cornerback

Texas was able to land three big recruits as National Signing Day approaches. The Longhorns gained commitments from Kris Boyd, Holton Hill and Kai Locksley.
Photo Credit: Jonathan Garza | Daily Texan Staff

In a winter filled with recruiting victories, head coach Charlie Strong had another reason to celebrate after receiving commitments from three four-star athletes in the past three days.  

Defensive backs Holton Hill and Kris Boyd announced their pledges to Texas on Friday, and four-star quarterback Kai Locksley flipped his commitment to Texas Monday night. 

Hill, who played at Lamar High School in Houston, ranks as the nation’s No. 7 cornerback after totaling 11 interceptions and two special teams touchdowns in his senior year. At 6 feet 2 inches, he possesses the size to cover taller wide receivers and is a likely candidate to be an immediate contributor on defense and special teams.

Boyd, who played in Gilmer, Texas, ranks closely behind Hill as a prospect as the nation’s No. 11 cornerback. At almost six feet, Boyd also has good size for his position and proved himself as a playmaker with two interceptions and four passes broken up his senior year. His younger brother Demarco Boyd is committed to join the Longhorns in 2016.

The duo adds to an already strong defensive back class that features four-star defensive backs Davante Davis and DeShon Elliot. With the Big 12 producing five top-20 passing offenses in 2014, the Longhorns will need to develop a strong secondary, especially with cornerback Quandre Diggs departing this offseason. The Longhorns now have two of the top-three ranked cornerbacks in the state, according to 247Sports. They are looking to maintain their stout pass defense, which ranked in the top 15 in passing yards allowed in 2014.

Locksley, who was previously committed to Florida State, will give Texas a much needed boost at quarterback. Locksley, a ESPN 300 quarterback out of Gilman High School in Baltimore, is the No. 25 ranked quarterback in the nation. At 6 feet 4 inches and 190 pounds, he adds another option in Texas’ quarterback battle next season, as Texas works to improve upon a weak point this past year. 

This weekend, Texas also made the radars of other top prospects who have yet to make their final commitment. Damarkus Lodge, Cedar Hill’s four-star wide receiver, included the Longhorns in his top-three choices Friday. Daylon Mack, Gladewater’s five-star defensive tackle, said Saturday he made his decision after receiving in-home visits from Strong and competing coaching staffs this past week. Both Lodge and Mack will announce their final decisions on National Signing Day on Wednesday.

However, Texas also received some bad news.  

Five-star quarterback Kyler Murray announced Thursday he is staying with Texas A&M after taking an unofficial visit to Texas the previous weekend. The Longhorns tried to flip Murray’s commitment from the Aggies, which would have been a huge boost to Texas’ recruiting class.

The Longhorns took another potential hit Sunday when three-star safety commit Jamile Johnson re-opened his recruitment for the third time after decommitting from Texas.

247Sports currently ranks Texas’ 2015 class at No. 9, and Texas still has several top prospects considering coming to Austin. The recruiting class has the potential to be ranked as a top-five class come National Signing Day, and if momentum keeps trending in Texas’ favor, the Longhorns will have a lot to be excited about next fall.

Oklahoma cornerback clarifies headband message

Sooner sophomore cornerback Zack Sanchez had a solid day against the Longhorns on Saturday, including a pick-six, but it was his headband and eye black that got most of the attention. Sanchez appeared to have written “B.T.P Frank Shannon,” referring to suspended Sooner linebacker Frank Shannon, on his headband and “Free BM,” referring to the NCAA blocking transfer quarterback Baker Mayfield’s eligibility for this year, on his eye black. However, Sanchez clarified what he wrote, saying on Twitter that “B.T.P” stood for “Big Time Players making big time plays” and the “Free BM” was actually “Free RM,” referring to his cousin.

Texas Tech shifts around defensive coaches

It’s no secret the Texas Tech defense has had issues slowing down opposing offenses. The Red Raiders have surrendered 484 yards per game, which ranks 115th in the country. With that in mind, the Lubbock Avalanche-Journal said interim defensive coordinator Mike Smith is moving some of the defensive coaches around. According to the Avalanche-Journal, safeties coach Trey Haverty is now taking over coaching the outside linebacker position, while Smith, who had been coaching that position before being named the interim defensive coordinator, will coach the defensive ends, and defensive line coach John Scott Jr. will focus on nose guards and defensive tackles.

Pair of tight ends on Mackey Award watch list

Neither Kansas nor Iowa State have had much to celebrate so far this season, with the two sides combining for an 0-6 record in conference play. However, each school landed a tight end on the John Mackey Award Watch List, which was released Monday. Iowa State senior E.J. Bibbs and Kansas senior Jimmay Mundine were named to the award’s watch list, which recognizes the nation’s most outstanding tight end. Bibbs leads the Cyclones with 22 receptions and four touchdown receptions and has 190 receiving yards this season. Mundine leads Big 12 tight ends with 212 receiving yards and has 16 receptions. The winner of the Mackey Award will be named on Dec. 10.

Hill, Lambert split Big 12 Special Teams Player of the Week

After making plays to help each of their teams win over the weekend, OSU junior returner Tyreek Hill and WVU senior kicker Josh Lambert were both named Big 12 Special Teams Player of the Week. Hill became the only player in the country to return a kickoff for a touchdown in back-to-back games with a 99-yard return in the fourth quarter to give the Cowboys a 27-20 win over Kansas. Lambert capped off a Mountaineer comeback with a game-winning 55-yard field goal against Texas Tech. Baylor senior quarterback Bryce Petty was named the Big 12 Offensive Player of the Week after throwing for 510 yards and six touchdowns in a 61-58 win over TCU. Oklahoma sophomore cornerback Zack Sanchez rounded out the weekly awards, receiving Big 12 Defensive Player of the Week after making eight tackles and intercepting a pass for a touchdown against Texas.

Photo Credit: The Associated Press

The Longhorns know they have a challenge on Saturday.

“For me, my side of the ball, TCU has an incredible defense, probably the best in our league, if not the best in college football right now,” senior quarterback Case
McCoy said.

And head coach Mack Brown made sure to note that, more specifically, TCU’s secondary is one of its most formidable units.

“They do a great job in the back end,” Brown said. “They do a great job matching routes. When they do disguise and play man, they do a great job playing man coverage.”

That great play Brown speaks of on the back end is in large part due to the outstanding play of senior cornerback Jason Verrett and junior safety Sam Carter. 

Few would argue against the assertion that Verrett is the best cornerback in the Big 12. He was a unanimous preseason All-Big 12 selection after being named a first-team All-American last year by SI.com. He led the Big 12 with 1.69 passes defended per game, the second-most in the country.

“It gives you confidence knowing you can line up with him on the best,” TCU head coach Gary Patterson said. “He’s not the biggest corner, but he battles you and is smart about what he does. He learns on the field.”

While Verrett may be the Horned Frogs’ best NFL prospect on defense, he isn’t having the best statistical year on that side of the ball. That honor belongs to Carter. 

Carter, who burned the Longhorns last year with a forced fumble and a game-sealing interception, has gotten better since. He already has two sacks, a forced fumble and three picks, returning one for a touchdown. 

“Sam is an amazing guy,” Patterson said. “Our safeties get themselves in good positions because they are really smart football players.”

Verrett, his partner in crime, isn’t just a cover corner. He was ranked sixth in the NCAA last year with six interceptions and he recorded 63 tackles. He was the only player in the nation ranked in the Top 10 in interceptions and passes defended.

But, for the former high school running back, it almost never happened.

Verrett ended up learning how to play cornerback at Santa Rosa CC (Calif.) and did it well enough to be ranked as the nation’s No. 6 JUCO cornerback, according to rivals.com. 

The FBS interest didn’t follow, though, as he had expected.

He got no offers from a BCS school. A few from Mountain West schools such as Boise State, San Jose State and TCU, along with one from UTEP. Ultimately, he signed with the Horned Frogs.

His first start couldn’t have gone much worse.

Then-Baylor quarterback Robert Griffin III threw six touchdown passes against the Horned Frogs — the first three coming at Verrett’s expense. That was two more touchdowns allowed in his first game at the FBS level as he had surrendered the prior year in junior college.

Verrett wanted to quit. 

He called his dad, mom, brother, former coach and Patterson to inform them his first game was going to be his last.

“I didn’t really wanna quit,” Verrett said a year later. “I was kind of lost. I was thinking of all the wrong things instead of just taking it as one game with 11 more to go.”

He learned from that game, one which Patterson still refers to as the “the one where [Verrett] wouldn’t come out from underneath the covers.” He handles adversity better. He’s learned to take things one game at a time.

Verrett is now a projected second-round pick in the NFL Draft and was named to the 2013 Lott Trophy watch list. He leads the team with 12 passes defended to go along with his one interception.

And, to think, he almost quit after his first game.

By its standard, Texas’ secondary struggled mightily last year. Longhorns defensive backs occasionally looked like they had cement in their cleats trying to make tackles. Texas, accustomed to fielding some of the nation’s best secondaries since Duane Akina arrived 12 years ago, posted mediocre numbers. 

Enter Duke Thomas. 

The sophomore from Copperas Cove will make his first career start this weekend against New Mexico State, edging out older players like juniors Sheroid Evans and Leroy Scott. And he’ll provide the spark that keeps the Longhorns from having another second-rate secondary.

He’s been getting glowing reviews from his teammates and coaches ever since he enrolled early last spring. Thomas was even once considered an option at wide receiver, playing both ways in this year’s spring game. For now, he’ll work on shutting down opposing wideouts.

“He’s a hard worker,” senior safety Adrian Phillips said. “If you’re a hard worker and you understand the game, you have a chance to play here. He tries to do everything right and that’s what you want from a young corner. He wants to come in and make a big impact.”

Normally, the Longhorns depth chart features four starters in the secondary – two cornerbacks and two safeties. But Texas made room for Thomas, moving two-year starter Quandre Diggs from cornerback to nickel. 

This gives the Longhorns the flexibility to move Diggs around and match up better against prolific passing attacks. And it also gives them the chance to put their best young defensive back on the field early and often.

“He’s a guy I always thought would be a great player for us,” Diggs said of Thomas. “I love having Duke on the field just because of the fact that I know he’s going to know exactly what to do. He’s going to come with 110 percent on each and every play.”

After showing promise in 2011, the Texas secondary took major steps backward in 2012. Opposing quarterbacks averaged 7.9 yards per attempt (No. 99 in the FBS), posted a collective 131.7 QB rating (No. 64) and completed nearly 60 percent of their passes.

The talent has always been there. Diggs and Carrington Byndom have been mainstays in the Longhorns secondary for the past two years, with Phillips emerging as a bona fide starter last season. Seven Longhorns defensive backs, including Thomas, made the Rivals250 cut coming out of high school. 

He’s done everything right since the moment he stepped on campus. He hasn’t gotten in trouble with the law, hasn’t complained about being moved around or even suffered an injury.

He’s made the most of every opportunity presented to him, playing in every game last year and making 12 tackles, eight of them on special teams, the second-most on the team. Thomas made three catches for 27 yards in this year’s spring game when his coaches wanted to see what the high school quarterback could do at wide receiver.

Less talented secondaries outperformed Texas’ secondary last season. Guys like Byndom, Diggs and Phillips have heard the criticism all offseason long. They’re ready to prove they can silence those critics. 

And Thomas is ready to prove he belongs.

By its standard, Texas’ secondary struggled mightily last year. Longhorns defensive backs occasionally looked like they had cement in their cleats trying to make tackles. Texas, accustomed to fielding some of the nation’s best secondaries since Duane Akina arrived 12 years ago, posted mediocre numbers. 

Enter Duke Thomas. 

The sophomore from Copperas Cove will make his first career start this weekend against New Mexico State, edging out older players like juniors Sheroid Evans and Leroy Scott. And he’ll provide the spark that keeps the Longhorns from having another second-rate secondary.

He’s been getting glowing reviews from his teammates and coaches ever since he enrolled early last spring. Thomas was even once considered an option at wide receiver, playing both ways in this year’s spring game. For now, he’ll work on shutting down opposing wideouts.

“He’s a hard worker,” senior safety Adrian Phillips said. “If you’re a hard worker and you understand the game, you have a chance to play here. He tries to do everything right and that’s what you want from a young corner. He wants to come in and make a big impact.”

Normally, the Longhorns depth chart features four starters in the secondary – two cornerbacks and two safeties. But Texas made room for Thomas, moving two-year starter Quandre Diggs from cornerback to nickel. 

This gives the Longhorns the flexibility to move Diggs around and match up better against prolific passing attacks. And it also gives them the chance to put their best young defensive back on the field early and often.

“He’s a guy I always thought would be a great player for us,” Diggs said of Thomas. “I love having Duke on the field just because of the fact that I know he’s going to know exactly what to do. He’s going to come with 110 percent on each and every play.”

After showing promise in 2011, the Texas secondary took major steps backward in 2012. Opposing quarterbacks averaged 7.9 yards per attempt (No. 99 in the FBS), posted a collective 131.7 QB rating (No. 64) and completed nearly 60 percent of their passes.

The talent has always been there. Diggs and Carrington Byndom have been mainstays in the Longhorns secondary for the past two years, with Phillips emerging as a bona fide starter last season. Seven Longhorns defensive backs, including Thomas, made the Rivals250 cut coming out of high school. 

He’s done everything right since the moment he stepped on campus. He hasn’t gotten in trouble with the law, hasn’t complained about being moved around or even suffered an injury.

He’s made the most of every opportunity presented to him, playing in every game last year and making 12 tackles, eight of them on special teams, the second-most on the team. Thomas made three catches for 27 yards in this year’s spring game when his coaches wanted to see what the high school quarterback could do at wide receiver.

Less talented secondaries outperformed Texas’ secondary last season. Guys like Byndom, Diggs and Phillips have heard the criticism all offseason long. They’re ready to prove they can silence those critics. 

And Thomas is ready to prove he belongs.

Tarell Brown instructs at his football camp in Mesquite, which was free for all participants. A national champ at Texas, Brown started in the Super Bowl last season and is one of many former Texas defensive backs to be drafted recently.

Photo Credit: Emily Ng | Daily Texan Staff

It seems like everyone knows him here.

Tarell Brown shakes dozens of hands and signs hundreds of autographs after running his sixth football and cheerleading camp in Mesquite since beginning his NFL career. He’s joined by former Longhorns teammates Michael Griffin, Michael Huff and Aaron Ross – four of the 13 Longhorns defensive backs that have been drafted since 2002.

“It’s a fraternity,” Huff said. “At Texas, us DBs pride ourselves in being a family and keeping the tradition going. Any time one of our DBs have something going, we’re going to be there.”

After spending an hour signing autographs for the throng of adoring young campers, Brown, Huff, Ross and Griffin proudly put on shirts that proclaimed: “Texas Football is the new DBU.”

Brown has done a fine job upholding that “DBU” legacy but his path to success hasn’t always been a smooth one. He partially tore his ACL after his rookie season and spent his first four years in the NFL as a backup.

But possibly his most painful setback came while he was still playing for Texas, who he helped win its first national championship in more than three decades in 2005.

One of two Heisman Trophy winners for USC, Matt Leinart went into the fourth quarter of that season’s national title game without a touchdown pass.

That changed with 6:42 left, when he threw a dart between Texas safety Michael Griffin and cornerback Tarell Brown. Dwayne Jarrett rose over Brown and Griffin, plucked the ball out of the air as the two defenders collided and his outstretched arm crossed the goal line.

USC took a 38-26 lead over Texas while Griffin and Brown lay limp next to each other at the 5-yard line. Griffin was fine, but Brown, who made a career-high 10 tackles in that game, had suffered a broken right forearm. He was forced to watch Vince Young lead the Longhorns to a scintillating 41-38 victory on the television in the locker room.

“I was going for the ball and I just got hit. That’s all I really remember,” Brown said. “I remember breaking my forearm and my whole right side going numb. I knew something was broken. We did a great job finishing the game off.”

Eight years later, Brown had a much different championship experience. After earning a starting spot at cornerback for the San Francisco 49ers before the 2011 season, Brown had helped them reach their first Super Bowl in nearly two decades.

Brown, who the 49ers drafted in the fifth round of the 2006 NFL Draft, was part of a secondary that boasted the fourth-best pass defense in the league. But Baltimore Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco had picked it apart to the tune of three first-half touchdown passes.

The 49ers picked apart at a 28-6 Ravens lead in the second half and got as close as 28-23 after Brown forced a Ray Rice fumble, which led to a David Akers field goal. But San Francisco was never able to break through, falling to Baltimore, 34-31, in Super Bowl XLVII this February.

“There’s nothing like playing in the Super Bowl,” Brown said. “It’s all about winning. I remember the national championship a lot more because we won. The Super Bowl was great, getting the opportunity to represent your team, yourself and your family. We had a great run. We just couldn’t finish it at the end.”

Brown has come a long way since since starring at North Mesquite High School, where he rushed for more than 3,000 yards in his last two years and established himself as one of the top cornerback prospects in the country.

He returned to Mesquite last weekend for his camp, which he doesn’t charge for because he couldn’t afford to go to such camps as a child.

“I always thought it was something important for my community,” Brown said. “This was always big for me, always something I wanted to do, just to give something back to the kids.”

Maybe next year, he’ll come to the camp wearing a Super Bowl ring.

Former Texas safety Kenny Vaccaro became a mainstay in the Longhorns secondary. Sports Editor Christian Corona projects the hard-hitting safety to be selected by the St. Louis Rams with the No. 16 overall pick. The NFL Draft begins Thursday night.

Photo Credit: Elisabeth Dillon | Daily Texan Staff

1. Kansas City - Luke Joeckel, OT, Texas A&M

Before signing Alex Smith, the Chiefs were in desperate need of a quarterback. Now that they’ve got one, they’re going to need someone to protect his blind side. He helped Ryan Tannehill become last year’s No. 8 pick and helped Johnny Manziel become the first freshman Heisman winner. Joeckel is a no-brainer here at No. 1.

2. Jacksonville - Dion Jordan, OLB, Oregon

The Jaguars need help at a lot of spots and linebacker is certainly one of them. Workout warrior Dion Jordan can make an immediate impact.

3. Oakland - Sharrif Floyd, DT, Florida

The Raiders lost both of their starting defensive tackles from last year, Tommy Kelly to the Patriots and Desmond Bryant to the Browns. Floyd would be a great candidate to fill one of those spots.

4. Philadelphia - Dee Milliner, CB, Alabama

After two disappointing seasons in Philadelphia, Nnamadi Asomgha left the Eagles for the defending NFC champion 49ers. Milliner is clearly the top cornerback prospect in this year's draft and would be a good fit here.

5. Detroit - Eric Fisher, OT, Central Michigan

The Lions, who badly need an offensive tackle to protect Matthew Stafford, who has thrown for more than 10,000 yards over the last two years, can either take Fisher or Joeckel here, depending on who Kansas City picks at No. 1 (assuming Jacksonville, Oakland and Philadelphia don't select an offensive tackle).

6. Cleveland - Ezekiel Ansah, DT, BYU

Ansah's draft has risen more than anyone's over the last year as the Ghana native who came to BYU to be on the track team hadn't made a single start before last season. But after making 62 tackles, 13 for loss, and breaking up nine passes in 2012, Ansah is a legitimate Top 10 pick.

7. Arizona - Lane Johnson, OT, Oklahoma

He's only the third-best offensive tackle draft prospect but look for Johnson to be the first Big 12 player off the board. Like many teams making early selections, the Cardinals need help in the trenches.

8. Buffalo - Geno Smith, QB, West Virginia

Bills head coach Doug Marrone coached Syracuse's Ryan Nassib last year but the Bills would be silly not to pick Smith if they indeed decide to use this pick on a quarterback. Not too many other QBs out there that threw for 656 yards and eight TDs in a game last year.

9. NY Jets - Jonathan Cooper, OG, North Carolina

The Jets could go a lot of different ways with this pick but if they decide to use it on an offensive guard, they can't go wrong with Cooper or Alabama's Chance Warmack.

10. Tennessee - Chance Warmack, OG, Alabama

Speaking of Warmack, the Titans could use an offensive guard that can start right away and shore up their O-line. This makes a whopping seven linemen taken with the first 10 picks of this mock draft.

11. San Diego - Star Lotulelei, DT, Utah

Lotulelei has, by far, one of the best first names in the draft and has one of the best games, too. The 6-foot-2, 311-pounder made 42 tackles, 10 for loss, including five sacks last year while preaking up four pass, recovering four fumbles and forcing three others -- massive numbers for a defensive tackle that will fit in great in San Diego’s 3-4 scheme.

12. Miami - Xavier Rhodes, CB, Florida State

Milliner is far and away the best cornerback available in this draft but Rhodes is still mid first-round material. The Dolphins had the second-worst pass defense in the AFC and could use someone like Rhodes in their secondary.

13. NY Jets - Barkevious Mingo, DE, LSU

38 tackles and 4.5 sacks don't exactly scream first-round material but at 6-foot-4 and 241 pounds, Mingo was clocked at 4.58 seconds in the 40-yard dash at the NFL Combine, where he vertical jumped 37 inches and broad jumped more than 10 feet. The Jets would be hoping that he can continue to develop after his college days the way the Giants' Jason Pierre-Paul did after his South Florida days.

14. Carolina - Sheldon Richardson, DT, Missouri

Richardson made 75 tackles, 10.5 for loss, including four sacks last season for the Tigers, outstanding numbers for a defensive tackle. The Panthers would hope he could continue that kind of production at the next level.

15. New Orleans - D.J. Fluker, OT, Alabama

The fact that someone like Fluker would be the fourth offensive tackle selected goes to show just how deep this OT class is this year. Drew Brees would be able to rest easy knowing he had Fluker protecting him.

16. St. Louis - Kenny Vaccaro, S, Texas

With the Rams losing both of their starting safeties from last year after Craig Dahl signed with the 49ers and Quintin Mikell was released last month, the hard-hitting and versatile Vaccaro is a perfect fit for the Rams, who have two first-round picks this year. 

17. Pittsburgh - Alec Ogletree, MLB, Georgia

He came to Georgia as a defensive back three years and will leave as a superb linebacker. Ogletree, who led the Bulldogs with 111 tackles last year, could be the next great linebacker for the Steelers, who lost James Harrison over the offseason.

18. Dallas - Sylvester Williams, DT, North Carolina

The Cowboys were in the bottom third in the league in rush defense last year and Williams, who made 42 tackles, 13.5 for loss, could help change that. 

19. NY Giants - Jarvis Jones, OLB, Georgia

Jones led the country with 24.5 tackles for loss last season while making 13 sacks and forcing seven fumbles. Those gaudy numbers are indicative of the fact that he's an outstanding linebacker that would fit in well with the Giants.

20. Chicago - Tyler Eifert, TE, Notre Dame

The Bears have not had a tight end catch 20 passes in a season since Greg Olsen, who caught 194 passes for 1,981 yards and 20 touchdowns in four years with Chicago, left for Carolina two years ago. If Eifert is available here, the Bears have to take him.

21. Cincinnati - Tavon Austin, WR, West Virginia

The Bengals would be foolish not to pick Austin here if he's still available. Even if he's not, there's still plenty of solid wideout prospects as Austin is just one of four projected here to be selected in the first round.

22. St. Louis - Keenan Allen, WR, Cal

The Rams need a wide receiver about as badly as they need a safety but with Vaccaro being the only safety worthy of a first-round pick, they need to take him at No. 16 if he's there. Allen is one of about six receivers that would be worthy of a first-round selection.

23. Minnesota - Bjoern Werner, DE, Florida State

Werner had 18 tackles for loss and an ACC-best 13 sacks. He would join a group of pass rushers that includes four-time All-Pro member Jared Allen and former Longhorn Brian Robison if the Vikings used one of their first-round picks on him.

24. Indianapolis - Desmond Trufant, CB, Washington

The younger brother of NFL veteran Marcus Trufant, Desmond could help a decent Colts secondary become good and, eventually, great. 

25. Minnesota - Manti Te’o, MLB, Notre Dame

Imaginary girlfriend shenanigans aside, Te'o is simply one of the best linebackers in this draft. His performance in the national title game against Alabama is concerning but he could help an already solid Vikings defense.

26. Green Bay - Menelik Watson, OT, Florida State

Franchise quarterback Aaron Rodgers likes to run around and Watson knows what it's like to block for a dual-threat quarterback from his days blocking for Seminoles signal-caller and fellow NFL Draft prospect E.J. Manuel. He'd be a good fit here.

27. Houston - DeAndre Hopkins, WR, Clemson - Andre Johnson asked the Texans to draft a wide receiver and, with Austin and Allen off the board, Hopkins would be a good way to fulfill Johnson’s request. Clocked at 4.41 seconds in the 40-yard dash at Clemson’s Pro Day, Hopkins scored in all but one of the Tigers’ games last season, ending his Clemson career with a 13-catch, 191-yard, two-touchdown performance in a Chick-fil-a Bowl win over LSU.

28. Denver - Datone Jones, DE, UCLA

After a contract snafu kept the Broncos from re-signing Elvis Dumervil, Denver, who led the NFL with 52 sacks last year, could use someone like Jones at its disposal. Already with a quarterback that can take them to the Super Bowl, the Broncos now need to make sure they still have the personnel to effectively rush the passer. 

29. New England - Jamar Taylor, CB, Boise State

The Patriots had one of the worst pass defenses in the league last year and would do well to shore up their secondary. Taylor, who's used to winning because of his days playing for Chris Peterson at Boise State, would be someone Bill Belichick could work well with. 

30. Atlanta - D.J. Hayden, CB, Houston

Dunta Robinson is now in Kansas City and the guy he started opposite of last season, Asante Samuel is a solid cornerback but he's 32. The Falcons could use someone like Hayden to learn from Samuel and eventually become a focal point of their secondary.

31. San Francisco - Matt Elam, S, Florida

Elam should he could do it all at Florida, making 11 tackles four loss while picking off four passes and breaking up four others. Could he be the piece that pushes the 49ers, who fell to the Ravens in last season's Super Bowl, be the missing piece to their championship puzzle?

32. Baltimore - Cordarrelle Patterson, WR, Tennessee

The Ravens could end the first round by picking a safety like San Francisco but, with Anquan Boldin now playing for the 49ers, they could use someone like Patterson to have at Joe Flacco's disposal.

See Daily Texan Managing Editor Trey Scott's mock draft here.

Junior Quandre Diggs outruns a TCU defender last season. Diggs could impact Texas at many different positions.

Photo Credit: Andrew Torrey | Daily Texan Staff

Quandre Diggs could catch a football about as soon as he could walk. 

He didn’t grow up around an especially lenient sports crowd, either. Digg’s brother Quentin Jammer, a cornerback for the San Diego Chargers, began tossing footballs at his little brother around age five, Jammer told the Austin American-Statesman in an interview.

Diggs was clearly influenced by the drive and success of his older brother. Jammer was an All-American defensive back at Texas, and the position he holds in San Diego is the same position Diggs has assumed as a Longhorn. 

“I’ve been around this place for a long time,” Diggs said as a freshman. “I grew up being a Texas fan ever since I was little. It’s great and it’s something you dream about your whole life.” 

Ready to embark upon the dream he’d envisioned for so long, Diggs enrolled early at Texas to get a feel for the playbook. He also excited fellow signees, reaching out before they’d all arrived on campus.

“I think he had an impact on holding [his] class together because he is such a leader,” head coach Mack Brown said. “He would email and call the guys and talk to them. Every time I would talk to somebody, they would say, ‘Quandre said this.’”

Upon arriving on the Forty Acres, Diggs didn’t hold back in practice. He started 11 games and played in all 13 during his freshman year, earning a slew of awards including CBSSports.com Freshman All-American and Big 12 Defensive Freshman of the Year. 

Diggs was equally aggressive as a sophomore, starting all 13 games and leading the team in interceptions and pass breakups. But the Houston native may not be safe in his role as a cornerback. At least, not while Texas needs a safety.

With the departure of Kenny Vaccaro, the need to fill the slot is especially imminent. Vaccaro was a top tackler of a Texas defense that often failed to impress and execute in 2012. 

But that, according to Brown, may be where Diggs’s versatility as a player can slide in. 

“Quandre Diggs can play safety,” Brown said. “He can play corner. When Adrian [Phillips] was out some of the bowl practice, Quandre got a good week at safety in there.”

Brown said assistant head coach/defensive backs coach Duane Akina is working with players to compile a lineup that makes sense.

Defensive coordinator/linebacker coach Manny Diaz said the team is not far enough along in spring practice to pinpoint who will jump in at safety, but the players are keeping flexible. 

“It was important coming into the spring to let everybody have confidence in terms of their base of knowledge so that they could just go play football,” Diaz said. “We have to find the best football players, and then we will figure out where to stick them.”

Wherever Diggs lands in the secondary, he still has time to make an impact and continue to live his childhood dream.

Former Longhorns Justin Tucker, Chykie Brown crowned Super Bowl champs

Four former Longhorns participated in the Super Bowl yesterday, and two, Ravens cornerback Chykie Brown and kicker Justin Tucker, walked away with rings. They became the 11th and 12th former Longhorns to triumph in the Super Bowl and the first since former Texas cornerback and Thorpe Award winner Aaron Ross did it with the New York Giants last season.

A little more than a year after drilling a game-winning 40-yard kick in College Station to close the historic Texas-Texas A&M rivalry victoriously, Tucker helped Baltimore to its second Super Bowl victory kicking a perfect two-for-two, including a 38-yard field goal, with four PATs. The only stain on Tucker's otherwise stellar performance was a failed fake field goal attempt in which he came one yard shy of picking up a first down. He scored 10 points in the Ravens victory, the most by a former Longhorn in a Super Bowl.

On the opposite side of the field were 49ers cornerback Tarell Brown and guard Leonard Davis. Tarell Brown played an important role in the 49ers'. comeback efforts when he struck the ball from Ravens star running back Ray Rice's hands and recovered the fumble in the third quarter. The play revitalized the San Francisco team, whose near comeback from a 22-point deficit made defeat all the more heartbreaking.

As heaps of purple and gold confetti floated from the heavens, Chykie Brown stole the spotlight with his celebration. On the middle of the field, he lay down and jubilantly created a confetti snow angel.

Justin Tucker made plenty of big kicks at Texas and he has carried over his success to the NFL as a member of the Baltimore Ravens.

Photo Credit: Elisabeth Dillon | Daily Texan Staff

Not too long ago they meandered through the 40 Acres, bulked up in the weight room and left their sweat on the field at Darrell K Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium.

Now former Longhorns Chykie Brown and Justin Tucker of the Baltimore Ravens, along with Tarell Brown and Leonard Davis of the San Francisco 49ers will make their mark on professional football’s largest stage — the Super Bowl.

The Feb. 3 game in New Orleans will be the first Super Bowl for each of the former Longhorns, although high-pressure play is nothing new. Tarell Brown was part of the 2005 National Championship team, while Tucker and Chykie Brown played in the 2009 National Championship game, earning two Big 12 Championships along the way. 

For Houston native Chykie Brown, the path to an NFL career began with his years as a cornerback for the Longhorns. Brown started 29 games and posted 106 tackles and four sacks throughout his career. After starting nine games in his 2010 senior season, Brown was sidelined with a season-ending injury against Kansas State.

Brown was picked up by the Ravens as a defensive back in the fifth round of the 2011 NFL Draft, and has added 25 tackles in his two seasons with the team.  Whether or not Brown will start against the 49ers is up for debate. After struggling to make tackles against the Patriots, Brown was benched in favor of Jimmy Smith. With the offensive talents of Michael Crabtree, Vernon Davis and Randy Moss, effective defensive backs will be crucial. 

Fellow Raven Justin Tucker seems to have a knack for closing out nail-biting games. The Austin native and music major graduated with an impressive field goal percentage that ties for third best in Texas history. Tucker is beloved in the minds of Longhorn fans for his game-winning 40-yard field goal against Texas A&M in 2011 as the clock ran out. 

After tallying 132 points and a 90.9 percent accuracy rate in his first year with the Ravens, Tucker found himself in a similar situation as he stepped up to attempt a field goal against the Broncos this season. Tucker successfully concluded the fourth-longest game in NFL history by converting a field goal. 

Chykie isn’t the only Brown to have made his start as a Texas cornerback. Tarell Brown, now a San Francisco cornerback, was also racking up impressive statistics during his college career. Starting 35 out of 47 games, Tarell Brown tallied 172 tackles during his four years as a Longhorn.

Tarell Brown has spent six seasons with the 49ers, and has recorded 57 tackles this season, a career best. He played a key role in snagging a win against the Packers when he intercepted Aaron Rodgers’ pass, which spurred another 49ers touchdown. 

Teammate Leonard Davis also has burnt orange roots. The 49ers guard, and the largest player on the team, was once a powerful offensive tackle for Texas, lovingly dubbed the “Dancin’ Bear” by his teammates and coaches. After starting all 12 games as a senior, he was drafted by the Arizona Cardinalsin 2001.

Davis has a wide variety of NFL experience. After playing six seasons for the Cardinals, he then played for the Cowboys for four seasons before heading to Detroit and finally to San Francisco. Davis has played in 16 games for the 49ers this season, although he has yet to start a game.