AUSTIN, Texas — This football-crazy state of Texas welcomes BYU to the frontlines amid Texas A&M stealing all kinds of thunder, Texas retooling after roster attrition, and TCU and Texas Tech trying to make Big 12 noise.
In the thick of it all is former Tomball High football coach Tommy Kaiser, who coached BYU senior receiver Jordan Leslie, a talent he counted on to rebuild the Tomball program located in the greater Houston area.
Kaiser now works for two recruiting services, including the popular Randy Rodgers Recruiting Report based in Austin, and he’ll begin visiting 150 high schools in east Texas as the season kicks off. The project will take him three months. Kaiser is proud to call Leslie a Tomball Cougar and wishes him well against the Longhorns.
When BYU returns to Darrell K. Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium Saturday night, the Cougars should be in for a hard-fought, punishing contest. The Longhorns are looking to avenge their embarrassing loss in Provo last year; the Cougars are looking for respectability and national recognition in the highest-profile game on their schedule.
Leslie will help welcome suspended receiver Devon Blackmon to his first Division I game as a Cougar. It should be interesting to see if Taysom Hill finds his receiving targets as the Texas defense targets his running abilities.
Leslie and other Texans on BYU's roster — Mitchell and Garrett Juergens, Tejan Koroma, Trey Dye, Ross Apo, Harvey Jackson, Michael Yeck and Teu Kautai — hope to impact the game any way they can.
Kaiser, who coached at Oklahoma State, Texas Tech and the University of Houston, had all his daughters graduate from UT. He’s familiar and respects the Longhorns and enjoyed a close friendship with retired coach Mack Brown.
“I moved to Tomball during Jordan’s freshman and sophomore years and the program had really struggled,” said Kaiser. “Jordan was a big part of us trying to get it turned around.
“We play in a very, very competitive district and that made him tougher. He went against very talented athletes with similar body builds. He always had good height, jumping ability and good hands. He was an exceptional basketball player and probably could have played basketball in college but chose football.”
Leslie, who transferred to BYU from UTEP, is a one-year player for receivers coach Guy Holliday. Already in camp, he’s shown to be a leader, competitor and worker, traits confirmed by Kaiser.
“He’s thicker now and more mature. He always exhibited a good work ethic. He was an excellent student, a guy you never had to worry about. He was fun to coach.”
Kaiser moved Leslie around in formations, forcing defenses to adjust and not key in on him as a stationary target. It paid off and Leslie averaged about 60 catches a year in his junior and senior seasons.
Kaiser still trades texts with Leslie and got one earlier this week. “He always answers mine within five minutes,” said Kaiser. “He’s always respectful, very thoughtful and very thankful. I hope he does well. Maybe he’ll get a chance at the next level. I think he has some of the skills that could lead him to play at the next level.”
A big step in that possibility for Leslie is here in Austin this weekend.
This week’s prognostications:
Utah 38, Fresno State 10: Two quarterbacks make for a Jekyll and Hyde Bulldog team.
Washington 45, Eastern Washington 9: Chris Petersen will whip the Eagles.
Southern Cal 28, Stanford 24: Steve Sarkisian wins a statement game.
Oregon 34, Michigan State 17: Ducks go a quacking.
Notre Dame 24, Michigan 21: Irish tune-up Michigan for the Utes.
Virginia Tech 28, Ohio State 27: Buckeyes looking for continuity at QB.
Utah State 37, Idaho State 10: Aggies back to winning ways in a territorially correct place to do so.
Air Force 24, Wyoming 14: Falcons have too much firepower.
Colorado State 31, Boise State 24: Ram power run game takes down Broncos.
Oregon State 24, Hawaii 17: Will Hawaii still play football in four years? Three?
BYU 21, Texas 17: Taysom Hill gaining help; Tyrone Swoopes losing help. Cougars limit turnovers, win in defensive battle.
Last week: 10-4 (.714)
Dick Harmon, Deseret News sports columnist, can be found on Twitter as Harmonwrites and can be contacted at email@example.com.