On Wednesday, Texas’ #fUTure became its present.
Texas signed 21 players on the first day of the NCAA’s early signing period. The 2019 class — known by its #fUTure19 hashtag on Twitter — is rated nationally as a top-ten haul. Texas’ class is ranked No. 9 ahead of national signing day in early February; the Longhorns’ 2018 class ranked third.
The signing period at Texas kicked off at 6:06 a.m. Wednesday with the announcement that Georgia defensive back Kenyatta Watson II was officially signed. About 3 1/2 hours later, junior college linebacker Caleb Johnson was the last recruit in. Offensive lineman Javonne Shepherd, who committed to Texas in July, was the only UT pledge that chose not to sign on Wednesday.
Nine of UT’s signees plan to enroll early.
“There’s not a head coach in America that stands up on signing day and says, ‘You know what, we’re really disappointed.’ But it’s nice that I can tell you how excited we are and have it really resonate,” head coach Tom Herman said. “We’ve signed 21 guys that are, without question, culture fits in our program with great support systems, great families, and guys that are tremendous players.”
The 19 freshmen-to-be and two junior-college transfers will address a handful of needs. Herman said the linebacker position has been thin since his arrival, and Johnson was signed alongside four-star recruits De’Gabriel Floyd and David Gbenda. Roschon Johnson gives UT a fifth scholarship quarterback.
Arizona slot receiver Jake Smith, this year’s Gatorade national football player of the year, will one day help replenish a receiving corps that may start three seniors in 2019. Receivers Kennedy Lewis, Marcus Washington and Jordan Whittington are also Austin-bound.
Texas also signed four defensive linemen. After the Sugar Bowl, UT will say goodbye to three seniors who tallied 38 of the defensive line’s 40 combined starts this season. Freshman Michael Williams also left the team this month.
Herman noted that the 6-4. 285-pound T’Vondre Sweat could compete for playing time in 2019. Jacoby Jones will arrive as a two-time all-conference pick from Butler Community College. Myron Warren and Peter Mpagi, whose father and sister attended Texas, both have been given three-star designations.
“We knew that was an area where we needed to get bigger and we needed more bodies, we needed more quality bodies,” Herman said. “I think we addressed that need pretty well.”
With graduate transfers on the market and a second signing period scheduled for February, Texas has between five to six scholarships still available. UT may try to sign a couple of players before the end of this early signing period on Friday. Texas must still recruit running backs and offensive linemen since it signed only one at each position.
Herman, however, insists the Longhorns won’t be pigeon-holed.
“If there’s a player out there that we feel like we can develop into a player that can help us win a conference title and a national title, then he falls into that category,” he said. “Again, we’re not just going to sign guys to sign guys for numbers.”
Last year, Texas signed 19 of its 27 recruits during the early signing period. Of those 27, 10 appeared in at least 10 of the Longhorns’ games this season. (Offensive lineman Mikey Grandy’s career ended in July because of a concussion). That list of players making an immediate impact includes all-conference safety Caden Sterns and running back Keaontay Ingram, who is the team’s second-leading rusher.