For 15 years, Corby Meekins was the definition of professional stability.
Then he got to moving around.
Meekins will coach Texas’ tight ends — his third job in the last four years. This comes after spending the last two years in a similar role in Tom Herman’s staff at Houston. For the 15 years prior to that, Meekins was at Spring Westfield High School. There, he compiled a 114-27 record in his 11 years as Westfield’s coach.
“It’s a whirlwind, but it’s exciting, it’s fun,” Meekins said. “Anytime you get to go in and start from scratch — this will be my fifth or sixth time over the years — it’s exciting.”
Meekins is one of 10 new Longhorns assistants, as Herman overhauled the UT staff following the firing of Charlie Strong. While Oscar Giles, himself a former UT defensive end, will work with the defensive line and Drew Mehringer, the former college quarterback who was Rutgers’ offensive coordinator last year, will coach receivers, Meekins’ job may be the toughest to explain to Texas fans. His position unit has been a Longhorns outlier. Tight ends, after all, have been overlooked roster spots here for a while.
Who’s the last Texas tight end who had 20 catches in a single season? Jermichael Finley, back in 2007. Since then, Longhorns tight ends have come and gone — from D.J. Grant, Greg Smith and M.J. McFarland to Greg Daniels and Blake Whiteley. Caleb Bluiett was moved over from the defensive line, then moved back. Andrew Beck signed as a linebacker, then moved to tight end. In Strong’s three years, UT tight ends had 43 total receptions. Even Geoff Swaim, now a two-year NFL veteran, caught only 13 passes at Texas in 2013 and 2014.
Last year, Houston tight end Tat Tyler McCloskey had 23 catches, 233 yards and four touchdowns.
So what will a Longhorns tight end look like in the Herman era?
“He has to be a blocker and he has to be a receiver,” Meekins said. “The guys that are here, they’re going to have to transition to more of the passing game. Our tight ends have to be able to line up around the box and do everything they did last year, but they also have to be able to go line up and be the No. 1, No.2 or No. 3 receiver in a detached formation.”
That, though, may be easier said than done. Reese Leitao, one of two tight ends that Texas signed this year, was arrested last month at his Tulsa, Okla. high school for possession of a controlled drug with the intent to sell. Leitao, who has not yet been charged, is next due in a Tulsa County courtroom on March 21. Herman has said he intends to let the legal process play itself out, but that he’d like the matter resolved by this summer.
Beck has been out this spring, sidelined by a broken foot, and freshman Peyton Aucoin, who redshirted last fall, was recruited as a blocker. Rising junior Garrett Gray, who’s converting to tight end from wide receiver, is “probably a year away, just from a mass standpoint” by Herman’s estimate. There’s also incoming freshman Cade Brewer, a three-star prospect from Lake Travis.
Asked last week if he was more concerned about his tight ends or his defensive line, Herman joked: “(We) can figure out a way to not have to play with a tight end and we can send Corby Meekins on the road recruiting all year.”
Speaking of recruiting, Herman revealed last year on Twitter that Meekins’ daughter, Madison, listed this quote in her Tomball High School senior yearbook as an often-heard plea from classmates hoping to get an in with her father: “If I send you my hudl link, will you send it to your dad?”
Meekins praised his daughter’s sense of humor, but noted that “she’s moved on to college, so most of them don’t know her anymore.” Still, recruiting remains an important subject in the Meekins household.
Meekins is from Shepherd, a small East Texas town of about 2,000. He was a quarterback for the Shepherd Pirates, even mentioned as the team’s “top sophomore prospect” in the 1984 edition of Dave Campbell’s Texas Football Magazine. Shepherd is only about an hour away from Houston, which is where Meekins spent 25 of his 27 years coaching before joining Herman at Texas. So he has obvious ties to that talent-rich city.
Texas won’t be the only game in town, though. In fact, seven of the top 10 players ranked on the Houston Chronicle’s list of the Houston area’s top 100 recruits for 2017 signed with out-of-state schools, including the top six (two to LSU and one each to Florida State, Stanford, Notre Dame and Oklahoma). Langham Creek running back Toneil Carter flipped from Georgia to Texas. Texas A&M signed the Nos. 9 and 10 players in the city.
“Our job is to make sure that the best players in the state realize they can reach all their goals and all their dreams (without leaving the state),” Meekins said. “If you’re from Texas, there’s nothing like putting Texas across your chest and going out and competing with the best in the nation. We’re not there yet, but we’re closer today than we were yesterday. Hopefully we’re closer tomorrow than we were today.”
Editor’s note: This is the sixth of an occasional series profiling Texas’ new assistant football coaches. Past stories: