All week, the idea was that Belton tight end Durham Smythe was planning on making his college decision on Friday. Instead, just as Harker Heights offensive lineman Darius James did earlier in the week, Smythe delivered his decision to the Texas coaches personally and, in his case, a little bit earlier than expected, with the news eventually breaking on Thursday evening in a report from HornsNation, then confirmed by Smythe some time later.
The concern in recent days had been that the visit to Stanford last weekend has put the Cardinal slightly in the lead and stemming mainly from the fact that it's one of the few strong football programs in the country that can offer an aspiring doctor like Smythe a better education than Texas.
Instead, Smythe opted to stay close to home, play in college with former teammate David Ash, and try to become the type of dual-threat tight end that Texas has desperately needed since Jermichael Finley left, Blaine Irby suffered his terrible knee injury, closely followed by injuries for every other tight end on the roster. A position rife with tragedy.
As far back as Signing Day, head coach Mack Brown identified tight end as one of the major needs in the class after Texas failed to address the position in 2012, before talking Tuesday about the change in philosophy the program is undergoing in recruiting there with the new offense under co-coordinator Bryan Harsin:
We had a spread offense that we took a bunch of receivers and had them beef up and become tight ends.
And now we're probably going to have to start looking at a different type of tight end coming in. He may need to start at 240 [pounds] instead of starting at 205 or 210.
Brown went on to talk about the need for a tight end who can break tendency, instead of the mostly one-dimensional players the 'Horns had at the moment -- Luke Poehlmann, the situational tight end who comes in to provide a blocking service or DJ Grant, who can make plays in the passing game but mostly struggles in in-line situations. On and on.
The 'Horns hope that Smythe can be that dual threat. At 6-6 and 230 pounds, Smythe is a productive offseason from 240 pounds and more of the same before possibly enrolling at Texas at close to 250 pounds. He has a frame to carry 260 or more easily once he matures in the Longhorn strength and conditioning program, but still maintain his ability to move that's one of the main sources of his upside.
Coveted by a variety of national programs besides the Cardinal, Smythe held about a dozen offers, including a recent invitation to play at Notre Dame, so Smythe isn't just an easy regional take with connections to the program in former teammate Ash. He's one of the better tight ends in the country.
Durham Smythe (junior highlights) (via 247SportsStudio)
Other than his athleticism, what sets Smythe apart is the ease with which he catches the football, earning him the label of a natural pass-catcher. Playing flexed at times in the Belton offense, Smythe has an intriguing combination of experience playing as a wide receiver, where he can use his size and hands to find holes in the defense, as well as work some with his hand on the ground.
Compared to some other players in the state like Plano Prestonwood Christian's Christian Morgan or Mansfield's Trent Gow, Smythe may not be the top blocker in that group, but there's a base of willingness and experience that makes him projectable in college. And certainly ahead of former high school wide receivers like DJ Grant, MJ McFarland, and on and on.
Taken in combination, Smythe helps complete all the major needs on the offensive side of the ball in the 2013 class, even though the Longhorns will likely continue to recruit another tight end or H-back, as Sealy's Ricky Seals-Jones is probably counting against the wide receiver numbers since that's where he's going to start. Unless he isn't.
Either way, another player at the position is a priority as spots start to become increasingly scarce in the 13-person class that currently only projects to have 18-20 spots (ATTRITION CAVEAT!)
Class leader Jake Raulerson, the mauler (his official position listing now?) is calling this group Dream Team 2013 and the addition of Smythe, the baker's dozen that Raulerson suggested he could become earlier in the week, definitely makes this class a little dreamier.