Posted January 14th, 2016
On Monday, we began our second annual 20 for 20 project, where we ask the 20 most important questions facing the Longhorns 20 days out of national signing day. Here is the complete list:
1. WILL TEXAS SIGN A TOP 10 CLASS FOR THE SECOND YEAR IN A ROW?
Short answer: Unlikely.
The Longhorns, their class currently ranked 35th nationally, will need to land a slew of stars between now and signing day — and that still might not be enough to break into the top 10. Yet the possibility exists pending the additions of, say, five-star safety Brandon Jones and four-stars Erick Fowler, Jeffrey McCulloch, Dontavious Jackson, Devwah Whaley, Chris Daniels and Eric Cuffee. Last year, the Horns shook off a slow start to sign the nation’s ninth-ranked class.
2. WHO ARE TEXAS’ COMMITMENTS?
The Longhorns have 13 pledges so far, a class that currently ranks No. 35 nationally. Here they are, listed in order of stars in 247Sports’ composite rankings of the industry’s top ratings:
Texas' 2016 commitments
|THE 4-STARS (4)|
|Jean Delance||OT||North Mesquite (6A)||6-5/291|
|Shane Buechele||QB||Arlington Lamar (6A)||6-2/185|
|Collin Johnson||WR||San Jose (Calif.) V. Christian||6-6/200|
|Reggie Hemphill-Mapps||WR||Manvel (6A)||6-1/172|
|THE 3-STARS (9)|
|Obi Eboh||CB||Southlake Carroll (6A)||6-2/190|
|Andrew Fitzgerald||DE||Flower Mound Marcus (6A)||6-5/250|
|Denzel Okafor||OG||Lewisville (6A)||6-4/295|
|Demarco Boyd||ILB||Gilmer (4A)||5-11/228|
|Malcolm Roach||DE||Baton Rouge (La.) Madison||6-3/255|
|Gerald Wilbon||DT||Destrehan (La.)||6-3/311|
|Davion Curtis||WR||Temple (5A)||5-11/180|
|Tope Imade||OG||Arlington Bowie (6A)||6-4/327|
|Peyton Aucoin||TE||New Orleans (La.) Martin||6-4/255|
Note: Last year, 20 days out of national signing day, Texas had 26 commitments.
3. WHO HAS THE NATION’S TOP CLASSES?
It ain’t over yet, but here’s how the national top four looks right now, based on 247Sports’ composite ratings:
No. 1: LSU. Fifteen of the Tigers’ 20 pledges are either 5- or 4-stars, led by a pair of star defensive backs — Florida’s Saivion Smith, the nation’s No. 2-rated cornerback, and Galena Park North Shore’s Eric Monroe, the country’s No. 2 safety.
No. 2: Michigan. Call it the Harbaugh Effect. The Wolverines have 14 4-stars so far, with top-10 position prospects at quarterback, running back, guard and tackle.
No. 3: Ohio State. The 2014 national championship is paying recruiting dividends. The Buckeyes have a pair of 5-star defensive ends pledged — Fort Lauderdale’s Nick Bosa (Joey’s younger brother) and Ohio’s Jonathon Cooper. Bosa’s the No. 6 overall prospect in the country.
No. 4: Florida State. The Seminoles hope they’re getting their next great quarterback — California’s Malik Henry, the fourth-rated passer in the country — and the receiver he’ll throw to (Florida’s Janarius Robinson, the nation’s No. 3 receiver).
4. BIG 12 RANKINGS
5. HOW HAVE TEXAS’ RECENT CLASSES RANKED?
How the Longhorns’ last 10 classes have ranked nationally, along with that year’s top recruit:
2015: No. 9 (LB Malik Jefferson)
2014: No. 17 (DE Derick Roberson)
2013: No. 17 (OG Darius James)
2012: No. 2 (RB Johnathan Gray)
2011: No. 4 (RB Malcolm Brown)
2010: No. 2 (DE Jackson Jeffcoat)
2009: No. 6 (QB Garrett Gilbert)
2008: No. 9 (WR Dan Buckner)
2007: No. 4 (CB Ben Wells)
2006: No. 5 (WR Montre Webber)
6. WHO ARE TEXAS’ TOP PLEDGES?
Jean Delance, OT: He’ll have to prove it in fall camp, but Delance might be the team’s best option at right tackle the day he steps onto campus. The national top-100 recruit looks to join Connor Williams and Patrick Vahe in a talented corps of young linemen at the forefront of Sterlin Gilbert’s power run game.
Shane Buechele, QB: The brother of three Sooner siblings, Buechele’s commitment was rock solid even after Shawn Watson, who led his recruitment, was fired after the season. The Arlington Lamar standout is the state’s top-rated quarterback prospect and is enrolling early. If he’s ready, he’ll play.
Collin Johnson, WR: He’ll be the third member of his immediate family to play for Texas, following his father — former All-American defensive back Johnnie Johnson — and his younger brother Kirk, who was a freshman running back on this year’s team. Johnson, who missed most of his senior season with a torn labrum, is enrolling early and looks to be the rangy type (6-feet, 6 inches) this coaching staff covets at wideout.
7. ARE THERE GEMS OR SLEEPERS IN THERE?
Denzel Okafor, OG: Recruiting insiders say that Okafor, a three-star prospect, is being underestimated and that his assessment is based on outdated film. His list of offers is impressive — Baylor, LSU, Oklahoma, Arkansas, TCU, Texas A&M and UCLA.
8. WHAT ARE TEXAS’ BIGGEST REMAINING TO-DO’S?
Acquiring more attitude. Last year’s class oozed confidence, and the freshmen made it clear from the beginning that they intended to shake up the depth chart and lead the program back to prominence. But they can’t do it alone.
Wanted: More swagger.
9. WHAT ARE TEXAS’ BIGGEST NEEDS THIS YEAR?
Both the offensive and defensive lines.
After not signing a defensive tackle for the second time in three years in 2015 — technically, Du’Vonta Lampkin signed with Texas before detouring to Oklahoma — the Horns need to acquire beef up front. Yet that hasn’t worked out to anyone’s satisfaction, as none of the state’s defensive tackles have chosen Texas. Efforts on the offensive line, however, are going better with the pledges of Delance and Okafor.
10. WHOM DOES TEXAS STILL WANT?
The Longhorns’ wish list looks something like this:
- Nacogdoches’ Brandon Jones, the five-star safety who’s leaning toward Texas A&M and Texas over several other offers, including Alabama, Auburn and Baylor. Jones visited Texas A&M a month ago; he visits Texas on Saturday.
- Beaumont Central’s Devwah Whaley, the top-rated running back in the state. He has already committed to Arkansas, but takes his official visit to Texas this weekend.
- Waco High cornerback Eric Cuffee, considered a Longhorns lean. He’s a four-star prospect. The 5-11, 188-pounder also can play safety.
- Euless Trinity defensive tackle Chris Daniels, a former teammate of Texas offensive lineman Patrick Vahe. He’s been committed to Oklahoma since mid-December, but visits Texas this weekend. He’ll be at Tennessee and Ohio State the next two weeks.
- D’Andre Christmas-Giles, a defensive tackle from New Orleans St. Augustine.
- And some combination of linebackers Erick Fowler (four-star from Manor, committed to LSU), Jeffrey McCulloch (Fort Bend Davis, considered a Texas lean) and Dontavious Jackson (four-star from Alief Elsik).
11. WHERE ARE THE STATE’S TOP PLAYERS HEADED?
It’s an SEC kind of year for the Lone Star State — three of our top seven-rated players in Texas are headed to Ole Miss, Alabama and LSU. Sixteen of the state’s top 55 players on our updated Fabulous 55 are SEC-bound, including four pledges for LSU, three for Alabama and two for Ole Miss along with six to Texas A&M.
Here’s how the commitments shake out for the 10 highest-rated prospects from Texas, according to our Fabulous 55 list of the state’s top recruits — Nos. 11-55 will appear on Sunday, with our updated big list:
|1.||Gregory Little||OT||Allen (6A)||Ole Miss|
|2.||Ed Oliver||DT||Spring Westfield (6A)||Houston|
|3.||Brandon Jones||S||Nacogdoches (5A)||Undecided|
|4.||Patrick Hudson||OT||Silsbee (4A)||Baylor|
|5.||Deontay Anderson||S||Manvel (6A)||Undecided|
|6.||Kendell Jones||DT||Killeen Shoemaker (6A)||Alabama|
|7.||Eric Monroe||S||Galena Park N. Shore (6A)||LSU|
|8.||Devin Duvernay||WR||Garland Sachse (6A)||Baylor|
|9.||Tren'Davian Dickson||WR||Navasota (4A)||Baylor|
|10.||Jordan Elliott||DT||Houston Westside (6A)||Michigan|
12. WHICH TOP RECRUITS AREN’T YET COMMITTED?
Nationally, top-ranked Rashan Gary, an explosive defensive tackle from New Jersey, is thought to be leaning toward Michigan, but is still considering USC, where he’ll visit this weekend, and Ole Miss, Auburn, LSU, Alabama and Clemson. This one is far from over.
Only one other national top 10 player has yet to announce his plans — eighth-ranked Derrick Brown, a defensive tackle from Georgia who insiders believe will stay in state and play for the Bulldogs.
In Texas, the top undecideds are safeties Brandon Jones (No. 3, Nacogdoches) and Deontay Anderson (No. 5, Manvel) and linebackers Jeffrey McCulloch (Houston Davis) and Dontavious Jackson (Alief Elsik). The Longhorns are in the running for all four, and will host Jones, Anderson and McCulloch on official visits this weekend.
13. WHO’S WINNING THE STATE?
Baylor — but it’s close.
Art Briles has locked up five-star offensive tackle Patrick Hudson (Silsbee) and top receivers Tren’Davian Dickson (Navasota) and Devin Duvernay (Sachse) in the nation’s No. 12-ranked class. Close behind are Texas A&M (19th) and TCU (20th), and even Houston (26th), which has gone toe-to-toe with bigger schools in the state and landed a commitment from five-star defensive tackle Ed Oliver (Spring Westfield).
Yet it could be said the SEC is winning the state, given that the nation’s top conference has invaded Texas and scooped up the following: Allen offensive tackle Greg Little (No. 1, Ole Miss), Killeen Shoemaker defensive tackle Kendell Jones (No. 6, Alabama), Galena Park North Shore safety Eric Monroe (No. 7, LSU), Manor linebacker Erick Fowler (No. 21, LSU), West Mesquite receiver Dee Anderson (No. 17, LSU) and Allen cornerback Jaylon Jones (No. 31, Ole Miss).
14. WILL CHARLIE STRONG LAND ANY FLORIDIANS?
So far, the answer is no.
One year after he tapped his connections to sign five players from the Sunshine State, Strong has pretty much stayed off of the beach. Texas offered scholarships to 13 Florida prospects, but only one came for an official visit — Palm Beach Gardens safety Devin Studstill, who is committed to Notre Dame. Strong’s reasoning for avoiding Florida seem to be obvious after he had mixed success last year. Tim Irvin de-committed before signing day, Devonaire Clarington and Gilbert Johnson failed to qualify, and Cecil Cherry quit the team in the first week of preseason camp.
That left just two Floridans in the freshman class — cornerback Davante Davis, who looks like a keeper after making five starts, and receiver John Burt, whose decision to sign with Texas was less about Strong’s presence than it was about his having family living in Austin. Burt started all 12 games and led the team with 457 yards and two touchdowns.
15. WHO ARE THE AREA’S TOP PROSPECTS?
The big one is Fowler, the Manor linebacker who is thought to be a nice get even though his production tailed off in his senior season. Fowler’s committed to LSU, but Texas is making a push and will host him on an official visit this weekend. Hendrickson three-star cornerback KeShawn Somerville is headed to TCU, while his teammate, defensive end Austin Deshay, is committed to Texas Tech where he’ll join Taylor cornerback Damarcus Fields. Other locals who’ve announced their plans are Reagan running back Mulbah Car (Houston), Cedar Ridge safety Ian Peterson (Kansas), Lake Travis defensive tackle Tevin Paul (Cal) and Round Rock cornerback Brian Bullock (Northwestern).
|Uzoma Akunebu||LB||St. Stephen's||Rice|
|Ryan Becker||OL||Marble Falls||SMU|
|Brian Bullock||DB||Round Rock||Northwestern|
|Chase Cokley||WR||Westlake||North Texas|
|Austin Deshay||DL||Hendrickson||Texas Tech|
|DeMarcus Fields||DB||Taylor||Texas Tech|
|Braeden Kent||QB||Hays||Texas State|
|Tevin Paul||DL||Lake Travis||Cal|
|Ian Peterson||DB||Cedar Ridge||Kansas|
16. HAS TEXAS HAD ANY DECOMMITMENTS?
Yes, two — receivers Tren’Davian Dickson and Reggie Hemphill-Mapps. Hemphill-Mapps, of Manvel, committed to Texas way back in August 2013 when Mack Brown was still coach and then re-opened his recruitment when Brown was fired four months later. He patched things up with Texas in October 2014 and has been firm ever since. Dickson, of Navasota, had a similar recruiting experience. He chose Baylor in July 2014, changed his mind seven months later, and then committed to Texas in July 2015. But concerns about Texas’ offensive struggles caused Dickson to sour on the Longhorns in November and turn back to Baylor, where he’s enrolled for the spring semester.
17. HOW MANY TEXAS RECRUITS ONCE PLEDGED ELSEWHERE?
Two. Offensive tackle Jean Delance was committed to Oklahoma for more than three months before he re-opened his recruitment in March 2015. He held off on making plans until early this month, when he chose Texas over Michigan on live TV at the Under Armour All-America Game in Orlando, Fla. Davion Curtis was ticketed for Georgia before Texas came through with an offer after Dickson had de-committed in November.
18. HOW HAVE TEXAS’ NEW ASSISTANTS FARED IN RECRUITING?
So far, just OK. Former LSU assistant Brick Haley returned to his base in Louisiana and nabbed a pair of three-star defensive linemen — Malcolm Roach and Gerald Wilbon — who are not ranked among the state’s top 20 players. Jay Norvell was credited with landing big-time receiver Tren’Davian Dickson, but couldn’t hold onto him in part because the offense Norvell employed in 2015 struggled to pass the ball. Yet Norvell has enjoyed some success and was the point man for defensive end Andrew Fitzgerald and guard Denzel Okafor. Curiously, Jeff Traylor, the former Gilmer coach who was brought on staff to build Texas’ relationships in the state, has landed just one commitment — from Louisiana tight end Peyton Aucoin.
19. ARE THERE ANY EARLY ENROLLEES FOR TEXAS?
Yes, three of them. Shane Buechele will participate in spring ball and try to play catch-up in an open quarterback competition. Collin Johnson (Kirk) and Demarco Boyd (Kris) will reunite will their brothers who were freshmen on last year’s team. Classes resume on Jan. 19.
20. WHAT WILL TEXAS TARGET IN 2017?
Defensive line. And early results are promising.
Among Texas’ four 2017 commitments is Liberty-Eylau’s Lagaryonn Carson, the nation’s No. 2 strong side defensive end and the No. 70 overall player. Though Carson is a big get, the Longhorns still need help on the interior of the defensive line, and will go hard after Bellaire Episcopal’s Marvin Wilson. Wilson, the state’s top player and the county’s top defensive tackle, will be able to go anywhere he wants, but his November visit to Texas signals interest in the Horns. Also committed to Texas are John Tyler receiver Damion Miller, Westlake quarterback Sam Ehlinger, and Bullard tight end Major Tennison.