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BIG DAY (GOOD NEWS!) FOR TEXAS FOOTBALL
Not only can we confirm that 2016 OLB extraordinaire Erick Fowler has cleared an academic hurdle and should be ready to join his teammates for the second session of summer school, but I'm told workouts have been going well with a lot of synergy between returning players and the new freshmen on campus.
Two 2016 guys who have really impressed so far are RB Kyle Porter and DE Malcolm Roach. They're explosiveness, work ethic, confidence and performance in and out of the weight room have set them apart early on. Not only with those overseeing the workouts but also with teammates.
"Porter and Roach are definitely in beast mode already," one source inside the program said. "They're pushing all the freshmen - and some of the upperclassmen, too."
Among returning players, I continue to hear good things about LB Anthony Wheeler. There's starting to be a real sense of anticipation about his upcoming season. More than one source has told me he's totally outworking a more heralded and decorated teammate and classmate at his same position. Not by a little. By a lot. Time will tell. Teammates pushing teammates is always a good thing.
NEW (BIG) NAME IN TEXAS BASEBALL COACHING SEARCH
A really good source told me Wednesday night LSU's Paul Mainieri could be in the mix for the Texas job, and that the door may not be slammed shut on Florida's Kevin O'Sullivan with athletic director Jeremy Foley announcing his retirement.
Either way, those are two names that would certainly get Texas baseball fans all tingly as Augie Garrido's replacement.
Mainieri, whose Tigers won the national title in 2009 and reached the CWS in 2008, 2009, 2013 and 2015, makes around $800,000 per year at LSU (with bonuses he's been hitting regularly taking him to $1 million). I'm told Texas would be ready to go $1.4 million or $1.5 million.
TCU's Jim Schlossnagle is apparently getting bumped up to $1.4 million by athletic director Chris Del Conte, I'm told.
As of Thursday morning, I've gotten more confirmation that Mainieri is deep in the mix for the Horns.
And it's not just about the money (even though LSU didn't give him a raise when he got a 2-year extension after the 2015 season through 2020).
"It's about appreciation," one source close to situation said of Mainieri.
If Perrin can that done, I say get that done.
I'm told O'Sullivan is fed up with Florida's lack of facility upgrades but is absolutely in love with where his program is right now and is built to win big for the next couple years. The Gators are the No. 1 overall seed in the CWS right now.
I'm told UCLA's John Savage, whose team won it all in 2013 and was runner-up in 2010, may have been in Austin Wednesday night for an interview. But I'm told Savage is not the only coach Texas has strong interest in (Mainieri is ahead of Savage, I'm told).
I was told by a source at Florida a facility feasibility master plan focusing on football, baseball and softball has been worked on for the past 12 months. But nothing has been presented to O'Sullivan. And now with Foley announcing he's leaving, it's unclear how this impacts things.
Meanwhile, Tulane's David Pierce interviewed in Tuscaloosa Wednesday for the Alabama job, and I'm told that went very well. Oregon State coach Pat Casey has also had his interest gauged by Texas, so stay tuned and don't give up hope UT baseball fans. At least not yet.
JARRETT ALLEN, JAMES BANKS IMPRESS AT U18 CAMP
Our Evan Daniels, the best college hoops recruiting guy in the business, is with the U18 USA national team being coached by Shaka Smart and had this to say about workouts so far involving Texas 6-foot-10 freshmen Jarrett Allen and James Banks:
"Allen was tremendous during the two sessions I saw at the U18 trials. He ran the floor, was active on defense and showed an improvement on the offensive end of the floor. He made a mid-range jumper, plus showed comfort with scoring with his off hand around the basket.
"James Banks impressed during the second session with his effort and energy. Banks was active around the goals managed to record put backs. He also contested shoes and played hard. Banks has a lot of upside and he has an impressive basketball frame w good length. He's going to end up a big kid and he's mobile and athletic. There's a lot of upside with him."
LOTS OF HOOPS TEAM NUGGETS
Depending on the day, I seem to get a different answer about if the Texas 2016 recruiting class is done or not following the additions of Jarrett Allen and 6-9, 3-point shooting, UALR grad transfer Mariek Isom (to go along with 5-star PG Andrew Jones and 4-star big man James Banks and 4-star SG Jacob Young as well as Tulane PF transfer Dylan Osetkowski, who is sitting out a year).
Last week, I was told, yeah, probably done.
Today, I was told, yeah, maybe not done.
I'm told if some academic hurdles are cleared, there could be another (JUCO) addition to the class. Hint: Another big man. And an extreme longshot that another grad transfer could be added. (So, yes, the possibility of two more players added. But realistically probably one.)
That's all I can say right now. And we may not know on the JUCO transfer until the fall semester.
As far as how team workouts have been going, PG Andrew Jones is better than advertised. He's made it abundantly clear at 6-5 that he's not only a solid spot-up shooter but can also create for himself off the dribble by breaking people down. And he's long.
The sense is with Jones and Kerwin Roach each able to run the point (as well as play together), this could be one of the most explosive backcourts in the Big 12 next season.
Isom has been outstanding from 3-point range. He's easily the most consistent threat from 3 right now, and at 6-9 (and long), he's got a chance to be a matchup problem for opponents. The bad news on Isom is he's absolutely too unathletic to get his own shot and will almost always need a screen to let loose from long range. Definite pick and pop guy. Nothing wrong with that. But he's a liability on defense - again, doesn't move that well.
Tevin Mack, who seemed to have a wandering eye coming out of last season, appears to be focused and all-in for Texas. He has to improve - and improve a lot - in terms of shot selection, court awareness, ball movement and defense, because Mack needs to be the stretch 4 starter who shares time with Isom.
The shooting guard when Jones and Roach are not on the floor together should be Eric Davis, who also needs to become more consistent and tougher.
In time, Jacob Young, the son of former Houston Phi Slama Jama member Michael Young, should be able to challenge for shooting guard playing time. But he came in a little out of shape, so he's a bit behind. But he can shoot and is getting into better condition.
The bottom line is Jarrett Allen and James Banks can both really run and show tremendous athleticism around the basket. As Evan Daniels pointed out, Allen has incredible feel for the game around the rim - even with his off hand. And Banks is a warrior who takes every rebound personally - sort of the way Tristan Thompson does. These guys are going to get better and better and better.
And Shaq Cleare gives the front court a nice dose of physical, seasoned toughness.
The sense is if Shaka Smart could somehow keep Roach, Jones, Allen and Banks together that the 2018 Final Four in San Antonio could be a possibility. I know that's pushing the envelope way out there. But that's how much belief there is in those players. Should be fun to watch.
HD'S TAYLOR ESTES 1-ON-1 WITH "THE SHARK" - 2016 LB JEFFREY MCCULLOCH
I caught up with freshman LB Jeffrey McCulloch before he enrolled at Texas to get to know him both on and off of the football field.
Here is my Q&A with the Longhorns' new linebacker.
ESTES: How would you describe who you are as a person, away from football?
McCULLOCH: “I’m a real laid back type of guy. I like to be outside, enjoy nature and do things that will help me relieve the stress of the game, because this game can be very stressful. So I just like to kick back, relax and enjoy myself.”
ESTES: What do you enjoy outside of football?
McCULLOCH: “I’m an average basketball player. I play the guitar. I go fishing and hunting, and do things that take my mind away from the game.”
ESTES: What do you like to hunt?
McCULLOCH: "I hunt pretty much anything that comes onto the property. Deer, turkey, wild hogs, whatever we see.”
ESTES: What’s something about you that most people don’t know?
McCULLOCH: “I’m a big nerd at heart, but a good football player. I love education. I love math. I love being in the classroom. I love learning new things. That’s one of the main things, I love learning anything new.”
ESTES: Who is the most influential person in your life?
McCULLOCH: “My father. I’ve always had that drive. It has always been my nature to want to be the best, but he has helped me take it to a different level.
"With him being around my whole life and pushing me to do better, it gives me the motivation to be the best that I can be, beyond what I think I can be.”
ESTES: When did you first know you wanted to play football?
McCULLOCH: “I actually didn’t know I would end up playing football.
"I was always a basketball player and was taller than everyone. In eighth grade, I was 6-foot-1 and dunking on everybody. I really thought I was going to play basketball.
"Then all of the sudden, I get to high school, I stop growing and everybody else starts growing. They all started to dunk, so it pretty much made me think I would be a football player my sophomore year when I started getting offers.
ESTES: What was it like when you started getting offered?
McCULLOCH: “Actually, the spring when I started getting offers was when I was thinking I was done playing football. I really thought I was going to be a basketball player.
“I always envisioned myself being able to play football, I just never saw myself becoming the type of player I am now.”
ESTES: What positions have you played and what did you like best?
McCULLOCH: “I started out on the o-line. I played guard and some center, then I slimmed down a little bit and was moved to tackle. Then I slimmed down more and moved to tight end. Then I went to D-end and finally went to linebacker, and that’s where I was best. My favorite position was tight end.“
ESTES: How did you get the nickname “The Shark" ...?
MCCULLOCH: “A DB I played with my junior year gave me the nickname while watching film one day.
"I actually hated it. It was supposed to be a joke but then it stuck with me. It just grasped on from there."
ESTES: Do you still hate it or has it grown on you?
McCULLOCH: "Oh, I love it now.”
ESTES: It’s obvious Charlie Strong is not afraid to start true freshmen. What have the coaches said of your chances for playing time this season?
McCULLOCH: “They have told me there’s a chance to play. As long as I come in and work hard, then I could see playing time”
ESTES: What guy outside of the 2016 class are you closest with?
“Oh my boy Malik. We are so similar yet so different at the same time, we just click together.
"I would say I’m closest to DeShon, Malik and Charles. Charles is one of the funniest people alive. DeShon is just really laid back and chill.”