On Feb. 1, high school football prospects from around the state will sign their letters of intent with the University of Texas, just like former Cibolo Steele standout Malcolm Brown did in 2011. (Ashley Landis for American-Statesman)

Football

The Dotted Line: Can Tom Herman still recruit the Houston area from Texas?

Herman obviously knows Houston. And this year, 12 of the state's top 15 prospects hail from Herman's wheelhouse.

Posted February 22nd, 2017

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The signing day excuses were reasonable. Tom Herman signed Texas’ lowest ranked class since before the Mack Brown era began in the 1990s. The Longhorns signed 18 players for the 2017 class, a group that lacked star power. The roster didn’t allow for a large class, and the time frame that Herman and his staff had to work with — he was hired right after Thanksgiving — prevented the UT staff from building the relationships necessary to sign blue-chip talent in the modern recruiting world.

Newly appointed University of Texas head coach Tom Herman during a Class 6A, Division I state quarterfinal at Reeves Athletic Complex, Friday, Dec. 2, 2016. (Stephen Spillman / for American-Statesman)
Newly appointed University of Texas head coach Tom Herman during a Class 6A, Division I state quarterfinal at Reeves Athletic Complex, Friday, Dec. 2, 2016. (Stephen Spillman / for American-Statesman)

All true. And none of it matters if Herman wins. Recruiting lacks perspective, mostly because it’s a business based around teenagers. It might not seem like forever ago that Texas was contending for championships, but it does if you’re 17 years old. Herman inherited a name brand without recent luster and two months wasn’t enough time to convince prospects to sign.

The same isn’t true for the 2018 class. His staff will have had 14 months on the job before the class signs on Feb. 7, 2018. That gives his staff time to build relationships and a win column. It gives him time to create proof that his version of Texas means prominence. And prominence is what attracts a teenager. It’s why the same programs sign most of the top talent each year.

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Admittedly, recruiting at Texas is graded on a different curve than at Houston. Signing a top-30 class with one or two elite players is a victory for the Cougars or any Group of 5 program. Not true at Texas. The Longhorns require top-10 recruiting classes and the 2018 cycle, in theory, shapes up as a strong litmus test for Herman and his staff’s ability to recruit at the highest level.

Herman built his reputation as a head coach by recruiting Houston. He can now further that reputation as a national recruiter by doing the same thing in 2018. The Houston area is home to 12 of the top 15 and 22 of the overall members of the American-Statesman’s Fabulous 55 list of the state’s top recruits. Eight of the top 10 players in the state go to high school in the Houston area, including the state’s No. 1-, No. 2- and No. 3-ranked recruits.

Herman’s path to success is one in which he’s familiar. At Houston, he won and recruited the city. To succeed at Texas, he’ll need to replicate the results.

RELATED COVERAGE: Predicting college destinations for the state’s top 10 recruits

JUNIOR DAY

A few commitments would build momentum toward a strong 2018 signing class. Junior day is the perfect time to gain a pledge or two. The fireworks won’t quite be like the Mack Brown days, when he seemingly would lock up half his class by the end of the spring. But Herman also doesn’t want to wait until the end of the season to chase four- and five-star talent like Charlie Strong did.

It’s likely Texas picks up two or three commitments from junior day. The Longhorns don’t hold a single commitment for the 2018 class. With around 50 premier athletes on campus, here are five who possibly could commit this weekend:

1. Justin Watkins, ATH, Ocala (Fla.) Vanguard

FYI: 5-11/172; 4-stars

Texas offer: Yes

Top offers: Florida State, Alabama, Clemson, Florida

College: Committed to Florida State, June 2016

Hudl: 

 

Watkins expressed frustrations with the Florida State staff while praising Texas at The Opening regional in Orlando last weekend. Watkins, the No. 1-ranked athlete in the nation, said immediate playing time is available at Texas. He’ll be on campus this weekend and should get red carpet treatment after giving UT hope. He’s still committed to Florida State and hasn’t given indication he’s ready to switch this weekend. However, once a recruit starts openly flirting with a new school, the process can move along quickly. A strong impression on junior day might be the last shove Watkins needs to flip his commitment to Texas. He projects as a slot wide receiver in college.

2. Chasen Hines, OL, Marshall

FYI: 6-2/340; 3-stars

Texas offer: Yes

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

College: Undecided

Strong’s staff pulled the trigger on Hines early in the process, offering the interior line prospect last summer, right before his junior year. It was Hines’ second offer at the time. The relationship built with the old staff might be gone, but his familiarity and enjoyment of Austin and the campus isn’t. Herman’s staff, specifically Derek Warehime, made Hines a top priority for 2018 and the Longhorns currently are in the lead. Hines is a big, strong prospect who is more adept as a run blocker than as a pass blocker. He recently released his top five of Texas, LSU, Texas A&M, Oklahoma and TCU. The offensive line spots in 2018 could fill fast and Hines might want to reserve his place.

3. DeMarvion Overshown, S, Arp

FYI: 6-4/200; 4-stars

Texas offer: Yes

Top offers: Alabama, Arkansas, Baylor, Clemson,

College: Undecided

Hudl: 

 

Overshown is becoming a household name in recruiting after receiving offers from national programs like Alabama, Clemson and Florida State. It wasn’t long ago that he was an unknown safety from small-school Arp who held only a UTSA offer. That changed when Texas became the second school to extend a scholarship on Dec. 8. His stock has grown since, but the early confidence placed in him by the UT staff could result in a commitment from the versatile safety prospect.

4. Trey Stratford, OT, Allen

FYI: 6-4/270; 3-stars

Texas offer: Yes

Top offers: UCLA, TCU, Ole Miss, Baylor

College: Undecided

A pipeline at Allen would benefit Texas, something the Longhorns could not do in years past. Stratford showed interest in Texas before the staff changed and has indicated an increased interest since Herman and his staff arrived. He was one of the first 2018 offers officially re-extended by Herman’s UT staff. Oklahoma recently offered and more could follow for the three-star lineman. If he wants the process over, Texas is the leader.

5. Rafiti Ghirmai, OT, Frisco Wakeland

FYI: 6-5/290; 3-stars

Texas offer: Yes

Top offers: Baylor, Colorado, Florida, Houston

College: Undecided

Texas offered him in late January, followed by other power programs; Ghirmai  has received offers from Florida and Missouri in the past two weeks. He’s already attended Oklahoma’s junior day. Texas, though, leads and a strong impression on junior day could lead to a commitment. The Longhorns are in search of multiple tackles and the first two or three who jump on an offer will get the spots. Ghirmai is a prospect Texas wants and a full-court press might garner good news for the Longhorns.

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