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Where things stand with Texas Longhorns targets at The Opening

How many of the attendees are likely to end up in burnt orange next February?

Malik Jefferson at The Opening
Malik Jefferson at The Opening
Student Sports

Over the last three years, the number of Texas commits at The Opening, Nike's prestigious camp held every summer in Oregon, has decreased steadily. This year, not a single player pledged to the Longhorns participated in the event after Euless Trinity offensive guard Patrick Vahe declined his invitation.

There were, however, plenty of important Texas targets at the major event. Here's where things stand with each of them based on what they had to say while in Beaverton.

Ryan Newsome, Aledo wide receiver

The major question with Newsome right now is to what extent his recent West Coast trip elevated schools like Oregon and UCLA, perhaps at the expense of Texas. He cited his relationship with Bruins head coach Jim Mora, Jr. as strong and his fit in the Ducks offense is better than his fit in what the Longhorns offense will likely become -- those are both real factors in his recruitment.

The interesting thing about his trip out West is that it was a road trip in the car, which Newsome said his mom wanted so he could understand just how far he would be from Texas. And speaking of Momma Newsome, she wants her son to stay close to home.

Between the desires of his mother, the longtime relationship with running backs coach Tommie Robinson, and the true affinity that Newsome feels for the Texas program, the Horns seem like the favorite, even though the Aledo wide receiver denied rumors that Texas leads.

John Burt, Tallahassee (Fla.) Lincoln wide receiver

Interestingly enough, the major threat for Texas right now probably isn't hometown Florida State -- it's probably Auburn. Why is that? The Seminoles aren't making Burt much of a priority right now. And for those Horns fans wondering how a receiver from the state of Florida ends up so interested in Texas, the answer is that Burt has spent plenty of time in Austin visiting his aunt and grandmother. So not only is he immensely familiar

He also didn't rule out a possible commitment when he visits this month. Whether it happens on that trip or later, it would be extremely surprising if Burt doesn't end up a Longhorn given his connections to the program and his high level of interest.

Will Gragg, Dumas (Ark.) tight end

The top Texas tight end target (and the only truly legitimate target still on the radar with an offer), Gragg will be making his anticipated return trip to Austin in August instead of July, as previously planned, and he will also take an official visit.

Based solely on the fact that he will be making his second and third trips to see the campus in the near future, Texas would seem to be in strong position. Throw in the fact that Arkansas has two tight end commits already and things look even better for the Horns.

Right now, the strong competition appears to be from Ole Miss and Alabama aside from Arkansas, meaning that Texas is once again fighting a battle with SEC schools to land a top prospect.

There's a lot of pressure on the Horns to land Gragg with so few options available and so many tight ends graduating in the near future. The concern here is that despite being in a strong position, no one really believes that Texas is the leader, the main reason why Texas holds only 5% of his Crystal Ball predictions.

Is there a leader at all for Gragg? He seems legitimately open right now, which is both good news and bad news at a position of critical need.

Malik Jefferson, Mesquite Poteet linebacker

Jefferson was supposed to be in attendance for Friday's Under the Lights camp when the early lists came out, but he said at The Opening that his brother's birthday will cause him to miss the event.

The freak athlete who had the second-highest SPARQ during the morning testing and ran a sub-4.4 40 does plan on making it back down to Austin for a fall practice, which may actually turn out to be a more significant visit because he can watch how the coaches interact with the players

There's some thought behind the scenes that A&M Isn't in as strong of a position as some people think and even though Texas could hardly be considered the leader here, the sense is that there's enough space for the Horns to jump into that Jefferson could eventually have the interest in Texas rekindled that defined the start of his recruiting process.

Kendall Sheffield, Fort Bend Marshall cornerback

The five-star cover corner didn't participate in the minor event because of an injury, so he wasn't available for interviews. In any case, he likely wouldn't have offered much, as has been the case throughout his recruitment.

Sheffield is now in the midst of visits to Alabama and LSU, the latter of which he visited for the spring game. If a school ends up signing the Houston-area speedster other than the Aggies, the Tigers might be the best choice, as he's yet another prospect enamored with playing in the SEC.

Completely writing off Texas at this point doesn't make sense, but until the Horns get him on campus again for only the second time this year, Charlie Strong and his staff remain longshots to land the state hurdles champion.

Holton Hill, Houston Lamar cornerback

Perhaps the main question right now with Hill is whether or not it's really a two-team race between Texas and Texas A&M, as has been assumed for some time. He's visiting Florida State at the moment and wants to see several other schools including LSU, Alabama, and Oregon.

As for the Horns-Aggies battle, in parsing his words a little bit, it didn't sound like he has the same comfort level in Austin as he does in College Station, but he does like the defensively oriented nature of the new coaching staff. Will that eventually play a bigger role in his decision than the feeling he gets around the A&M program?

The answer to that question could eventually determine his decision, assuming that the out-of-state schools don't make enough of an impression on him to sway him from staying in the state.

Kris Boyd, Gilmer cornerback

Without having a chance to talk with Boyd at The Opening, assessing where things stand with him is a little bit more difficult than the rest of these prospects.

So here's what the industry thinks -- the people associated with The Opening have him headed to Texas A&M, while all of the other predictions to come in recently have been for Florida State. Boyd visited for a camp in June and is being recruited by Tim Brewster, who obviously has strong ties to the state of Texas.

The wildcard might be Boyd's younger brother Demarco, a 2016 prospect. At about 5'10 and 215 (though he says he's 6'0), he's undersized for the linebacker position in college, which makes his pending move to running back this fall quite intriguing.

Both will trip to Austin for the camp on Friday night and if Texas decides to offer the younger Boyd, it could influence his older brother's decision.

Given the Crystal Ball trends, that may be the best hope for the Horns right now.

Deontay Anderson, 2016 Manvel safety

One of the most polished young prospects in the state in an interview, Anderson admitted that the struggles recently for Texas have hurt the Horns in his estimation. He also had a lot of the A&M commits in his ear at the event and he's already considered an Aggie lean.

Anderson didn't sound like a prospect who will make an early decision and he's currently on a trip of his own that included a stop at Mississippi State. In other words, the Longhorns will have time in his recruitment to make a more positive impression and he could be a prospect where getting some wins on the field this fall could go a long way towards restoring the interest he originally had when Texas was going to BCS bowls and national championship games.

The problem is that, like many young defensive prospects, there's significant appeal to playing in the SEC and that's something that will be tough to overcome, especially if he decides that he wants to do so while remaining close to his Houston-area home.

And at an event that produced a number of insane 40 times, Anderson's 4.79 40 was a pretty significant disappointment, even though he did measure a legitimate 6'1 and 191 pounds. While Tim Cole's 5.00 several years ago certainly did herald a lack of foot speed that has hurt him in a Texas uniform, Anderson is good enough in pads in high school that he should remain an important target regardless of his mediocre 40 time.

Out-of-state prospects

Not exactly a surprise here, but none of the national targets at the event who have been on the radar seemed likely to take a visit.

California defensive end Keisean Lucier-South had Texas in his top 11 when he released it several months ago, but he said that the Horns weren't likely to receive a visit form him as his process winds down. Other players like defensive tackle Tim Settle and Virginia offensive lineman Matthew Burrell, who worked out at guard instead of tackle, didn't mention any plans to trip to Austin, either.

Likewise, there wasn't any buzz surrounding a possible flip from Louisiana offensive tackle Jerry Tillery, who has an offer but is currently pledged to Notre Dame.

And shocking no one at all, star California defensive tackle Kahlil McKenzie, one of the most impressive prospects at the event just as he was dominant at the Oakland NFTC, committed to Tennessee while at the event. McKenzie's father, who is currently the general manager for the Oakland Raiders, also played his college football for the Volunteers.

At the risk of sounding repetitive, the lack of buzz and cachet with the Texas program is undoubtedly making it harder to get these players on campus.

However, there was some positive news to come out of the event -- Birmingham (Ala.) Shades Valley defensive tackle Daron Payne has Texas on his list of three schools right now with Alabama and Auburn. An official visit in the fall is in the works as a result of his relationship with defensive line coach Chris Rumph, who recruited Payne while at Alabama.

Of course, pulling a star defensive tackle out of the state of Alabama won't be easy, but at least there's one difference-maker at the position still on the table for Texas. That's something, at least.


Not having any commits at The Opening certainly felt like a sign of the times for Texas with so many Texas A&M commits there who held offers from Texas.

However, the Horns are in good shape with the offensive players on this list and have a strong shot of landing both wide receivers.

Defensively, the story doesn't seem as positive other than Jefferson and it could be a struggle to land any of defenders, which could present some problems moving forward because Texas badly needs to add one or two high-level cornerbacks in this class after failing so spectacularly to take advantage of the 2014 in-state talent.