History indicates that the Texas Longhorns choose to focus on high school players to fill out their recruiting classes. Under Mack Brown's watch, Texas has flirted with only a couple junior college prospects, one of which (Alfio Randall-Veasey) was a former Longhorn commitment before spending two years at in-state Blinn Junior College.
But if there's one thing Brown has shown over the years, it's that he has the ability to adapt and make changes. Be it schemes, coaches or recruiting philosophies, Brown will do what he feels is in the best interest of the Texas program and he's not afraid to make adjustments on the fly. In the off-season, he made his biggest changes yet, overhauling the majority of his assistant coaches.
Those changes have certainly led to an increased effort to recruit beyond the borders of the Lone Star State, with Texas recruiting a number of out-of-state prospects for the 2012 class. Could the new coaches also be leading to a change in UT's junior college recruiting philosophy? Longhorn fans probably shouldn't hold their breath for a dramatic switch, but there does appear to be some wiggle room in the case of top defensive end Denico Autry.
A 6-6, 245-pound end out of East Mississippi Community College, Autry is one of the country's hottest prospects, with offers from the likes of Alabama, Arkansas, Auburn, Florida, Florida State, Georgia, Miami, Oregon, Tennessee and Texas A&M. Members of the Texas coaching staff made two visits to EMCC during the spring evaluation period to express their interest and the Longhorns are a school that Autry is strongly considering.
"They came out to our practice and looked at me. Texas is a school I've always wanted to play for. It's somewhere I'll look more into," Autry said. "It was a big surprise. I wasn't expecting Texas. They look mostly in-state, so that one really had me surprised."
Autry lists Texaas, Miami, Clemson Tennessee and Auburn as some of the schools that have grabbed his attention. He said this week that he'd like to save two of his official visits in the fall for Miami and Texas.
EMCC associate head coach/defensive coordinator William Jones expects the Longhorns to be a major player for Autry's commitment as long as Texas wants to stay in the race. Jones has a lont-time relationship with UT assistant Bo Davis, and Autry is familiar with Davis from Davis' days at Alabama, a school that has recruited EMCC heavily in the past.
"He called my coach the other day. It wasn't anything too much talking to me but (Davis) and our defensive coordinator are good friends," Autry said. "I think he was seeing if I'm still interested, checking on my grades."
Davis' presence on the Texas staff has already opened doors for a number of top prospects in the Southeast, and coach Jones said Davis' position on the Longhorn staff is really helping UT's chances with his star defensive end.
"Denico, along with myself, really gravitate towards Bo. Bo Davis an I are great friends," Davis said. "I think (Texas is) going to stay alive in it until the end or either until they decide not to be involved. I really think Denico likes coach Davis. Denico at this point, has his GPA. He's set to graduate in December if he takes care of the things he needs to take care of. If not, he'll graduate in the spring.
"He's on track to be eligible anywhere in the country. I would think Texas is involved and anywhere else he wants to go will probably be involved. Bo Davis has signed guys from our team in the past (at Alabama). Denico is associated with our guys and knew coach Davis through them. think Texas has as good a chance to get Denicos's services as anybody."
Autry wasn't a highly-recruited prospect coming out of Albemarle (N.C.) High, a 1A school. He's been called by EMCC head coach Buddy Stephens the best defensive lineman he's ever coached, and coach Williams said Autry brings a lot to the table both as a player and a person.
He's a great kid. His smile, his personality, he's a little bit shy but he's starting to get out of that as the media attention hits him. He's a great person and his mother is a wonderful lady," Williams said. "He's just a dominant force versus the run and the pass. He can stand up or play down. It's so hard to find a great pass rusher. He's a tremendous athlete but he's a natural pass rusher. He has giant hands, long arms, he can flip his hips. He has a burst, a first step. He can chase things down. He's like a cheetah - he gets faster as he's chasing his prey. He just has some gifts that not a lot of people have, all rolled into one."
On the surface, it may seem like pulling Autry away from the Southeastern region of the country would be a tough task for a school like Texas, but Autry says he's simply looking for best fit academically, athletically and socially.
"I'm keeping it pretty open. But I like their (UT) program. I'll bet watching them pretty closely this year to see their new defense. I'll look at them, see what they've got, see how I could fit in," Autry said. "It wouldn't be hard for me to go there. Right now, I'm just trying to see what's good out there. I'm looking around at all of them, the SEC, the Big 10, the Big 12, looking at the difference in all of those."
In seven games last year, Autry recorded 60 tackles, 11 TFL and 5.5 sacks. He also forced 5 fumbles and recovered 3.