Carthage running back Keaontay Ingram signed with the Longhorns on national signing day. (Mike Craven)

Football

‘It really is a family there’: Texas targets talk about the Longhorns at The Opening

Posted March 9th, 2017

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Story highlights
  • Of the four running backs Texas has offered, the lone Texan appears to be the Longhorns' best shot.
  • A top guard prospect listed Texas as one of his two favorites last Sunday, but has since backed off that.
  • To recruit one of the state's top receivers, UT dispatched one of its all-time best safeties: Michael Huff.

Running back isn’t the most dire recruiting need for Texas. The Longhorns inked two Houston-area backs in February, including four-star prospect Toneil Carter, who’s already on campus. They can afford to be picky. And UT’s early offers seem to back that up: Texas has offered only four running backs so far — only one is from the state, and two are already committed somewhere else.

That lone Texan — Carthage’s Keaontay Ingram, a 5-11, 190-pound four-star prospect — participated at The Opening in Dallas this past Sunday, one week after visiting UT on junior day. It’s becoming clear that Ingram is the Longhorns’ top priority at running back, and that Ingram is just as interested in the Longhorns.

“At Texas, I like the facilities and the coaches. I know there was a coaching change recently, but the players I met at junior day seemed to be enjoying the change,” Ingram said. “It’s never easy, but they believe in coach (Tom) Herman. (Herman) knows how to have fun and still get work done. I like that. I could see myself playing for a coach like that.”

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Ingram is a versatile running back with impressive skills as a receiver out of the backfield. It’s a trait Herman likes in a running back. As a junior, Ingram amassed 2,225 yards rushing and 31 touchdowns. He also added an impressive 46 catches.

“I take a lot of pride in catching the ball because I want to be a three-down running back,” he said. “These types of camps don’t let running backs be physical. All a linebacker must do is touch us to be considered down, so it can be tough as a running back if your only skill is running between the tackles. I want to be a guy who can do everything.”

Marshall offensive lineman Chasen Hines is high on Texas. (Mike Craven)

Defensive end is a top priority for Texas. Ron Tatum, from Oklahoma, is one of the prospects with an offer who participated at The Opening. The 6-4, 260-pound four-star end says he talks to UT assistant coach Oscar Giles almost every other day.

“Early in the recruiting process, I’m looking at the people in the program, the coaches and the type of defense the school is running,” Tatum said. “Early playing time and a bond with the defensive line coach will be big deciding factors for me. I think I fit best as a 4-3 defensive end playing the five-technique or out.”

The Longhorns are in the running for several of the state’s top prospects. Chasen Hines, an interior lineman from Marshall and a member of the initial Fabulous 55, said Sunday that Texas and LSU were his top two schools. But he later backed off those comments and said he wants to keep his options open for now.

“I think I’m an aggressive player with strength. I want to work on my footwork and keep learning the position,” Hines said. “I can play guard or center. Guard comes naturally to me since I’ve been playing it for longer.”

Wide receiver might be the most important position for Texas this cycle. The Longhorns picked up the first piece to the eventual puzzle when they flipped four-star athlete Justin Watkins from Florida State. The plan is to play him at slot, but the Longhorns aren’t done searching out playmakers on the offensive side of the ball. Rockdale athlete Jaquayln Crawford is a major target and Herman deployed assistant Michael Huff to lead the charge.

Rockdale’s Jaquayln Crawford at The Opening in Dallas. (Mike Craven)

“Coach Huff is my dude. He’s real down to earth and he understands what recruits go through during the process,” said Crawford of the former All-American and NFL star. “He’s been there and done that at every level of football. And he can speak specifically about Texas. It really is a family there because they bring the old players back. Coach Huff is a perfect example.”

Crawford excels on both sides of the ball. He’s listed as an athlete on most recruiting sites and each school recruiting him differ on his future position.

“Offense is where my heart is, but it won’t be the determining factor in my recruitment. I care most about playing time,” Crawford admitted. “If the choice is playing defense right away or waiting around two years to play offense, I’m going to go play defense. I’m trying to get on the field early.”

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