows it's real.
In the end, that player will go through hell for that coach. And if he ultimately makes a decision that leads to failure, that player will know he not only failed himself, but he failed someone who went all in to help improve that player's life. Not his football. His life. (Chip Brown)
Is Steve Patterson playing hide and seek with $15 million that was just approved by the UT Board of Regents for a new tennis facility at Texas?
When I went to the UT Athletics Council meeting on Tuesday, I had a handful of questions for Patterson:
Question No. 1)Has there been discussion about playing what would be considered low-interest non-conference basketball games in Gregory Gym next season to help encourage attendance by making them more accessible to students?
With the medical school construction issues on Red River in front of the Erwin Center, small-crowd non-conference games could mean really small crowds.
And even though I've heard this idea is at least being talked about, from more than one credible source, Patterson said there has been no discussion of this.
Question No. 2)Then I asked him about the tennis facility. For weeks and months, Patterson has talked about this project as a front-burner priority.
Privately, however, Patterson was giving off different signals about whether the money for the new tennis facility was going to come from "auxiliary funds" or budgeted funds or if the money would have to be raised.
"Trying to get a straight answer out of Patterson on Tuesday was way too hard."
Trying to get a straight answer out of Patterson on Tuesday was way too hard.
I even asked if he planned to try to raise as much of the $15 million as he could before turning to the budgeted funds.
Penick-Allison, Texas' current tennis facility, is being detonated on June 1 to make room for UT's new medical school. The current plan is for the men's and women's tennis teams to play at UT's intramural tennis courts - at 51st and Lamar - for the 2014-15 school year.
That's supposed to be temporary while UT builds a new, state-of-the-art tennis facility capable of hosting future NCAA Championships and other pro tennis events, such as Davis Cup.
"But asking people in the athletic department simple questions such as when will ground be broken on the new facility – with the regents approving the funding – cause people to break out in a cold sweat."
But asking people in the athletic department simple questions such as when will ground be broken on the new facility – with the regents approving the funding – cause people to break out in a cold sweat.
I asked Ed Goble, head of operations for Texas athletics, and Goble wanted no part of answering anything about the tennis facility. When I told Goble the regents had approved the money, he said, "They approved the design."
I said, no, they approved the money. He deferred any more questions to Patterson.
Patterson's communications director, Nick Voinis, just kept saying to every question I asked about the tennis facility, "That's yet to be determined."
When I finally was able to ask Patterson, while basically running to keep up with him as he raced out of the council meeting to catch up to Charlie Strong's tour stop in Waco, he just hemmed and hawed.
"There's still a lot of work to do," Patterson said. "We have to go over design. There's just a lot still to do."
When I said the money and the design have been approved, so was he just wanting to raise as much money as possible before having to break ground, he said again, "We've got a lot of work to do."
I spoke to several boosters over the past two days, one of whom said Patterson doesn't want to spend $15 million on a facility for a sport that doesn't generate revenue.
That booster said Patterson appears prepared to basically leave it to the donors to decide if Texas is going to have a first-rate tennis facility or if Texas' tradition-rich tennis programs will be playing matches at the equivalent of public park courts for the foreseeable future. (Even though there's already budgeted money for the facility.)
One booster said, "If Patterson plays that game of chicken, he could be cutting his own throat before even getting started. One thing he's going to have to learn about Texas is supporters are not going to be guilted into giving money."
Patterson is about to embark on a fund-raising tour of his own. He is scheduled to be in Dallas with some of UT's heavy hitters next week. Patterson wants to raise $200 million to endow all the scholarships in Texas athletics. He plans to do it by telling boosters if there's a sport at UT they are passionate about, step forward and endow a scholarship (or more) in that sport.
At this point, Patterson has all options available as it pertains to his first, front-burner project as athletic director - that pesky, new tennis facility, which supposedly needs to break ground by September to be ready for the 2015-16 school year.
But even Patterson said during an interview with Evan Smith of the Texas Tribune last week, when asked about a new tennis facility, "When the money is raised, we'll build a new one."
Everyone has already seen how hard-charging Patterson is as a GM-style athletic director, racing beer and wine sales at UT sporting events into existence as a pilot program for doing the same at football games.
"I'm told Patterson is already planning on beer and wine sales at football games this fall. But he doesn't want it in the public domain for fear it could get bogged down in political debate."
I'm told Patterson is already planning on beer and wine sales at football games this fall. But he doesn't want it in the public domain for fear it could get bogged down in political debate.
Did Patterson even consult Rick Barnes before scheduling the Longhorns' basketball season-opener in China against Washington in November of 2015?
That's an 11-day trip - with a return less than 36 hours from a trip the team was already taking to the Bahamas for a previously scheduled tournament. Missed class time? Jet lag?
Barnes wasn't available for comment, but Barnes is all about quality practices and routine once the season starts. Or at least he has been in the past. Nothing routine about nearly three weeks out of the country to start a season.
Patterson says the trip is a great cultural learning experience for everyone involved, making it worth the missed class time. He joked team tutors will have to work overtime.
But anytime you get Patterson going about China, he'll tell you how UCLA has 70 retail outlets in China already and how Texas is so far behind in that market.
"Steve Patterson is a hard-charger," said a source that worked with Patterson in the front office of a pro team. "And he's very sure of his way of doing things. But he's going to step on toes. He'll have to decide whose toes."
Patterson's GM-style as athletic director definitely has everyone in UT athletics scrambling to keep up and guessing about what's coming next.
No one is saying Patterson has done anything wrong at this point. But many of the folks who have written big checks in the past are watching his every serve and volley right now. (Chip Brown)
Lockhart wants to hear more from UT, or else…
If Mack Brown and his staff were still in charge at Texas, four-star defensive end James Lockhart (Ennis, Texas) thinks things would be drastically different between he and the Longhorns.
As it stands, UT has a commitment from rising star Charles Omenihu (Rowlett, Texas) and is in the market for at least one, possibly two more defensive ends.
But with plenty of attention spreading to other prospects (Takkarist McKinley and Motekiai Maile), Lockhart doesn't feel like he's receiving the attention he believes he should warrant if Texas is serious about him.
"They came and watched me practice. But as far as talking with them, I talk to them very rarely now."
"The relationship with the new coaching staff is a little different," he said. "I know when Mack Brown was there they recruited me harder than they do now. I know last week they were in town. They came and watched me practice. But as far as talking with them, I talk to them very rarely now."
The reason for this is lost on Lockhart, the No. 75 player in the country, who stands 6-foot-3 and 250 pounds.
"I really don't know. I have met Coach [Charlie] Strong during the offseason," he said. "He came and met me, he and Coach [Bruce] Chambers. I hear other commitments from UT say that the coaching staff loves me, and they think highly of me, but I really don't talk to them much. I used to talk to them like crazy."
The good news for Texas is Lockhart hasn't begun to narrow things down yet, and the Longhorns are still very much in the mix.
"I know they have a defensive end committed there already," he said. "I'm not trying to brag but he's not ranked as high as I am."
"I know they have a defensive end committed there already," he said. "I'm not trying to brag but he's not ranked as high as I am. I don't know what the case is. I don't know if they feel like they can't get me. I don't know. I'm interested in Texas. I haven't narrowed anything down. But it's just if they aren't going to show me interest I will move on. I have other options."
And not just any options but life-changing options. In addition to Texas, Lockhart has offers from Alabama, Arizona State, Arkansas, Baylor, California, Colorado, Iowa, Kansas State, Miami, Mississippi, Mississippi State, Missouri, Notre Dame, Ohio State, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Oregon State, Penn State, TCU, Texas A&M, Texas Tech, and Washington State.
"All the smaller schools are starting to back off and the bigger schools are taking a toll," Lockhart said. "I talk to Alabama a lot, A&M a lot, Florida State a lot. All these big time schools are starting to come in and recruit me really hard."
All of this attention has only made Lockhart hungrier to be the best. He's not satisfied with being the top-rated DE in the state of Texas, he wants that No. 1 spot in the country (currently 10th).
"I'm not satisfied. To tell you the truth, I don't think I'm at my full potential right now," he said. "I see so much room for improvement. I just think I'm decent. I'm very critical and hard on myself.
"Let's talk numbers real quick. Last season I had 122 tackles, 8.5 sacks, 21 QB pressures and three forced fumbles. To tell you the truth, that's really nothing.."
"Let's talk numbers real quick. Last season I had 122 tackles, 8.5 sacks, 21 QB pressures and three forced fumbles. To tell you the truth, that's really nothing. I'm going to go out and work harder than I ever have and try to go out with a bang my senior year."
Perhaps that will entice Texas to go after him harder than he says it is. Or not. Either way, Lockhart is all in on trying to become the best player he can be.
And while he hasn't narrowed anything down just yet, he gets the sense that he'll do so sooner rather than later considering all the commitments that are happening right now.
"It's hard. I want to take my official visits," he said. "But, at the same time, once football season is here, I'm really gambling. Really I'm gambling as it is right now. The end of your junior season is when people start to commit. On top of that, knock on wood, but if I get hurt then there goes a bunch of offers. I'm not doing this intentionally. I really don't have an idea where I want to go. I have a general idea. But I want to take some visits."
That includes another visit to UT and then to "Arkansas, Alabama and Florida State."
"I'll try to commit in August," he said. "If not I'll commit when I play in an All-American game." (William Wilkerson)
Siverand hints at staying in state
There's been plenty of Internet fodder about four-star wide receiver Kemah Siverand (Houston/Cy Ridge) and his desire to stay in Texas for college, particularly at either UT or Texas A&M.
When asked to confirm or dispel those rumors, Siverand answered like a veteran recruit who'd been through this a time or two before.
"I don't want to say that there's no truth," he said. "Texas and Texas A&M, I like both schools but there are things I have to look at. You can't base your decision on just making it in your home state. There are plenty of opportunities outside of the state too."
So there's one way of looking at it. Both rivals are in good shape but there could be opportunities outside of the state's borders that interest him enough.
However, when pressed a bit more about his comfort level with leaving the state of Texas for college you get a sense for where his allegiances really are.
"I don't have any issues, really," he said of going out of state for school. "But you never know how that experience is going to be once you actually get to that school. I could enjoy a visit but it's not always going to be like that."
"I don't have any issues, really," he said of going out of state for school. "But you never know how that experience is going to be once you actually get to that school. I could enjoy a visit but it's not always going to be like that."
Texas, for one, is making it hard for him to leave. As one of the Longhorns main receiving targets, UT is putting a full court press on the 6-foot, 180-pound playmaker. But they are not alone.
"Texas came by last week on Wednesday," he said. "That day, Arizona State came, Texas A&M was there, TCU was there, and Maryland was there too. All these fingers are pointed at you. You can't please everybody. It's hard dealing with all that attention."
Siverand said he's been to Texas and Texas A&M too many times to count. He mentioned he'd visited UT's campus at least five times, including twice for Texas Relays and then at least three or four unofficial visits with his parents and coaches. But there are other schools he needs to visit before he really begins to narrow things down.
"As far as new schools, I just got offered by Washington," he said. "That went pretty well when I spoke to the coaches. Like I've said, I'm just trying to build relationships with these coaches. For the most part I just need to try and get up there and see what the feel is. If I'm going to spend the next three to five years of my life somewhere it has to feel like home.
"I've already been to all the schools here in the state except for Baylor and TCU. Baylor just mentioned to me that they wouldn't be recruiting me because they are stacked at receiver. I'm going to have to visit Texas Tech too. I haven't visited them yet."
Aside from a pass-heavy offense, Siverand is hoping to find a coaching staff he can feel at home with and one he feels will be there through the entirety of his career.
"I need a coaching staff that's going to stay there for my time," he said. "Because once that coaching staff leaves everything messes up because I wont have the same recruiter, the same position coach, etc. A lot of things get messed up."
In addition to Texas, Texas A&M, and Washington, Siverand has offers from Arkansas, Louisville, Michigan State, Northwestern, Ohio State, Oklahoma State, TCU, Texas Tech, and Wake Forest. [Wilkerson]
Q&A with Higdon
If you've got questions for Higdon that you want answered in the next HD Only, ask them here.
Q: Besides Charles Omenihu, which other 2015 defensive ends do you expect to sign with UT?
A: I do not want to discount Charles because the staff absolutely loves his work ethic, athletic ability and his off-the-field attitude. He is 6-foot-5, 225-pounds and still growing. More than a few big time programs are coming after Omenihu (LSU today) but Charlie Strong and company got in the game early and secured his verbal commitment.
Could Texas get in the game with Georgia verbal Quincy Vasser? Yes they could but Texas offered a bit late and Georgia is in the drive seat in a major way (two high school teammates play for UGA).
I would keep an eye on Takkarist McKinley from San Pablo (CA) Contra Costa. He is a 6-foot-4, 235-pound edge rusher that absolutely has the attention of the coaching staff. Defensive line coach Chris Rumph has already made a visit out to California to see Takk and that is a GREAT sign because Strong is not going to allow anyone on his staff to simply fly all across the country unless he feels they have a valid chance at landing that particular prospect.
If Ennis (TX) standout James Lockhart attends and works out for Strong at one of Texas' camps, he could find his way into the class. He is a 6-foot-3, 250-pound standout DE with numerous offers. Strong is not going to get into a habit of taking commitments without getting to know the families or the kid.
One player all Texas fans should pay attention to is from Tyler (TX) Junior College and his name is Motekiai Maile. He is a taller, leaner type of defensive end but he has also caught the eye of Strong and Rumph.
I think you will see three defensive end types in the class. Do not be surprised if you see another name pop up after camp.
Q: Which one of these defensive end recruits (if any) can come in and fight for playing time as a freshman?
A: Certainly I feel that both Maile and McKinley would walk in and compete for playing time from Day 1. It would be tough for any high school defensive end to come in and play as a true freshman unless he is physically ready. And while Charles could be that guy he has some weight/strength to add. He is a great kid with a great work ethic so I would NOT put it past him.
Q: What are the top three positions of need right now and who are the biggest targets/most likely commitments for each group?
A: Outside of the QB position, no one position is greater than the other. They are equally important in my mind. Having said that, the future of your program is built around the play of the quarterback. The future of this program will rest on the shoulders of Zach Gentry.
With Gentry in place I believe the defensive backfield and offensive line are two of the main priorities followed closely by the linebacker position.
The defensive backfield board for Texas is LOADED in 2015. With UT having two verbal commitments from the safety position (Deshon Elliott and Keivon Ramsey) it is all about CBs from this point forward.
The main names to keep an eye on are Kendall Sheffield, Kris Boyd, Holton Hill, PJ Mbanasor, Xavier Lewis and Roney Elam. Texas will land two off that list and, if things fall their way, they could take three corners this cycle.
Offensive linemen Toby Weathersby, Ronnie Major (Joe Wickline will see today by the way) and Patrick Vahe have already verbally committed to Texas. With those three on board UT would like to secure two more verbal commitments and take five OL this season.
Keep a close eye on Madison Akamnonu (Arlington, Texas/Bowie) who visits on May 31st. All Texas fans should be tracking Madison as his visit date approaches. Garrett Thomas was recently offered by Texas and he was waiting on the Longhorns to get in the game. He will visit Texas in the near future.
One player I believe you will see things heat up with is Notre Dame verbal Jerry Tillery. Keep an eye on him to see if he steps foot in Austin soon.
Q: How do you see Texas' quarterback situation playing out in 2015? Will UT stick with Zach Gentry or will they go after another quarterback like a JUCO player or college transfer?
A: Gentry, Gentry and more Gentry. Texas has checked in with over a dozen JUCO players/QB transfers but doesn't feel the need to add another one at this moment. [Higdon]
April practices bring May surprises
Spring travels always results with players to watch for the younger recruiting classes and this week we found two players that we think Texas fans may be interested to note going forward.
The first is West Mesquite wide receiver Dee Anderson. At 6-foot-4, 175 pounds he has the size, ability and confidence to be an outside vertical playmaker in almost any offense, and that is why you see hos offer list picking up as major colleges are starting to extend him scholarship offers. UCLA, Boise State and Washington being some the early notables. Could Texas be one of the next to get in the game? That remains to be seen, but the work is cut out for them if they do. Early indicators are that Anderson could be an SEC lean.
I guess in this day and age it is never too early and a number of 2017 prospects are starting to be uncovered. Last week Horns Digest told you to keep an eye on Junior Dorbah, a cornerback from Dallas Conrad, but this week we uncovered another true gem in Jeffrey Okudah, a 6-foot-1, 175-pound athlete from South Grand Prairie. He is as well put together of any prospect we have seen in any class. He could end up playing a number of positions by the time he is done developing, but had extensive playing time against 5A competition as a freshman. He currently projects as a receiver or a safety, but long term I think he could be an excellent candidate to grow in to an outside linebacker position.
South Oak Cliff is becoming the new D1 factory in the Dallas public school system, rivaling Dallas Skyline, and now has around 12 prospects in the 2015 class alone with D1 offers. in the 2016 class UT fans should keep an eye on Marvin Terry, a 6-foot-2, 215-pound outside linebacker. He played defensive end as a sophomore, but has dropped back to play with his hand off the ground, and looks mightily impressive in doing so. He is the teammate of current UT commit Jordan Stevenson, so staff will likely be by often to check this one out. Plenty of schools are coming through and adding offers, as Terry most recently added TCU. Gary Patterson has a keen eye for defensive talent, so this one should be watched. [Greg Powers]
Scout.com's Amy Campbell caught up with 4-star 2016 DE Joseph Jackson of Miami Gulliver Prep, who told her that the Longhorns are in his top three along with Alabama and Michigan. "The team is well-coached and they always have great seasons," he said.