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UP CLOSE WITH ‘THE BOYS FROM THE BOOT’
On the four-person, group text message they’ve had going for months, they call themselves the “Boys From The Boot” or “Boot Boys” – TE Peyton Aucoin, DT Gerald Wilbon, DE Malcolm Roach and DT D’Andre Christmas-Giles.
If the out-of-state flavor in the 2015 Texas recruiting class was the Sunshine State – led by WR John Burt and CB Davante Davis (and LB Cecil Cherry before he transferred as well as WR Gilbert Johnson and TE Devonaire Clarington before they failed to qualify academically).
The out-of-state flavor in the 2016 class is Louisiana with a distinct Cajun kick.
“Of the four of us, only D’Andre had an offer from LSU,” said Aucoin, a solid pass-catching tight end who’s shown he can be a ruthless blocker, including a pancake block of Christmas-Giles last season.
“We’ve kind of taken that as a slap to the face that your state school didn’t want you.
“It’s something that motivates us. We’re just a very close group of friends. No matter what, I think it will always be that way.”
Roach said he set out on the camp circuit last summer, including a trip to Baton Rouge last July, with the intention of getting an LSU offer.
“(LSU Defensive line coach Ed) Orgeron said I was the best D-lineman at the camp I went to and that he’d be in touch with me,” Roach said. “I never heard from him.
“No doubt that fueled me.”
THE CAJUN CONNECTION FORMS A BOND
Wilbon, who picked Texas over Texas Tech, has been going to the same trainer-led group workouts with Aucoin three days a week for the past few months. Wilbon is from St. Rose, La., while Aucoin is from nearby Metairie, La.
“We’re doing a lot of Olympic lifts and all kinds of running to get your whole body stronger,” said the 6-foot-3 Wilbon, adding his weight is currently 325.
“Peyton’s cool. He’s quiet but an intense competitor. We have similar personalities.
“Whenever one of us isn’t feeling it, we push each other.”
Wilbon has also developed a strong bond with Christmas-Giles, who started following Wilbon on Twitter shortly after Wilbon committed to Texas.
“One day I got a random follow from him when he was committed to Tennessee,” Wilbon said of DCG. “We started DM-ing back and forth, and I could tell he was interested in Texas.
“I think I knew he was going to end up at Texas before he knew.”
Wilbon and Christmas-Giles share similar backgrounds. Both grew up without a father and were forced to grow up quickly. DCG’s father was murdered when he was 3 years old. Wilbon said his father is in prison for armed robbery.
The last time Wilbon saw his father was at the funeral of his father’s mother the summer before Wilbon’s junior year.
“They let him out for the funeral, but he was in handcuffs and stuff,” Wilbon said. “My mom was both parents to me. She taught me my work ethic, because she never takes days off.
“My father not being there made me stronger in the long run, because it toughens you up and makes you into a man at a young age. My mom and two sisters mean everything to me.”
ARRIVING IN AUSTIN LATER THIS MONTH
All four of the Boys From The Boot are scheduled to arrive on the UT campus May 29 or 30.
“I came in for the spring game, and I didn’t want to leave,” said Wilbon, who was hosted on his official visit by DT Chris Nelson.
Wilbon, DCG and Roach were all recruited by Texas defensive line coach Brick Haley while tight ends coach Jeff Traylor led Aucoin’s recruitment.
“I knew Coach Haley from when I went to LSU camps,” Wilbon said. “He’s honest. He tells you, ‘If you want to be on the field, you’ll have to work hard for it.’ But that’s real talk.”
Perhaps the most versatile member of the 2016 recruiting class – in terms of position – is Roach, whose father, Michael, was linebackers coach at Grambling under Doug Williams.
The past four years, Michael Roach has served as Malcolm’s high school coach, having his 6-foot-3, 250-pound son playing every position on the D-line as well as middle linebacker.
“I think my best trait as a player is my versatility,” said Roach, who was hosted on his official visit by DE Quincy Vasser and QB Jerrod Heard.
“My dad knew that would help me. Texas coaches talked to me about playing the Fox end position. But I think they also want to look at me at middle linebacker. I’ll go wherever I’m needed.”
Roach said he may have played a key role in getting former LSU commit Erick Fowler to flip to Texas on National Signing Day – even though they may end up competing for the same position.
“I knew he was a good player, and that’s good for the team,” Roach said.
“We could both end up at defensive end. But I told him, ‘Don’t go to LSU. They’ve got a bunch of D-linemen and outside linebackers. Stay close to home, where they really need you. You’ll be on one side, and I’ll be on the other.’”
Roach said he Aucoin, Christmas-Giles and Wilbon have already built a strong rapport.
“I call Peyton a nerd, because he’s always bragging about being the first one in our recruiting class to be admitted (academically to Texas),” said Roach, who along with Wilbon, has also been admitted to UT.
“Peyton also talks about the pancake block he had against D’Andre (Christmas-Giles) when they played last season. Then, D’Andre will be like, ‘Yeah, well I had like three sacks in that game, and we won.’”
Aucoin’s Brother Martin had a 17-point lead on Christmas-Giles’ St. Augustine last October. But St. Augustine overcame a 44-32 deficit in the final 3:15 and won, 47-44.
“Yeah, that one hurt,” Aucoin said. “D’Andre’s got scoreboard, so it makes it hard to talk about that pancake block.”
ROACH’S SCOUTING REPORT
While Roach says the best part of his game is his versatility, like a true coach’s son, he has a scouting report on his other Boot Brothers.
On Wilbon: “He is a great prospect with a high ceiling, because he’s just so big and strong.”
On Aucoin: “One of the best blockers I’ve ever seen.”
On Christmas-Giles: “He can be as good as he wants to be, because right now, he’s just playing on raw athletic ability.”
Aucoin said Wilbon “is so strong. He’s like an ox.”
Wilbon said the last time he maxed out on bench was his junior year at 365 pounds.
“I know I’ve gotten stronger,” Wilbon said.
Aucoin, who was hosted on his official visit by LT Connor Williams, said tight ends coach Jeff Traylor has become “almost like a father figure.”
“As the recruiting process wore on, I just couldn’t picture myself working with any other coach,” Aucoin said of Traylor. “He’s going to work you hard, but he’s also going to make sure you’re having fun playing the game you love.”
SOMETHING TO PROVE
Aucoin said he was leaning toward Florida before taking his official visit to Texas.
“It was just talking to the coaches,” Aucoin said. “They broke down the roster and how I fit in and were just real genuine. Coach Strong is a great guy who stands for the right things, and that’s important to me and my family.”
Aucoin said his toughness comes from his father, Bobby, an accomplished rugby player.
“My dad is only 5-foot-9, 5-foot-10,” Peyton said. “But he played rugby in college (at Southeastern Louisiana) and then continued to play after college.
“I would watch him in the older guy leagues. And it’s always been amazing to me how tough he was for being a smaller guy. I grew up wanting to be just like him.”
Texas’ Cajun connection is definitely headed to Austin with something to prove.
“’The Boys From The Boot’ can play some ball, I know that,” Wilbon said. “And we plan on showing it by helping to bring Texas back to prominence. We all talk about that a lot.”
LATEST ON JARRETT ALLEN - 'PROBABLY A WEEK AWAY'
A source close to the situation says 5-star big man Jarrett Allen of Austin's St. Stephens might go all the way to the end of the spring signing period - May 18 - before announcing his college choice, which has focused primarily on Texas, Houston and Kansas the past month.
A couple sources told me Allen's decision appears to be narrowed down to Texas or Houston. But Allen himself has tweeted that Kansas is still in the mix.
Allen's recruitment has taken one twist and turn after another - including some conversation within his family about possibly playing overseas in China.
But one source close to the situation said they'd be shocked if Allen ends up anywhere but Texas. They put the percentage at "70-30 in favor of Texas."
"I think at the end of the day - that's where Jarrett is most comfortable," the source said. "But we'll see."
In other recruiting news, Virginia Tech guard Jalen Hudson, who averaged 8.4 points and 2.3 rebounds as a sophomore last season, announced Wednesday he would be transferring to Florida after also considering Texas.
I think there's a very strong possibility Texas will take a graduate transfer stretch forward - but nothing would be announced until after Allen's decision is made known.
LHN TO PHASE OUT 'TEXAS ALL ACCESS' SHOW
In a move that will probably disappoint Texas fans of the Longhorn Network's "Texas All Access" show - looking inside UT football and basketball on a weekly basis - the show is being phased out for the 2016-17 seasons.
But Stephanie Druley, ESPN senior vice president of college networks, who confirmed the move when contacted by HornsDigest.com said "All Access" programming isn't going away completely.
"We're still going to do 'access' type content," Druley said. "It's now going to live on our other studio shows."
Those studio shows would include Longhorn Extra, LHN's nightly version of SportsCenter, and other studio coaches' show programming.
Texas All Access was touted as LHN's "signature show" when it debuted as an hour-long program during the 2011 football season - resembling a more tame version of HBO's award-winning series Hard Knocks.
The last two football seasons, All Access went from an hour-long to 30 minutes. The move to eliminate LHN's "signature show" during the football season will probably fuel speculation that LHN is struggling and that ESPN might be ready to roll LHN into a larger Big 12 Network.
But sources close to the situation say that is not the case and maintain ESPN is happy with LHN, even though there have been cutbacks in programming over the last two years.
LOTS OF BUZZ ABOUT B12 EXPANSION, B12 NETWORK - BUT WILL ANYTHING HAPPEN?
You can't go a couple Tweets without seeing some sort of buzz about possible Big 12 expansion or a possible Big 12 Network or football title game.
But is anything going to happen? It's still a long shot - on any of it - right now.
Depending on who you talk to - the Big 12 would have to expand in order to provide enough content for a B12 Network. Maybe even expand by - not two - but four.
The non-Power 5 candidates are elbowing each other for consideration:
BYU, Air Force, Colorado State, Cincinnati, UConn, Houston, Memphis, Boise State, Central Florida, South Florida ... or ... insert Group Of Five school here.
Fed Ex is even offering to become a major sponsor of the Big 12 (including a B12 title game) if Memphis is added to the league, according to reports.
But I'm hearing the TV partners (ESPN and Fox) wouldn't be motivated to throw a bunch of money at a Big 12 Network right now based on the addition of two or four of those schools.
I don't think Texas favors expansion with any of those candidates.
If schools like Arizona and Arizona State wanted out of the Pac-12 because their Third-tier TV money (reportedly around $1 million annually) isn't what P12 commissioner Larry Scott thought it would be ...
Or if Florida State and Clemson became tired of being football powers in a "basketball league" - then I think the B12 would have consensus.
But there's no consensus yet ... on much of anything.
And someone is going to have to show Texas an extraordinary reason/incentive to let go of a negotiated $300 million, 20-year contract with ESPN for LHN that runs through 2030.
It will all be discussed by the Big 12 presidents early next month in Dallas.
And trying to convince Texas to give up LHN is going to take some incredible creativity/cooperation/leadership and financial incentive from the league's TV partners (ESPN and Fox) that just may not exist right now.