Dallas Colleges: Lorenzo Joe

Strong's debut will feature fresh faces

August, 25, 2014
Aug 25
7:15
PM CT
AUSTIN, Texas -- Charlie Strong and his coaches won't be the only new guy running out the tunnel for the Texas Longhorns on Saturday night. There are many more fresh faces Longhorn fans will soon get to know. Get ready for some surprises.

Strong did not release a depth chart Monday -- he'll do so later this week -- but based on what he and his players have said throughout fall camp, it's clear Texas will be relying on some players that even the recruiting junkies don't know much about. A primer on 10 players to watch as Texas opens the Strong era on Saturday against North Texas:

Safety Jason Hall: The freshman safety from South Grand Prairie High in Dallas was a three-star recruit who's exceeded all expectations for both his talent and age. He has ideal size at 6-foot-2 and 207 pounds and has earned rave reviews from Strong and his fellow DBs in recent weeks. "Jason understands the game," linebacker Jordan Hicks said Monday. "You can see his confidence. He's one of those young guys who you can expect to play well in games. He's going to be a great player." Hall is still battling for a starting safety job and Strong wants a decision mid-week on who will start.

Receiver Ty Templin: Not your typical walk-on. "He's always kind of stood out in everybody's mind for a while," quarterback David Ash said. "Every conversation I remember, going back for years, was, 'You know, that Ty Templin kid, he's good somehow.'" Ash says the 6-foot, 180-pound sophomore is a reliable pass-catcher who isn't afraid to go over the middle. With Jaxon Shipley (hamstring) day-to-day and Daje Johnson suspended, Templin has a real chance to break into the starting lineup for the opener.

Safety Dylan Haines: We profiled Haines during fall camp, and the walk-on hasn't lost any momentum after wowing his coaches and teammates with a spring-game interception and a strong showing in summer workouts. "Dylan was probably the biggest shock of the spring," Hicks said. "He came on and he came on strong." While he and Hall will continue to battle, the safe bet is that both will see plenty of action in the opener and beyond.

Receiver Jacorey Warrick: After playing mop-up minutes last season as a true freshman, "Petey" Warrick has consistently been talked up as a receiver on the rise. "He's a little guy, but he's really quick, really fast, nice hands, got stronger," cornerback Quandre Diggs said. "He's made some strides." He's a 5-foot-11 speedster in the slot who should see the field a lot, especially if Shipley is unavailable.

Defensive tackle Hassan Ridgeway: The sophomore who Strong calls "The Green Mile" will be Texas' top defensive tackle off the bench and is finally buying in. Defensive end Cedric Reed says the big man put on 50 pounds last year and "all he could do was sleep." Not true this fall. "He looks good, physically. He looks like a monster," Reed said. "He's really taking the game serious, eating right, in the playbook, really dedicated himself to this defense. I think he'll be a breakout player this year."

Offensive tackle Marcus Hutchins: The fourth-year player has yet to achieve much at Texas and has moved around between the offensive and defensive line. But he seems to be getting offensive line coach Joe Wickline's attention as a potential left tackle. The 6-foot-5, 278-pound lineman might get the call Saturday to fill in for Desmond Harrison, who's suspended for at least one game. You could also see redshirt freshman Darius James in this role, too.

Receivers Armanti Foreman, Lorenzo Joe: Of the five members of Texas' true freshman receiver class, these two put themselves in the best position to play immediately. Foreman has the explosiveness and quickness to turn a short pass into a big play. He's a game-breaker if Texas can get him in space. Joe is more of a possession receiver at 6-foot-2, but he provides sneaky athleticism and is surprisingly polished for a guy who played QB in high school last year. They'll get thrown in the mix on Saturday at some point.

Punter William Russ: The big question mark that not enough people talk about. Strong praised the fifth-year senior for having done "an unbelievable job" in fall practice. "He's one of those guys, he has a strong leg now. He may boom one 60 and the next one may go 20," Strong said. "He's got to get a little more consistency." There will be just as much scrutiny on Nick Rose, who gets his first shot at place-kicking duties after being the kickoff specialist for two years.

Position battle update: Texas WR

August, 19, 2014
Aug 19
4:00
PM CT
Texas' wide receiving corps lost three players to discipline and one starter to an injury. Who's left? Who's going to make an impact in the Longhorns' opener against North Texas? Here's a closer look.

Contenders: Junior Marcus Johnson, sophomore Jacorey Warrick, redshirt freshman Jake Oliver, freshmen Armanti Foreman, Dorian Leonard, Lorenzo Joe, Roderick Bernard, Garrett Gray, sophomore Ty Templin, senior John Harris

Not contenders: Jaxon Shipley is sidelined indefinitely with a hamstring injury. Daje Johnson is suspended for at least one game. Kendall Sanders and Montrel Meander were dismissed from the program before fall camp.

What they replace: Not only do the Longhorns need a possession receiver as reliable as Shipley while he's recovering, they also must replace top deep threat Mike Davis. There's still no word on how quickly Shipley will be back on the field. Davis, who's now in Oakland Raiders camp, finished with 2,753 career receiving yards and 18 TDs. Sanders was supposed to be a major contributor for this group after catching 37 passes for 361 yards and a TD as a sophomore last year.

What they offer: The only proven commodity in the group is Johnson. He offers serious speed; he was productive last season, including in big games, and he can play inside or outside. With Shipley sidelined, you'd have to think Johnson will be the go-to target for David Ash to start the season.

But who knows what to expect from the rest. Warrick, known by his peers as "Petey," has earned consistent praise from Charlie Strong and his coaches and saw a little mop-up duty last season.

Oliver redshirted last season and could be a nice target on the outside with his 6-foot-3 frame. Harris is a guy who made a few big plays in 2013, but has still yet to really break through and earn consistent playing time.

What remains to be seen is just how far these five true freshmen have come in the past few weeks. The coaching staff has repeatedly said publicly that all five are doing well and haven't singled out one or two as standing out above the rest. But Strong has acknowledged he likes Foreman's explosiveness and playmaking ability. Joe and Leonard seem to have a real shot at playing as well.

And then the surprise of the group has been Templin, a 6-foot, 195-pound sophomore walk-on whose efforts in fall camp have been called "unbelievable" by Strong. He played on the scout team last year but was getting first-team reps in Texas' only fall practice open to the media.

Prediction: Shipley will fight hard to try to get back for BYU and UCLA, and he just might pull that off. But in the meantime, Texas goes with a starting four of Marcus Johnson, Warrick, Harris and, yes, Templin. Foreman quickly works his way up to the No. 1 offense with a few nice plays against North Texas. And then the pressure is on for Daje Johnson, who needs to get back in good standing before the Longhorns get their rematch with the Cougars.

Position battles to watch: Wide receiver

March, 3, 2014
Mar 3
9:00
AM CT
Editor's note: This is the first part of a weeklong series breaking down Texas’ most important spring position battles when the Longhorns begin practice in two weeks.

Moving on: Texas is losing, statistically, one of the best wide receivers in its program’s history in Mike Davis. He leaves Austin ranking No. 4 in the Longhorn record books in both career receptions and receiving yards, and fifth in receiving TDs. And imagine what he could have done had Texas enjoyed a little more stability at the quarterback position during his four years. He started 38 games and brought the deep threat needed to stretch Big 12 defenses.

The contenders: We know what Texas has in reliable longtime starter Jaxon Shipley. No reason to worry about him. And you could argue that Kendall Sanders and Marcus Johnson aren’t really competing with each other for snaps. They seem like logical choices to be the No. 2 and No. 3 guys in this unit, at least on paper.

Among those vying with Shipley, Sanders and Johnson to prove they should see the field in 2014: John Harris, Jacorey Warrick, Montrel Meander, Jake Oliver, Armanti Foreman, Lorenzo Joe, Dorian Leonard, Roderick Bernard and Garrett Gray.

And don’t forget Daje Johnson, the versatile weapon who focused on receiver in 2013, and the injured Bryant Jackson, who will miss spring practice. Even if a few of these wideouts leave for playing time elsewhere, it’s going to be a crowded receiver room this fall.

Moving forward: What makes this a battle is the stunning number of young backups who will compete for playing time this fall. There’s plenty of time for this number to change, and it will, but Texas could have as many as 14 scholarship receivers on the roster this fall.

Several of the incoming freshmen will redshirt, that much seems certain, but who knows what the Longhorns can expect from the rest. That’s the upside of signing so many wideouts with different skill sets. Throw them all onto a practice field, see which ones improve and stand out, and play the best of the best. That’s a luxury new receivers coach Les Koenning gets this fall.

Prediction: Many will point to Foreman and Joe as immediate contributors, and they’ll get a shot. But the trio of second-year receivers -- Warrick, Meander and Oliver -- will catch folks by surprise and find meaningful roles.

What’ll be fascinating to watch this spring is how the new staff puts Daje Johnson to use, and whether he can get his act together after two suspensions last season. If he does, he’s got a chance to become a nationally known and feared playmaker.

Incoming impact countdown: Nos. 4-8

February, 20, 2014
Feb 20
10:00
AM CT
Now that they’ve signed their letters of intent, Texas’ incoming recruits can officially toss their stars in the trash. They don’t matter now.

While such ratings and rankings are helpful throughout the recruiting process, they mean nothing once a kid sets foot on campus and joins the program.

Gold stars won’t decide who gets to play as a freshman. Preparation, fit, need, raw talent, confidence, some good fortune -- a whole lot of real stuff matters now. Which members of Texas’ 2014 class have a chance to help out the Longhorns from day one?

This week we’re breaking down the Texas signees by their ability to make an early impact during their time on the 40 Acres, counting down from No. 23 to No. 1. If you missed it, here were the first three parts.

[+] EnlargeLorenzo Joe
Tom Hauck for Student SportsTexas has a logjam at receiver, but don't be surprised if Lorenzo Joe contributes this fall.
8. WR Lorenzo Joe
Abilene Cooper | 6-2, 190


2013: 1,864 passing yards, 13 passing TDs, 1,657 rushing yards, 22 rushing TDs

Joe is one of the clear-cut leaders of this class and one of its most intriguing athletes. Abilene Cooper wisely played Joe at quarterback in an effort to put the ball in the hands of its best player as much as possible, and he thrived in that capacity. But Joe has been working to refine his receiving skills on the side throughout during the two years, and won’t be as raw as you’d think by the time fall camp arrives.

The logjam at receiver has been well-documented in this series, so it’s once again difficult to peg where Joe fits into this mix and who he’s capable of surpassing on the depth chart. Devoting a year to the wide receiver position will be good for him, and Joe is talented enough to help the Longhorns in 2014.

7. CB Jermaine Roberts
New Orleans St. Augustine | 5-9, 170

2013: 56 tackles, 6 interceptions, 1 kick return TD

Roberts considers himself a game-changer akin to Tyrann Mathieu, and the Louisiana native will show up in Austin with immeasurable confidence and swagger, both on and off the field. But where does he fit in from Day 1?

There could be an opening at corner depending on how defensive coordinator Vance Bedford and defensive backs coach Chris Vaughn approach replacing Carrington Byndom, or maybe Roberts can step in and help on nickel and dime coverage immediately. He’s at least got a shot at finding a role on special teams, and he’ll want a shot at returning kicks. This kid wants to play, and he’ll have the opportunity to prove himself.

6. RB Donald Catalon
Houston Eisenhower | 6-0, 200

2013: 866 rushing yards, 410 receiving yards, 9 TDs, 38 tackles, 1 interception

As is the case with the other running back signees in this class, it’s possible Catalon could end up at another position besides running back during his career. He shows enough natural instincts and skills to play in the secondary. Is that where he’s most likely to maximize his potential? Too soon to tell.

What we do know is Texas needs help at running back this fall, and Catalon would appear to have the clearest path to entering that stable and contributing. He’s a slasher with a nice combination of speed and power, but he’s got work to do if he wants to get on the level of Texas’ three incumbent backs.

[+] EnlargeJerrod Heard
Max Olson/ESPNBarring injuries at the QB position, the best option for Jerrod Heard and Texas might be to redshirt in 2014.
5. QB Jerrod Heard
Denton Guyer | 6-2, 190

2013: 2,148 passing yards, 22 passing TDs, 6 INTs, 2,172 rushing yards, 28 rushing TDs

Why, you ask, is Heard not at the top of this list? Because where we stand today, it still seems like a redshirt is the more probable outcome for Heard in his freshman campaign. That seems even more likely if Texas does end up landing former USC quarterback Max Wittek via transfer.

Heard is special. We’ve written that he’s the quarterback of the future for the Longhorns. That’s still true if he doesn’t play in 2014, and that year would be a remarkably valuable experience. All bets are off if David Ash goes down, obviously, but right now the smartest course of action would be keeping Heard on the bench and letting him soak in the knowledge Shawn Watson and Joe Wickline offer.

4. DT Poona Ford
Hilton Head (S.C.) | 6-1, 288

2013: 135 tackles, 28 TFLs, seven sacks, 17 QB pressures, two forced fumbles

This is one bad dude. Power, quick feet and a knack for inflicting pain -- that, in a nutshell, is what Ford can bring to the table. And Texas coaches made it perfectly clear to him during his recruitment that he was a need, a must-get who can play from Day 1 if he brings his best.

The depth behind Malcom Brown, Desmond Jackson and Hassan Ridgeway is questionable at best. Playing time is there for the taking so long as Ford takes care of his business. And what else can he do? Well, he did play some fullback last fall. Enjoy.

Key recruiting visits -- Big 12 

January, 24, 2014
Jan 24
9:00
AM CT

With less than two weeks remaining until national signing day, every official visit is huge -- for the athlete and for the program. Some schools are in need of elite athletes more than others.

Here are 10 names to keep an eye on as they take their official visits to Big 12 schools:

1. ATH Lorenzo Joe (Abilene, Texas/Cooper)
Visiting: TCU


A two-hour trek eastbound to Fort Worth is making some Longhorns fans wonder -- and, perhaps, worry. Joe, an ESPN 300 athlete, has been committed to Texas since August 2012, but with the coaching transition from Mack Brown to Charlie Strong, Joe has checked out other options just to make sure Texas is the place for him. Look for TCU to roll the red -- or purple -- carpet out for him.

Texas coaches back on the road recruiting 

January, 16, 2014
Jan 16
1:00
PM CT
The dead period is over and it’s time to hit the road. Charlie Strong has his new coaching staff in place and is ready to get back to work on closing out Texas’ recruiting class.

The Longhorns currently have 21 committed prospects, though several are looking to take official visits elsewhere this month. There are big-time recruits still available. And don’t forget the new names who are sure to pop up on Texas’ radar in the next few weeks.

Here’s a rundown of where things stand and what names you should know entering the end of the dead period.

Solid commitments


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Texas commits respond to Strong hire 

January, 5, 2014
Jan 5
2:30
PM CT

Charlie Strong has officially been named Mack Brown’s successor at Texas. It’s a move that appears to get thumbs up from many of his future athletes.

As 2014 Texas recruits waited to hear who would be their future head coach, many of them were hoping for the right fit. Strong’s résumé -- 23-3 in his past two seasons at Louisville, 3-1 in four bowl game appearances and an outstanding recruiting reputation -- says he fits the bill.

In short, Strong gets it, and while Texas commits had the utmost respect for Brown, they now feel they’re in good hands.

“I think he can do pretty good there,” four-star offensive lineman Terrell Cuney (Jasper, Texas/Jasper) said. “I don’t think anyone can live up to what Mack did, but he’ll come in and do big things.

"Bring it on, man! 'Hook ‘Em all day!'”


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Big 12 recruiting storylines: Oct. 10 

October, 10, 2013
10/10/13
2:00
PM CT


The Big 12 has a big weekend ahead in Dallas and Texas Tech is surging. Here’s a look at some of the Big 12’s top recruiting storylines.

Big names set to attend Red River Rivalry
There is never a season, regardless of what type of shape either program is in, that the Cotton Bowl won’t be filled with some of the most desirable recruits in the country.

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Texas, which had two stepped around the edges of early offers, finally has succumbed to the Siren’s song of getting in the 2014 recruiting game.

No more waiting until after the current recruiting class’ signing day so as not to take away their moment in the spotlight. No more being "approved" for an offer to come in February. No more waiting.

So now it is no holds barred. Texas has entered the fray. With the Longhorns comes a big stick. The Longhorns, long the recruiting bullies of the Lone Star State, have now placed themselves on equal footing with the likes of Texas A&M, Oklahoma, Alabama, LSU and even TCU, Baylor and Oklahoma State.

[+] EnlargeMack Brown
Brett Davis/US PresswireMack Brown and the Longhorns sent out a flurry of 2014 offers on Thursday.
Why it took this long is one part stubbornness and two parts arrogance.

Texas was loathe and slow to get into the early offer game because Mack Brown thought his way was the best way. He had, after all, perfected the art of the early offer back when early was the summer of a prospect’s senior year.

The theory in recent years was that by waiting, until at least after a prospect’s junior year, Texas was able to more comprehensively evaluate the player and how he might fit into the program. That worked. Until it didn’t.

From Aug. 1, 2011 to June 1, 2012, Texas had 18 players transfer or leave the program for one reason or another. So much for that comprehensive evaluation process.

Even as far back as June, Brown seemed to know his old way wasn’t working.

"We're the ones that started offering early in the summer of their senior year, and now we're two years late," he said. "… we all reassess everything we do daily. It's something that you just have to continue to look at and continue to do."

Right there Brown proved he was indeed flexible. But still more than a hint of arrogance remained. This is Texas, after all. And Texas did just pull off some late-in-the-recruiting-game switches with Dalton Santos, Torshiro Davis and Daje Johnson.

Success like that may have emboldened the coaching staff and led it to believe that its way was still the right way. Most assuredly the prevailing feeling around the program was that if some other school, say Tennessee or LSU or TCU, offered early, Texas could always come back around and get the guy it wants.

When Texas did miss on a guy, maybe because it wasn’t in on the recruiting early enough, it was OK to let the little brothers in the state have a recruit or two.

"Sometimes people panic when you lose a guy," Brown said. "We might have been trying to lose the guy. Maybe we didn't want him. It didn't fit us. In some cases we've moved on long before the public moves on because we can't comment on kids publicly, and they can."

No comment speaks louder than the one Texas has made by extending offers to the class of 2014. With that move, the coaching staff is saying it is worried about Kevin Sumlin and Texas A&M, Nick Saban and Alabama, Les Milles and LSU, Art Briles and Baylor and others. Texas is worried because all of those programs have made strides.

In the case of the Aggies the strides might not be on the field. But Sumlin has been dynamic in the recruiting game and alumni-speaking circuit.

Briles has Baylor building a new stadium and has sent more players to the first round of the NFL draft the last two years than Texas –- four for Baylor, zero for Texas.

Now TCU has entered the fray. The facilities aren’t there. Neither is the history. But the opportunity is – the Horned Frogs have had 10 drafted to Texas' 14 over the past three years. So, too, is the coaching.


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