With commitments from tight ends Durham Smythe (Belton, TX) and Geoff Swaim (Butte Community College - Oroville, CA) for their 2013 recruiting class, the Texas Longhorns have taken two big steps toward re-stocking their future rosters at a position that has been plagued by well-documented problems the past few years. Smythe's ability to be an impact receiver and Swaim's versatility and blocking prowess are qualities that have rarely been shown off by Longhorn tight ends since Blaine Irby's devastating knee injury early in the 2008 season.
Barring injuries, transfers, or position changes from the tight ends already on the roster, or additional TE commitments for 2013, the Longhorns will go into the 2014 season with the following tight ends on scholarship: senior Greg Daniels (a converted DE), senior Geoff Swaim, junior M.J. McFarland, sophomore Durham Smythe, and whatever tight ends are signed in 2014. Also in that group could be incoming freshman Caleb Bluiett, who was recruited as a DE but may be given a shot at tight end. Bluiett will be a junior in 2014 if he does not use a redshirt year. Also, Miles Onyegbule was being moved from wide receiver to an H-back type role when he tore a pectoral muscle in the spring. Onyegbule appeared in 12 games as a true freshman in 2011 will be a senior in 2014 unless he uses a redshirt between now and then.
Simple math suggests the Longhorns' 2014 recruiting class is all but guaranteed to include at least two players projected for a tight end/H-back role, because (aside from any incoming freshmen) the team will go into the 2014 season with, at most, two underclassmen at the position. The current LSR Top 100 for 2014 only includes two tight ends: Manvel's Koda Martin (who some sites think could end up playing offensive tackle in college) and Euless Trinity's Will Taylor. I haven't seen any film on Martin, and based on what little I've been able to see of Taylor he doesn't appear to possess the athleticism or foot speed of any of the state's top 5 or 6 tight ends in the 2013 class.
Other 2014 tight end prospects are bound to appear on the radar of college coaches this fall, as some will be playing on varsity for the first time, and others will outgrow their former positions and get moved to tight end for the first time. One name that hasn't appeared much - if at all - in the recruitoverse* yet but which should come up when the Texas coaching staff evaluates their tight end/H-back options for 2014 is that of San Antonio Churchill athlete Dimitri Flowers.Flowers caught 32 passes for 397 yards and 5 touchdowns in 2011, both stats good for third on his team. He'll be leaned on more in 2012, as only one other returning teammate caught more than one pass last year. He says he was 6'1" and 200 lbs. during his sophomore season, but will go into the fall of his junior year at 6'3" and 220 lbs. His self-reported testing figures include a 4.6 40-yard dash, 285 lb. bench press, and 33.5" vertical.
In his sophomore season highlights, he can be seen lining up mostly in the slot and H-back positions, and a few times as an attached tight end. He makes some catches downfield between the hash marks but does most of his damage on short yardage routes, usually off of play action. He is also the target on a few screen passes at H-back that give him a chance to show off some of his speed and athleticism. He shows good hands and is already a mismatch for most high school linebackers in the passing game, which makes him dangerous when he runs routes from out of the backfield as an H-back. His size and skill set make him a versatile prospect; he has potential to be a very good blocker by the time he enrolls in college, and defenses will have to account for him as a receiving threat regardless of where he lines up in the formation.
On a 1-10 scale, Dimitri rates his blocking skills at an 8 right now, and it's hard to argue with that assessment just from the three plays in his highlight film that show him run-blocking. One would obviously have to see much more before properly grading that aspect of his game, but he certainly doesn't look lost, tenuous or timid when called to be the lead blocker on a run play, and he should have more of a presence as a blocker as he gets bigger. From watching his sophomore highlights, the best comp I could come up with for him was 2013 prospect Jeremiah Gaines (Red Oak, TX), though Flowers is leaner and hasn't lined up as an outside receiver much, if at all. Gaines had only 2 when I wrote about him in early March, but he has 18 currently listed on his Rivals page. I expect Flowers to have several offers himself a year from now.
Flowers' junior season will definitely be one to watch, as he is slated to see time at running back and linebacker in addition to tight end, H-back and wide receiver. His junior film will probably show him doing a bit of everything other than passing and kicking. As to whether or not he is done growing, Flowers thinks he still has a couple inches left to go ("My dad is 6'6" and I'm supposed to be 6'5").
His dad, it turns out, is none other than former Arizona State Sun Devil and NFL defensive end Erik Flowers. The Buffalo Bills selected the elder Flowers with the 26th overall pick in the 2000 NFL Draft after an All-Pac 10 senior season and an impressive showing at the NFL Combine. His NFL career was brief, though; he played his last NFL game in 2004 as a St. Louis Ram, and was waived by the Atlanta Falcons following the 2005 preseason, in which he was hampered by a back injury. The Falcons were the fifth and final NFL team he spent time with, and a CFL comeback attempt in 2006 ended (along with his playing career) when he suffered another back injury before training camp.
Despite his disappointing pro career, many Texas high school football fans - particularly those from San Antonio - will remember Erik Flowers for his play as a stalwart defensive end at San Antonio Roosevelt. As a senior in 1995, he and fellow future NFL defensive end Dwayne Missouri were key cogs in a dominating defensive unit that helped lead the Rough Riders to a 16-0 record and the Class 5A Division II state championship, an amazing feat for any team, let alone one that in the preseason was picked to finish fifth - in its own district. That 1995 Roosevelt team is generally regarded to be among the best - if not the best - San Antonio-area teams ever fielded. Roosevelt also gave district rival Converse Judson - that year's Class 5A Division I champion - its only loss on the season.
Like his father, Dimitri grew up in San Antonio, and though it's far too early to predict an NFL future for the younger Flowers, he has proven himself to be an outstanding athlete in his own right. He has played football since he was 5 and baseball since he was 7. He played center field for Churchill's baseball team this spring, which finished with a season record of 31-8 and advanced four rounds deep in the playoffs before losing in their regional semifinal series. If you knew nothing else about him you'd assume he had good speed to man center field for such a successful team. He batted .327, scored 27 runs and was successful on 17 of 20 stolen base attempts. He hasn't made up his mind yet on whether or not he will play both football and baseball his last two years of high school, but he says if he were to quit one of them he'd skip baseball his senior year. (Worth noting: one of his Churchill teammates is Zane Gurwitz, a stud infielder who is committed to Texas as a member of its 2013 baseball recruiting class.)
Dimitri camped at Baylor earlier this summer and plans to attend a TCU camp being held later this month in San Antonio. About Baylor: "they are very interested. My head coach said they were going to offer soon." He thinks TCU may also offer him soon. Both TCU and Baylor have indicated they would use him in more of a slot or flex role than as a pure tight end, which makes sense coming from Baylor because no Art Briles-run offense in recent memory (even going back to his Stephenville High School days) has used the tight end heavily in the passing game. (Mark Hafner did have 40 receptions for Briles' last Houston team, but he had twice as many the next year with Kevin Sumlin at the helm.) Aside from those two schools, others that sent coaches to Churchill during spring practice included Texas, Oklahoma, Nebraska, Navy, and Texas State. (Notably absent from the list of schools Dimitri has heard from is his father's alma mater, Arizona State.) He has no offers yet but don't bet on that being the case for very long.
Would he have interest in Texas if the Longhorns targeted him? He says he "definitely" would be interested if Texas utilized his position on offense, and "would highly consider commiting" if Texas offered. (Presumably, UT wouldn't offer him if that weren't the case anyway.) As a kid his favorite college team was Miami (FL). He said he hoped for many years to play for the Hurricanes, but soured on them after the 2011 Nevin Shapiro scandal.
While he hasn't put much thought into the recruiting process or narrowed down a list of favorite schools he hopes to get offers from, he does have a goal in mind for his eventual commitment. His ideal scenario is that he will have impressive junior and senior seasons and be invited to participate in the 2014 U.S. Army All-American Bowl (held each January at the Alamodome in San Antonio), giving him a unique (and pretty cool) opportunity to announce his college commitment in front of a hometown crowd on national TV. I certainly wish him luck on that front.
* I can't claim credit for the term "recruitoverse", as it was used in at least three Bleacher Report stories in 2010.