What Texas Commits Are Saying About the Future of Longhorns Program
The Texas Longhorns are fresh off a much-needed upset victory over Big 12 nemesis Oklahoma.
The win pushed Texas to 4-2 overall, 3-0 in conference and momentarily quelled national speculation that this season is coach Mack Brown's swan song.
"We've won five out the last nine [against Oklahoma] now for those of who are counting," the embattled Longhorns leader pointed out after the win (h/t Yahoo! Sports).
Speculation has run rampant that this could be Brown's final season on the Texas sidelines, which he's patrolled since 1998. That thought has reverberated in the recruiting spectrum, as prospects try to determine how things might turn out.
Brown is a national champion and has taken the team to two national title games. His Texas tenure features nine double-digit win seasons, but the road has become bumpy since 2010.
The Longhorns are 14-15 against conference opponents during the past four seasons. Brown supporter DeLoss Dodds, the long-time Texas athletic director who hired the coach, is retiring in 2014.
Last week, a Sports Illustrated report by Pete Thamel suggested that Brown may resign after the season regardless of how the remainder of this season goes. The report sited a conversation with "a high-ranking Texas official".
"If [Brown] rallied and came back and won out, I still think there would be a possibility he'd still resign," the official told Thamel. "I'm not sure he wants to work for another athletic director. My guess is this is his last season."
With potential changes looming, members of the Longhorns' 2014 recruiting class have reacted in various ways. Texas currently holds 24 player commitments, which could become tenuous if the team undergoes a drastic coaching change after the season.
We caught up with several current Longhorn commits to find out what convinced them to create a verbal pact with the program and how they're reacting to rumors of a potential coaching switch.
4-star wide receiver Lorenzo Joe (Abilene, Texas)
Lorenzo Joe was among Texas' earliest members of the 2014 class. He committed in August 2012, selecting the Longhorns from an offer list that includes Baylor and Texas Tech.
Growing up, I’ve always been a UT fan. When your dream school offers you, it’s really hard to pass up that opportunity. It was really a dream come true when Texas offered me, and when it happened I decided the time was right to end my recruitment. It gave me an opportunity to just focus on my junior and senior seasons in high school.
The 6'3", 195-pound Cooper High School product is the nation's No. 30 wide receiver recruit in 247Sports composite rankings. Joe hasn't focused on the speculation surrounding Brown, a coach he greatly admires, but would like to compete for him next season.
"Right now, I really haven’t been paying attention to (the rumors)," he said. "I don’t really know what to think. I love Coach Brown to death. I’d really like to play for him. But honestly, I have no clue what’s going on. I try not to think about that stuff. I guess I’ll have to wait and see."
4-star athlete Kevin Shorter (Newton, Texas)
Newton High School star Kevin Shorter committed to Texas in August. Widely considered a running back prospect, he is being recruited by several squads and is ranked the No. 11 overall athlete by 247Sports.
Shorter, a 6-foot, 185-pound playmaker who rushed for more than 1,800 yards as a junior, quickly established a strong relationship with the Longhorns' coaching staff.
"We had a late start with them recruiting me," he said. "We didn’t have a strong relationship at first, but then I visited a couple times and we changed that. I got to meet Coach Brown, Coach (Bo) Davis and other coaches. They became like family."
While he remains committed to Texas, he decided it's important to have other options available. Shorter lists Baylor, Arkansas, Georgia and Texas A&M as intriguing schools, and plans on spending an official visit at UCLA in January.
"I’m keeping everything wide open in case something happens with Texas," Shorter explained. "Like if there was change and Coach Brown leaves."
3-star defensive tackle Trey Lealaimatafao (San Antonio, Texas)
Defensive tackle Trey Lealaimatafao is a dominant force at Warren High School, where he compiled 39 tackles and eight sacks as a junior. The 6-foot, 300-pound Texas commit is listed as the No. 35 player at his position in 247Sports composite rankings.
Lealaimatafao said his comfort level with the Longhorns ultimately led to his March commitment.
"I was comfortable with the team and coaching staff," he said. "I felt like they had a pretty stable coaching staff, and I was close with some of the other recruits who were already committed. That's why I was ready to make my decision."
Lealaimatafao received reassurance from the Longhorns when he inquired about the evolving coaching situation.
"I do think about it a lot and I do check in with (the Texas coaching staff)," he said. "Coach Brown told me he’s not going anywhere, which is good to hear. I don’t know what will happen or if that’s going to be the truth. But so far the team has been very honest with me."
4-star safety John Bonney (Houston, Texas)
Lamar High School standout John Bonney is the newest player in Texas' 2014 recruiting class. He committed to the Longhorns in September, after considering offers from Oklahoma, Baylor and Oklahoma State.
How should Texas handle its football coaching position?
"They have a great program," Bonney said. "Being from Texas, it’s a big deal down here. It’s a program that I’ve really liked for a while and I was excited for the opportunity to commit to the team."
Bonney, who can fill a variety of roles in the defensive secondary, is listed as the No. 20 safety prospect in 247Sports composite ranking. He feels an immense amount of confidence in Brown's abilities as head coach, though he has heard rumors that a change could be on the horizon.
"That’s out of my control," Bonney explained. "I know that Coach Brown is a very good coach. He has the ability to turn things around with that program and I believe he can do it. It’s still a very good program."
Bleacher Report college football recruiting writer Tyler Donohue acquired all quotes firsthand unless otherwise noted.
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