On the eve of national signing day, Westlake junior quarterback Sam Ehlinger predicted that Texas was about to “shock the nation” with a flurry of late commitments.
“All I can say is it’s gonna be a great day,” Ehlinger told the American-Statesman.
Well, that’s not all he said. Ehlinger also made another prediction: The 2017 class he’ll bring with him to Texas will be even better than the 11th-ranked group the Longhorns secured on Wednesday.
Ehlinger, the Associated Press’ Texas player of the year last season, said he’s ready to get to work selling recruits from his class on trying to revive a Longhorns program that has suffered consecutive seven-loss seasons.
“My job along with the coaches is to bring in an even better class, and we’re gonna do that,” Ehlinger said. “After next season, people’s eyes are gonna be open about who the real Texas is and that we’re coming back on top.”
Charlie Strong, delivering the last laugh to those who criticize his slow approach to recruiting, landed commitments from nine players on Tuesday and Wednesday for a class that jumped 14 spots on signing day and topped the Big 12 for the second straight year. It mirrored last year’s success when Strong blew through the state in the final weeks before signing day to get defensive standouts Malik Jefferson, Anthony Wheeler, Holton Hill and Kris Boyd.
Strong insisted for months that if he could get attract a quality haul in the 2016 class, he’d be able to get the program up and running again. He’ll happily attempt to extend that streak to three in 2017 with a class that already has a firm foundation with Ehlinger and three additional in-state commits — 4-star Liberty-Eylau defensive end Lagaryonn Carson, 4-star Tyler John Tyler wide receiver Damion Miller and 3-star Bullard tight end Major Tennison.
Ehlinger called Carson — the nation’s No. 2 strong-side defensive end — “a beast” and “a really driven guy.”
For what it’s worth at this early stage, Texas’ 2017 class is ranked No. 3 in the Big 12 and No. 14 nationally, according to 247Sports’ composite ratings. One must assume those numbers will improve after rankings are updated to reflect Ehlinger’s remarkable junior year in which he accounted for 70 total touchdowns (50 passing, 20 running) and 5,193 yards (3,833 passing, 1,360 running). For now, Ehlinger is a 3-star prospect and the state’s No. 48 player. Again, that’s going to change.
Ehlinger, who plans to enroll early and begin taking classes next January, has in mind some recruits he’d like to bring with him to Texas. They include 4-star running back J.K. Dobbins (La Grange), 4-star linebacker Anthony Hines (Plano East) and Ehlinger’s best friend, Westlake linebacker Levi Jones. Since January, Jones, the brother of former Longhorns receiver Cayleb Jones, has picked up offers from Texas, Houston, Baylor, TCU and Oklahoma State. His recruitment is just getting started.
“Of course I’ll always be that little Texas whisper in the back of his ear, but I’m gonna let the recruiting process slow down for him because he’s gonna be getting dozens of offers,” Ehlinger said.
Beyond blessed to have received another scholarship to the University of Texas. #Hookem 🤘🏾🐂
— 𝐯𝐢 𝐣𝐨𝐧𝐞𝐬 (@TheViJones) January 5, 2016
It’s impossible to say precisely what the roster will look like a year from now, but Texas won’t have too many obvious holes to fill in 2017. There always exists a need for more linemen, and Strong quipped on Wednesday that he wished he would have signed “20 big guys.” Additionally, this staff covets linebackers and has brought in nine of them in the past two classes. Don’t expect that trend to die down in 2017, especially since Strong’s coaches are already tweeting not-so-subtle messages to Hines, the state’s No. 12 overall player right now.
Because of the staff’s patient approach to recruiting, the 2017 class could be slow to form and not truly start to pick up until next winter. In fact, that’s probably what will happen.
“We’re not gonna change our approach,” linebackers coach and recruiting coordinator Brian Jean-Mary said. “We’ve been recruiting them. I’ve gotten a chance to see a lot of these guys this year.”