defensive tackle

Photo Credit: Charlie Pearce | Daily Texan Staff

It was third and four for the Sooners with the game tied at 3. Chris Whaley dropped into coverage and into the perfect spot as the blitzing safety, Adrian Phillips, forced a pass right into Whaley’s hands. Whaley rumbled down the field, bulldozing the “Belldozer” to score his first collegiate touchdown and help the Longhorns grab a 10-3 lead they wouldn’t relinquish in the 2013 Red River Rivalry. 

The fact that Whaley’s biggest play in burnt orange was a touchdown wouldn’t have come as a surprise to anyone in 2009; after all, Whaley was ranked by ESPN as the 72nd best recruit in the nation as a running back coming out of high school. But now, coming out of college, he is the 27th best defensive tackle, according to NFLDraftScout.com.

Whaley’s journey from running back to potential NFL defensive lineman spanned over five years at Texas. In 2009, then-head coach Mack Brown opted to take Whaley as the lone running back for the class, but he was redshirted in his first season on the 40 Acres.

In 2010, Whaley saw limited playing time and began bulking up, ultimately getting too big to play running back.

That spring, Whaley finally made the move to the defensive line.

The 2011 campaign was filled with collegiate firsts for Whaley as he recorded his first tackle in the season-opener against Rice, his first sack against Kansas, his first start against Baylor and his first fumble recovery against California in the Holiday Bowl. 

With elevated expectations in 2012, Whaley struggled to make a significant impact on a historically bad Texas team against the run.

But 2013 was a different story for Whaley, starting with the Red River Rivalry. 

The Longhorns entered the game as huge underdogs, but thanks to Whaley’s pick-six, they were able to dominate the Sooners. 

Two weeks later, Whaley scored his second touchdown of his career on a momentum grabbing “scoop and score” against Kansas, becoming the first defensive tackle in school history to score two defensive touchdowns in a season.

His elevated play had him climbing the draft boards. Draft experts began talking about Whaley as a potential Day 3 name.

Then a season-ending knee injury against West Virginia abruptly ended his Texas career and his climb up the draft boards. 

Whaley was invited to the NFL Scouting Combine, but it is unknown if he will be able to participate as he recovers from his knee injury. Currently, he is expected to go late in the draft or to have to sign on as a free agent. 

If Whaley can sell himself like former Texas running back-turned-Pro Bowl defensive tackle Henry Melton, he should be able to make an NFL roster. Physically, both Melton and Whaley are officially listed at 6-feet-3-inches and 295 pounds, but Whaley actually has an extra season of collegiate experience on the defensive line. Whaley also needs to prove that his knee has recovered. If he can do this, his knack for making the big play late in his college career should help him make an NFL roster.

Read about the three other Longhorns who will be entering the NFL draft:

Jackson Jeffcoat

Mike Davis

Anthony Fera

National signing day for college football is Feb. 5, the day on which some high school seniors will sign their letters of intent to play at the next level.

Currently, Texas’ 2014 class sits at 21 commits, seven of which are ranked in the ESPN 300.

The class is headlined by defensive end Derick Roberson and quarterback Jerrod Heard, who are both expected to excel at Texas.

Texas has three early enrollees for the spring: offensive lineman Alex Anderson, linebacker Andrew Beck and JUCO tight end Blake Whiteley.

Looking purely from a ranking standpoint, Texas’ most recent classes — No. 16 in 2013 and, currently, No. 13 in 2014 — are disappointing in comparison to the previous four, which all finished in the top five.

Despite this, the Longhorns’ class still ranks first in the Big 12, one spot ahead of Oklahoma and two ahead of this year’s conference champion, Baylor.

Texas has been plagued by decommitments, something that wasn’t very common for most of former head coach Mack Brown’s tenure.

The 2013 class was highly touted early on, before it lost five commits, including receiver Ricky Seals-Jones to Texas A&M and defensive tackle A’Shawn Robinson to Alabama. 

These decommitments led Brown to implement a no-visit policy for commits, which wasn’t a very effective deterrent, as players decommitted instead.

Since Brown’s resignation, a handful of players have decommitted, including all three defensive tackle pledges in the same week. It was a big blow since no defensive tackles were signed in 2013.

The Longhorns have serious interest in two out-of-state former Louisville commits — ESPN 300 defensive tackle Poona Ford and Florida defensive tackle Chris Nelson.  

At 6 feet tall, Ford lacks the height one would like at his position, but makes up for it with his ability to pressure the quarterback. Ford took his official visit to Texas recently and is imperative for the 2014 class.

Nelson showed ability to stop the run and plays in a position of need. He made his official visit this past weekend and would help continue new head coach Charlie Strong’s pipeline in Florida.

ESPN 300 linebacker Otaro Alaka decommited from Texas Sunday night and flipped to Texas A&M. A&M is the trendy school in Texas at the moment, and A&M head coach Kevin Sumlin is a masterful recruiter.

Many believe Texas was hurt by scheduling official visits while Brown was still in control, which meant recruits’ only chances to visit Austin with Strong were at their own expense.

Considering this and the staff’s unfamiliarity with recruits, it’s no surprise that this class is suffering with deflections.

These early struggles in recruiting should not be seen as a reflection of Strong. Texas’ 2015 class will be the first time people can truly judge Strong’s recruiting prowess, and, if he wins, Texas will recruit itself.

Photo Credit: Colin Zelinski | Daily Texan Staff

The 6-foot-3, 295-pound defensive tackle slinked back in coverage and, much to the chagrin of Oklahoma quarterback Blake Bell, plucked his pass out the air for an interception.

But Chris Whaley didn’t stop there. That’s when his natural instincts kicked in. With the ball high and tight, Whaley streaked toward the goal line, belly bouncing along the way. The former running back wouldn’t be stopped even with Oklahoma defenders charging towards him — he doesn’t get the chance to score often.

“When I saw the quarterback, I wasn’t going to be denied,” Whaley said. “I wasn’t going to let him stop me.”

Whaley’s score against Oklahoma was the first of his Longhorns career. An odd statistic when you consider Whaley entered the 40 Acres as a four-star recruit at running back, according to rivals.com. In high school, a much slimmer Whaley — roll free at 218 pounds — rushed for over 6,000 yards and accumulated 79 touchdowns. 

His future looked bright in the backfield at Texas. But there was one problem when he got to Texas; Whaley kept putting weight on his frame. With the readily available supply of food and the constant workout regimen his weight ballooned. 

So much so that Texas’ weight and strength coach Jeff Madden would joke with Whaley about switching to the defensive side of the ball. Whaley brushed off the suggestion at first. But as his weight continued to spike and the Longhorns backfield became more crowded with the addition of Malcolm Brown and Joe Bergeron, he realized making the switch was in his, and the team’s, best interest.

“I think he was willing to do whatever was needed for the best of the team,” said senior cornerback Carrington Byndom. 

It was a selfless move. Many players would have persisted at their original spot, taking a scholarship away from a position instead of assisting one in need.  But Whaley’s pride didn’t get in the way, and the move is paying dividends for him three years later.

The transition wasn’t easy. Whaley had to change his mindset from avoiding contact to embracing it, and the technical aspect of reading blocks and footwork took some adjusting too. But eventually, he learned to appreciate the switch. After all, it’s better to deliver blows than to receive them.

Whaley’s interception return for a touchdown was the senior’s coming-out party, but opposing offensive lines have noticed him for a while. Whaley is a presence on the interior of the line, a rare blend of girth and burst that allows him to wreak havoc in opposing backfields. Despite eating up blockers at defensive tackle, Whaley’s accumulated five tackles for loss, two sacks and 24 tackles in seven games this season.

It’s easy to compare Whaley to a former Texas running back turned defensive tackle, Pro Bowler Henry Melton. Melton, now a defensive end for the Chicago Bears, made the same switch as Whaley, and serves as Whaley’s ideal blueprint as he eyes the NFL.

Whaley, despite his aggressive, energy-heavy personality on the field, seems almost docile off it. He’s reserved, respectful and always answers questions with a nod of the head and a “yes sir.” But most noticeably, he genuinely cares about the final result. After losses Whaley borders on tears, and after wins he bounds around the field with unbridled joy. These traits have transformed a usually reserved Whaley into a natural team leader.

“He’s the general of our defense,” Reed said. “He helps us get lined up, he takes it into our hands when we mess up and he just makes sure our practices are straightened up. He’s just a great leader.”

Whaley doesn’t score as frequently, and he spends considerably more on food, but he’s still making people miss. Only now, after Whaley finishes his move, he gets to hit someone after.

Senior defensive tackle Chris Whaley burst onto the scene with his 31-yard interception return for a touchdown against Oklahoma. Whaley's talent is obvious, but his teammates admire his leadership abilities on and off the field most.

Photo Credit: Charlie Pearce | Daily Texan Staff

As senior defensive tackle Chris Whaley streaked towards the end zone after intercepting a Blake Bell pass in last week’s Red River Rivalry game, only one thought ran through his mind — score.

The 6’3, 295-pound Whaley, who originally committed to Texas as a running back four years ago, hadn’t found the end zone in his first three seasons with the Longhorns. Thirty-one yards after his first career interception, the senior finally registered his first score. 

“Once I caught it, I looked up and saw I had enough field to try and run it for a touchdown,” Whaley said. “When I saw the quarterback, I wasn’t going to be denied. I wasn’t going to let him stop me.”

While the interception return proved to be a significant play in the Longhorns’ upset victory over the Sooners, it hardly stands as Whaley’s only major contribution. The senior anchors the interior of the Texas defensive line as a prominent run stopper, racking up 19 tackles, three for a loss, along with one sack in six games this season.

While Whaley consistently produces in the trenches each week, junior defensive end Cedric Reed believes the defensive tackle’s biggest asset remains his ability to direct the Texas defensive front. 

“He’s the general of our defense,” Reed said. “He helps us get lined up, he takes it into our hands when we mess up and he just makes sure our practices are straightened up. He’s just a great leader.”

Senior defensive end Jackson Jeffcoat furthered this, saying that in addition to leading communication on the field, Whaley maintains a vocal role in the Texas locker room. 

“He’s a big vocal guy,” Jeffcoat said. “He’s the guy that will normally speak up and say what we all feel and he understands what we feel and what needs to be relayed to the whole team. He’s the guy that will speak up and make sure everyone is on the same page.”

Whaley molds his leadership role after the standout veterans who helped ease his transition to Texas as a freshman in 2009. In addition to rallying his teammates with his words, the senior believes leading by example in practice is a necessary part of guiding younger players.

“In order to be a leader you have to practice what you preach,” Whaley said. “If you’re going to preach about working hard you have to do it yourself. I go out everyday with an edge at practice. I’m going to get better every day. Some of the younger guys are watching me, so I’ve got to be a great example for them.”

Whaley experienced Texas’ most recent Big 12 championship in 2009 as a redshirt freshman. After wading through a trio of disappointing seasons over the past three years, the defensive tackle is focused on winning another Big 12 title. Only this time, he wants to be on the field.

“It would mean a lot,” Whaley said. “’09 is the last time Texas won a Big 12 championship. Being a senior and winning a Big 12 championship is a big accomplishment. It would mean a lot to me to turn it around after all those bad seasons we had the last few years.”

Texas head coach Mack Brown briefed the media Wednesday afternoon at his national signing day press conference. Brown and the Longhorns welcomed 15 recruits but missed on several high-profile players. 

Photo Credit: Pearce Murphy | Daily Texan Staff

Wednesday, national signing day, was a day high school football players and coaching staffs alike circled on their calendars, the end to the madness that is open recruiting season. When the dust finally settled — sans another decommit — the Longhorns had inked 15 for their class of 2013.

“The fifteen we got are very passionate about being at Texas,” head coach Mack Brown said at his Wednesday press conference. “And that’s what you want. You want people who want to be at your school, and then when somebody decides to back out on you, you’ve got to go look forsomebody else.”

Among them is a defensive back, Bastrop’s Antwuan Davis, who Brown called “one of the fastest in the country,” a trio of wideouts and perhaps a Vince Young doppleganger in Tyrone Swoopes. But for all the flash, it’s the big-uglies up front who have Brown most excited.

“The highlight of this class is the offensive line,” he said. “They average over 6-foot-5 feet tall and 300 pounds and they can all move their feet.”

With a hectic few weeks that included the decommitment of star defensive tackle A’Shawn Robinson and fellow defensive tackle Andrew Billings’s decision to go to Baylor, Brown said he’s still pleased with the batch he’s got at the end of this year’s recruiting process.

“We’ve had some top-ranked signing classes before that didn’t pan out,” Brown said. “We looked at a few that didn’t want to come, but if you look at that it’s happening across the country.  Worry about the ones you get, because you’ve got them for five years, 365 days a year.” 

With coaches recruiting earlier and earlier to attain top talent, Brown said he’s focused on building relationships with high school coaches and finding players genuinely interested in bringing their talent to Texas.

“I think it’s very important for me to have presence in high schools, so I like to go to the schools and see the coach,” he said. “I need to go see those guys and shake their hands and tell them we’re not backing out on kids.”

Those new talents will join a roster of returning 19 starters and other veteran players who are eager to extend their leadership to the newest members of the team.

“The strength of this team are the sophomores and the juniors,” Brown said. “I’m seeing more leadership than I have the last two years.”

He was also quick to point out that there will be ample opportunities for young players to showcase their talents early on.

“All of our jobs are always open,” he said. “We’re going to play all the best players. They’re really getting after each other. There’s more accountability now.”

A core focus is returning to a sharp offense that illuminate the scoreboard in the fall, Brown said.

“Right now in the Big 12, it’s a speed game,” Brown said.  “We’ve got to get back to the upper 40 and 50 points offensively, and to do that in this league, you’ve got to have great speed.”

Despite the hullaballoo that commonly surrounds signing day, Brown cited history as a reminder that what’s to come is much more significant.

“Marquise [Goodwin]  wasn’t talked about on this day, [Alex] Okafor was projected to be a really good football player and nobody even knew who Kenny Vaccaro was,” he said. “Those are our three guys that will probably be drafted the highest [in the NFL.] Today isn’t as important as what happens after today.”

 Rachel Thompson

 

* * *

 

Texas may have officially closed out another recruiting cycle yesterday, but the story isn’t over for the class of 2013. Here’s a quick look at Mack Brown’s group of 15.

Strongest position

Offensive line

“We got some speed that we needed, but the highlight is the offensive line,” coach Mack Brown said at Wednesday’s signing day press conference. Rami Hammad, Kent Perkins, Darius James, Jake Raulerson and Desmond Harrison comprise one of the best offensive line classes in the country. Though they may not all see the field immediately, the 2013 linemen are sure to have left their mark on Texas by the time they’re through.

Biggest need left unfilled

Defensive tackle

What was formerly a strength of the class turned into a glaring deficiency once A’Shawn Robinson decommitted. Texas simply did not have enough time to replace Robinson and Waco defensive tackle Andrew Billings poured salt in the wound by picking Baylor on Tuesday. Alhough Brown claimed Wednesday that defensive tackle “wasn’t a position of need,” it still hurts to miss out on such highly-touted prospects.

Most likely to play early: Jake Oliver (wide receiver, Dallas Jesuit)

Besides junior college recruits Geoff Swaim and Desmond Harrison (who will assuredly play right away), wide receiver Jake Oliver, who caught a state-record 308 balls in high school for 4,567 yards receiving and 56 touchdowns, has the best chance of any incoming freshman to see thefield immediately.  

 Most likely to redshirt: Tyrone Swoopes (quarterback, Whitewright)

Swoopes is a lock to sit out the 2013 season. The Whitewright product needs to become a more polished passer, and with five quarterbacks on the roster, Texas can afford to give him a year just to learn. Swoopes’ only chance to play this year is an injury epidemic or in a gadget package, neither of which are likely. Swoopes should come into the 2014 season ready to compete for the backup job.

 When considering the 2013 recruiting cycle in totality, there’s plenty to like, quality-wise. However, one can’t help but wonder what could have been. Five decommitments hurt, but so does losing recruiting battles to Baylor and Texas A&M.

“It’s really important that the guys who commit to us stay committed to us,” Brown said.

In large part, they did. But because of those who didn’t, Brown’s program is at a crossroads. Texas has already jumped out to a historic start for 2014, with seven current high school juniors on board. If on-field success can yield success on the recruiting trail, the Longhorns should have no problem adding to that tally. If not, underwhelming years like 2013 will start to become the rule, and not the exception.

— Michael Marks

 

***

 

The last time Texas signed a recruiting class this small was in 2005.

Current NFL players Colt McCoy, Jamaal Charles, Quan Cosby and Jermichael Finley were among the 15 players that signed with the Longhorns less than a month after they captured the program’s fourth national title.

That was then, this is now. Texas isn’t coming off a national title. It’s coming off a 9-4 season, having lost 16 games over the past three years. And there’s no McCoy in this year’s 15-member recruiting class. The only quarterback in the class, Tyrone Swoopes, completed just 42 percent of his passes for 1-9 Whitewright last year.

Five guys decommitted from Texas over the past eight months — exactly as many as committed to it during that span. But if you ask Longhorns head coach Mack Brown, his team is better off without them.

“I don’t want anybody here that doesn’t want to be here,” Brown said. “If you’re committed to us, be committed. If you look around, we’ll look around ... You want people that want to be at your school. If someone backs out on you, you’ve got to look for somebody else. That’s what happens in this world.”

If you’re searching for what’s wrong with the Longhorns’ recruiting philosophy, you don’t have to look very long anymore. When Sealy receiver Ricky Seals-Jones, one of the nation’s best wideout prospects, decommitted from Texas in June, the Longhorns stopped going after him.

Texas A&M, which also picked up former Texas commit Daeshon Hall on Wednesday, ended up signing Seals-Jones.

“Texas is very, very picky,” rivals.com national recruiting analyst Mike Farrell said. “They dropped Ricky Seals-Jones. They stopped recruiting him. In past years, that wouldn’t be a concern. But now Texas A&M is the one in the Top 10 and Texas is outside of the Top 10 nationally I think that’s something you wouldn’t have seen a few years ago when Texas was a BCS title contender and things were going really good.”

Texas has let far too many highly touted players slip through its fingers because of misplaced pride and a harmful desire to take only those who are dying to come to the 40 Acres.

It’s why Belton tight end Durham Smythe, a former high school teammate of David Ash, decommitted from the Longhorns and signed with Notre Dame. It’s why Arlington Martin running back Kyle Hicks decommitted from Texas for TCU. It’s why Fort Worth Arlington Heights defensive tackle A’Shawn Robinson, a five-star prospect, according to rivals.com, decommitted from Texas and signed with Alabama on Wednesday, leaving the Longhorns without any defensive lineman in their 2013 recruiting class.

It’s why — if Brown doesn’t swallow his pride and start fighting for players that are “looking around” — it will be a while before Texas is nationally relevant again.

Christian Corona

 

***

 

Chevoski Collins,  ATH, Livingson HS, Livingston, TX

“He can run and he’s tough. He’s got great speed...We’re trying to upgrade our speed across the board and he helps us do that,” - Mack Brown 

 

Antwuan Davis, DB, Bastrop HS, Bastrop, TX

“He is one of the fastest young men in the country...he’s powerful, strong...he could have gone anywhere in America.” - Mack Brown

 

Deoundrei Davis, LB, Cypress Woods HS, Cypress, TX

“He’s tall and he can run... He’s the type of linebacker you want in this league because he can play Sam [strongside linebacker], Mike [middle linebacker], play in space, cover backs and he probably can cover receivers. We feel like he has a chance to be really good.” - Mack Brown 

 

Rami Hammad, OL, Irving HS, Irving, TX

“He’s very, very physical. He got stronger, bigger and is in great shape. You can see here he’s really, really powerful. We were very, very fortunate to find him and find him late and follow his progress.” - Mack Brown 

 

Desmond Harrison, OL, Contra Costa Community College, Houston, TX

“He’s so athletic and big with long arms. We think he has a chance to be a great tackle at this level, not a good tackle. You see he’s got so much athletic ability. He knocks one down, but he can run downfield and knock another one down. We feel like he can come in and help us immediately.” - Mack Brown 

 

Naashon Hughes, LB, Harker Heights HS, Harker Heights, TX

“He can play inside or outside, because of his length with his arms and his speed and the ability to play some safety. He can be in there, instead of your nickel back, because he plays so well in space. There’s no telling how big he can get. He’s a guy that’s got long arms and can really run, very quick.” - Mack Brown 

 

Erik Huhn, S, Steele HS, Cibolo, TX

“He’s a guy that’s very, very physical. Has a physical presence in the secondary. He can play up around the line of scrimmage, but he can cover. He’s just a guy that makes some great plays.” - Mack Brown

 

Darius James, OL, Harker Heights HS, Kileen, TX

“Some had him rated the number one center in the country. He’ll probably play guard for us, but he can play all five spots. He can just run and he’s so athletic.” - Mack Brown 

 

Montrel Meander, ATH, Palo Duro HS, Amarillo, TX

“He can run the speed sweeps, big enough to block. He’s a guy that can gain so much more strength in the weight room, but he’s tall and fast.” - Mack Brown

 

Jake Oliver, WR, Jesuit HS, Dallas, TX

“He has excellent hands, but also really, really fast. He runs great routes. You can tell he’s a coach’s son. He’s a guy that you can move around as a blocker, especially a great catcher in the red zone with his height because he’s really tall.” - Mack Brown 

 

Kent Perkins, OL, Lake Highlands HS, Dallas, TX

“He has great feet, good package and he blocks with good leverage. We feel like he has a chance to be a special player. He will be a tackle for us and can really run.” - Mack Brown 

 

Jake Raulerson, OL/DE, Celina HS, Celina, TX

“He is a guy that played everywhere in high school... He can really run, and he’s very aggressive as you’ll watch him. He’s a very bright young man, very driven.” - Mack Brown 

 

Geoff Swaim, TE, Butte Community College, Chico, CA

“We wanted a stronger presence at tight end with our blocking...He can run. As we watched him, he’s exactly what we’re looking for to be more physical at the line of scrimmage. I think he’s gotten the other tight ends’ attention with how physical he’s been.” - Mack Brown

 

Tyrone Swoopes, QB, Whitewright HS, Whitewright, TX

“His body fat is very little, so he’s in great shape. But he’s big at about 6’5”, 250. He can run. Guys have been impressed with him in the workouts.” - Mack Brown 

 

Jacorey Warrick, WR, Cypress Falls HS, Houston, TX 

“He is a great student... He’s got good speed and good hands. A special teams guy.” - Mack Brown 

Texas may have officially closed out another recruiting cycle
yesterday, but the story isn’t over for the class of 2013. Here’s a quick look at Mack Brown’s group of 15.

Strongest position

Offensive line

“We got some speed that we needed, but the highlight is the offensive line,” coach Mack Brown said at Wednesday’s signing day press conference. Rami Hammad, Kent Perkins, Darius James, Jake Raulerson and Desmond Harrison comprise one of the best offensive line classes in the country. Though they may not all see the field immediately, the 2013 linemen are sure to have left their mark on Texas by the time they’re through.

Biggest need left unfilled

Defensive tackle

What was formerly a strength of the class turned into a glaring deficiency once A’Shawn Robinson decommitted. Texas simply did not have enough time to replace Robinson and Waco defensive tackle Andrew Billings poured salt in the wound by picking Baylor on Tuesday. Alhough Brown claimed Wednesday that defensive tackle “wasn’t a position of need,” it still hurts to miss out on such highly-touted prospects.

Most likely to play early

Jake Oliver

(wide receiver, Dallas Jesuit)

Besides junior college recruits Geoff Swaim and Desmond Harrison (who will assuredly play right away), wide receiver Jake Oliver, who caught a state-record 308 balls in high school for 4,567 yards receiving and 56 touchdowns, has the best chance of any incoming freshman to see thefield immediately.  

 Most likely to redshirt

Tyrone Swoopes

(quarterback, Whitewright)

Swoopes is a lock to sit out the 2013 season. The Whitewright product needs to become a more polished passer, and with five quarterbacks on the roster, Texas can afford to give him a year just to learn. Swoopes’ only chance to play this year is an injury epidemic or in a gadget package, neither of which are likely. Swoopes should come into the 2014 season ready to compete for the backup job.

 When considering the 2013 recruiting cycle in totality, there’s plenty to like, quality-wise. However, one can’t help but wonder what could have been. Five decommitments hurt, but so does losing recruiting battles to Baylor and Texas A&M.

“It’s really important that the guys who commit to us stay committed to us,” Brown said.

In large part, they did. But because of those who didn’t, Brown’s program is at a crossroads. Texas has already jumped out to a historic start for 2014, with seven current high school juniors on board. If on-field success can yield success on the recruiting trail, the Longhorns should have no problem adding to that tally. If not, underwhelming years like 2013 will start to become the rule, and not the exception.

A'Shawn Robinson decommits from Texas, caps tough stretch for Longhorns

The hits just keep coming for Texas.

A day after Texas athletic director DeLoss Dodds released a statement which admonished co-offensive coordinator Major Applewhite for “inappropriate, consensual behavior with an adult student” at the 2009 Fiesta Bowl, Arlington Heights defensive tackle A’Shawn Robinson decommitted from Texas. He will likely sign with Alabama.

Even though Robinson committed to play for Texas last February, he also took official visits to Florida State, Southern California, and Alabama. Crimson Tide head coach Nick Saban met went to Arlington to meet with Robinson earlier this week. Burntorangenation.com reports that Robinson informed Texas defensive tackle coach Bo Davis of his decomittment during an in-home visit on Saturday.

Davis’ decision comes on the heels of the Applewhite scandal, which may have contributed to Robinson’s choice.

Davis is the fifth former member of Texas’ 2013 class to decommit. Sealy athlete Ricky Seals-Jones, Lancaster defensive end Daeshon Hall, Belton tight end Durham Smythe, and Arlington Martin running back Kyle Hicks all decommitted earlier in the year.

Meanwhile, Texas is already working on replacing Robinson with another exceptionally talented defensive lineman.

Memphis Central defensive end Frank Herron is visiting Austin this weekend, as the Texas coaching staff makes a last-ditch effort to bring him on board. Herron is rated as a five-star by rivals.com, and is currently committed to Louisiana State. He is joined by two other prospects who have also made verbal commitments elsewhere: DeSoto running back Dontre Wilson (committed to Oregon), and Palo Duro safety/wide receiver Montrel Meander (committed to Washington State).

Texas is expected to add approximately three more members to the 2013 class, which now stands at 14.

Sophomore defensive teckle Desmond Jackson pummels Mississippi’s Bo Wallace in Oxford.  Jackson has played in all 17 games in the last two seasons (Daily Texan file photo).

Photo Credit: Andrew Torrey | Daily Texan Staff

Sophomore defensive tackle Desmond Jackson may not be the tallest player on the defensive line, but he is certainly the strongest.

When he arrived on campus in the spring of 2011, his teammates were shocked to see what he was capable of bench pressing.

At that time he could bench 400 pounds. Now, he is benching 525 pounds, more than any other member of the team.

“I remember coming in and seeing that someone from the 6 o’clock group had done 20-something reps, and I was like, ‘Wow, who’s this dude?’” junior offensive lineman Trey Hopkins said. “And from then on he just got going.”

Jackson’s teammates call him “Tank.” He has certainly earned that name.

As a freshman, he appeared in all 13 games, recording 10 tackles and two sacks. His first start for the Longhorns was against New Mexico this season. So far in his sophomore campaign, he has three tackles for a loss.

Head coach Mack Brown has been pushing the Longhorns to be more physical than ever this season. As a member of this dynamic defensive line, Jackson has played a significant role.

“I feel we’ve been really physical on defense, which is something that we’re trying to improve on both sides of the ball,” Brown said. “In fact, we’ve become a much more physical football team than we’ve been in the last five or six years."

Jackson stands at 6-foot-1 but competes for a spot with defensive tackles who are all taller than him.

His strength hasn’t stopped him from getting teased by his teammates. But he’s an underclassman, so it comes with the territory.

“I got picked on the first day I stepped on campus,” Jackson said. “Nobody’s really seen a short guy like me come through since Casey Hampton came through.”

Hampton, who now plays for the Pittsburgh Steelers, is the same height as Jackson. Hampton has been selected for the Pro Bowl five times and was a first-round draft pick in 2001. Being the short guy on the line can’t be too much of a disadvantage.

Hopkins said Jackson’s height is beneficial.

“Being a shorter guy, Desmond has a naturally low pad level,” Hopkins said. “He does even better than that by keeping his knees bent with very good leg drive, and he just has a naturally quick get off. He’s very good at keying in on snaps. He’s a strong guy and uses that to his advantage.”

Fellow defensive tackle Chris Whaley said Jackson always has a smile on his face and is a leader of the team, even though he is only a sophomore.

“He’s a great player and a great person,” Whaley said. “He practices hard and he plays hard. He has a great personality.”

Last year, Jackson’s steady improvement was obvious. He had two tackles in each of the final three games he played in and had sacks in the last two games, including the Holiday Bowl. This season, he is earning more playing time on the defensive line.

His strength and drive will help the defensive line take on the high-powered West Virginia offensive line and Heisman hopeful quarterback, Geno Smith.

With a nickname like Tank, what else would you expect?

Longhorns snakebitten along the line

For each Casey Hampton, there’s an Andre Jones. For each Shaun Rogers, there’s a Derek Johnson. For every Lamarr Houston, there’s a Quincy Russell.

At least, that’s the way it seems these days at Texas, which can either be referred to as DT-U, or DT-Boo.

In all, there are five former Longhorn defensive tackles playing in the professional ranks. There are also six since 2007 whose careers haven’t panned out exactly as planned.

2007: Andre Jones — A top defensive tackle in the country, Jones spent more time in jail (five days) than he did on the field (not one snap) after being charged with aggravated robbery with a deadly weapon during a holdup in late summer of 2007. Jones was suspended by Mack Brown after the burglary — one of his cohorts was then-safety Robert Joseph — and eventually dismissed from the program.

2007: Tyrell Higgins — Played for Texas, left Texas, played for Texas, left Texas. Higgins’ roller coaster of a Longhorn career came to an end in December when he left the program with one year of eligibility left. He originally signed in 2007, but left the next spring because of personal reasons. He came back in 2008 as a walk-on and re-earned his scholarship. Perhaps he didn’t play as much as he would have liked last fall, because he left school again.

2008: Jarvis Humphrey — One of the sadder stories in recent memory, Humphrey came to school as a highly regarded tackle with an opportunity to play quickly. But a strange kidney condition forced him to sit out a year and a half before he ultimately withdrew from the program.

2009: Derek Johnson — The out-of-state recruit from Arkansas transferred back home to Arkansas State University after a year because of family issues. “I recently had a little boy who was born premature,” Johnson told the Jonesboro Sun in July 2010. “I’m moving back home where my family can help.”

2010: Taylor Bible — Well, at least Bible is still on the team. He’s just not the guy the Longhorns thought they were getting, at 310 lbs, which is 50 lbs (!) higher than his reported weight as a high schooler. The jury is still out on him after a redshirt year, but Bible is running out of chances to make an impact.

2011: Quincy Russell — Tuesday’s news that the Sam Houston High School product failed to qualify at UT and will attend junior college ensures that, for the fifth straight year, something goes wrong for the Longhorns at the defensive tackle position.

Read more about Quincy Russell here.

Sophomore defensive tackle Calvin Howell talks to a pair of teammates during Texas’ 21-10 win over Cal in the Bridgepoint Education Holiday Bowl last December. Howell was arrested for marijuana possession Jan. 29 and decided to transfer last week.

Photo Credit: Elisabeth Dillon | Daily Texan Staff

Although the Longhorns have been celebrating signing one of the best recruiting classes in the country, the team will be losing defensive tackle Calvin Howell. Howell made the decision to transfer and has not named where he will be going. Since the beginning of the season, transferring seems to be pretty common for Texas football players.

Head coach Mack Brown said “personal reasons” were the cause of Howell’s decision to leave Austin. But, it seems very coincidental that he was arrested on Jan. 29 in San Marcos on charges of marijuana possession. Howell was charged with a Class B misdemeanor. According to a San Marcos Police Department blotter, he was arrested for possession of less than 20 oz. of marijuana at 4:44 a.m.

Defensive tackle is not an area where the Longhorns are lacking depth. Junior college transfer Brandon Moore, who recently signed with the Longhorns, will definitely be important for the team as they try to replace Howell. In addition, five-star recruit Malcom Brown will be playing in the fall. Defensive tackle Kheeston Randall will be graduating, leaving the Longhorns with a lot of different personnel on their defensive front. But, the defense will remain solid with a lot of backup options, even without Howell. Texas had the best defense in the Big 12 last year, and losing Howell will not change that.

But, what happens if this transferring trend continues?

Quarterbacks Garrett Gilbert and Connor Wood, running back Traylon Shead and linebacker Tariq Allen are all leaving Texas behind. Sophomore wide receiver Darius White left the Longhorns after having just six catches and one touchdown during his two seasons in burnt orange. White had very high expectations when he signed with the Longhorns. Wide receivers Greg Timmons and Chris Jones also made the decision to leave Texas.

But, Howell was different from most of these transfers. He was on the field. A lot. He started seven games in 2011 and played in all thirteen games. He finished the season with 16 tackles, one sack and one tackle for loss. He was a four-star member of Texas’ 2009 recruiting class and the No. 7 player at his position in the country.

Although the cause of Howell’s departure from Texas is unclear and is potentially caused by his arrest, his leaving raises concerns about transferring from Texas and out of the football program. Although the Longhorns signed 28 athletes in the class of 2012, there is still the question of how many will actually stay.

Transferring is normal for college athletes, especially with a program that is rebuilding. But it seems that there is a trend with big names leaving Texas behind for other schools. Garrett Gilbert left for SMU. Connor Wood went to Colorado. Traylon Shead went to Navarro Junior College. Although the loss of Howell will not be devastating to the Longhorns’ thriving defense, athletes transferring is becoming too common for the Longhorns.

Printed on, February 7, 2012 as:Recently arrested Howell latest to transfer