Houston Westfield defensive tackle Keondre Coburn competes at The Opening in Houston Feb. 4. (Mike Craven)

Football

The Dotted Line: Predicting college destinations for the state’s top 10 recruits

Predicting the top 10 players' eventual destinations is tricky business, but Texas looks to be good shape for Nos. 1 and 2.

Posted February 15th, 2017

As we highlighted in last week’s Dotted Line, The Opening regional in Houston on Feb. 4 brought together a unique collection of talent in the 2018 class. Texas had already extended offers to about 25 of the players in attendance.

Fort Bend Marshall’s Barton Clement was the top-rated offensive lineman in attendance. The 6-3, 301-pound four-star prospect is the No. 6-ranked guard in the nation and is No. 8 overall on our Fabulous 55.

Fabulous 55 member Barton Clement trains at The Opening in Houston Feb. 4. (Mike Craven)
Fabulous 55 member Barton Clement trains at The Opening in Houston Feb. 4. (Mike Craven)

“For me, I want to improve on my pass blocking, and events like The Opening can help me learn techniques and push myself,” Clement said. “It was fun and I learned some things to improve in the offseason.”

Texas A&M, Texas, Ohio State and Oklahoma are the teams showing the most interest in Clement. The Aggies appear to lead after leaving a good impression on a recent junior day. Texas will host Clement on its junior day on Feb. 25.

“I want a program that helps me focus on academics and sports at the same time,” Clement said. “If I don’t go to the league, what can they help me accomplish in life? The conference or location of the schools doesn’t matter much at all.”

Clement first became familiar with a bulk of Texas’ staff when they were coaching at nearby Houston.

“I feel like wherever they go, they’ll make a good team,” he said. “Their attitude is unique. They’re always so up-tempo and always energetic. I want to see Texas and improve and get back to where they used to be.”

And when asked what he wanted people to see when they turned on his tape, Clement delivered the perfect answer for an offensive lineman:

“Just me knocking down people.”

Mustapha Muhammad, a tight end from Fort Bend Ridge Point, was also at The Opening. He’s the No. 10-ranked prospect on the Fab 55 and the second best tight end in Texas this cycle.

“It’s important to come to these camps as a tight end and show your skills as a wide receiver,” Muhammad said. “A lot of us don’t get to do that often in our high school systems. I feel like my strengths right now are catching the football, but I’m becoming a better blocker. The key there is to add weight and keep working in the weight room. As I grow, I’ll get better as an all-around tight end.”

The tight end position is endangered. It was becoming extinct at Texas under the previous staff. Herman wants to change that perception and rely on tight ends to create mismatches in coverage and in scheme. Texas signed two tight ends in 2017 and wants to do the same in 2018. Muhammad is one of five 2018 tight ends with a Longhorns offer.

Fort Bend Ridge Point tight end Mustapha Muhammad holds a Texas offer. (Mike Craven)
Fort Bend Ridge Point tight end Mustapha Muhammad holds a Texas offer. (Mike Craven)

“The tight end position can be very important to an offense. They say it’s the second-most important position after the quarterback because tight ends dictate success in the passing game and with run fits,” Muhammad said. “Even great defenses at the top level struggle against teams with impactful tight ends. I don’t think people understand the importance of the position.”

Muhammad hears from the Longhorns often, even if Clemson and Texas A&M are considered the early leaders for the 6-4, 235-pound four-star prospect.

“My relationship with Texas is a lot better now that the new staff is in place,” he said. “I have a great relationship with Tom Herman and coach (Corby) Meekins is my position coach. We talk all the time. I took a visit to Houston when they were there and I’ve maintained a good relationship with them since.”

Muhammad plans to release his top 10 in May and also is planning to attend Texas’ junior day.

Texas wants a defensive tackle in 2018 after failing to sign a prep prospect at the position for 2017. One of the first names to watch is Spring Westfield’s Keondre Coburn. The connections are obvious. His head coach at Westfield is the brother of one of Texas’ assistant coaches and former Westfield running back Daniel Young signed with Texas’ 2017 class a few weeks ago.

“TCU, Texas and Texas A&M are probably my top three right now,” Coburn said. “That familiarity with Meekins goes back to freshman year, so of course it is important. Most of the coaching staff that was at Houston is now at Texas and I was in love with the coaching staff at Houston. It’s like they moved and got to a better program. So our relationship is the same since it’s been my freshman year.”

Coburn competed at The Opening in Houston Feb. 4. The camps aren’t as fun for the big guys.

“These camps are tough for defensive linemen because we don’t have equipment on and can’t get physical,” he said. “It’s fun, though. It shows who wants to compete and who is willing to listen and improve. It’s a chance to show why you’re one of the best. Competition is important and we all want to be the best.”

The Opening was loaded with cornerback prospects. One of the players not receiving enough attention for his performance there was Houston Lamar’s D’Shawn Jamison. Like his teammate, the Fab 55’s No. 1 prospect Anthony Cook, Jamison holds a Texas offer. He will visit UT on junior day and considers the Longhorns one of his early favorites. He’s No. 35 on our initial Fab 55 and a four-star prospect.

Houston Lamar cornerback D'shawn Jamison impressed at The Opening Feb. 4. (Mike Craven)
Houston Lamar cornerback D’shawn Jamison impressed at The Opening Feb. 4. (Mike Craven)

“Carrying on the tradition of great cornerbacks at Houston Lamar is great. It gives us a standard to live up to each day and goals to accomplish,” he said. “It puts our team on the map and it gets college scouts on campus to see all of the players. I’m looking forward to this year with Anthony and I at cornerback. It’s going to be great. We get to teach these young boys how to play defensive back. One of our goals as seniors is to develop the young guys in the secondary and show leadership.”

Jamison accepted every challenge at The Opening despite giving up a few inches in almost all his matchups. That’s the one knock on him, and what keeps him ranked lower than Cook, who’s three inches taller. Jamison uses the disadvantage as fuel.

“Everybody says height is one of my problems, so each time I line up against any receiver in a drill or in a game, I’m trying to prove my height doesn’t matter at all,” Jamison said. “I’m aggressive at the line of scrimmage and that gives me an advantage.”

His feelings for Texas are clear.

“I feel comfortable with that staff,” he said. “Coach (Jason) Washington is like a big brother to me. Towards the spring, I’ll start narrowing down a list and thinking about my top schools. Right now I’m relaxing and seeing what is out there (for me).”

WAY TOO EARLY PREDICTIONS

Junior days begin this month. It becomes a mini-commitment season for the current cycle of prospects. A few of the top players in the state are already committed, but the majority still have decisions to make regarding their college future.

With that in mind, I’m take a crack at predicting where the top 10 players on our Fab 55 will eventually land come national signing day on Feb. 7, 2018.

No. 1: Anthony Cook, cornerback, Houston Lamar

Texas offer: Yes

Top offers: LSU, Ohio State, Alabama, Clemson, TCU

Prediction: Texas

The reason: This likely becomes a battle between LSU and Texas. The Longhorns recently lost a battle to LSU when 2017 defensive end K’Lavon Chaisson picked the Tigers on national signing day. No recruit in the state is more important than Cook, and he’s a high priority for the Longhorns; Herman’s staff is familiar with him, going back to their time at Houston. Cook mentioned at The Opening in Houston that Texas “would always be in my top,” and that’s a good sign for the Longhorns. This one likely will go to signing day, but the early indications make Texas the safest bet right now. He’ll be at Texas’ junior day.

No. 2: BJ Foster, safety, Angleton

Texas offer: Yes

Top offers: Ohio State, LSU, Michigan, TCU, Oklahoma

Prediction: Texas

The reason: Foster is a Texas lean and he might be a Longhorn commitment by the end of the summer. Foster has a great relationship with the Texas staff and is currently being recruited by UT assistants Craig Naivar and Todd Orlando. Foster is the No. 1-ranked safety in the nation and a five-star prospect. Getting him on board, especially early, would go a long way for Herman’s recruiting efforts across the state. The Longhorns didn’t sign a single top 10 player in Texas in 2017 and that simply can’t happen again under Herman’s watch. He’ll be at Texas’ junior day.

No. 3: Max Wright, defensive end, Katy Taylor

Texas offer: Yes

Top offers: Texas A&M, Alabama, Arkansas, Miami, Ohio State

Prediction: Texas A&M

The reason: Wright dispelled rumors that he’d already committed to Texas A&M at The Opening, but most still believe it’s a matter of time before the state’s best defensive lineman chooses the Aggies. He’s a four-star prospect with offers from nearly every major Power 5 program in the nation. He’s an elite edge rusher with the frame to become a defensive tackle. It would be a shock if Wright doesn’t eventually sign with A&M.

No. 4: Caden Sterns, safety, Cibolo Steele

Texas offer: Yes

Top offers: LSU, Michigan, Oklahoma, Baylor, Texas Tech

Prediction: LSU

The reason: This one is easy. Sterns is the only one of the Fab 55’s top 10 players that has already committed. Sterns, a safety who pledged to LSU before the end of his junior season, is the top player to come out of the San Antonio area in a few years. He’s tall, rangy and instinctive as a safety. He helped lead Cibolo Steele to the Class 6A Division II state title game. Convincing him to look elsewhere will be a difficult challenge for the other schools that have offered.

No. 5: Jalen Preston, wide receiver, Manvel

Texas offer: Yes

Top offers: Texas A&M, LSU, Georgia, Michigan, Oklahoma

Prediction: Texas A&M

The reason: Our top-rated offensive prospect in the 2018 class is likely headed to Texas A&M. The Aggies usually experience success at recruiting wide receivers, and Preston is a star in the making. He already looks like a grown man and uses that natural strength to bully cornerbacks out of position. He’s a big-bodied wide receiver with plenty of speed and explosiveness. He was impressive at The Opening and even won a rep against Anthony Cook. Texas hopes to close the gap at its junior day.

No. 6: Malcolm Epps, tight end, Spring Dekaney

Texas offer: Yes

Top offers: Alabama, Michigan, Ohio State, Texas A&M, LSU

Prediction: Michigan

The reason: Epps was an early pledge to Alabama before announcing at The Opening that he had de-committed. He did mention during our interview that Alabama was still his No. 1 school, but it’s rare for a player to re-commit after making a public announcement. When asked to name the other schools in play, he rattled off a series of programs from outside the state. Texas and Texas A&M will each make pushes, but Epps could easily head out of state and Michigan looks like a safe landing spot. Epps “might” make it to Texas’ junior day.

No. 7: Darrell Simpson, offensive tackle, Justin Northwest

Texas offer: No

Top offers: Texas A&M, Baylor, Ohio State, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State

Prediction: Oklahoma

The reason: Oklahoma usually manages to find one or two top 10 prospects from Texas to poach, and Simpson might be that player in 2018. A four-star tackle from Northwest, he possesses more upside than any other offensive tackle in the state this cycle. His 6-7, 330-pound frame is ready for the college level and he’s deceptively nimble and flexible for his size. Texas A&M and Baylor are also strongly in the mix. Simpson is the only top-10 member of the Fab 55 that currently doesn’t have a Texas offer.

No. 8: Barton Clement, offensive lineman, Fort Bend Marshall

Texas offer: Yes

Top offers: Texas A&M, Ohio State, Michigan, Oklahoma, Auburn

Prediction: Texas A&M

The reason: Clement recently visited Texas A&M’s junior day, and the folks who cover A&M recruiting feel like he has a strong chance to commit to the Aggies sooner rather than later. He’s the best interior line prospect in the state. He doesn’t have the length to play offensive tackle, but has the strength to mow through interior defenders and the athleticism to reach linebackers. Texas could close the gap at its junior day.

No. 9: Jalen Green, cornerback, Houston Heights

Texas offer: Yes

Top offers: LSU, Oklahoma, Notre Dame, Michigan, Ole Miss

Prediction: LSU

The reason: It isn’t a secret that Green is an LSU lean. He’s a fan of the SEC and Baton Rouge is nearly as close as any major Power 5 program that’s offered the four-star cornerback. Green told me he will be out of town for Texas’ first junior day but plans to make it to Austin at some point this spring. It’s early and Green has plenty of options to choose from on an impressive offer list, but the safe money at this moment is on LSU.

No. 10: Mustapha Muhammad, tight end, Fort Bend Ridge Point

Texas offer: Yes

Top offers: Clemson, Texas A&M, LSU, Florida State, Alabama

Prediction: Clemson

The reason: It’s possible that the state’s top two tight ends in this cycle will end up signing out of state — Epps was once committed to Alabama and is looking closely at Michigan, Ohio State and others, and Muhammad is equally interested in an out-of-state power program. Clemson uses a tight end well, and that’s been noticed by the four-star prospect. He’s a three-down tight end with the ability to flex and play on the line of scrimmage. Texas and Texas A&M hope to keep him in state, but Clemson’s the leader. He’ll attend Texas’ junior day.

 

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