The Texas Longhorns flag flies in the end zone prior to kickoff against West Virginia at Royal-Memorial Stadium, Saturday, Nov. 12, 2016. (Stephen Spillman / for American-Statesman)

Football

20 for 20: A Texas recruiting primer, 20 days away from signing day (Nos. 1-10)

Posted January 11th, 2017

This is our third annual 20 for 20 project, a Longhorns recruiting primer 20 days out of national signing day, which this year falls on Feb. 1.

Here are Nos. 1-10. (Nos. 11-20 can be found here)

Texas Head Coach Tom Herman speaks during a press conference as he updates the local media about his coaching staff on Thursday, Jan 5, 2017. RICARDO B. BRAZZIELL/AMERICAN-STATESMAN
Texas Head Coach Tom Herman speaks during a press conference as he updates the local media about his coaching staff on Thursday, Jan 5, 2017. RICARDO B. BRAZZIELL/AMERICAN-STATESMAN

1. WILL TEXAS SIGN A TOP 10 CLASS FOR THE THIRD STRAIGHT YEAR?

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No.

The coaching change in late November — and coming off a 5-7 season — mean the Longhorns won’t finish with a top 10 class. Texas’ current class is ranked 30th nationally, with 13 commitments three weeks out of signing day. Last year at this same point, Texas’ class was ranked 34th nationally, also with 13 pledges, but Charlie Strong closed with multiple commitments from some of the state’s top players. It’s unfair to ask Tom Herman to pull off the same trick only two months into the job; back in 2014, when Strong was hired only one month before signing day, Texas’ class ranked 16th.

So while Texas will still add commitments from talented players and likely crack the national top 25 ratings, don’t expect the Longhorns to vault up the team rankings and finish in the top 10 like the past two classes.

2. WHO ARE TEXAS’ COMMITMENTS SO FAR?

The Longhorns hold 13 commitments. Three of those recruits, Westlake quarterback Sam Ehlinger, Houston Langham Creek running back Toneil Carter and junior college kicker Josh Rowland, are early enrollees.

2017 Texas Longhorns recruiting class

Here's a look at the recruits who have committed to Texas coach Tom Herman for the 2017 recruiting cycle. Star rankings from Horns247. Oral commitments are non-binding. National signing day is Feb. 1, 2017.

PlayerPos.SchoolStarsCommitted
Damion MillerWRTyler John Tyler46/25/2015
Sam EhlingerQBWestlake47/28/2015
Kobe BoyceCBLake Dallas34/3/2016
Montrell EstellSHooks35/20/2016
Josh ThompsonCBNacogdoches37/27/2016
Taquon GrahamDLTemple49/5/16
Joshua Rowland*KMiss. Gulf Coast CCN/A12/11/16
Toneil CarterRBLangham Creek412/19/16
Cade BrewerTELake Travis312/23/16
Daniel YoungRBHouston Westfield312/23/16
Derek KerstetterOLSan Antonio Reagan312/26/16
Reese LeitaoTETulsa (Okla.) Jenks312/29/16
Marqez BimageLBBrenham31/6/17
Max CumminsOLFW All Saints31/17/17
Gary JohnsonLBDodge City CC41/20/17
*-indicates signed letter of intent
Ohio State coach Urban Meyer reacts on the sideline during overtime of the game against the Michigan Wolverines at Ohio Stadium on November 26, 2016 in Columbus, Ohio. (Photo by Jamie Sabau/Getty Images)
Ohio State coach Urban Meyer reacts on the sideline during overtime of the game against the Michigan Wolverines at Ohio Stadium on November 26, 2016 in Columbus, Ohio. (Photo by Jamie Sabau/Getty Images)

3. WHO HAS THE NATION’S TOP CLASSES?

Expect movement over these last few weeks, but the schools hovering at the top shouldn’t surprise anyone. The top five classes are made up of two SEC teams, two Big Ten teams and Florida State. Oklahoma currently checks in at No. 6 and LSU, Auburn, Texas A&M and Notre Dame close out the top 10 in 247Sports’ composite rankings. National champion Clemson’s class is 13th right now. Oklahoma State, at No. 29, has the Big 12’s second-highest ranked class, followed by Texas at No. 30.

The top five classes right now:

No. 1: Ohio State. The Buckeyes are flooding Texas this cycle. Urban Meyer can recruit, and it doesn’t look like Ohio State is going away anytime soon. Seven of Ohio State’s 19 current commitments are 5-star prospects. And two of those are from Texas and the No. 1- and No. 2-ranked players on the American-Statesman’s Fabulous 55 list of the state’s top recruits — Kennedale outside linebacker Baron Browning and South Grand Prairie safety Jeffrey Okudah. The Buckeyes also have our No. 4-ranked player in the state, La Grange running back JK Dobbins. And Blinn College cornerback Kendall Sheffield, a former 5-star recruit from Missouri City, also is committed to the Buckeyes.

Alabama coach Nick Saban yells to the officials during the fourth quarter of the team's NCAA college football game against Arkansas on Saturday, Oct. 8, 2016, in Fayetteville, Ark. Alabama won 49-30. (AP Photo/Samantha Baker)
Alabama coach Nick Saban yells to the officials during the fourth quarter of the team’s NCAA college football game against Arkansas on Saturday, Oct. 8, 2016, in Fayetteville, Ark. Alabama won 49-30. (AP Photo/Samantha Baker)

No. 2: Alabama. Folks who think recruiting doesn’t really matter should look at Alabama. The Crimson Tide routinely sign the most 4- and 5-star prospects in the country, and the results are victories and championships. Alabama already has 26 pledges, with 21 of those either 4- or 5-star players. There are four 5-star prospects, including running back Najee Harris, offensive tackle Alex Leatherwood and linebacker Dylan Moses.

No. 3: Georgia. It hasn’t taken Kirby Smart long to build the Bulldogs into a recruiting power. Georgia’s an under-rated state in terms of talent, and Smart has done a good job keeping his best homegrown prospects inside the state. Safety Richard LeCounte III and offensive tackle Isaiah Wilson — both 5-star recruits — highlight the class. Nineteen of Georgia’s 23 commitments are at least rated as 4-star prospects.

No. 4: Michigan. Jim Harbaugh has turned around Michigan and now his program is threatening the nation’s top schools in recruiting. The Wolverines hold 27 commitments, including one 5-star (wide receiver Donovan Peoples-Jones). Quarterback Dylan McCaffrey — the brother of Stanford running back Christian McCaffrey — also is in Michigan’s fold. Harbaugh has gotten a commitment from players in 13 different states, including Texas (Aledo offensive tackle Chuck Filiaga).

5. Florida State. The Seminoles never lack for talent. Florida State is reloading with top recruits, headlined by 5-star running back Cam Akers, who’s arguably the best overall prospect in the country. And there are two other 5-stars there in defensive end Joshua Kalndoh and cornerback Stanford Samuels. Florida State’s class of 17 pledges is likely to grow, which could push the Seminoles closer to the overall top spot.

Oklahoma head coach Bob Stoops raises a Big 12 champions hat following an NCAA college football game between Oklahoma and Oklahoma St in Stillwater, Okla., Saturday, Nov. 28, 2015. (AP Photo/Brody Schmidt)
Oklahoma head coach Bob Stoops raises a Big 12 champions hat following an NCAA college football game between Oklahoma and Oklahoma St in Stillwater, Okla., Saturday, Nov. 28, 2015. (AP Photo/Brody Schmidt)

4. WHO’S WINNING THE BIG 12?

Here’s how the conference’s classes are currently ranked, according to 274Sports’ composite ratings:

No. 1: Oklahoma (24 players) — 17 4-stars, 7 3-stars. Nationally: 6th

No. 2: Oklahoma State (22) — 2 4-stars, 16 3-stars. Nationally: 29th

No. 3: Texas (13) — 5 4-stars, 7 3-stars. Nationally: 30th

No. 4: Texas Tech (20) — 1 4-star, 17 3-stars. Nationally: 34th

No. 5: Iowa State (20) — 20 3-stars. Nationally: 48th

No. 6: West Virginia (19) — 18 3-stars. Nationally: 49th

No. 7: TCU (11) — 4 4-stars, 7 3-stars. Nationally: 52nd

No. 8: Kansas State (16) — 14 3-stars. Nationally: 65th

No. 9: Kansas (17) — 14 3-stars. Nationally: 68th

No. 10: Baylor (8) — 8 3-stars. Nationally: 92nd

Texas linebacker Malik Jefferson exits the field after falling 45-40 to Oklahoma at the Cotton Bowl in Dallas, Saturday, Oct. 8, 2016. (Stephen Spillman / for American-Statesman)
Texas linebacker Malik Jefferson exits the field after falling 45-40 to Oklahoma at the Cotton Bowl in Dallas, Saturday, Oct. 8, 2016. (Stephen Spillman / for American-Statesman)

5. HOW HAVE TEXAS’ RECENT CLASSES RANKED?

The Longhorns have produced five top-20 classes, including three that were rated among the top 10, over the last five years. Here’s how their last 10 classes have ranked, with the top-rated recruit in parenthesis.

2007: No. 4 (CB Ben Wells)

2008: No. 9 (WR Dan Buckner)

2009: No. 6 (QB Garrett Gilbert)

2010: No. 2 (DE Jackson Jeffcoat)

2011: No. 4 (RB Malcolm Brown)

2012: No. 2 (RB Johnathan Gray)

2013: No. 17 (OG Darius James)

2014: No. 17 (DE Derick Roberson)

2015: No. 9 (LB Malik Jefferson)

2016: No. 7 (WR Devin Duvernay)

Langham Creek running back and Texas commit Toneil Carter (28) played in Sunday's Under Armour All-American Game in Orlando, Fla.
Langham Creek running back and Texas commit Toneil Carter (28) played in Sunday’s Under Armour All-American Game in Orlando, Fla.

6. WHO ARE TEXAS’ TOP PLEDGES?

Sam Ehlinger, QB: The Westlake quarterback enrolled early to take part in spring drills. He’ll step into immediate competition with returning starter Shane Buechele, who’ll be a sophomore this fall. Ehlinger, on paper, fits the mold of a Tom Herman quarterback. His dual-threat ability could land him the starting job in 2017.

Toneil Carter, RB: Georgia’s loss became Texas’ gain when the Houston Langham Creek running back needed to find a new home. Carter quickly committed to Texas after re-opening his recruitment when Georgia didn’t have a spot for another running back in 2017. He’s also an early enrollee.

Damion Miller, WR: Miller is a long-time Texas commitment with tremendous upside. A product of Tyler John Tyler, Miller is a big target with the ability to make plays after the catch. It’s not easy for wide receivers to make an immediate impact, but Miller should get every opportunity.

Derek Kerstetter (74) takes aim on Sam Duffy (97) during the 48-3 win by Westlake over San Antonio Reagan on November 11, 2016 at Heroes Stadium in the Bi-District round of the UIL 6A-D1 playoffs. PAUL BRICK FOR ACN.
Derek Kerstetter (74) takes aim on Sam Duffy (97) during the 48-3 win by Westlake over San Antonio Reagan on November 11, 2016 at Heroes Stadium in the Bi-District round of the UIL 6A-D1 playoffs. PAUL BRICK FOR ACN.

7. ARE THERE GEMS OR SLEEPERS IN THERE?

Lake Travis tight end Cade Brewer was a star on one of the state’s best high school teams in recent memory. He switched his commitment from SMU to Texas after an offer came from Herman’s staff. He’s quite possibly the best pass-catching tight end in the state for this 2017 class. And Texas needs help at tight end.

San Antonio Reagan offensive lineman Derek Kerstetter had a low recruiting profile — offensive linemen rarely get press clippings — until he switched his pledge from Oklahoma State to Texas. He played left tackle in high school but impressed at guard during U.S. Army All-American Bowl week.

8. WHAT ARE TEXAS’ BIGGEST REMAINING TO-DO’S?

The Longhorns are targeting at least one more wide receiver, a defensive end and a cornerback. Texas has 13 commitments, but can’t take a full 25-man class due to the numbers returning on the roster. Herman’s staff will be selective and identify can’t-miss prospects at a few other positions before signing day. This class could use another offensive lineman, a defensive tackle and a linebacker.

9. WHAT ARE TEXAS’ BIGGEST NEEDS THIS YEAR?

The cupboard isn’t bare. Herman already has the talent on this roster to win important games. Youth should no longer be an issue at most positions. Herman won’t need true freshman in bunches like Strong did the past two years. This class needed a quarterback and playmakers at wide receiver and in the secondary, as well as a pass rusher at defensive end.

Lancaster senior wide receiver Omar Manning carries the American flag onto the field before the start of the first half of a high school football game at Vernon Newsom Stadium, Thursday, September 22, 2016. (Brnadon Wade/Special Contributor, Dallas Morning News)
Lancaster senior wide receiver Omar Manning carries the American flag onto the field before the start of the first half of a high school football game at Vernon Newsom Stadium, Thursday, September 22, 2016. (Brnadon Wade/Special Contributor, Dallas Morning News)

10. WHOM DOES TEXAS STILL WANT?

Galena Park North Shore defensive end K’Lavon Chaisson is one of the top remaining targets. Texas wants a defensive end and he’s the top uncommitted prospect in the state of Texas.

The Longhorns are targeting a few cornerbacks. The best of the bunch is Dallas Bishop Dunne’s Chevin Calloway. Other names to know are Amik Robertson, Kamren Curl and Javelin Guidry.

Omar Manning is a priority at wide receiver. The current TCU commitment was open about his interest in Texas at the U.S. Army All-American Bowl. Jamire Calvin, a California prospect who recently committed to Oregon State is also on the wish list at wide receiver.

Junior college linebacker Gary Johnson could be an instant contributor, but Texas faces stiff competition for the former Alabama commit’s services.

Denton product Grant Polley is the top target along the offensive line.

Click here for Nos. 11-20

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