DESOTO, Texas -- Coming off a recent visit to see the Texas Longhorns, Pine Bluff (Ark.) tight end Will Gragg made his way back to the Lone Star State for the Dallas Nike Football Training Camp at Eagle Stadium last Saturday.
Following the event, Gragg spoke with SB Nation Recruiting about his recent visit to Austin and the state of his recruitment overall.
Gragg was active on social media during his trip, which coincided with the Texas Relays. It was his first time in Austin and he confirmed that the visit had a significant impact on him.
"Oh, it was great, I got to meet with all the coaches," said the consensus four-star prospect. "Coach Strong, he's an amazing guy, and I got to meet with my tight ends coach, Coach Chambers, he's another amazing guy. I just felt at home at Texas."
Part of that feeling stemmed from the time that he got to spend up-close-and-personal with the current players and coaching staff.
"Probably being engaged with the team," he said when asked about his favorite part of the visit. "I sat in with the team meeting just discussing things and I got to sit in on the tight ends meeting. It was cool, just the way that Coach Strong talks, we got some one-on-one time and really broke down the way that they play the tight ends."
The Longhorns didn't receive much production in the passing game from tight ends Greg Daniels and Geoff Swaim last season, as the two spent most of their time blocking in what ended up being a run-heavy offense. Both will also be seniors this fall. As a result, Gragg sees opportunity at Texas, something that the coaches sold him on during his visit.
"They have a lot of inexperience. Mack Brown didn't really use the tight ends the way that Coach Strong does, but I feel like, and the coaches feel like, I could come in and play right off the bat -- that's not a knock on their tight ends or anything like that, because they have a couple of leadership guys who are down there in their senior years, they just haven't been in the system for too long, so they're really inexperienced in the offense that Coach Strong likes to run."
That offense includes much more of an emphasis on using the tight end, a commitment that is evident when looking at the stats that the Louisville tight ends put up last season under offensive coordinator Shawn Watson, who will have the final voice in play calling this fall at Texas, despite the fact that he is the assistant head coach to the offense/quarterbacks coach and not the offensive coordinator, a title held by Joe Wickline, who is also coaching the offensive line.
Those numbers? How about 43 catches for 668 yards and four touchdowns.
The visit made enough of an impact that Gragg already has plans for a return trip. Several, actually.
"Oh yeah, I set my official visit for Sept. 6 and I want to get down there at least twice before that date," he said.
There was also something of a social media sensation following Gragg's visit when Manziel reposted the image of Gragg with Strong, along with the caption, "Sorry Charlie...you're not a part of the regime #SawEmOff".
Gragg shared the story of how that all came to pass.
"Johnny texted me before the visit because I know him personally, and these were his exact words -- 'How are you going to go to Austin before you come to College Station?' We were laughing about it and he told me to take a picture doing the 'regime' sign and so I did and he said he was going to repost it, just to get something stirred up."
While some saw it as Manziel taking a shot at Strong, Gragg said that there wasn't any malicious intent behind it.
"It was all in fun," he said.
As far as Gragg's recruitment as a whole is concerned, he said that there are six or seven schools standing out for him at this time and that he plans on releasing a list late in the summer. He was willing to acknowledge that the Longhorns will be in that group.
Another school expected to make the cut is home-state Arkansas, long thought to be the leader in his recruitment.
"Yeah, I like them, it's the home state and everyone growing up in Arkansas wants to be a Razorback," he said. "They're recruiting me tough, so they're a player."
Asked if it was frustrating having so many fans having already decided where he should end up, Gragg had an interesting perspective that is surely making the process easier to handle.
"I think it's more frustrating to them than it is for me. I'm just taking it day by day and enjoying the recruitment process and when I post something to Twitter or Instagram they go all crazy about me visiting another school, but I'm not committed to anybody."
Besides the fact that Gragg is from Arkansas, the fact that his older brother was a Razorback tight end before moving on to the NFL is a major reason why his recruitment has been seen as less open than Gragg has maintained. However, the 6'5, 245-pounder downplayed the significance of that connection.
"He has a big influence on me, but he doesn't have any influence to Arkansas or anybody. He tells me to take my time and go where it's the best fit for me. He backs me 100 percent, no matter where I go."
Gragg said that he would like to make summer visit to LSU and Florida State and said that those schools are recruiting him hard, along with Alabama, Auburn and Ole Miss. He does not, however, know which schools will receive official visits other than Texas.
A decision date has been set for Nov. 18 at his high school.