Offensive lineman Rafiti Ghirmai competes at The Opening in Dallas March 5. (Mike Craven)


Texas’ 2018 recruiting targets shine at The Opening in Dallas

Posted March 6th, 2017

Story highlights
  • Offensive tackle Rafiti Ghirmai is emerging as a top priority for Longhorns.
  • Linebacker targets Alston Orji, Bryon Hobbs participate at The Opening.
  • Two in-state safeties earn The Opening Final invites after strong performances.

In early February, a large collection of talent descended upon Houston for the first The Opening regional for the 2018 cycle. The second event held inside the state of Texas took place Sunday at The Star in Frisco. The top-end talent wasn’t on par with Houston, but there were plenty of standouts, including a few with offers from Texas.

Texas eyes a trio of offensive linemen

The Longhorns want at least three offensive linemen in the 2018 class and the legitimate targets are starting to emerge. A trio of top offensive line prospects with Texas offers participated at The Opening. The headliner was Frisco Wakeland offensive tackle Rafiti Ghirmai. The three-star offensive tackle is likely to earn a fourth star soon and is planning a visit to Alabama in the upcoming week after recently picking up an offer from the Crimson Tide coaches.

Offensive tackle Rafiti Ghirmai is emerging as a top target for Texas. (Mike Craven/American-Statesman)

“I was going crazy (when I was offered by Alabama) because it is a once-in-a-lifetime offer. The fact that they even looked at me was crazy,” Ghirmai said. “I want to see what these programs have to offer before making a decision so I want to get to as many campuses as I can.”

The Longhorns hosted Ghirmai at junior day last weekend. Texas left an impression on the offensive lineman and his family.

“I like Texas a lot. I got to talk to coach Herman and his wife, and my mom was there. We got to tour the facility and I felt like I got some special treatment,” he said. “I love the Texas fan base. It is a great school. My mom loves that school. I consider Texas very high on my list.”

Two interior line prospects with Texas offers also competed. One was three-star Trey Stratford from Allen, who attended Texas’ junior day last weekend. The other was guard prospect Chasen Hines, who is one of just four guards holding a Texas offer.

Two linebackers showcased

The Longhorns have been slow to offer linebacker prospects in the 2018 class. Only two in-state prospects – Alston Orji and Byron Hobbs – hold offers from the new staff, and both participated at The Opening. Orji picked up an offer early in Herman’s tenure at Texas, while the 6-foot-4 Hobbs recently received his offer from the Texas staff.

Linebacker Alston Orji holds a Texas offer. (Mike Craven/American-Statesman)

“Texas brings great academics and that isn’t always the first thing people talk about when they mention Texas. It’s usually just football, but Texas is a great academic school and my family and I take academics seriously,” Orji said. “I want to be a well-rounded linebacker on and off the field. My decision will be based on a lot of factors, but academics is at the top.”

On the field, Orji was one of the top prospects in attendance. He was assumed as an inside linebacker prospect, but he says defensive coordinator Todd Orlando thinks he’s capable of moving to multiple positions.

“What the staff did at Houston was impressive, so that is definitely attractive,” he said. “He thinks of me more of an outside linebacker who can cover and bring pressure when needed. I want to see Texas go out and there and play a physical and aggressive style of defense.”

Safeties steal the show

Three prospects received invites to The Opening Final in Oregon over the summer. One of those was Oklahoma offensive lineman Brey Walker. The other two were safeties Caden Sterns and Atanza Vongor. Sterns committed to LSU during his junior season. Vongor is uncommitted and is a TCU lean despite giving Texas high marks.

“My top three are TCU, Texas and Baylor. I’ll be staying in Texas and I’ll be announcing my decision March 11,” Vongor said. “It’ll come down to where I feel most comfortable spending the next portion of my life.”

The four-star safety is known as an enforcer, but showed the coverage skills that make him the 14th ranked safety in the nation. Vongor came into Sunday on a mission, and succeeded based on his invite to close the event.

“I want to show my skills and that I can cover in space. These camps let us do some 1-on-1 stuff where I can show my feet and that I can move with wide receivers and tight ends,” Vongor said. “In a game, we don’t always get to show that based on coverage, so it is good to show that ability. I think I can play all the safety positions.”