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The cold is going away, the days are getting longer, and the lovebugs are swarming the countryside. It’s spring time. With spring comes spring practice on Texas’ high school football fields – providing an excellent opportunity to get to know some of the Longhorns’ top targets as well as identifying other players certain to emerge as the recruiting cycle progresses.
The next leg of my journey through the state brought me up to the DFW area where I visited Eastern Hills, Nolan Catholic, Bishop Dunne, and Arlington Lamar to get some firsthand insight into the programs. I was also supposed to visit Aledo, but a timing mix-up on my part prevented me from going to their practice.
I talked to a lot of guys and watched a lot of talent during my time at various practices. Here are some of the guys that you will want to keep your eye on during this next recruiting cycle.
Byron Hobbs – 2018 OLB (Eastern Hills | Fort Worth, TX)
I stopped by Eastern Hills to check up on the second commit of the Longhorns 2018 class and to see how he was doing. When I showed up, he was wearing Longhorn wristbands and had a countdown to February 7th on his phone.
Since his commitment, Byron has been in pretty solid contact with Todd Orlando and Tom Herman. The two Texas coaches are making sure that Byron makes it in and is ready to go as soon as he makes to campus. Byron’s goals were to “stay focused in the classroom, and when I’m in the weight room, [take] no breaks. It will pay off when you come to UT. They actually want to put me on a diet; kind of like an eating schedule.”
Byron Hobbs did make it down to Austin for the Spring Game, so I asked him what he thought of the new defense. “I love the new defense because Coach Orlando’s scheme of defense is exactly how I play football. I will blitz, I will come off the edge, but I’ll also drop off into pass coverage. Where Malik plays right now, I can see myself playing there.”
To gauge Byron’s commitment to UT, I asked him if he’d be making any more trips or visits at all. He let me know, “official visits maybe, but nothing unofficial…I want to go to California for an official visit, like UCLA.” When I asked if UCLA had been talking to him he told me, “not at all. Just a fun trip.”
There are still schools vying for Byron Hobbs. In fact, before I made the trip to Fort Worth, another school sat down with Byron to tell him, “You know where home is.” Byron responded, “That’s why I verbally committed.”
It’s safe to say that the Longhorn commit is pretty solid, despite liking the Sooners quite a bit a few months back. I asked Byron what he thought the reason that so many huge flips have been happening recently. He told me, “They know what Texas is coming with. We have the powerhouse coming…we got some heat.”
Bobby Brown – 2018 DL (Arlington Lamar | Arlington, TX)
While I didn’t make it to watch him practice, I have seen him in camps, and Bobby Brown is an explosive and powerful defensive lineman. Tack on a 6’4” 278-pound frame, impressive length, and some athleticism (4.6 forty and 4.44 shuttle), and you have exactly what the Longhorn coaches are looking for.
Bobby has been to Texas once, way back in February for the Junior Days. He told me the thing that stood out to him about his trip was that, “It was like Houston when I visited the coaching staff there. They were energetic. The mentality that they have and the way they fly around is just something different.”
Right now, the teams leading in the race for Bobby are Texas, Texas A&M, Oklahoma, LSU, and Alabama. However, it appears to be more of a race between the Texas schools at this point.
While Texas A&M and Oscar Giles have told Bobby that they want him to play at defensive end, Tom Herman isn’t putting a spot on the table for Bobby. “Coach Herman told me he wants me to play regardless. He just wants me on the field, and if I went there, I’d have an opportunity to compete for playing time.”
The thing that will win Bobby Brown over is not playing time, prestige, or the usual stuff. Bobby says, “I’m looking for something different that they’re showing me from other schools. Something they can offer me as a man and as a player.” When I dug a little deeper to ask him what “a difference” is to him, he gave me this example, “Showing me something you don’t see every day. I went to one school that had this program where they help their graduated students and players years after [playing] to help get them jobs…Another school had the #1 graduation rate.”
Calvin Avery – 2018 DT (Bishop Dunne | Dallas, TX)
Calvin Avery (better known as “Boogie”) was one of the first guys in the class that I talked to. He had some impressive sophomore tape and I thought he was funny.
Add a year and the same sentiment holds true. Calvin has one of the quickest first steps of any defensive tackle in the country. This, along with his power, gives him excellent block shedding ability, allowing him to be in the face of the ball carrier, whether that be a QB or RB.
A lot of Longhorn recruiting reporters have written off the 6’2” 310-pound defensive tackle as being averse to the Longhorns; however, Calvin emphasized to me that was not the case adding that “Coach Giles has been hitting me up lately, trying to get me up there… He wants me to go somewhere where I’ll be able to progress beyond the four years I’m in college.”
It seems that this new coaching staff has really started to flip the script in this battle. I think they’ve done such a good job in trying to flip the script, that when Calvin’s top 10 is released, I’d expect to see the Longhorns in it.
Calvin is also getting love from Nebraska, Colorado, Oklahoma, Texas A&M, and TCU.
Brian Williams – 2019 DB (Bishop Dunne | Dallas, TX)
One of Texas’ top targets for the 2019 class is the top safety in the class, Brian Williams. While I didn’t get to see him play last Wednesday, I have seen him play plenty of times in the past few months. There is a reason he is rated so highly. He has excellent instincts on the field, elite athleticism, man or zone coverage ability, and a great frame.
Brian Williams also comes from a long line of athletes. His brother, Rawleigh Williams III, currently plays RB for Arkansas. With his brother being at Arkansas and his neighbor Chevin Calloway also playing there, a lot of people have written Brian in as an Arkansas lock. When I brought this up to him he told me, “They’re wrong. I feel like I’ll make the best decision for myself. I know my brother is having success up there, and I definitely do enjoy every time I’m up in Arkansas. I really love the program they have up there, but at the end of the day nothing is set in stone.”
Brian Williams still hasn’t made the trip to Austin, despite being the first sophomore to be offered at Texas in quite a while, but James Washington has been in contact with him. “He seems very high on me, and he’s always talked about getting me down there this summer. I definitely plan on doing so.” When he does take that visit, Brian says he’ll be interested in seeing where the program is headed. Brian will be “just looking at what Tom Herman plans to do with the program, and what he feels he can bring to the table.”
There is no clear leader for Brian Williams, as he will be taking his time with the process to evaluate his decision thoroughly.
Nana Osafo-Mensah – 2019 DE (Nolan Catholic | Fort Worth, TX)
Nolan Catholic boasts one of the top ten best 2019 players in the state and one of the best in the country in WDE NaNa Osafo-Mensah. NaNa is an intimidating presence on the defensive side of the ball. When you watch him play, it seems almost unfair for the other team to have to go up against him because he’s fast, powerful, and daunting when he opens up his wingspan to envelop the ball carrier. On top of that, NaNa has been coached up very well, as he has excellent technique in the pass rush and instincts on the field.
When I was out in Fort Worth to watch the Nolan Catholic practice, Todd Orlando was out there as well to evaluate NaNa. I asked NaNa what the conversation between he and Orlando was like, to which NaNa responded, “he says how at Texas they’re not just going to focus on me being a good football player, but whether or not I go to the NFL, I’m still going to be able to walk out of there with a great education. I’ll be able to have that UT degree that will be known anywhere.” It appears that education is the real driving factor behind the Osafo-Mensah family. NaNa said, “I really love football, but my biggest concern is that I want to go to a college where if anything happens to me, I can still have a degree and still be successful.”
NaNa is looking to get his business degree when he heads off to college, specifically a finance degree with a minor in entrepreneurship.