Tennessee LB sends twitter into chaos- Will he be at Texas next fall?

Twitter can connect people from around the world with just 140 characters. And in the past couple of years, it has also become a quick and easy tool for athletics to communicate.
On Monday night, University of Tennessee commit Cecil Cherry went on a Twitter frenzy when the three-star linebacker tweeted out “Hook ‘Em” to his over 2,800 followers a week after taking an official visit to Austin for the West Virginia game. He immediately received backlash – some too inappropriate to print – from disgruntled Vols fans. And over the course of the next three days, Cherry continued to tweet and retweet all sorts of Texas-positive pictures and notions, causing the recruiting world to speculate on his previous commitment to Tennessee head coach Butch Jones.
If Texas could flip Cherry, it would be another big get for head coach Charlie Strong and the 2015 class. His Hudl film shows that he has good speed for his size, coming in at 6-feet and 230-pounds, which he has been able to display on a few interceptions this season and last. His biggest strength is his hard hitting, however. Cherry has a great ability to square up a ball carrier and hit him with textbook form, plus a little extra ‘oomph’ for good measure. The Florida product could be a great replacement for stud current linebacker Jordan Hicks, though his size could be an issue at the next level. He shows good ability to stay with his assignments in coverage, and keep everything in front of him.
While he played fullback as well in high school, with some solid numbers, he hasn’t been recruited on the offensive side of the ball. His quick feet allow him to change directions quickly and make tackles in the open field, which will help him get over his size disadvantage.
Overall, Cherry is a solid linebacker with a lot of upside and little down-side. The biggest issue most see with him stems from his Twitter use, as we’ve all seen what happens when these recruits let the attention go to their head early on and use social media to air out all their dirty laundry.
Though Cherry has said many times that he’ll final decision will come February 4th, on National Signing Day, at this point I’d be shocked if he wasn’t set on coming to the Forty Acres next fall. Strong’s defensive reputation and ability to recruit Florida, coupled with Cherry’s admittance that Texas is his “dream school,” makes his commitment almost certain, if not announced.
Photo Credit: Courtesy of Bruce Waterfield | Daily Texan Staff

At season’s start, sophomore linebacker Seth Jacobs was excited. 

Coming off a redshirt freshman season in which he saw limited action in six games, Jacobs had earned a starting spot for 2014. His team was facing defending champion Florida State in the season opener, so the stakes were high for his first start. 

He longed for success for personal reasons, too. For the first time since early the previous season, Jimmy and Tracy Jacobs had flown in from California to see their son compete.

“They caught a redeye,” Jacobs told The Daily O’Collegian, Oklahoma State’s student newspaper, at the time. “It’s not an easy trip, so I’m thankful they were able to come.”

Jacobs turned in a great performance in front of his parents, racking up seven tackles. He also snatched one of the Cowboys’ two interceptions from Jameis Winston, reigning Heisman Trophy winner. Although the Cowboys fell short, 37-31, it was likely the team’s best performance of the season. And Jacobs was able to execute before his parents.

“It was definitely something I’ll remember for the rest of my life,” Jacobs told The Daily O’Collegian. “It’s great sharing that moment with them, and them just talking to me hoarse, losing their voice from the game, yelling for me.”

But the Cowboys’ season may have peaked there. Now, having lost three consecutive games by at least 24 points, the Cowboys hope to come off a much-needed bye week with a win against Texas.

“This open week was really nice,” Jacobs said. “It gave me, and our other players that are fighting injuries, the chance to come back and rehabilitate and rest and get quality reps for guys who don’t play a lot. It was a productive week. The weekend was relaxing, and it was just good.”

Jacobs’ injuries on the season include persistent shoulder pain and the need for five stitches in his chin against TCU. 

But Jacobs doesn’t use pain as an excuse or a way out. Through nine games, he has still managed to rank third on the team with 53 tackles and shares the team lead with two interceptions. 

“It’s just one of those things that you have to do,” Jacobs said. “You have to look to the guys next to you; these guys are hurting as well. It’s more about what it comes down to.”

For defensive coordinator Glenn Spencer, physicality is what “it” comes down to. Oklahoma State defenders will look to stifle Texas’ much-improved run game, particularly the backfield combination of senior Malcolm Brown and junior Johnathan Gray. The duo combined for 191 rushing yards last week, moving Brown into 11th all time on Texas’ career rushing list. 

Spencer says Brown’s and Gray’s play have “really picked up,” reflecting their willingness to carry the team on their shoulders.

“We got two really physical practices last week,” Spencer said. “We got to concentrate on Texas’ favorites and their run game. We put a lot of emphasis on playing physically, so I think it was a good fundamental week.”

Come Saturday, Jacobs and the Cowboy defense will look to convert that physicality into success on the field. It’s senior night, and, with bowl eligibility on the line, the team recognizes the gravity of this game.     

“We go into every game knowing that it’s important,” Jacobs said. “These last couple of games, we haven’t been as successful and executed as well as we wanted to. Each game is very important, and that’s been stressed throughout the year.”

Photo Credit: Jenna VonHofe | Daily Texan Staff

In the multi-faceted world of Texas football training, coaches hold an all-freshmen practice each preseason to identify young talent. Watching as the newcomers run a series of drills, the coaching staff looks to nail down where each freshman will best contribute to the team.

This year, one drill stood out — the cross-field catch drill, which players also run at the NFL combine.  

“You’ll fire about six balls at them, and they have to rapid-fire catch them,” said Shawn Watson, assistant head coach for offense/quarterbacks. “They have to move because they’re flying across the field.”

Though the drill generally caters to receivers and other offensive players primed to catch, Andrew Beck, who was recruited to play linebacker, excelled beyond the coaches’ expectations. As Beck showed “the best hand-eye coordination of the whole group,” according to Watson, the coaching staff began to reevaluate.

“I started politicking right away,” Watson said. “I ran up to [head coach] Charlie [Strong] and said, ‘Hey, 47 has got unbelievable hands, and he can run.’”

It was no secret that Texas’ offensive line was weak. With building suspensions and, later, the season-ending injury of senior center Dominic Espinosa, the offensive line needed far more help than the defensive line did. As the coaches began to piece together their strengths and weaknesses, they decided that Beck would best contribute as a tight end. As his relevance on the team skyrocketed, so did the breadth of his responsibilities.

With a new and learning offensive line, senior running back Malcolm Brown said he and the running backs rely on Beck and senior tight end Geoff Swaim to open the field.

“Those guys — they’re running routes; they’re pass-blocking; they’re run-blocking. … They’re getting in the backfield with us sometimes,” Brown said Nov. 4. “They’re doing so many things with this offense; and they’re so important to this offense; and they know that; and they’ve been doing a great job handling it.”

Beck didn’t enter the tight end position completely blindsided. He played some tight end his senior year at Plant High School in Tampa, Florida, but his success at linebacker garnered him attention. ESPN ranked Beck the No. 46 outside linebacker in the country, and 247 Sports deemed him the No. 66 player in Florida.

Even so, Beck has adapted to his position, making his first start on offense against West Virginia. Statistics don’t tell the story of Beck’s contributions, since his quality of play enhances others’ games rather than helping just himself.

“The Texas Tech game was where he got his most time — that’s the first time we felt like [he] had an intimate knowledge of what we were trying to do,” Watson said. “You could see him executing it during the week on film. He’s been really good since. His confidence level has skyrocketed since that game.”           

As sophomore quarterback Tyrone Swoopes continues to develop and Texas’ running game offers greater certainty, the Longhorns are likely to look for production on the ground. The running backs can’t produce without solid blocking, but Brown feels confident the tight ends will do their part. He knows the skill their role requires.

“Those guys have been grinding it out,” Brown said. “They have a tough job. Those coaches expect a lot out of them, just like the rest of us.”

Linebacker Deoundrei Davis is no longer on the football team, according to reports Friday afternoon. Davis, a redshirt freshman from Cypress, spent last year sidelined to finish rehab for a high school knee injury. He was the only player not to receive medical clearance as of July 22 and has never played nor suited up for a game.

While there is no determination whether Davis was dismissed from the team or left on his own, he becomes the eighth player gone from the program since head coach Charlie Strong took the helms. Strong, vowing to “put the T back in Texas,” says he holds his players to a high moral standard and expects them to respect women, avoid drugs, stealing, guns and always profess honesty.

“We have 85 guys on scholarship,” Strong said this summer. “If you look at it and 80 of them are doing it the right way, why can’t the rest of them?”

Dating back to the spring, these standards led to the dismissals of senior fullback Chet Moss, senior safety Leroy Scott, senior running back Joe Bergeron, sophomore running back Jalen Overstreet and redshirt freshman safety Chevoski Collins. Wide receivers Kendall Sanders and Montrel Meander were also dismissed pending sexual assault charges and currently await trial.

Wednesday, starting offensive tackles Kennedy Estelle and Desmond Harrison were also suspended for this week’s match against BYU for violation of team rules.

Officials have yet to specify a reason for Davis’ dismissal.

After two straight seasons being sidelined with injuries, redshirt senior linebacker Jordan Hicks is ready to return to his role as a defensive leader on the team. Hicks is set to lead his squad as one of Texas' most experienced players this season under new head coach Charlie Strong.

Photo Credit: Shelby Tauber | Daily Texan Staff

There is no Longhorn position group as interesting as Texas’ linebacking corps.

From fifth-year senior starters to some of the lesser-known reserves, each linebacker has an interesting story to tell.

There’s junior Dalton Santos, who didn’t play much in his first two years on campus but made national headlines this spring when his Twitter plea went viral. Santos sent out a tweet in April to try to raise money for his mother, who didn’t have health insurance and needed open heart surgery to fix an aortic aneurysm. The fundraiser quickly spread across the country and wound up raising $66,000 to help pay for the operation. The surgery went as planned, and Santos’ mother, Vista, is doing well.

Or, how about senior Steve Edmond, who has flown under the radar in his first three years at Texas, despite having started 22 games and recording 192 tackles over that span? Edmond, a Daingerfield native, nearly had his senior season shortened before it even started after he and fellow linebacker Jordan Hicks faced possible suspensions stemming from a meal that had been paid for by an agent. In the end, Edmond was cleared by the NCAA and won’t miss any time this season. He opened the year with five tackles against North Texas.

Fifth-year senior linebacker Demarco Cobbs has started just six games since arriving at Texas in 2010. Cobbs, a Tulsa native, played sparingly as a reserve and on special teams in his first three years as a Longhorn, before missing all of last season with a knee injury. Cobbs is a backup again this year but made the biggest play of his lengthy career Saturday, recording his first ever interception and taking it to the house for a defensive touchdown.

“Demarco [Cobbs] and I sat and talked about this night for a long time,” said Hicks, who has roomed with Cobbs since they were freshmen. “Coming off of injuries — both of us — we’re both very blessed to be in the situation that we’re in.”

But of all the “backers,” as they like to be called, Hicks has had the wildest ride at Texas. Coming out of high school, Hicks, a product of Cincinnati, was ranked as the best linebacker and fourth-best recruit overall by ESPN. After an underwhelming freshman campaign, Hicks hit his stride in his sophomore season, but then the injury bug got him. He earned a medical redshirt after missing 10 games in 2012, but 2013 was hardly any better, as he continued to be plagued by injuries and missed nine more contests. 

In the middle of all that, Hicks was accused of sexual assault after he allegedly had non-consensual sex with a 21-year-old woman at a San Antonio hotel prior to the 2012 Valero Alamo Bowl. Charges were never filed, and the case was closed by the San Antonio Police Department a couple weeks later.

Hicks enters his fifth season at Texas, looking to write a storybook ending to what has been an eventful collegiate career. He’s well on his way to doing just that after recording eight tackles and his first career interception against North Texas.

“It’s an awesome feeling,” Hicks said. “It’s just awesome to be able to be back out on the field with everybody and be able to play. Playing the game — it feels like it’s been forever.”

Their stories are all different, but finally together and healthy, Texas’ veteran linebackers appear poised to be a strong unit.

Wide receiver John Harris is one of several fifth-year seniors making an impact for the Longhorns this season. 

Photo Credit: Amy Zhang | Daily Texan Staff

In January 2010, the Longhorns received commitments from two of the nation’s top defensive prospects — now-senior linebacker Jordan Hicks and former Texas defensive end Jackson Jeffcoat — helping Texas secure a class that was supposed to bring championships.

But instead, the next four seasons brought disappointing results leading to eventual changes in the program. Now, Texas’ few remaining 2010 signees, entering their fifth season with the Longhorns, hope to use 2014 to alter the perception of their class and their legacies.

“All of us fifth-year guys, we want to finish this right,” senior wide receiver John Harris said. “[When] we came in here, it was a year they went to the National Championship a year before. And to come in the next year and go 5-7 was a little bit tough. There might have been a little complacency.”

Harris is one of Texas’ fifth-year players taking advantage of the opportunity to play for a new coaching regime. Harris made several big plays for the Longhorns in the Mack Brown era, but, after missing the last 10 games of 2011 with injuries, he struggled with consistent reps. In the first game under new head coach Charlie Strong, Harris hauled in seven receptions, marking a career night after only catching nine passes in his first three seasons.

“He’s done what he’s needed to do to prove to the coaching staff and to the team that he’s a great player and that he deserves to be out there,” Hicks said. “He’s proving that to the world right now.”

Hicks is also looking to put together a healthy senior season after missing 19 games in the past two years because of various injuries. In addition, fellow senior linebacker Demarco Cobbs missed 15 games, including all of 2013 to a knee injury. Both Hicks and Cobbs recorded the first interceptions of their careers in their return this past Saturday.

“We are rooming together, so we’ve talked about this first game all offseason,” Hicks said. ”It’s been over a year since he’s played in a game, and I haven’t played since last year, so we’ve worked together. We’ve poured our hearts out into this game, coming back and making sure when we do come back that we were going to be in top shape.”

With injuries already affecting Texas this season, the three fifth-year seniors will try to lead the Longhorns past adversity. It’s the last chance to redeem a class currently remembered for missed opportunities and losses.

”We haven’t gone to a really big BCS bowl game since we’ve been here,” Harris said. “So I think just to finish this year right and try to help Texas get back to a 10-win record or 11-win record would be great for us to leave out of here. We just want to help get back Texas where it needs to be, and we want to start that with Coach Strong.”

National signing day for college football is Feb. 5, the day on which some high school seniors will sign their letters of intent to play at the next level.

Currently, Texas’ 2014 class sits at 21 commits, seven of which are ranked in the ESPN 300.

The class is headlined by defensive end Derick Roberson and quarterback Jerrod Heard, who are both expected to excel at Texas.

Texas has three early enrollees for the spring: offensive lineman Alex Anderson, linebacker Andrew Beck and JUCO tight end Blake Whiteley.

Looking purely from a ranking standpoint, Texas’ most recent classes — No. 16 in 2013 and, currently, No. 13 in 2014 — are disappointing in comparison to the previous four, which all finished in the top five.

Despite this, the Longhorns’ class still ranks first in the Big 12, one spot ahead of Oklahoma and two ahead of this year’s conference champion, Baylor.

Texas has been plagued by decommitments, something that wasn’t very common for most of former head coach Mack Brown’s tenure.

The 2013 class was highly touted early on, before it lost five commits, including receiver Ricky Seals-Jones to Texas A&M and defensive tackle A’Shawn Robinson to Alabama. 

These decommitments led Brown to implement a no-visit policy for commits, which wasn’t a very effective deterrent, as players decommitted instead.

Since Brown’s resignation, a handful of players have decommitted, including all three defensive tackle pledges in the same week. It was a big blow since no defensive tackles were signed in 2013.

The Longhorns have serious interest in two out-of-state former Louisville commits — ESPN 300 defensive tackle Poona Ford and Florida defensive tackle Chris Nelson.  

At 6 feet tall, Ford lacks the height one would like at his position, but makes up for it with his ability to pressure the quarterback. Ford took his official visit to Texas recently and is imperative for the 2014 class.

Nelson showed ability to stop the run and plays in a position of need. He made his official visit this past weekend and would help continue new head coach Charlie Strong’s pipeline in Florida.

ESPN 300 linebacker Otaro Alaka decommited from Texas Sunday night and flipped to Texas A&M. A&M is the trendy school in Texas at the moment, and A&M head coach Kevin Sumlin is a masterful recruiter.

Many believe Texas was hurt by scheduling official visits while Brown was still in control, which meant recruits’ only chances to visit Austin with Strong were at their own expense.

Considering this and the staff’s unfamiliarity with recruits, it’s no surprise that this class is suffering with deflections.

These early struggles in recruiting should not be seen as a reflection of Strong. Texas’ 2015 class will be the first time people can truly judge Strong’s recruiting prowess, and, if he wins, Texas will recruit itself.

Junior defensive end Steve Edmond continues to improve and is having a breakout season in his third year.

Photo Credit: Shelby Tauber | Daily Texan Staff

Steve Edmond always possessed the talent necessary to succeed at the college level.

Edmond committed to the Longhorns out of Daingerfield High School as the second ranked inside linebacker in class of 2011, according to, a 4-star prospect with ideal size and capable coverage skills.

But his high school dominance failed to translate during his first two years at Texas. Still, the junior linebacker never lacked motivation or confidence in his ability. Instead, he simply struggled to overcome his nerves.

“[I felt] nervous, like you don’t want to fail,” Edmond said. “Once they said ‘hut,’ it’s like I froze. Last year, sometimes I didn’t know what to do, so I just froze.”

Edmond believes these feelings are in the past. The repetitiveness of practice coupled with having a full season as a starter of experience allowed him to enter this season with a renewed confidence. Edmond led the team with 63 tackles, seven passes defended, as well as a team lead-tying two interceptions.

His growth proved evident last Saturday night against West Virginia, when he knocked down a pass in the end zone on third down and recorded an interception on fourth down to clinch a seven-point, overtime victory for the Longhorns. While his biggest strides this season have come in defending the run, Edmond believes he is at his best when given the opportunity to make plays in the passing game as he did against the Mountaineers.

“It’s natural for me to just read the quarterback’s eyes,” Edmond said. “I really like dropping into coverage and trying to get into passing lanes to break the ball up.”

While Edmond’s play continues to make major noise, he remains one of the most introverted members of the team. He far prefers the solitude of hunting and fishing in his free time to going out with his teammates, but his quiet nature does not reflect his enormous passion for football.

“It’s clear to me that he wants to be good,” defensive coordinator Greg Robinson said. “I think sometimes people take his quiet demeanor like he isn’t aware of what’s going on. And what I’ve learned is that he is a bright football player, and I just think he is only going to get better.”

Junior cornerback Quandre Diggs said he remains impressed with the strides Edmond made this season, and he expects him to continue to improve.

“I feel like he’s just scratching the surface of what he can be because he’s a tremendous player,” Diggs said. “He’s a great person. You couldn’t ask for a better guy, just for good things to happen to Steve.”

Edmond’s experience and production this season allowed him to step up as the leader of the linebacker corps when junior linebacker Jordan Hicks went down with a ruptured Achilles. As his responsibilities increase, he’ll have no reason to ever feel nervous on the football field again.

Sophomore full-back Alex De La Torre made the most of his opporunity against West Virginia last weekend, catching the game-winning touchdown in Texas' 47-40 overtime win.

Photo Credit: Joe Capraro | Daily Texan Staff

For most of his football career, sophomore fullback Alex De La Torre was in the forefront.

In high school, De La Torre played linebacker and was often in the spotlight for the 385 tackles, 20 sacks and four interceptions he recorded through his last three seasons. But after being recruited on defense, he became a fullback for the Longhorns and, like most in that position, moved to the background.

“I was a little surprised at the very beginning, but my dad is a head coach, so I’ve been told to be a team player and sacrifice,” De La Torre said. “So I said I was all for it.”

“Day-La,” as his teammates call him, learned to embrace his new position. He said he plays about an average of 14 plays a game, but he’s learned the in-and-outs of his new spot and how to make the most out of the limited action.

De La Torre has also used his defensive skills to his advantage. The tough and gritty linebacker attitude he learned to play with didn’t diminish once he stepped over to the offensive side of the ball.

“It’s a real blue collar [position],” De La Torre said. “You just have to keep on grinding in practice. You’re pretty much just a small O-lineman. That’s how it is really. I’ve really embraced that type of blue-collar mentality, and I’ve tried to take that linebacker mentality and bring it to offense.”

Embracing that mentality has worked out so far for the 6-foot-1-inch, 233-pound athlete. After apprenticing under Ryan Roberson his freshman year, De La Torre learned the trade and gained the fullback role this season. He recorded his first career rush for 19 yards on a fake punt against Kansas State, and his first career reception could not have come at a better time. 

Last Saturday, he snatched a goal line pass from Case McCoy against West Virginia for an overtime touchdown.

“I was really excited for him,” senior offensive guard Mason Walters said. “Alex, playing that fullback position, doesn’t get a lot of recognition, and I know he’s a guy that works extremely hard, so I was really excited to see him score not only the touchdown, but [it was] a big point in the game too. [It] really helped us out and [I was] excited for him.”

The new fame he gathered came fast and caught De La Torre by surprise. Since he had never experienced a college press conference, when his name was called for the post-game interviews, he had a few things backwards.

“He went to the media afterwards, and you never think about this, but what do you do?” head coach Mack Brown said. “I said, ‘They’ll tell you what to do when you get in there.’ He said, ‘Do I ask them?  What do I–.’ I said, ‘Just go out there and sit, and they’ll ask you questions.’”

Although he is in the background on the field, De La Torre has become quite the star in the Twitter world. The Denton, Texas, native enjoys his time on Twitter so much that his teammates had to limit the amount of action he could spend on the social media site after grabbing his first career touchdown.

“We gave him a hard time,” Walters said. “He likes his Twitter, so after the game, we told Alex to limit it to one [tweet] tonight, and then we’ll [lift] that restriction on a later day. It’s just all in good fun.”

The Longhorns battled through injuries to get a much-needed win against Kansas State two weeks ago, but there’s no reason to have a rush of confidence. Linebacker Jordan Hicks is out for the season, Daje Johnson is back but Mike Davis is questionable and David Ash’s head injury will keep him from playing this week and will be a serious cause for concern for the rest of the year. Still, Iowa State is one of the worst teams in the Big 12. If Texas were to only win one road game all season, this would be it. As long as they continue to rely on an emerging Johnathan Gray, who rushed for 141 yards and two touchdowns against the Wildcats, they should be able get through this week with a victory and head into the Red River Rivalry with a winning record. No blowout, but they should manage to eke out a cover of the nine-point spread.

Texas (-9) at Iowa State


Lock of the Week

Georgia (-10) at Tennessee

Aaron Murray and Co. are coming off their biggest win of the season, defeating LSU, 44-41. The victory vaulted the Bulldogs back into SEC and national title contention and title contenders should have no problems beating a Tennessee team that struggled at home against South Alabama last week. Stud running back Todd Gurley’s injury status is up in the air, but Georgia should easily win by double-digits regardless.


Upset Alert

Illinois (+10) at Nebraska

The Cornhuskers lost at home by 20 points to the only decent team they’ve played this season in a 41-21 shellacking at the hands of UCLA. The Nebraska defense has problems. They’re a dismal No. 107 in total defense and gave up 465 yards to FCS South Dakota State in their last game two weeks ago. The Illinois offense is averaging over 40 points per game and, if this contest turns into a shootout, the Fighting Illini will have a great chance to pull off the upset in Lincoln.

Darren’s record: 8-4 (.667)