Antwuan Davis

Photo Credit: Juan Figueroa | Daily Texan Staff

Some players call him old man, others just call him ‘Twuan, but Saturday night, fifth-year senior Antwuan Davis was just the next man up.

Texas adopted the slogan “next man up” in response to players who are forced to step up when the team loses a player to injury. However, with the news of starting cornerback Holton Hill’s season-long suspension combined with the injury of junior nickelback and team captain P.J. Locke III, it begged the question, who is that next man?

That question found an answer when Kansas quarterback Carter Stanley released the ball from his own end zone. The ball left Stanley’s fingertips and right into fifth-year senior Antwuan Davis’ hands. Davis returned the interception all the way to the corner of the endzone to give Texas an early 14-0 lead.

And just like that, Texas found its next man up.

“Once I had the ball, all I could see is the end zone,” Davis said. “I saw the whole d-line blocking, I saw a cornerback come over and throw a block and I said ‘Man thank y’all. This means the most to me.’”

This wasn’t just any ordinary pick-six for Davis, though. This was his payoff for the hard work he put in not only on the field, but in the class.

The defensive back found himself in a predicament last season. After getting redshirted in his his first season at Texas, Davis technically had one fifth and final season of eligibility.

However, in order to play, he needed to graduate.

“This is a guy that needed to pass an ungodly amount of hours in the spring and summer to graduate, and he needed to graduate to be eligible to play this season,” Herman said. “(Safeties coach) Craig Naivar dove into his life and prodded him and taught him and mentored him.”

Davis said he was forced to take five classes during one session, followed by one during an off period and another four during the summer –– all for one more season of eligibility.

As the summer came to a close, Davis received his diploma.

“The day that my diploma came in at the end of the summer and I was cleared for the season, I hugged coach Naivar and I hugged coach Herman because these guys really helped me get all the way through to where I am,” Davis said. “It was such an appreciative moment.”

Several months have passed since Davis got his hands on his diploma, but he said the younger guys on team still ask him about his five-year journey at Texas.

“These guys hung in here with me from spring from two years ago,” Davis said. “Some of the freshman are like, ‘Man how do you do it?’ I’m like man you’ve just got to be patient. You've just gotta wait till your time comes.’

Davis’ time happens to be now. Between Locke’s injury and Hill’s suspension, Davis was asked to step up. And he did. The fifth-year senior recorded a second interception in the second quarter and even recovered a fumbled punt.

After the game, junior safety DeShon Elliott saw Davis walk by.

“What’s up, old man?” Elliot asked.

Despite the teasing, which Davis promises is out of love, Elliott wasn’t surprised by the performance from that “old man.”

“He balled. I knew he could ball,” Elliott said. “I’ve been sitting behind him for two years. I knew when he got in the game, he was gonna take advantage of the opportunity and was gonna do his job and that’s what he did.”

Now, Davis can see the end of his Longhorn career. After the game, the fifth-year senior reflected on his journey on the 40 Acres and expressed his gratitude to his teammates and coaching staff for the help and opportunities along the way. 

And for these last two games, the Longhorns are just asking Davis for one thing in return: be their next man up.

“I tell these guys all the time, I cherish them,” Davis said. “I cherish the guys that I’m in here with. Seeing these young guys develop, I’m like man I wonder what the older guys think of me now. Old man ‘Twuan out there with them young guys. It’s just a real appreciative moment. Having my last one in two weeks, it’s gonna be tough but I really feel like I’m ready for it.”

Photo Credit: Juan Figueroa | Daily Texan Staff

Tom Herman doesn't care to look and see what the betting line is on his upcoming game.

The Longhorns were 33-point favorites heading into Saturday night’s meeting against Kansas, a bottom-feeder program that is now 1-9 after Texas’ 42-27 win at Darrell K Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium.

“I didn’t know we were — I don’t ever know what favorite we are, no,” Herman said. “That’s a lot, though.”

Perhaps it was a lot for a Texas team entering Saturday with a 4-5 record, fresh off its worst offensive performance of the season last weekend against TCU in Fort Worth. Never mind the fact that the Longhorns shockingly lost to Kansas last November in Lawrence.

Kansas proved why it was a 33-point underdog from the opening kick, when it attempted to catch the Longhorns off guard in their own house.

After winning the coin toss and deferring to the second half, the Jayhawks boldly tried an onside kick. The plan didn’t work, however, as the Longhorns were ready for it and recovered the ball at Kansas’ 49-yard line.

“We’re always prepared for stuff like that,” senior wide receiver Lorenzo Joe said. “Going into this game, you never know what’s gonna happen.”

On Texas’ first play from scrimmage, sophomore quarterback Shane Buechele delivered a 49-yard touchdown pass to Joe, who got behind the Jayhawks’ secondary.

The Longhorns were up 7-0 just nine seconds into the game. But fans would’ve been remiss to not draw flashbacks to last year’s meeting in Lawrence. Texas scored on its first play from scrimmage in that game as well to take an early 7-0 lead over the Jayhawks. The Longhorns went on to lose 24-21 in overtime, one of the worst losses in program history.

This night would not prove haunting for the burnt orange, though. Texas received boosts from a host of players in the first half to grab control of the game, never letting Kansas get firmly within striking distance.

Fifth-year senior defensive back Antwuan Davis needed just one half to turn in the best performance of his Texas career. Davis intercepted the Jayhawks twice, including a pick-six to put Texas up 14-0, and recovered a Kansas fumble on a punt return.

“It’s a great feeling to be out there with this defense, with this team,” Davis said. “I don’t want to be a missing piece. I want to be a part of this puzzle.”

Freshman running back Toneil Carter and sophomore wide receiver Lil’Jordan Humphrey each rushed for scores in the first half. Freshman quarterback Sam Ehlinger, who didn’t start despite being cleared from a head injury, came in late in the first quarter and tossed an eight-yard touchdown pass to freshman tight end Cade Brewer.

Early in the second quarter, Texas tried its hand at a 44-yard field goal, but senior Mitchell Becker missed wide left, another chapter in the Longhorns’ kicking woes this season.

Texas scored more points in the opening quarter on Saturday night — 28 — than it has total in five of its games this season. The Longhorns led 35-17 heading into halftime.

But the second half saw mostly offensive ineptitude.

“I think with such an inexperienced (offense) that we have right now, we’ve got to do a better job of not worrying about what the score is and not worrying about how the defense is playing and not worrying about ‘Oh, dang it, they stopped us, we have to punt,’” Herman said.

The biggest story out of Saturday night was simple — the Longhorns (5-5, 4-3 Big 12) got one win closer to bowl eligibility. One more win can help salvage what has been an erratic first season under Herman.

“There’s no lack of confidence, or there’s no issue with perception,” Herman said. “Winning for us right now is going to be hard, and that’s OK. That’s OK. As long as we win.”

Antwuan Davis, a defensive back from Bastrop High School, is among six defensive recruits currently committed to Texas and one of the most important assets of the 2013 class.

Photo Credit: Elisabeth Dillon | Daily Texan Staff

The accolades pile up quickly for Texas’ 2013 defensive recruits.

Of the six who are currently committed to Texas, three of them were U.S. Army All-American Bowl honorees.

One of them made the state semifinals, was first runner-up and won a state title in three varsity seasons.

Another accepted Texas’ grayshirt offer nearly a year ago, turned down full rides from other schools, then finally earned a full scholarship from Texas in December.

For everything they are, however, the 2013 defensive recruits may be remembered more for what they are not.

They are not 6-foot-5, 304 pounds. They do not play defensive tackle. And they are not named A’Shawn Robinson.

Fair or not, Robinson’s decommitment is the story of the 2013 class, and it casts a pall over an otherwise small but promising set of defensive recruits.

This isn’t to say that athlete Chevoski Collins, defensive end Jake Raulerson, outside linebackers Naashon Hughes and Deoundrei Davis, safety Erik Huhn and corner Antwuan Davis lack talent or potential. But without Robinson (who was the most highly-rated member of the class), the task of making people forget about last year’s worst defense in school history becomes that much more difficult.

Ultimately, Robinson’s last decommitment turned what was previously considered to be a strong defensive crop into one which faces more questions than answers.

Take for example the two members of the class who will learn new positions, Collins and Raulerson. Both of them exhibited superior athletic ability in high school, but will take on completely different roles in college.

Collins, a former dual-threat quarterback, will play in the Longhorn secondary. Though there’s a precedent at Texas of converting high school quarterbacks to defensive backs (Adrian Colbert, Quandre Diggs, Adrian Phillips and Josh Turner all saw time under center before they were Longhorns), it’s never guaranteed that a player will thrive at a new position.

The same goes for Raulerson, who will likely move from offensive tackle to the other side of the ball.

“They are trying me out wherever I fit, and they are going to start me out at defensive end and see how I do,” Raulerson said in an April interview with hornsports.com

Meanwhile, though Collins and Raulerson face uphill transitions, they at least enter their first collegiate seasons without questions about their health.

The same cannot be said for two of their classmates, Huhn and Deoundrei Davis, who both tore an ACL in their senior seasons. Neither injury was career-threatening, and rehabilitation is reportedly going smoothly for both of them. Nonetheless, their recoveries will be important for the long-term trajectory of the class.

The recruit most likely to see the field in his first year besides Deoundrei Davis is Antwuan Davis, who developed into one of the best corner prospects in the country this year. Antwuan Davis showcased his ability in the AAA Bowl, where he blocked a field goal and broke up a pass in the end zone.

“I think Antwuan Davis is a guy that can push for playing time at nickel back or safety,” rivals.com’s national recruiting analyst Mike Farrell said.

Without Robinson, Antwuan Davis becomes the most heralded recruit of the class, a responsibility for which he seems ready.

“I don’t know if I’ll start right away or anything, but I know that I’ll be ready to start if [the coaches] ask me to,” Antwuan Davis told The Daily Texan in September.

Whether that opportunity comes this year or later, it will be here soon.

When it comes, the Texas class of 2013 will have a chance to remind the college football world who it is.

More importantly, the Longhorns will try to make it forget who they are not.

Published on February 6, 2013 as "Robinson leaves shadow". 

Whitewright High’s Tyrone Swoopes, a 6-foot-5 dual threat quarterback, is just one piece of the Longhorns’ 2013 recruiting class. Swoopes has enrolled early this spring to join the team.

Photo Credit: Courtesy Photo | Daily Texan Staff

The end of the year was marred by decommitments and missed opportunities for the Longhorns’ 2013 recruiting class, despite strong showings by UT commits at end-of-the-year All-America games.

The class of 2013 now has only 13 members. Arlington Martin running back Kyle Hicks switched his commitment to TCU, and Belton tight end Durham Smythe decommitted from Texas to entertain other offers.

Although decommitments are an expected part of the recruiting process for any school, Texas has yet to fill the spots vacated by Smythe and Hicks.

Katy Seven Lakes offensive lineman Caleb Benenoch, Auburn athlete Cameron Echols-Luper and East Mississippi Community College defensive end Za’Darius Smith all recently spurned the Longhorns. Benenoch, who was once thought to favor UT, committed to UCLA Dec. 10. Marshall was offered a scholarship but committed to Auburn on Monday. Texas offered a scholarship to Echols-Luper on Thursday, but it wasn’t enough to prevent him from committing to TCU over the weekend. Smith visited Austin for the Dec. 7 Football Banquet (according to burntorangenation.com), only to commit to Kentucky Dec. 19.

Meanwhile, speculation continues that Arlington Heights defensive tackle A’Shawn Robinson may also decommit. Robinson committed to Texas on Feb. 16, but has since made visits to Florida State, Southern California and Alabama. Robinson is rated as Texas’ best 2013 commitment by rivals.com.

Nonetheless, Robinson asserted his allegiance to Texas at the 2013 Army All-American Bowl in San Antonio Jan. 5.

Robinson was joined by five other 2013 Longhorn commitments in San Antonio: Whitewright quarterback Tyrone Swoopes, Bastrop cornerback Antwuan Davis, Dallas Jesuit wide receiver Jake Oliver, Lake Highlands offensive tackle Kent Perkins and Celina athlete Jake Raulerson. Cypress Woods linebacker Deoundrei Davis was also selected for the game, but is still healing from an ACL tear. Swoopes, Raulerson and Deoundrei Davis have already enrolled.

Bastrop’s Davis made the biggest splash of any future Longhorn. Davis broke up what would have been a sure touchdown in the second quarter, and came off the edge to block a field goal in the same drive.

The other major high school all-star game, the Under Armour All-America Game, also had a representative from Texas. Harker Heights center Darius James missed most of his senior season with a broken foot, but showed off his versatility by playing a few snaps at offensive tackle. Even so, James may not have had even the best month in his own school.

Fellow Harker Heights Knight and Texas commit Naashon Hughes, who played out his senior season expecting a grayshirt, was rewarded by the Longhorns with a full scholarship in mid-December. The outside linebacker will now start classes this coming fall.

Who else will join him in the class of 2013, however, is unclear. While potential candidates include Waco offensive lineman Andrew Billings, Hutchinson Community College outside linebacker De’Vondre Campbell and Contra Costa Community College offensive tackle Desmond Harrison, to say that any of those players will sign with Texas on National Signing Day would be shortsighted.

To be more accurate, as National Signing Day looms and the Texas coaching staff scrambles for a handful of commitments, the only certainty in this class is how much remains uncertain.