Nation's No. 1 DE to Visit Texas Saturday

On Saturday, the Texas Longhorns will play the annual Orange-White scrimmage and in attendance will be the Nation's No. 1-ranked defensive end and the fifth-ranked football player, nationally: Devon Kennard. But how did a defensive end from Phoenix, Ariz. get a Texas offer so quickly after Signing Day 2008? What's his connection to Texas and what makes him such a special player?

Mack Brown doesn't go out of state often and he certainly doesn't send out an offer to those players a full year before their National Signing Day.

Not every player is Devon Kennard.

The 6-3, 230-pound defensive end from Desert Vista High School in Phoenix, Ariz. is the top-rated defensive end in the Class of 2009 and it's easy to see why. As a junior, Kennard registered 111 tackles and an amazing 24.5 sacks.

He's coached by his brother, Derek Kennard, who has the opportunity to teach his younger brother as his defensive line coach at Desert Vista. Derek spoke with Inside Texas about how the scholarship offer from Texas took place.

"It was on National Letter of Intent Day (February 6th, 2008). He'd had offers from other schools at that point but Texas doesn't offer until then, and we respect that," said Derek. "I called Coach (Bobby) Kennedy that evening to congratulate him on the great signing class and he let us know that Devon had a scholarship and that the offer was on the way. Later that week it showed up in the mail. They stuck to their word."

This weekend, both Derek and Devon will make their way to Austin to see the Longhorns play their annual spring game and visit the Texas campus. But how did the recruitment of Devond Kennard start? How did a defensive end from Arizona initially become interested in the Texas Longhorns?

"He's good friends with (Texas tight end) Blaine Irby," said Derek. "He knows him because Irby's older brother (Brian Irby) is on the coaching staff here."

From there, the interest grew even more. Despite being from out-of-state, Devon had been keeping an eye on Texas, even before he knew Irby. According to Derek, his younger brother had always been a fan of college football growing up. He didn't root for a particular team, instead just enjoying what each of the top programs had to offer, including Texas. If there was a football game on, Devon was watching it.

"He watched a lot of Arizona State, USC, programs like that, but that's also because that's what games were on. He just watches football. He knows football and he watched everybody," said Derek.

At last check, Devon had 24 offers from schools across the country, but at this point they're becoming so numerous that Derek has lost count. The scholarship offers are coming from a wide range of programs, many of whom are only offering now because they didn't realize the five-star DE was willing to go anywhere.

"I've lost track, but there were a lot of schools that didn't offer him until he let them know he was interested. They thought he automatically wasn't going to go there because he's here in Arizona. He's going to go to where he has the best opportunity and it doesn't matter where that is," said Derek.

Kennard now has his choice of essentially any program in the country, and not just because he's highly regarded for his work on the football field. He's the No. 1-rated defensive end in the nation, but he also gets it done in the classroom. Kennard currently holds a GPA of 3.96.

"He's only got one B in high school and his B was an 89.7," said Derek.

That intelligence also translates to his understanding of the game, but Derek also points out that, along with Devon's natural acumen, his work ethic and love of the game also contribute to creating the football mind that is Devon Kennard.

"A lot of that also has to do with him always being around football," said Derek. "He'll be in there at lunch, watching film. He's very good at watching himself and correcting the little things. He's way ahead of expectations on things like that. He's on a whole 'nother level."

His understanding of football, combined with his natural size and speed, allows Devon to play more positions on defense than just the standard end.

"We let him roam. We'd put him on the strong side, the weak side, line him up short, put him out wide. We had him all over the field," said Derek.

Because of Devon's versatility, many of the teams who are offering him plan to use him as a linebacker, but, according to Derek, the Longhorns would like him to come play defensive end on the 40 Acres. What is it specifically that Texas likes in him that makes Brown and the Texas coaching staff believe he could be a great defensive end for the Longhorns?

"He's a natural pass-rusher, he used his hands really well, he's got great speed and great knowledge of the game," said Derek. "He doesn't just know the down and distance, but he knows what the opposing team is going to do in each situation and adjust. He's a player who, when he gets on the field, he can elevate his game."

Devon plans on hitting the road to visit several more campuses and take some more unofficial visits, but the only one set up right now is for Austin, TX and the Longhorns' spring game on Saturday. Could a commitment come this weekend? Does he plan on waiting? Will he carry out the recruiting process all the way to Signing Day or will he commit before then? According to Derek, only time will tell.

"It'll come when it comes. It'll come when he gets a feel for what he wants," said Derek. "I have no idea when, but when he's ready, he'll commit."

Texas' spring scrimmage kicks off at noon on Saturday at Darrell K Royal Texas Memorial Stadium.

See for yourself what makes Devon Kennard such a devastating defensive end in his junior highlights:

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

Plus, check out all 24.5 sacks from this past season:

Horns Digest Top Stories