Texas Longhorns

Photo Credit: Katie Bauer | Daily Texan Staff

ARLINGTON, Texas — Soon after former Texas left tackle Connor Williams and a select few of the first-round prospects Sam Darnold, Josh Rosen and Saquon Barkley made their appearance on the red carpet, the party moved inside to AT&T Stadium.

Darnold, Rosen and Barkley all saw their names taken off the board in the top 10 to no surprise. Most mock drafts didn’t have Williams early in the first round. But after Williams watched Notre Dame have two offensive linemen selected at No. 6 and No. 9, followed by another four offensive linemen to cap off six total at the position taken in the first round, questions began to flurry.

“I firmly believe I'm the best offensive lineman in this class,” Williams said after his workout at Texas’ NFL Pro Day on March 28.

And this wasn’t an outlandish statement. Williams has asserted his dominance every time he’s set foot on the field. But as NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell approached the podium with one final pick remaining in the first round of the 2018 NFL Draft on Thursday night, it was clear –– Williams had dropped out of the first round.

“With the final pick in the first round of the 2018 NFL Draft, the Baltimore Ravens select Lamar Jackson.”

Heisman Trophy winner Lamar Jackson, who dropped significantly as well, capped off the first round. Williams, who was in attendance, was forced to wait some more. But the Dallas-area native said he planned on returning for rounds two and three on Friday night.

“Was an amazing night and experience,” Williams tweeted after the first round concluded. “Never has been easy and would never want it any other way. Thank you for those following along and see you tomorrow night!”

Williams, along with his Longhorn teammates Malik Jefferson, DeShon Elliott, Holton Hill, Poona Ford, Michael Dickson and Chris Warren III, remain on the board. Round two begins with the Cleveland Browns picking first at AT&T Stadium on Friday at 6 p.m.

Photo Credit: Katie Bauer | Daily Texan Staff

ARLINGTON, Texas — All eyes shifted to Connor Williams hours before the 2018 NFL Draft even commenced as the former Longhorn left tackle stepped out onto the red carpet.

“It's always been a dream, but to actually be here and make a red carpet appearance is unreal,” Williams said. “I actually played my last high school game here so this is unreal.”

Williams saw his career at Coppell High School come to a close in 2014 when the Cowboys fell to DeSoto High School in the first round of the state playoffs.

Now, three-and-a-half years later, Williams –– who sported a suit in various shades of blue –– was being interviewed by NFL Hall of Famer and former Dallas Cowboys wide receiver Michael Irvin on the NFL Network just hours ahead of the draft.

“We planned a little custom from head to toe,” Williams said. “Being from Dallas, we had to throw in a little Cowboy blue.”

Williams’ journey to Thursday night hasn’t been a smooth one. The 6-foot-6-inch, 315-pound lineman has been nothing short of transparent about his childhood obstacles. From getting bullied, dealing with obesity and a speech impediment and entering college as a three-star recruit, Williams has discussed it all.

Most recently, the former Longhorn penned a letter to his bullies on NFL.com, which began with “DEAR BULLIES OF MY PAST, Thank you. No sarcasm intended. No hatred. Certainly, no anger. Just a simple thank you.”

“The thing about the story was that adversity hits you in all shapes and sizes and it can hit anybody throughout their life,” Williams said. “It's not about particularly what type of adversity it is, it’s about how you respond to it. Fortunately enough I had a family around me that was so influential in what I became. I’m just lucky to be here. I'm only here because of them.”

Williams was joined by his mother and father on the red carpet, who were both asked about Williams’ journey.

“I'm very proud of him. He knows what it takes and he does it,” Williams’ mother said. “We’ve talked all about it, but I can't talk about it right now.”

As for his weight battle, Williams’ father revealed the secret.

“It started out with P90X at 5:30 every morning. It was tough,” his father said. “Honestly, it was his character. Character is what separates all these guys here. This is a long road for all these boys to be here, and it’s just great to see them all.”

Williams will return to AT&T Stadium on Friday night for day two of the NFL Draft, where he is expected to be selected.

Photo Credit: The Associated Press

The $9 million goal set for creating a baseball enhancement project for the Longhorns is now one step closer to being fulfilled.

On Tuesday, Texas athletic director Chris Del Conte announced that Roger Clemens, former Longhorn pitcher and seven-time MLB Cy Young Award-winner, and his wife, Debbie, pledged a $1 million donation to the Longhorns’ baseball program. Clemens, who was a member of the 1983 national championship team, played two seasons for Texas and compiled a 25–7 record on the mound.

“On my way to a 24-year career in the major leagues, I can say for me, it started right here at the University of Texas,” Clemens said. “When I was at Texas, we had the best facility in the nation. Now with the addition of the indoor complex and training facility, it will once again be the best place to play, work out and take your game to the next level.”

Clemens has had all four of his sons go through Texas in some shape or fashion. His youngest two, Kacy and Kody, played on the 2017 team together. Kacy was the Longhorns’ team and offensive MVP last year. He was drafted by the Toronto Blue Jays in the eighth round of the 2017 MLB Draft. Kody, meanwhile, is currently the 2018 team’s most lethal player and a midseason All-American.

Texas is currently the only team in the Big 12 without an indoor baseball training facility, but expect that to change with this donation and potentially more to follow.

Longhorn fans can’t say Texas isn’t making efforts to rejuvenate the burnt orange brand. It’s too early to determine whether the efforts will pay off, but as inflatable obstacle courses resided on the sideline of Darrell K Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium and a firework show concluded the game, it was clear that the 2018 Orange-White spring game was just Texas’ latest attempt to bring Texas fans back to DKR.

“First thing, obviously, I need to thank our fans,” Texas head coach Tom Herman said afterward. “What a great job, especially with the threat of inclement weather, of them showing out as well as they did, as enthusiastic as they were, as energetic as they were.”

And the fans didn’t appear to leave early, either. After Texas’ White squad took down the Orange squad, 23-13, Longhorn fans flooded the field for the postgame autograph session in addition to the fireworks show.

“I really felt them tonight as opposed to last year,” Herman said. “Thanks to Chris Del Conte and his staff for a really wonderful pre-game atmosphere to allow the fans on the field. I think we're slowly but surely getting to the point where I think we're going to see the stands packed the way that we all hoped that they do.”

Here’s what we saw after the fans found their seats and the Longhorns took the field:

Johnson, Humphrey electrify the night

With the quarterback battle at the forefront all spring, two wide receivers on opposing teams seemingly stole the show. Junior Collin Johnson and sophomore Lil’Jordan Humphrey went back and forth all night. Johnson finished with one touchdown and 91 yards on six receptions for the orange team.

But Humphrey had a night as well, with 100 yards receiving on seven receptions, even finding the end zone twice on the ground.

Johnson and Humphrey flashed glimpses of superstar potential last season, but neither player could make the leap. If both wide receivers can make plays in the fall, look for the entire unit to benefit from more one-on-one looks.

“I definitely think this offseason and spring we’ve been a lot more productive,” Johnson said. “People have been a lot more bought in. You know how the first year is, a lot of times people don't really understand how to do things exactly.

The Punter’s cousin

As both teams headed into their locker rooms for halftime, former punter Michael Dickson walked onto the field with his Ray Guy Award for punter of the year in hand. Fans rose to their feet in appreciation for the star-studded Australian. But Texas had an answer for the fans who are still missing Dickson, none other than freshman punter Ryan Bujcevski –– Dickson’s cousin.

Bujcevski jogged onto the field for his Longhorn debut early in the first quarter. His first punt looked all too familiar. A 59-yard boot was enough to impress the Texas faithful as Dickson watched on from the sideline. But that’s as good as Bujcevski’s night would get. Punts of 30 and 40 yards forced Longhorn fans to pump the brakes.

Running game (?)

Texas’ leading rushers, for both teams, were both quarterbacks in Sam Ehlinger and Cameron Rising. One non-quarterback found the endzone twice, but he wasn’t a running back either.

Most teams don’t show much when it comes to televised spring games. Herman said they opted to run a lot of inside zone and power when close to the endzone. But it was Humphrey who pushed the ball across the goal line. This brought a lot of questions regarding Texas’ running back unit.

“We were in 11 personnel the entire game, ran inside zone and power,” Herman said.  “So, when you get compressed down there, you don't have any specific goal line plays because you don't want to show them. We still need improvement. But how do I feel? I feel a lot better than I did this time last year, and a lot better than I did in December.”

Texas now looks forward to summer camp where Herman will continue his search for a starting quarterback and go-to running back. Until then, let the countdown to the season opener against Maryland on Sept. 1 begin.

Photo Credit: Katie Bauer | Daily Texan Staff

From nearly three hours before kickoff until the final whistle, Texas wanted to send a message — and that didn’t have to necessarily be left solely on the field.

Two concerts, a live radio show and a postgame player autograph session were part of just some of the festivities at Darrell K Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium during Saturday night’s Orange-White spring game. The White team took home a 23-13 win to wrap up the 15th and final practice of the spring season.

“I need to thank our fans … showing out as well as they did, as enthusiastic as they were … really felt it,” Texas head coach Tom Herman said. “I think we’re slowly but surely getting to the point where I think we’re going to see the stands packed the way that we all hoped that they do.”

Saturday night’s game focused primarily on the offense and its ability to make big plays in both phases of the game. While the Longhorns didn’t unveil their entire offensive package, they did pull a few tricks out of the bag.

Texas’ running game found an unexpected spark from junior wide receiver Lil’Jordan Humphrey. Humphrey was prominently featured in Texas’ goal-line packages, running in for two touchdowns on the night.

Humphrey also tallied 100 receiving yards on seven catches, linking up with sophomore quarterback Sam Ehlinger on multiple occasions.

“(Humphrey) is about as versatile an offensive player as I’ve ever been around,” Herman said. “When you see a guy like him have the amount of catches he has, that means the quarterbacks believe in him.”

On the other side of the ball, junior wide receiver Collin Johnson had his fair share of highlights. Two tip-toe grabs — one in the back of the end zone for a touchdown and another along the sideline — showed fans what they missed last year.

A six-catch, 91-yard performance with many big grabs showed why Johnson is one of the best one-on-one receivers in the country. His ability to form chemistry with any quarterback, including freshman Cameron Rising, will make him an even bigger threat in 2018.

“I don’t know that we ever didn’t see that version of Collin Johnson,” Herman said. “You get your best players the football.”

Behind those receivers, fans also got to see how the quarterbacks have developed over the spring. Neither disappointed, as junior Shane Buechele and sophomore Sam Ehlinger combined for 281 yards through the air.

In Saturday’s affair, both quarterbacks earned their stripes with the long ball. Seam routes down the middle, deep posts and a few go routes in the mix provided a measuring stick as to where each quarterback was.

“I told the quarterbacks, experiment, rip it in there, man,” Herman said. “Try to fit it in the tight windows, because I want you to have that confidence when you do.”

Texas’ early enrollees also got their first glimpse of in-game action since coming to Austin. Freshman defensive back B.J. Foster made his presence known early, nearly reeling in a one-handed interception in coverage. The duo of freshman quarterbacks, Casey Thompson and Cameron Rising, also made their respective debuts with a couple of nice tosses on the run.

“They’re a really good group,” senior tight end Andrew Beck said. “None of them are problem guys. They all came in and put their nose to the grindstone and just went from day one.”

Through the stats and impressive plays Saturday night, it wasn’t difficult to tell Herman, the players and his staff had the culture in place to help Texas turn the corner.

“We’re excited about what we have going on right now,” Beck said. “We’ve seen the fruits of our labor, how good we can be and now it’s just continuing to develop.”

Photo Credit: Emmanuel Briseño | Daily Texan Staff

On a picture-perfect morning at Austin Country Club on Monday, Dylan Frittelli stepped on the first tee, readying to tee off for a practice round in preparation for this week’s World Golf Championships-Dell Technologies Match Play.

But not before a familiar face joined him out of surprise.

Frittelli’s former University of Texas teammate, Jordan Spieth — who just so happens to be a three-time major champion and the No. 4 player in the world — was trailing from behind.

“I walked on the first tee, and I guess he followed me from the driving range,” Frittelli said.

Since the end of their college careers at Texas, in many ways, Frittelli has been the one trying to follow Spieth. While Frittelli, a South African native, has grinded overseas on the European Tour, Spieth has become one of the biggest stars in the game on the PGA Tour — a stage Frittelli hopes to one day become a mainstay on.

But on Monday, it was Spieth doing the following as he saw Frittelli head for the first tee.

“He’s just the same person he’s always been,” Spieth said of Frittelli. “He hasn’t changed a bit in the last five, six years.”

In the summer of 2012 at Los Angeles’ Riviera Country Club, Spieth and Frittelli led the Longhorns to a national championship — Texas’ first since back-to-back wins in the early 1970s, the days of legends Ben Crenshaw and Tom Kite.

But it was Frittelli who clinched the win, sinking a 30-footer for birdie on the last hole of the decisive match. The 18th green at Riviera quickly turned into a madhouse, as Frittelli dropped his putter, threw down his hat and sunglasses and jumped into the arms of his teammates.

“People tend to forget I made the putt at the national championship,” Frittelli said. “But that was six years ago now, so it’s long gone in my memory. But it’s probably still my biggest moment in golf.”

Since then, Frittelli’s and Spieth’s careers have taken different routes.

Frittelli has won twice on the European Tour, most recently in Austria last June.

“It’s awesome to see because that work ethic (Frittelli) put in in college was a big part of the reason why I worked so hard in college — to try and beat him within our own team,” Spieth said. “That competitive nature has carried over into kind of creating a work ethic for both of us. As professionals, it has bred success for us.”

Spieth, meanwhile, had his breakout year on the PGA Tour in 2015, when he won five times, including at the Masters and U.S. Open. He won the British Open last summer in dramatic fashion. In total, Spieth has collected 11 wins on the PGA Tour.

Frittelli was jokingly asked on Monday what it was like to have Spieth as his groupie this week. But Frittelli quickly dispelled that.

“I’m Jordan Spieth’s teammate,” Frittelli said with a smile. “That’s the big flier on the PGA Tour and European Tour. Hoping to change that. Maybe one day he’ll be co-teammate or something to that effect.”

And maybe someday that could be the case. Frittelli’s dream is to eventually move back to Austin one day and play on the PGA Tour — and of course, win majors like Spieth. 

This week at Austin Country Club, playing against 64 of the top 69 players in the world, Frittelli’s getting a small glimpse of that dream.

“I want to play the best golfers in the world,” Frittelli said. “They happen to be in the U.S. right now, and that’s where I want to live. I’ll stay here in Austin. I’m taxed here in the U.S. That’s basically where I see myself in the future.”

Frittelli and Spieth aren’t the only Longhorns in this week’s field. There’s also Jhonattan Vegas, who played at Texas from 2004–07, just a few years before Spieth and Frittelli helped deliver a national title.

Vegas’ PGA Tour career has largely been up and down. He broke onto the scene in 2011 when he won the Bob Hope Classic. He’s won twice on Tour since then.

Inside the Austin Country Club locker room, a signed picture of Vegas holding the trophy from his first win still hangs on the wall.

“You know what, I’ve seen it once or twice,” Vegas said. “All the good people around Austin Country Club makes this place phenomenal. So obviously, every time I just park in this parking lot, have a huge smile on my face, it has a lot of fond memories being here in Austin. So it’s always a good place that I feel comfortable.”

Vegas, along with Spieth and Frittelli, will try to make some more memories at Austin Country Club this week.