EARLY — Early Longhorn senior offensive lineman Kaleb Hopson plans to turn in his purple, yellow and white for Cougar red, white and blue at the end of the 2007-08 school year.

Hopson, listed at 6-6 and 240 lbs., has verbally committed to play football for the University of Houston Cougars. Rice, TCU, UTEP, North Texas and Baylor were other Division I schools to show interest in the 2006 Associated Press Class 2A all-state honorable mention selection.

“I committed to Houston because the coaches were great, first of all,” Hopson said. “The offense they run is a lot like the offense we run, so it wouldn’t be too hard (to learn). I’m pretty set (on my commitment), but I’m not going to deny another schools the chance to talk to me and I’ll think about it. I really like Houston, though.”

Verbal commitments are non-binding. High school student-athletes cannot sign a national letter of intent to play college football until the first week of February in 2008.

The Cougars continue to be a program on the rise under head coach Art Briles. Houston finished the 2006 season with a 10-4 record, Conference USA championship and Liberty Bowl appearance. Briles is also very familiar with Early head coach Robbie Tindol, as Tindol worked on Briles’ staff at Stephenville.

“This shows the success that Kaleb’s had with his teammates and his teammates have had with him the last two years,” Tindol said. “He’s blessed with the God-given ability. He’s big and can move pretty well for as strong as he is. The program’s helped, too, and got him some notoriety, but he’s grown into quite a player and we’re excited for him. It’s just an exciting time for Early football to have a guy playing Division I.

“We’re trying to keep things on an even keel and we’re worrying about what we have at hand right now. But it’ll be fun to watch him in the future.”

Though Hopson was one of the anchors for an Early offense that averaged 32.7 points per game a year ago, he admitted feeling pressure to play “a whole lot better” due to his commitment.

“I just don’t want to mess up,” Hopson said.

Hopson also feels he, and the rest of the senior class, have some unfinished business. After advancing to the state semifinals in 2005 and the state quarterfinals last year, Hopson would like to see the Longhorns reach the top of the mountain this season.

“I really want to win state,” he said. “We’ve gotten so close the last two years, why not finish it off?”