Football

Getting defensive: Texas loads up on the defensive line, secondary in nation’s No. 3-ranked class

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Story highlights
  • Tom Herman on the defense: “Whoa, that side of the ball, that got real in a hurry.”
  • Heisman winner Baker Mayfield already tweeting at Texas DL Keondre Coburn.
  • Yoakum WR Joshua Moore will offset the loss of Reggie Hemphill-Mapps, who is transferring.

Posted February 7th, 2018

Tuesday was a not-so-subtle reminder of how much defensive talent has left Texas.

Linebacker Malik Jefferson, safety DeShon Elliott and cornerback Holton Hill all were invited to next month’s NFL scouting combine in Indianapolis. Amazingly, defensive tackle Poona Ford got snubbed, but he’s a senior and is already tearing it up in private workouts, too.

Texas coach Tom Herman struck gold during the early signing period in December with a slew of defensive backs. And the Longhorns brought home the beef on Wednesday by signing two of the state’s best defensive linemen and a standout pass rusher on national signing day.

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Overall, UT signed a record-smashing seven players from the state’s top 10 prospects on the American-Statesman’s Fabulous 55 list. That beats out Mack Brown’s 1999 and 2000 hauls when Texas landed six both years. Six of those seven top-10 state recruits that Herman has signed are defensive players.

This is possibly the best group of defensive recruits in UT history, if you believe in recruiting rankings. From a national perspective, UT’s entire class ranked third behind Georgia and Ohio State.

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“Pretty historic day,” Herman said. “There’s going to be a lot of competition on the defensive side. On both sides of the ball. I think we can all see. Whoa, that side of the ball, that got real in a hurry.”

Defensive linemen Keondre Coburn and Moro Ojomo are both among the top 50 players in Texas. Linebacker/defensive end Joseph Ossai was a finalist for the Houston Touchdown Club’s defensive player of the year. Daniel Carson was a two-time all-state pick in Missouri, and Louisiana native Mike Williams is considered an athletic freak.

Overall, Texas signed 27 players, a number that could grow to 28 or 29 if UT lands some graduate transfers. The Horns are still chasing Rice offensive tackle Calvin Anderson, a Westlake product who would be a likely instant starter and eligible immediately. He’s already earned his  math degree from Rice.

Herman credited Derek Chang, UT’s personnel director, for having the foresight to know it was better to hold off last year and load the boat in 2018. As per NCAA rules, the Horns can count seven early enrollees from this year’s class onto the 2017 total of 18. All but one enrolled.

Herman also praised assistant personnel director Bryan Carrington’s contributions. He made real inroads with recruits and their parents and proved himself to be a staff member to watch in the coming years.

Texas ended up with the fifth-lowest total of known offers made to 2018 recruits. “We don’t offer people we’re not sure of,” Herman said.

Conroe Oak Ridge defensive end Joseph Ossai chose Texas over Texas A&M on national signing day. (Mike Craven)

Coburn didn’t sign in December and visited Miami, but he ultimately felt solid about his decision. And that didn’t sit too well with some.

“I’m so happy to finally be a longhorn baby this has been the hardest process ever but it’s over and my next journey is in Austin and with my boys in this Revolution Class AND I PROMISE WE WILL BEAT OU and the rest of them,” Coburn tweeted on Wednesday.

Heisman Trophy winner Baker Mayfield couldn’t hold back, apparently.

“This is what we call being naive,” Mayfield tweeted in response. “Kid has no idea what it’s like stepping into the Cotton Bowl. So here’s how it works… The team north of the Red River doesn’t flinch. But it’s okay, you’ll see for yourself, wish you the best.”

Mayfield’s tweet was later deleted.

Herman’s laser-like focus on recruiting in-state talent led to an impressive haul. The Longhorns signed 12 of the state’s top 18 players.

Herman admitted his staff was motivated by the arrival of Texas A&M coach Jimbo Fisher. The Longhorns and Aggies went head to head on several recruits down the stretch. UT officials even felt an A&M hype video looked a tad too much like the one Texas had posted earlier.

“It better make you better or you’re in the wrong place,” Herman said of the competition. He likened it to when Nike was motoring along but didn’t start growing exponentially until Under Armour came along. “That competition is real. But we welcome it and it makes us better.”

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Offensively, Texas finally got a signature from running back Keaontay Ingram, the star of back-to-back state championship teams. He’s one of only three players in Carthage history to rush for more than 5,000 career yards.

“That fact is not lost on any of us that we’ve got to get better at that position,” Herman said.

Texas also added offensive lineman Christian Jones and receiver Joshua Moore, who had 1,000 rushing and receiving yards at Yoakum. Moore’s arrival will offset the loss of Reggie Hemphill-Mapps, who is transferring.

Hemphill-Mapps had 37 catches for 402 yards and no touchdowns last season. His opportunities will be absorbed elsewhere.

In fact, it wouldn’t be a total surprise if Texas loses other highly-touted players as time progresses. Attrition is natural with any athletic enterprise. Herman is striving to make every day a competition. This recruiting class will help.

It’s the only way Texas will get better, really.

“You’re going to have to go earn your job,” Herman said. “If you’re not careful, you have a couple of bad days, there’s a young guy behind you ready to step in.”

Contact Brian Davis at 512-445-3957. Email bdavis@statesman.com.

2018 Texas Longhorns signing class

Here's a look at the recruits who signed with Texas for the 2018 recruiting cycle. Star rankings from 247Sports composite.
PlayerPos. SchoolStars Status
Byron HobbsLBFt. Worth Eastern Hills3Signed
Casey ThompsonQBSouthmoore (Okla.)4Signed
Cameron Rising QBNewbury Park (Calif.)4Signed
Reese MooreOTSeminole 3Signed
Cameron DickerKLake Travis3Signed
Caden SternsSCibolo Steele4Signed
Keaontay IngramRBCarthage4Signed
DeMarvion OvershownSArp4Signed
Ayodele AdeoyeLBIMG Academy (Fla.)4Signed
B.J. FosterSAngleton 5Signed
Al'Vonte WoodardWRHouston Lamar4Signed
Jalen GreenCBHouston Heights4Signed
Brennan EaglesWRAlief Taylor4Signed
Anthony CookCBHouston Lamar4Signed
D'Shawn JamisonCBHouston Lamar4Signed
Malcolm EppsTESpring Dekaney4Signed
Junior AngilauOTSalt Lake East (Utah)4Signed
Mikey GrandyOTCollege of San Mateo (Calif.)3Signed
Ryan BujcevskiPProKick AustrailiaN/ASigned
Keondre CoburnDTSpring Westfield4Signed
Keaontay IngramRBCarthage4Signed
Daniel CarsonDEWilliam Chrisman (Mo.)3Signed
Michael WilliamsDEDunham School (La.)3Signed
Joshua MooreWRYoakum4Signed
Christian JonesOTCy Woods3Signed
Moro OjomoDTKaty3Signed
Joseph OssaiDEConroe Oak Ridge4Signed

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