Barrett Matthews

Sophomore tight end Greg Daniels (81) hauls in a pass from David Ash on the first play from scrimmage during the Longhorns' 33-7 win over Iowa State. Both Daniels and senior Barrett Matthews have made tight end an area of strength for the Longhorns after a recent stretch of ineffectiveness at the position. Daniels and Matthews are now considered integral pieces of the Longhorns' offense.

Photo Credit: Lawrence Peart | Daily Texan Staff

Senior tight end Barrett Matthews and sophomore tight end Greg Daniels have been used sparingly in the passing game this season, with their biggest contributions coming in the run game. However, that changed against Iowa State.

Each player was lined up on the Longhorns’ first offensive snap of the game – scheduled to be Texas’ wishbone tribute to Darrell K Royal — and both made a major impact.

Matthews was on the field to block, the Longhorns threw a double-reverse pass, and he had to hold up a collapsing linebacker to make the play work. It was important, but Daniels’ job was a bit more stressful. He was tasked with making the catch that would honor Royal, and after he sold the run block, Daniels sprinted to the corner on the Texas sideline, pulling away from the pursuit to haul in the 47-yard catch.

“I am honored that they called my number,” Daniels said. “It was great to catch a pass and get open. I’m just honored they trusted me to do that.”

Trust is something that has been building in the coaching staff for Daniels and Matthews both. Each has been a practice warrior despite limited playing time, and every time they’ve laid out a solid block, the more and more that the coaching staff believes they can perform under pressure.

“Having Greg and Barrett on the first play - that was a no brainer,” co-offensive coordinator Bryan Harsin said. “Those guys have practiced well. They play hard, and they have done a lot of things to deserve to be in there.”

Daniels had his huge moment on the first offense snap – the play was shown all over national television that day – but Matthews’ came on a bit smaller scale a quarter later.

The Longhorns drove the ball to the Cyclones’ three-yard line, and that’s when Harsin decided to go deep into the playbook. Ash received the snap and rolled left, tossing the ball up to a wide open Matthews, who had snuck into the back corner of the end zone after shedding his block, for a touchdown.

Ash said Matthews was the only option on that play, and the senior did everything right to earn his first touchdown reception since his sophomore year. It was a play call designed to reward Matthews for all his hard work and for not getting frustrated despite his lack of playing time.

“That was something that we put together because you want to throw a guy a bone that has been out there grinding, banging his head out there for a lot of games and just being physical but not complaining about it,” Harsin said.

It may have been just a bone, but it could be the most rewarding gimme Matthews has ever received, Matthews said after the game.

Both tight ends made huge plays against the Cyclones, but their careers are headed in quite different directions. Matthews is finishing up his time at Texas, and he’ll be working to enjoy his last few games while ensuring the Longhorns finish as strongly as possible. Daniels, on the other hand, is steadily improving as an all-around tight end in his first season the position after playing defensive end in high school.

The tight ends aren’t a go-to group yet, but the pair, along with D.J. Grant and M.J. McFarland are working hard to change that.

“We are still building and still want more things to come to us,” Matthews said. “We want to be able to lead the offense, but they still have to trust us and we are still building trust.”

Tight end M.J. McFarland celebrates a touchdown catch in Texas’ 66-31 win over Ole Miss. McFarland and the rest of the tight ends have only contributed 46 yards and two touchdowns reciving, but they’ve made an impact blocking.

Photo Credit: Elisabeth Dillon | Daily Texan Staff

Take a quick glance at the Texas depth chart and you’ll see it’s a pretty decisive list. David Ash has become the unquestioned starter thanks to his impressive performances early in the season. The running back spot is listed as “or”, but opposing defenses will receive a steady diet of both Joe Bergeron and Malcolm Brown.

However, the tight end position is the anomaly.

D.J. Grant and Greg Daniels have been listed as co-starters for every game and their backups, M.J. McFarland and Barrett Matthews, see plenty of time on the field, too. Both Grant and McFarland have caught touchdown passes, while Matthews and Daniels have excelled in holding their blocks on the edge.

Having four players who are ready to step in at any time and perform has created a competitive atmosphere between the tight ends, albeit a friendly one. But above all they try to live up to the lofty standards of a legacy of Texas tight ends that includes NFL players Bo Scaife, Jermichael Finley and David Thomas.

“There is a lot of competition throughout tight end because we all want to meet the standard of Texas,” Matthews said. “We build to strive to do things right and to get a win each week.”

Even with four players contributing, their impact doesn’t jump out in the box score. But as a group they feel like they’ve quietly made their mark in the wins and losses column.

“For the first three games I feel like we have done great,” Matthews said. “There is still more to come, and we still have to keep on striving and doing our best and getting our ends cut off.”

But like Matthews pointed out, the tight ends are still capable of doing more. The coaches have been happy with their blocking on the line and downfield but their work in the passing game has left something to be desired.

Through three games the tight ends have only nabbed six balls — with five of those receptions coming from Grant — for 46 yards and two touchdowns combined. To put that in perspective, Mike Davis and Marquise Goodwin each eclipsed 46 yards in one catch against Ole Miss.

To be fair, the lack of production from the tight ends can be attributed to a variety of factors. The Texas offense has a large array of weapons, and the tight ends are pretty low on the priority list as far as ball distribution goes.

“They understand the nature of how we do things offensively and how it works,” co-offensive coordinator Bryan Harsin said. “They understand it’s a matter of time and they’ll get their opportunities as well, but it’s a team effort.”

By far the biggest factor in the group’s limited passing production is the heavy emphasis on assisting the Longhorns’ domineering rushing attack. Texas is ranked 13th in the country with 258.7 yards per contest on the ground, and the blocking the tight ends provide on the outside is a huge part of that.

Entering the season, tight end was a sizable question mark. There was no future NFL standout like Finley, or even a player who was a proven commodity in the passing game like Blaine Irby was last season.

But the tight-end-by-committee approach has worked well, in part because the group was motivated by the criticism they received in the offseason.

“We took it as a challenge to dominate the defensive games, dominate the pass game and just to stay on the field,” Matthews said.

The key word there is “we.” The “or” may never be penciled out of the depth chart, but it doesn’t matter as long as the group continues to approach each snap as “we.”

Senior safety Kenny Vaccaro’s name has found its way on numerous preseason awards watch lists, including the Thorpe. (Daily Texan file photo)

Photo Credit: Lawrence Peart | Daily Texan Staff

The only question surrounding the Texas defense this summer is just how good they can be as an overall unit. A lot of that expectation comes from a star-studded returning cast that includes seniors safety Kenny Vaccaro and defensive end Alex Okafor.

Okafor and Vaccaro are expected to lead a high-powered defense this season. In 2011, Texas finished 11th in total defense and is expected to finish higher this year.

The public will get to hear exactly what to expect out of this year’s defense from head coach Mack Brown and defensive coordinator Manny Diaz at the Big 12 Media Days this week in Dallas. However, the public will not get to hear from defensive leaders Okafor and Vaccaro.

Due to an offseason incident, the seniors are banned from addressing the media until September and will not make it to Dallas this week. In May, Okafor and Vaccaro, along with senior tight end Barrett Matthews and former Longhorn Eryon Barnett, were arrested in downtown Austin for failing to obey a lawful order.

The four athletes refused to leave a downtown pizza establishment after being asked by several individuals, including police. The incident led to their arrest and charges of class C misdemeanors.

“They are paying hard for really being disrespectful to authority figures,” Brown said. “It’s our job to make sure that we all keep the respect of the authority figures that we have. Our police department has a very, very difficult job. If they ask you to leave, you should leave, and you should leave quickly.”

All charges in the case against the players were dismissed, and the Longhorns will not face any serious legal ramifications because of the incident, but other penalties were handed down by the Texas coaching staff. Although they will not miss much, if any, game time when the season starts, the three players will not represent the team in public until school starts for the 2012 season.

“These guys will be able to address it when we start back in the fall but not until that point,” Brown said. “We want them to earn that right from their teammates to represent our team publicly.”

Vaccaro, four-year defensive back, was chosen to the All-Big 12 first team in 2011 and was honorable mention for Defensive Player of the Year. In 2011, Vaccaro started at safety in 13 games and posted two sacks along with two interceptions. For the 2012 season, Vaccaro has been named to the Thorpe watch list for the nation’s best defensive back, the Bednarik watch list for the defensive player of the year and the Nagurski watch list for most outstanding defensive player. Vaccaro was also named to the preseason All-Big 12 team for 2012.

In 2012, Okafor started in all 13 games, finishing with seven sacks and one fumble recovery. He was also named to the 2011 All-Big 12 first team and was a 2011 AFCA FBS Coaches’ All-American. In addition to also being named to the Bednarik and Nagurski watch lists, Okafor was named to the 2012 Lombardi Award watch list for the lineman or linebacker of the year and the Walter Camp Player of the Year watch list. Okafor is a preseason All-Big 12 team member and preseason Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year.

“These are three leaders on our football team,” Brown said of the trio and their roles on the field.

Okafor and Vaccaro may not be on hand in Dallas, but the success of the Longhorns’ defense this season is strongly tied to their ability to disrupt opponents’ offensive game plans and lead the Texas defense. The hope is that barring the pair, along with Matthews, from speaking with the media until the fall will allow them to focus on offseason preparation and be fully-focused once the season begins.

Updated at 8:25 p.m. on May 10: Head coach Mack Brown has addressed the incident, saying the following at a Caring for Kids banquet in Lakeway:


"We wish they weren’t out that late and we wish that if somebody had asked them to leave, they’d leave. We’ve had a long, hard conversation with the three men..the most important thing is that they learn a lesson. If there is a citation involved, we try really hard to hear their side of the story and be fair. We’ll have some really stiff action to help them learn from being out to late and not leaving when asked…we’ll have some disciplinary action but we’ll keep that in-house."


Though it's not exactly an official statement — the UT athletic department has not responded to a request made by the Daily Texan for one — it looks like a good bet that Vaccaro, Okafor and Matthews will not miss any games this season. 


Updated at 10:00 p.m. on May 7: The general feeling of those in the football program is that Monday's arrest will not result in any serious suspensions. "They did nothing worth being arrested for," said somebody involved in the day-to-day operations of the team.


Also, Vaccaro reached out to to fans Monday evening, tweeting: "Everything is all good. Nothing happened. Total misunderstanding...Won't be standing in line for pizza ever again!"


AUSTIN — As KXAN first reported, APD arrested and charged early Monday morning three members of the Texas football team — Kenny Vaccaro, Alex Okafor and Barrett Matthews — with failure to obey a lawful order, a misdemeanor. Also arrested was Eryon Barnett, a former player who announced his intent to transfer earlier this year.


The four had just placed an order at Roppolo’s Pizza (316 E. 6th Street) a little after 1 a.m. (they were arrested at 1:30 a.m.) when they were approached by a police officer, who instructed them to move along, according to a source with intimate knowledge of the situation.


“They were at the window, waiting for their pizza and being a little loud when an officer all of the sudden came by and told them to 'go on.' Apparently, the police had been notified of a confrontation between the players and a group of guys a little on up the street,” said the source. “Anyways, one of the guys got smart with the officer and, before you know it, they were all in the back of the cop car.”


According to an APD spokesperson, Vaccaro, Okafor and Matthews spent two hours in jail before receiving their reapparance dates, and were then released. The charge is a Class C misdemeanor punisheable by a fine of $500 or less.