The football season began for most smaller classification schools in Texas at the end of August. The rest of the state starts playing real games at the end of September. The COVID-19 pandemic created a weird offseason for both players and coaches, but also for recruiting writers like me.
We’re usually able to watch prospective targets during camps and in spring practices. Not this year. This season will provide our first chance to watch Texas’ targets since the end of the 2019 season. So here are five future Longhorns that I’m ready to watch play in full pads for the first time.
Jordon Thomas, DE, Port Arthur Memorial
FYI: 6-3, 240; four stars; No. 36-ranked weak-side defensive end
Thomas was a sophomore the last time he played a meaningful game after suffering a lower leg injury as a junior and missing the entire 2019 season. He was a second-team all-district performer as a sophomore when he recorded 32 tackles, five sacks and seven tackles for loss. The big, athletic defensive lineman has plenty of raw potential but needs more live-game action, and hopefully gets that as a senior. Defensive line coach Oscar Giles scored a major recruiting victory when the Longhorns beat Texas A&M for Thomas’ commitment. I want to see how much he’s matured as a player since I watched him as a sophomore. He’s also looked the part.
Morice Blackwell, OLB, Arlington Martin
FYI: 6-1, 196; four stars; No. 21-ranked outside linebacker
Blackwell is one of a handful of Fabulous 55 members whom I’ve never actually seen in person. I’ve watched his highlights. I’ve seen him in a camp setting as an underclassman. I’ve spoken to his head coach and a couple of offensive coordinators in his district about him, but I’ve never watched him play a live game. That hopefully changes this fall. Blackwell is as productive as a prep linebacker comes these days. He was District 4-6A’s defensive sophomore of the year in 2018 after recording 112 tackles. He was the same district’s MVP as a junior when he tallied 128 tackles, two sacks, four forced fumbles and a pair of interceptions.
Jonathon Brooks, RB, Hallettsville
FYI: 6-0, 185; three stars; No. 27-ranked running back
Brooks is the only UT commit who has already begun his season. He opened on the last Friday in August, scoring multiple touchdowns in a loss against Shiner. Brooks is a two-way star for Hallettsville, a Class 3A program in south Texas. He was the definition of an under-the-radar recruit before picking the Longhorns. He had only six other offers, and his only other Power Five offer was from Texas Tech. I’ve never seen him play. He was a first-team all-district selection as a sophomore and the District 14-3A Division I overall MVP as a junior. In 2019 he rushed for 1,310 yards and 24 touchdowns on only 138 carries. He added 233 yards and a touchdown on 13 receptions. He also starts as an outside linebacker or safety, depending on the opponent.
Charles Wright, QB, Austin High
FYI: 6-1, 194; three stars; No. 40-ranked pro-style quarterback
My job requires me to go see UT targets, so I don’t stick to the Austin area as much as I’d prefer. I’ve seen Wright at 7-on-7 events and on the camp circuit, but never in a real game. He originally committed to Iowa State but flipped to his hometown team and childhood dream school when former UT pledge Jalen Milroe flipped to Alabama. Wright is more of a pocket passer than previous quarterback commits in the Tom Herman era. He has passed for more than 2,500 yards in each of the past two seasons.
Phaizon Wilson, WR, Lancaster (2022)
FYI: 6-4, 210; four stars; No. 26-ranked wide receiver
Wilson was a backup as a varsity sophomore last year, when Lancaster was stacked at receiver. Lancaster went 11-3 and reached the Class 5A Division I state quarterfinals. Wilson finished the season with eight catches for 137 yards and a pair of touchdowns. Despite the lack of numbers and playing time, he became a hot commodity on the recruiting trail before picking Texas on July 31, becoming the Longhorns’ first pledge of the 2022 cycle.