Like Miami once had with quarterbacks, Penn State with linebackers and Nebraska with tailbacks, Texas is now the school that prides itself on developing and producing the best defensive backs in college football.
Bastrop's Antwuan Davis has the kind of versatility Duane Akina covets in his defensive backs.
It's hard to argue with the results Duane Akina has produced. Since the 2002 NFL draft 12 of his defensive backs have been selected, five of them in the first round.
It's easy for a high school prospect to notice that heading to the 40 Acres to play in the secondary can provide a path to the NFL.
“Well,” Cibolo Steele safety Erik Huhn said, “There were two guys in the Super Bowl last Sunday.”
Huhn, Livingston's Chevoski Collins and Bastrop's Antwuan Davis hope to one day join Tarrell Brown and Chykie Brown on Sundays. Until then they'll try to keep the tradition of Defensive Back U alive as the newest members of Akina's stable.
All three inked national letters of intent with the Longhorns on Wednesday. Davis, a four-star prospect and a Top247 prospect according to the 247Composite rankings, is the highest rated of the group.
The first Longhorn signee from nearby Bastrop knows that getting to Texas is one thing. Doing what it takes to thrive is another.
“To be at DBU you have to be a game-changer,” Davis said. “You have to be a playmaker. You've got got to take risks.”
Davis and Huhn know they'll be pushed by Akina, who has been at Texas since the 2001 season. Nobody knows better than Huhn that taking Akina's advice can lead to great things.
Erik Huhn was an under-the-radar offer by Akina in this cycle.
That's how the 6-foot-2, 205-pound enforcer got a chance to come to Texas in the first place. Akina told Huhn that if he came to summer camp and performed well he'd have an offer, which is exactly what happened based on the reviews of how Huhn performed last June.
“I feel like if I go up there and work hard I'll have chance to play,” Huhn said. “Other coaches will BS you. Not Coach Akina. He did exactly what he told me he'd do.”
Huhn is a throwback player – a safety who isn't vulnerable to the deep ball but thrives at coming up to stop the run with a willingness to put the wood to receivers who dare to come over the middle of the field against him.
Davis is coming to Texas as a cornerback, but to look at the 5-foot-11, 190-pound defender he looks like exactly what Akina has preferred in the past at the safety position. He possesses elite recovery speed and at the U.S. Army All-American Bowl he showed he's got some versatility to cover the slot as a nickel corner.
“Coach Akina loves it when you're able to play every position,” Davis said.
Akina does fancy versatility, which is why he targeted Collins. The 5-foot-10, 185-pound athlete has a skill set that reminds some in the program of Adrian Phillips – instinctive enough to play safety and nickel in the Big 12 with enough savvy, strength and quickness in tight quarters to play cornerback.
“He seemed really laid back to me,” Davis said of Collins from when the two spent time together during their December official visits. “He seems like a guy who doesn't press the issue, but you can tell he presses the issue on the field because he's a great player.”
Say what you will about the Big 12, but it's a league you want to be in if you have hopes and dreams of being an elite defensive back.
“If you want to see some of the best wide receivers and quarterbacks you go to the Big 12,” Davis said. “It's a run-and-gun league and you'll have chances to make plays.”
If you want to be the best of the best of the best, you go to Texas.
“You get a chance to show your talent and show what you can do,” Huhn said. “If you can play for DBU you can play for anybody.
Akina took some heat from the public for waiting longer than some might have liked to send out his defensive back offers in this cycle. He watched Cole Luke wind up at Notre Dame and Maurice Smith head off to Alabama, but there's a reason he offered the three that wound up signing with the Longhorns today.
He believes they've got a chance to be special. Judging by his track record he's got a good chance of getting an elite starter out of this crop.
Akina is known for pushing his players to be the best. Breaking them down to build them up again. It won't be a walk in the park for the next four or five years, but this group is willing to pay the price to have a chance to have their names reside alongside the greats who have come before them.
Not only do they know the expectations, but this group is coming in fully aware of what the goals for a Longhorn defensive back should be.
“Win the Jim Thorpe Award and the national title,” Davis said. “If you can do those, especially the second one, you're well on your way.”
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