Last fall, defensive coordinatormade a comment about tight ends coming out of helicopters and holes in the ground in co-offensive coordinator Bryan Harsin's offense. Unfortunately for the Longhorns in 2011, there weren't a lot of proven tight ends available to emerge from helicopters or holes in the ground.
When 2013 Belton tight end Durham Smythe arrives on campus for good next year, he'll add some much-needed depth at the position that plays an extremely important role in the offense. The only question is, will he be come out of the helicopter or the holes in the ground? Stay tuned.
Currently in Austin preparing for the World Championships that begin next weekend, Smythe spoke with Burnt Orange Nation on Saturday evening about a variety of topics, including his improvement as a blocker, why he chose the Longhorns, and even shared his thoughts on Sealy athlete Ricky Seals-Jones, Whitewright quarterback Tyrone Swoopes, and Lancaster defensive end Daeshon Hall.
Understandably, Smythe is excited about the chance to represent the United States in the tournament.
"How unique it is was one of the things that jumped out to me right away," said the 6-6, 230-pound Smythe. "Playing football, you don't get many opportunities to play for your country. When I got the call, I was kind of surprised because I didn't know much about it, but now that the opportunity is here, I'm glad that I took it."
He'll be working hard to make sure that the US doesn't reprise the surprising defeat another American squad suffered at the hands of the World team back at the International Bowl in February.
"I've heard about it through some of the guys who signed last year, so we've definitely heard about it and mentioned it in a couple of meetings on Friday. We're definitely not going to try and repeat that loss."
For the week leading up to the opener against American Samoa next Saturday at Burger Stadium in Austin, he'll benefit from going against some quality defensive ends in practice.
"Coming in, I knew the competition level was going to be a lot higher than I saw on a regular basis and that definitely didn't disappoint. The defensive ends were probably the best that I've ever blocked, so it was good for me, not only to come out here and compete against other countries, but also get the reps against these good players."
Intent on improving his craft as a blocker before he arrives on campus for good, Smythe was already seeing improvement through the first two practices.
"My blocking went well. It definitely improved throughout the day, as the day went on. The run sets are similar to what we run at Belton -- Power, zone read, things like that, so I'm kind of familiar with it and was able to jump right in after a couple reps."
As he does in his high school offense, the big tight end spent some flexed out as a split end during the second practice Saturday.
"I'm kind of familiar with that because of the offense we run at Belton, being down in a three-point stance 60% of the time and being out 40% of the time either in the slot or as an outside receiver, so I'm comfortable with that."
A new addition to the Tiger coaching staff has helped him develop from where he was a junior.
"At the beginning of the spring, we actually hired a new tight ends coach at Belton -- we didn't have one last year and he's been big on focusing on the little things like hand placement, chopping your feet, and having a wide base, things that a wide receivers coach wouldn't teach you," said Smythe. "I've been improving on that this spring and it's carrying over here."
Several weeks ago, Smythe worked out at the June 3rd Texas camp, which gave him a chance to establish a greater familiarity with the Texas coaching staff.
"It went really well. I was happy to be out there and start getting accustomed to the routes and concepts with coach Chambers and it's similar to what we run at Belton, just with different names. Other than that, I'm just went down there to get more comfortable with the recruits and things like that, so it was good."
Some fans have expressed concerns about the throwing ability of Swoopes, who is known as a raw prospect. For his part, Smythe came away from the camp impressed with his future quarterback's ability.
"I got to throw with him a little bit, the first time that I got to throw with him on a consistent basis. Going back to last year, playing at a 2A school, he had to run the ball a bit, and he's completely proven that, but believe me, throwing with him, there's no doubt that he's extremely talented at that, too, so I have no doubts in him."
Smythe also spoke about his recruitment, including his trip to Stanford shortly before making his decision.
"It was beautiful. It was everything I expected and more. My final three came down to Texas, Notre Dame, and Stanford. I visited all those schools, visiting Nore Dame last summer. I can't say anything bad about any of them and it just came down to where I felt the most comfortable. A lot of people say, it's the distance, being close to home, but hanging out around the coaches and the players, it was somewhere that was comfortable for me."
Still, Smythe wasn't completely sold on Texas until he took a trip to Austin on March 8th.
"I was planning on making my decision the following day, but I ended up committing on that Thursday. It was going to come down to Stanford and Texas. I went down to ask coach Harsin some questions about the offense that they're trying to install and what my actual role would be and once I had those answered, there was no reason to wait for the following day."
So what did Harsin tell Smythe that convinced him Texas was the right fit?
"Texas has started to transition more from the spread to the more pro-style offense that Boise State ran and he was saying that with the transition, they have to recruit guys who fit that system and in the past they've been recruiting big wide receivers to work in the spread, but now they're trying to recruit guys who can play tight end the entire time and I feel comfortable at that position, so I feel that described me."
"One thing that jumped out to me was the mention of how many tight ends they are planning on using on a regular basis -- two, three, maybe four at times and it's a lot of movement. The combination of positions really intrigued me and that was one of the reasons that I jumped on the offer."
It's safe to say that most observers of Texas recruiting were shocked when Sealy athlete Ricky Seals-Jones decommitted unexpectedly several weeks ago. Count the Belton product among those who didn't see it coming.
"We don't talk on a regular basis, but it came kind of as a surprise, just because it was recent after the camp and we were talking there and things seemed great, so it wouldn't surprise me if he ended up coming back. It looked like everything was fine. I didn't see any reason to be scared or anything like that."
One concern for Longhorns fans throughout the spring was the commitment status of Lancaster defensive end Daeshon Hall, who took visits to Baylor and Texas A&M without informing the coaching staff. An ankle injury kept Hall from attending the World Championships, which would have provided an opportunity for a rare interview with the elusive pledge.
Despite the visits taken by Hall, Smythe sounded confident about the strength of Hall's commitment to Texas.
"I talked to him at a camp, I guess that was soon after he got the offer from Notre Dame and we talked about that for a little bit," said the versatile tight end prospect. "Notre Dame kind of got into the game a little late for me and that intrigued me for a little bit. From what I could tell, he seemed completely sold on Texas and then the discussion branched out to other schools and it just seemed like Texas was the place for him."
As for Smythe himself, it's still some time until he will be able to enroll at Texas, but he is getting a bit of a preview of life on campus in Austin already, as the US team is staying at a dorm on campus.
"We're staying pretty close to where I'll be staying in a couple years and eating at the same places, so it's just an opportunity to get comfortable with the area. I feel right at home right now, so it's exciting."