HD'S TAYLOR ESTES LIVE FROM THE OPENING
Omar Manning is one of the most sought after 2017 prospects in the state of Texas. The Scout 100 prospect told HD he plans to release his Top 5 before the football season and he expects the Longhorns to make the cut.
"They will be in it," Manning said. "The coaches have told me about the new system and how I would fit in there.
"I watched the spring game and I really liked what I saw. I'm excited for the season where I can see it more and hopefully go down there for a game to see it in person."
Manning said he keeps in touch with the Texas coaches almost every other day, but the main guys he talks to are Charlie Strong, Sterlin Gilbert, Jeff Traylor and Charlie Williams. However, first-year defensive backs coach Clay Jennings has a personal relationship with Manning's high school coach, and that relationship helps the Longhorns chances.
"It does," Manning said of how Jennings' relationship with his high school coach helps Texas. "My coach is straight-forward and he will tell me who's a good dude and who's not."
Manning will attend the Longhorns Under the Lights camp July 23 and plans to visit Alabama and Texas A&M sometime this summer.
CATCHING UP WITH SAM EHLINGER AT THE OPENING
The Opening cut today's media viewing session to only the morning workouts. Here are a few notes after briefly chatting with Sam Ehlinger following Wednesday's practice.
- Ehlinger said he has reached out to several Texas wide receiver prospects since arriving in Oregon and he plans to talk more to those guys in the future about coming to UT.
- I asked what guys Ehlinger plans to recruit most while at The Opening. His response:
"You know, Baron Browning's on my team and that would be a great pickup. Anthony Hines is another big one. I have to get on my Ohio State boy JK Dobbins. All of the top guys in Texas that everyone talks about, those are the guys I've got to spot. It will be mostly those guys.
"I want to get to know them better because I only really know them through social media and talking at regionals. To get to know them, express how we need and want them, and what's going on down there will be my main point."
- After being slept on a bit early in his career, Ehlinger expressed how being underrated helped him get to where he is now.
"Hard work pays off. That's really what I can say. Of course everyone gets slept on at some point in their life. I hope I continue to get slept on because it gives me more motivation.
"I look forward to proving them wrong and waking them up, that's kind of my motto. To be here and have the opportunity to be in this great event is awesome."
- Ehlinger talks to Sterlin Gilbert almost every day. He also keeps in touch with Vance Bedford, Jeff Traylor and Charlie Strong on a regular basis.
- He doesn't consider his relationship with Gilbert as a coaching relationship right now, but more of a "relationship you would have with one of your good friends."
"(Gilbert) started the bond where we are going to be good friends and our relationship is going to be more then just football. That's kind of the vibe I have gotten from him."
- Florida State has continued to recruit the Texas commit, but his response has basically been thanks but no thanks.
- After growing up a Longhorn fan, Ehlinger knew from a very young age that he wanted to wear burnt orange. Here's his description of what drew him to Texas.
"Growing up, learning the tradition, going to baseball, basketball and football games, wearing burnt orange to sleep, waking up in burnt orange, wearing it all day long made it engrained in my memory and engrained in my mind.
"Growing up in Austin, every Saturday was either going to a game or watching it on TV somewhere, watching the national championship and going to a national championship. It was kind of like a magnet. You have a positive here and once a negative comes into play, you kind of just migrate to it."
- Ehlinger believes his class could be the one that helps bring Texas back.
"No doubt, it's not hard to tell that the last two classes that have finished in the Top 10 are the type of classes everyone would like to have. Especially with the seasons that weren't as good for the program and the University of Texas to have and still getting those classes is just proof that Texas is meant to be good and that's where it's going to end up at the end.
"Coach Strong is putting us in a great position with the recruiting classes with all of those great guys and getting the Baylor guys. It's all uphill from here."
- Ehlinger was asked about his relationship with OU QB commit Chris Robinson, here's what he had to say. (Texas fans will like the way he ended his response.)
"We mess with each other and talk crap to each other about the rivalry. At the end of the day, it's all fun and games. We're out to compete and make each other better, so I look forward to competing against him and beating him in the future."
SOME FOOTBALL TEAM NUGGETS ON LEADERSHIP
Texas is taking seniors to Big 12 Media Days July 18 and 19 in Big D - DT Paul Boyette, OL Kent Perkins, TE Caleb Bluiett and S Dylan Haines.
So I asked around about how those four are doing in summer workouts and what each has been bringing to the table?
Basically, Boyette has been the kind of leader you need up front from the standpoint of Boyette being a responsible, married man (he’s married to former Texas basketball player Imani Boyette).
Boyette is a lead-by-example guy who is not exactly a vocal leader - unless you compare him to junior DT Poona Ford, both of whom are coming off two of the biggest plays they’ve made in their Texas careers.
In the fourth quarter of the Baylor game, with the Bears driving deep in Texas territory, it was Boyette who shed a blocker and stopped Johnny Jefferson for 1 yard on third-and-5 from the Baylor 30 with less than 3 minutes left and Texas clinging to a 20-17 lead.
On the next play, Ford forced a fumble by Jefferson at the Baylor 40 that Ford recovered with 2:31 left in the game.
“Everyone’s been talking about how much the freshmen defensive tackles are going to have to play, and I think it’s kind of put a chip on the shoulders of Boyette, Poona and Chris Nelson,” one inside source told HD.
“Boyette and Ford aren’t terrible players, by the way. And Nelson is a legit three-technique. Those guys aren’t just going to roll over and hand those young guys their jobs.”
Bluiett is an interesting study. Depending on who you ask, he’s either one of the biggest dicks on the team or one of the toughest SOBs on the team - or both.
“There are more than a few guys who can’t stand Caleb,” the inside source said. “And he doesn’t really care. He provides in-your-face, bad cop leadership, because he doesn’t give a (bleep) what other people think of him.”
But the same players who think Bluiett is a (bleep) also appreciate his toughness and love of the game.
“If you’re not pulling your weight, Caleb ain’t afraid to call you out,” the inside source said. “And you gotta have some guys who aren’t afraid to give some other guys on the team the red ass.”
One source told me Kent Perkins is the key to the entire offensive line this season.
I kind of thought that was overstating things, and then the source said:
“You’re only as good as your weakest link,” the source said. “Right now, depending on what condition Patrick Hudson is in when he comes in - Perkins could be the one that has to guard against being the weakest link.
“But when the guy puts his mind to getting his mind right, he can play like one of the best guys on the line.That’s the Perk Texas needs to see play-in and play-out this season.”
Dylan Haines is one of the most polarizing players in the minds of Longhorn Nation.
Let’s be honest, you start a former walk-on at safety in this league who lacks blazing speed or thumpability, and you’re perceived to be playing short-handed in the secondary.
One source close to the Notre Dame program said Will Fuller “was making ‘cracker check’ after ‘cracker check’ in last year’s game.
“Basically, Fuller and Malik Zaire were trying to run as much traffic toward Dylan Haines as possible,” the source said.
Fuller finished with 7 catches for 142 yards, including TD catches of 16 and 66 yards.
Even though Haines is seen as a liability by some UT fans, Haines has seven more INTs the past two seasons than safety Jason Hall.
Haines has 9 INTs (including 5 last season) compared to Hall’s 2 INTs (both last season).
Last season, Haines angered some of his younger teammates when he was pressed by reporters to go into more detail about how some of the freshmen on the team needed to realize winning involved more than just going to practice during the week.
Critical tweets from DeShon Elliott and Charles Omenihu quickly surfaced after Haines’ comments hit social media.
But this spring Haines was quick to point out improvement in the work ethic of the team’s rising sophomores in terms of studying film and putting in extra time.
“These guys are rising to the challenge,” Haines said. “Especially a guy like P.J. Locke, who has gone from safety to nickel and learned a completely new position.
“That’s not an easy transition, and P.J. has made it look easy, because of how hard he works.”
NEW FACES EXPECTED TO ENROLL NEXT WEEK
Not sure what Higs is hearing, but I was told Wednesday night there should be some new faces on campus next week, when enrollment occurs for the second session of summer school:
I’m hearing any hope for a graduate transfer kicker to emerge in 2016 will have to wait until the fall semester starts - if it’s going to happen at all.
DO LONGHORNS' FANS FEEL CONNECTED TO TEXAS ATHLETICS?
Texas athletic director Mike Perrin indicated last week there are changes coming to the athletic department.
I’ve been told those changes will be in place by Sept. 1.
Some of those changes we already know, such as Perrin moving the Longhorn band to Section 18 at home football games, next to the student section and where more fans can hear and enjoy one of the best bands in the country.
Coaches once again being allowed to have unlimited meals in the athletic dining hall after former AD Steve Patterson had limited coaches to 30 trips per year (before coaches had to pay $10 per visit out of their own pocket).
The 737 charter with 50 first-class seats being restored for basketball road trips after being cut by Patterson and replaced by cramped regional jet charters.
Commercial air fare for the baseball team to Texas Tech, Oklahoma State and OU instead of the 6-hour bus rides Patterson put them on three years ago.
But the bottom line to reinvigorating the department is winning football games, multiple sources said.
One of the biggest reasons the central university continues to say it will be 6-8 years before the Erwin Center comes down to make room for the new UT medical school is because Texas doesn’t have the money to replace the Erwin Center.
Not right now. And probably not until Texas football starts winning again and energizing the fan base into a giving mood.
Texas has to win its fan base back after the terrible way they’ve been treated the past six years (in terms of a losing product on the field) as well as losing customer service.
Most Texas fans have basically seen their ticket prices soar, their selection of places to tailgate before games disappear while their gameday experience hasn’t improved (winning or otherwise).
And the fund-raising arm of Texas athletics - the Longhorn Foundation - has taken a lot of key losses.
David Onion, one of the most connected fund-raisers among big money donors, grew fed up with life under Patterson and transferred to the development office for the UT law school.
Texas Olympic gold medal swimmer Ricky Berens grew so fed up working at the LH Foundation under Patterson, he simply quit. His wife, formerly Elizabeth Post, served as the assistant to the AD under DeLoss Dodds and asked to be transferred to being an admin assistant for Texas track coach Mario Sategna - because she hated life working for Patterson.
Former Texas women’s basketball player Amie Bradley, a rising star at the LH Foundation, left to become an assistant coach to Travis Mays at SMU.
Former Texas fullback Ricky Brown, who had become a key fundraiser at the LH Foundation, is now helping to run the T Association, which connects Texas with its lettermen and letterwomen.
Roy Shick, the senior associate athletics director in charge of development at the Longhorn Foundation (basically Amy Folan’s No. 2) has left to return to Washington (where he was when hired by Steve Patterson).
One Texas donor in the top 10 percent in LHF Loyalty Points told me this week:
“No one feels connected to the program right now. You don’t know who anyone is in the Longhorn Foundation anymore, and there’s no outreach going on in terms of events across the state to reconnect with the fan base.
“It’s sad - really. I don’t know if the executives in the athletic department realize they’ve lost a good chunk of their fans who are going to have to be won back over?
“Obviously, winning in football will go a long way to solving a lot of problems. But even if football starts winning, the way things have changed on game day in terms of parking and no spaces to tailgate - going to games isn’t a great experience anymore.
“They’re going to have to really bend over backwards to make fans feel appreciated again, in my opinion.”