Humble Atascocita offensive tackle Kenyon Green at the Future 50 Camp in Orlando. (Mike Craven)

Football

The Dotted Line: In-state offensive line talent offers Longhorns recruiting opportunity

Posted March 7th, 2018

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Stay updated on latest Texas Longhorns recruiting news brought to you by Longhorns recruiting beat writer Mike Craven of Hookem.com. The Dotted Line will publish M-F at 10 a.m. each morning to provide Texas fans with an in-depth look at the latest for the Longhorns on the recruiting trail.


Texas wants to add bulk to the offensive line

The Longhorns needed to address the offensive line in the 2018 class and Tom Herman achieved his goal, signing five prospects. One of those five — JUCO product Mikey Grandy — is already on campus. It’ll be a tough ask for Rafiti Ghirmai, Reese Moore or Christian Jones to make a run at a starting job as freshmen and it’s unclear whether Junior Angilau will enroll in 2018 or take a two-year LDS mission before becoming a college athlete.

Conroe Oak Ridge offensive tackle Tyler Johnson is a priority for Texas. (Mike Craven)

There isn’t a quick fix for the offensive line because it’s hard to find prospects ready to compete on day one. Most big guys need a year to redshirt and develop their bodies for the college game. Texas proved in 2017 that plans don’t always materialize. Injuries ravished the Longhorns and the offense struggled.

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Herman brought in offensive line coach Herb Hand from Auburn to help fix the problem and recruit a new batch of stars. The state of Texas is ripe with offensive line talent in the 2019 cycle. The Longhorns might not sign five prospects, but they could walk away from this class with more talented players, at least on paper.

Texas loaded up on tackles in 2018, but guys like Grandy and Ghirmai could end up as guards. The ideal 2019 class for Texas would include two tackles, a true guard and a center. Expect Texas to be picky and only take high-end talents with upside.

Overview: Offensive linemen

Needs: 4

Commits: 0

Top targets: Tyler Johnson, tackle, Conroe Oak Ridge; Javonne Shepherd, tackle; North Forest; Branson Bragg, center, Crandall; Stacey Wilkins, tackle, Camden Fairview (Ark.);

Texas is in good shape with Conroe Oak Ridge tackle Tyler Johnson because of a relationship the staff built with him while recruiting his teammate Joseph Ossai for the 2018 class. Expect the Longhorns to lean on that relationship. Texas is securely in the lead for the 4-star prospect after a recent unofficial visit with his family. Johnson is the No. 15-ranked player on the Fabulous 55 and a bookend offensive tackle that Texas could build its offensive line class around.

5-star offensive tackle Kenyon Green dominated The Opening regional in Houston. (Mike Craven)

Finding a second and third tackle might prove a challenge. Kenyon Green, a 5-star prospect, is the best tackle in the class. The one-time LSU commit is now leaning toward Texas A&M, but Texas will host Green this weekend for an unofficial visit. Building a relationship with Hand is the key for Green.

Javonne Shepherd, a 4-star Fab 55 member from the Houston area and Arkansas-native Stacey Wilkins are also top tackle prospects with Texas interest. Shepherd is the No. 32-ranked tackle in the 2019 class, per the 247Sports composite. Texas has yet to throw in the towel with Green and a long time remains before players can sign. Wilkins took an unofficial visit to UT for junior day.

The picture is clear at center. The Longhorns want 4-star Branson Bragg, a 6-4, 295-pound bulldozer from Crandall. Bragg is the No. 2-ranked center in the nation. He’s the only in-state center with an offer and that is a position Herman has yet to address in his first two recruiting cycles. If Texas can lock up Bragg, the focus shifts to finding a guard prospect.

Other notable offers: Kardell Thomas, offensive guard, Southern University Lab (La.); Jack Buford, offensive tackle, Lutheran North (Mo.); EJ Ndoma-Ogar, offensive guard, Allen

Analysis

This offensive line class will set the tone for Hand as a recruiter. The state has three top-end tackles and Texas is in a dogfight to sign two. If Texas can’t pull two from Johnson, Green and Shepherd, it might be forced out-of-state for offensive line prospects. The Longhorns proved capable of that in 2018 by signing Angilau and Grandy. The JUCO route is also an option if the elite prep prospects choose other routes.

Bragg is another premier target. Texas didn’t sign a single center prospect in 2017 or 2018. He’s the best center prospect in the state since Herman became the head coach of Texas and Bragg is a long-time UT fan who visited Austin numerous times in Herman’s first year. Bragg also would give Herman and his staff a recruiting win outside of the Houston area.

Finding a true guard prospect is the biggest challenge. Kardell Thomas, the country’s best guard, holds a Texas offer, but he’s locked in as an LSU commit. The only in-state guard with a UT offer is Allen’s  EJ Ndoma-Ogar. A recruiting win at a DFW powerhouse like Allen would be important for Texas. It’s likely the guard commitment comes from a player yet to receive an offer.

Previous positions: QB | RB | WR | TE

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