Tom Herman has added seven commitments to Texas’ 2017 recruiting class, which now sits at 13 players. The new Longhorns coach inherited pledges at quarterback, wide receiver, defensive end and linebacker, and after his arrival Texas quickly added two running backs and two tight ends.
The Longhorns, though, still have needs. They likely want another wide receiver, if not two, to go along with a defensive end and more help at linebacker. And another body at defensive tackle and in the secondary wouldn’t be turned down.
Here are the Longhorns’ five top remaining targets. Player ratings in parenthesis are by 247Sports’ composite rankings unless otherwise noted.
1. K’Lavon Chaisson, DE (4-star)
FYI: 6-4/211; Galena Park North Shore; the No. 6 weakside defensive end in the nation and No. 87 overall in the country. Rated No. 6 on the American-Statesman’s Fabulous 55.
Biggest competition: LSU
Chaisson knew how to put on a show at North Shore. He capped his junior year with a defensive MVP performance in the Class 6A state championship game win over Westlake, and he recorded four sacks in the Under Armour All-American Game earlier this month. Chaisson is best when he’s unleashed; he’s a pass-rushing specialist with a nose for the quarterback. He uses his hands well, but it’s his elite first step and overall athleticism that made him so hard to block at the prep level. Chaisson isn’t a heavy end, and his weight has led some to believe his true college position might be linebacker. But it’s more likely that he’ll add 20-30 pounds in a college strength program and continue as a defensive end.
Fitting in at Texas: The evolution of passing offenses makes defensive end one of the more valuable positions in football. If you don’t believe me, look at the NFL Draft. All teams need players who can create negative plays, and Chaisson specializes in sacks. The Longhorns’ two-deep at defensive end looks good heading into 2017. Chaisson’s niche of pass rushing could lead him to snaps early in his career, especially on third downs.
Texas recruiting: Defensive ends. The Longhorns held two commitments from defensive ends before Liberty-Eylau’s Lagaryonn Carson left the fold. That leaves Temple’s Taquon Graham as the lone pledge for 2017. Texas needs at least one more before national signing day. Chaisson is considered a strong possibility for Texas. The Longhorns expect to host him for an official visit on Jan. 20. He’s set to visit LSU the week bfore, and Oregon and Colorado also are scheduled to host him this month. Most believe it’s down to Texas and LSU.
2. Chevin Calloway, DB (4-star)
FYI: 5-10/180; Dallas Bishop Dunne; the No. 12 cornerback in the nation and No. 115 overall in the country. He’s No. 15 on the Fab 55.
Biggest competition: Arkansas, Iowa
Calloway possesses a nice blend of skills. He’s not the fastest or the biggest cornerback in the state, but he’s one of the best. He has long arms and a 5-10 frame to help with bigger receivers. He’s not afraid to play tight man coverage and attacks the ball like a wide receiver. Calloway’s a play-making corner with good make-up speed and physicality. His quickness also makes him a candidate to cover slot receivers at the college level, his versatility making him more valuable. He’s also a willing tackler in run support — not something all cornerbacks enjoy.
Fitting in at Texas: The Longhorns expect to have seven cornerbacks return for next season. Four of those will be juniors and another will be a senior. That makes finding new blood at the position immediately important. New defensive coordinator Todd Orlando isn’t bashful and relies on his corners without safety help several times throughout a game. He also wants his corners to be physical on the outside against screens and sweeps. Calloway is the type of cornerback that Texas wants.
Texas recruiting: Cornerbacks. The Longhorns already have a pair of 3-star corners committed. Josh Thompson and Kobe Boyce are top-100 players in the state, but Calloway would represent an important recruiting victory for Herman and his staff. Texas needs to regain its traction recruiting the Dallas-Fort Worth area, and Bishop Dunne is the stomping ground of several 2018 and 2019 prospects. Calloway plans to visit Texas before signing day. His signature would put a bow on a group of young corners.
3. Omar Manning, WR (4-star)
FYI: 6-3/215; Lancaster; the No. 24 wide receiver in the nation and No. 153 overall in the country. Rated No. 23 on the Fab 55.
Biggest competition: TCU
“Smooth” might be the best word to describe Manning, who’s committed to TCU. Lancaster routinely dominates in track and field across the state and is know for speed. Manning possesses that speed in a 6-3 frame. He’s not slender, either. Manning is best when the ball is in the air; he’s an adequate route-runner with solid skills after the catch, and he’s fantastic at high-pointing a ball, using his body to create separation against smaller cornerbacks and slower safeties. Manning is a big-play threat every time he touches the ball. His hands are consistent and he’s best working on the outside right of an offense.
Fitting in at Texas: There’s receiving talent on the roster, but receivers who are consistent and make big plays are attributes a coaching staff always can add to the group. The numbers dictate that Texas can use a third receiver for the 2017 class. Manning would play one of the outside receiver spots in Herman’s offense; he likes big, long receivers who can get vertical and also are willing to block downfield. Manning’s size, speed and athleticism make him a perfect fit.
Texas recruiting: Receivers. Damion Miller and Montrell Estell are already committed. Estell, who was an all-state safety at Hooks, also could be used on defense. Either way, the Longhorns wouldn’t mind adding a third or fourth receiver to this year’s class. Manning is too special to pass up, and he already has a relationship with Herman and much of his staff from when he was recruited by Houston. The talent needs to be replaced, and Manning would go a long way in doing so. Texas also is pursuing Jamire Calvin, a four-star receiver from Los Angeles.
4. Gary Johnson, LB (4-star)
FYI: 6-1/225; Dodge City (Kan.) C.C.; the No. 1-ranked junior college inside linebacker in the nation and No. 6 overall JUCO prospect in the country.
Biggest competition: Oregon and USC
Johnson, an Alabama native and a former Crimson Tide pledge, runs well for a linebacker and also is drawing interest from some schools as a safety. He’s a true sideline-to-sideline player who can blitz from his linebacker position, something Texas and Orlando want from their ‘backers. Johnson would fit in well at a Big 12 school because of his combination of size and athleticism. He covers well in space for a linebacker and can run with most running backs and tight ends. Johnson is a sure tackler and a blur when he’s allowed to move downhill in pursuit of the football.
Fitting in at Texas: Longhorns fans understand the issues at linebacker. Texas has plenty of talent on the roster, but lacks consistency. Johnson could provide instant depth, and his presence also could lead to Malik Jefferson moving to an outside linebacker position. It’s tough to find linebackers who excel against spread offenses while also playing against the run. Johnson can do both, and the Longhorns need that type of linebacker on campus.
Texas recruiting: Linebackers. Texas’ most recent commitment was Brenham linebacker Marqez Bimage. He was previously committed to Houston, while Herman was still there. Bimage also is a middle linebacker prospect, but he’ll need at least a year to adjust to college football. Johnson, however, would be ready to compete for a starting spot right now. That makes him a priority. He’s expected to visit Texas on Jan. 20 and also is scheduled to visit Oregon and USC in January.
5. Bryan Jones, DE (3-star)
FYI: 6-5/240; Baton Rouge (La.) Madison Prep Academy; the No. 19 strong-side defensive end prospect in the nation.
Biggest competition: Texas A&M
Jones is a bear off the edge of a prep defense. A giant end, he makes up for a lack of elite quickness with power and persistence. His film shows him around the football, demanding double teams at the point of attack. He attacks offensive tackles and can’t be handled in the running game by tight ends. He’s not yet an elite pass rusher if he can’t bull-rush his way to success. There’s a possibility that Jones might transition to defensive tackle once he gets on campus. At 6-5, Jones easily could carry 280 pounds by his second or third year on campus. And improvement in his quickness and technique as a pass rusher could allow him to stay at defensive end.
Fitting in at Texas: The Longhorns preferred bigger defensive ends under Charlie Strong. It’s unclear the exact direction Texas will take on the defensive line under Herman and Orlando, but Jones is a versatile player with possibilities at two different positions. He can play strong-side end in a normal four-man line or play the five-technique in an odd-man front. He also might transition to defensive tackle if he can handle extra weight without losing his playmaking ability. Jones might need to redshirt a year to refine his skills, but his long-term potential is intriguing.
Texas recruiting: Defensive ends. Texas needs at least one more end. The Longhorns likely would take two if both Chaisson and Jones want to sign; Chaisson could potentially move to linebacker and some consider Jones to be a defensive tackle. That leaves Temple’s Graham as Texas’ only sure-fire defensive end in this class. The best route for Herman is to get as many quality bodies as possible for the 2017 class since he and his staff are playing catch-up after the mid-cycle coaching change. Jones is a player with versatility and upside. He’s set to visit Texas on Jan. 27 and Texas A&M the week before.
Other prospects to watch: OT Grant Polley, WR Jamire Calvin, DT Marvin Wilson, CB Kendall Sheffield