ARLINGTON — Collin Johnson, Brandon Jones and Malcolm Roach all made it to AT&T Stadium on Tuesday, but after flirting with the NFL draft his past offseason, all three were making appearances in the home of the Dallas Cowboys as representatives of Texas’ football team.
In March, Roach told reporters that “I’m having the time of my life in college. I just thought about it; why rush it, why try to get out of here right now?” Johnson (knee) and Jones (ankle) were sidelined during the spring, so Texas’ interviews at Big 12 media days marked their first interactions with the media since the Sugar Bowl.
Both Johnson and Jones were advised by the NFL College Advisory Committee to go back to school. Johnson said getting a degree, trying to win a Big 12 championship and playing with his brother Kirk were other factors in his return. Jones wants to get his degree and prove that he can stay healthy. (He suffered a head injury in last year’s win at Kansas and also had an ailing ankle that cost him four games).
“You see the Georgias of the world, the Clemsons of the world, the Alabamas of the world, right before they have a national championship year, right before they have a big-time year or whatever, a lot of those seniors decide to come back because they’re invested in the program,” Johnson said. “I feel like that’s the vibe I got here. We’re so invested in this program and we know what we can be.”
Despite his injuries, Jones still accumulated 70 tackles, two interceptions and two fumble recoveries. Johnson leads all of UT’s returners in receptions (68), receiving yards (985) and touchdown catchers (seven).
Fun Rhule: Baylor coach Matt Rhule took 15 of his players to the NFL Summit that convened in Philadelphia this summer to get them more up to speed on what it takes to develop into a player capable of reaching that league. He would regularly send seven to eight players a year to the NFL for at least a chance to make a team when he was rebuilding Temple into a respectable program. He also took his wife to the summit and joked that’s how special and understanding she is. He also said he routinely reads all of the summer football magazines from Athlon to Phil Steele to keep abreast of all things college football.
When asked if that’s his idea of fun, Rhule said it was – but also said he plays a mean game of ping pong and tries his hand at golf, which “really isn’t my game.” Rhule said he reads a lot of books in his spare time. Among the latest on his nightstand are “Play The Man: Becoming the Man God Created You to Be” and “Mindset: The New Psychology of Success.”
— KIRK BOHLS
Paying players: Texas coach Tom Herman sounds open to the idea of players getting paid for their name, image and likeness, a thorny issue being debated from NCAA offices all the way out to the California legislature. “These players, they literally bleed, they literally sweat, they literally cry for this university,” Herman said. “People and entities and organizations are making hundreds of millions of dollars off of them.”
The coach said he’s heard all the various suggestions, like the establishment of a trust account where money can be deposited and only withdrawn when a player leaves school. Some are pushing for an all-out grant of rights. In that scenario, quarterback Sam Ehlinger could get paid to promote a car dealership and still play for UT, for example. “People hopefully much smarter than me can figure something out where we’re able to keep the model somewhat similar to the way it is but yet these guys are able to benefit off their notoriety,” Herman said.
— BRIAN DAVIS
It’s Duvernay’s time: Texas senior receiver Devin Duvernay was one of the most underrated players in all of college football last season, and while he didn’t make the trip to Jerry World this week, he will play a large role in the Horns returning to this spot for a repeat appearance in the Big 12 title game.
Duvernay was the third option in the passing game behind and Johnson and Lil’Jordan Humphrey — some might have listed him as fourth behind versatile running back Tre Watson — but he made the most of his targets. Duvernay caught 41 passes for 546 yards with four touchdowns and showed marked improvement in his route running. Better yet, he was the only player in the Big 12 with a minimum of 60 targets who did not drop a single pass last season.
With Jordan now preparing for his first NFL training camp with the New Orleans Saints, Duvernay can step into a more prominent role in an offense that will need to help Johnson take up the slack created by Humphrey’s departure. Johnson thinks football people may be sleeping on Duvernay entering the fall.
“He’s quiet and doesn’t say much, but I tell you that dude can ball,” Johnson said. “That dude is faster than anybody I’ve seen and he’s a playmaker. So I think that’s one guy when people ask who I think will be a breakout player this year. … That’s the first guy that comes to my mind on the offensive side of the ball. I’m fortunate to get to line up next to him and compete.”
— CEDRIC GOLDEN