Texas’ 2017 recruiting class was the first group to sign with newly-hired head coach Tom Herman, though most of the class was put together by Charlie Strong. It was the lowest-ranked Longhorns class in recent memory — 25th in the nation and second in the Big 12.
Herman had roughly two months to put his touches on the cycle, and he did by adding offensive linemen Samuel Cosmi and Derek Kerstetter as well as linebacker Gary Johnson.
The players from that class that signed out of high school — the ones that are still at Texas, anyway — are entering either their senior or redshirt junior seasons. The leader of the program, quarterback Sam Ehlinger, also was a part of that 2017 cycle. Who ended up being great? Which players flamed out? Let’s take a closer look at the 17 players from that class who ended up making it to campus. Four-star receiver Damion Miller never made it despite signing a national letter of intent.
Sam Ehlinger, quarterback, Westlake: Ehlinger will leave Texas regarded as the third best quarterback to play for the Longhorns over the past 40 years, behind only Vince Young and Colt McCoy. He could elevate himself into that VY/McCoy stratosphere if he leads Texas to a Big 12 title and a trip to the College Football Playoffs his final season. He’s entering his fourth year as a starting quarterback and will leave Texas with several all-time records. The local kid absolutely met, and probably exceeded, expectations after graduating from Westlake as a four-star quarterback with an invite to the Elite 11.
Gary Johnson, inside linebacker, Dodge City C.C. (Kans.): Johnson was one of the Herman commitments, joining the class after Herman arrived from Houston at the end of November. Johnson became a two-year contributor, starting 20 of the 26 games he competed in over the 2017 and 2018 season. He made the loss of Malik Jefferson nearly unnoticeable following the 2017 season. He was the anchor of the 2018 defense, earning second-team all-conference honors. Johnson tallied 150 tackles, including 22.5 tackles for loss and 8.5 sacks, over his two seasons at Texas.
Samuel Cosmi, offensive tackle, Humble Atascocita: Cosmi was pledged to Houston, then followed Herman to Texas. He has become the biggest recruiting addition from Herman’s 2017 class considering Ehlinger was already in the fold when Herman took the job. Cosmi, a junior, has started 26 games. He’s expected to be a first-round NFL draft pick. He was a three-star recruit in high school. He wasn’t even ranked nationally and he checked in as the 104th-best offensive tackle prospect in the 2017 cycle.
Derek Kerstetter, offensive line, San Antonio Reagan: Kerstetter was another late addition to the class. He was poached from Oklahoma State following Herman’s arrival. The three-star was an Army All-American, but he wasn’t considered among the top offensive line prospects in the country. He was invited to the all-star game because a late injury opened a roster spot, and Kerstetter was local since the game was being played at the Alamodome. He was thrown immediately into the fire at Texas, starting the final 10 games as a freshman at right tackle. He started five games in 2018 and then all 13 last year. He’ll move over to center for his final season.
Ta’Quon Graham, defensive end, Temple: Graham is entering his senior season with 15 career starts in 39 games played. The four-star was the third-highest ranked prospect in Texas’ class, following Ehlinger and running back Toneil Carter. Graham hasn’t quite lived up to his four-star status, but he’s been solid for the Longhorns. He might benefit from the move to a four-man front. He could become an NFL prospect with a strong final season.
Josh Thompson, cornerback, Nacogdoches: Thompson is poised for more playing time as a redshirt junior, potentially starting opposite D’Shawn Jamison at cornerback. He has three starts in 26 career games over the last three years. A leg injury cost him most of his junior season, retaining his redshirt because he played in only four games. He was a four-star recruit and the 35th-rated cornerback in 2017.
Cade Brewer, tight end, Lake Travis: Injuries are the only thing keeping Brewer from becoming one of Ehlinger’s top targets. The former Lake Travis standout enters his senior season with 12 starts in 33 career games under his belt. He’s caught 22 passes for 258 yards and three touchdowns in his career. He’ll be among a rotation of players at tight end in 2020 alongside Malcolm Epps, Jared Wiley and Brayden Liebrock. Brewer was a three-star recruit after helping Lake Travis win the Class 6A Division I state title in 2016.
Daniel Young, running back, Spring Westfield: Young’s role evolved into a short-yardage option as a senior. He rushed for 153 yards on 42 carries as a junior. The former three-star recruit was injured for the first two games of the season, which allowed 2019 quarterback signee Roschon Johnson to emerge at running back. Young has watched his role shrink since starting the final five games of his freshman season. He has opted out this season over COVID-19 concerns.
Jamari Chisholm, defensive tackle, Northeastern Oklahoma A&M (Okla.): Chisholm deserves a spot on the good list because he fulfilled his role. The three-star was a JUCO signee who the Longhorns saw not as a star, but as a solid player who could provide depth for Herman in the coach’s early years. Chisholm has done just that, playing sparingly over his three years at UT. He played in all 12 games as a redshirt senior in 2019.
Montrell Estell, athlete, Hooks: Estell hasn’t lived up to his four-star rating, but he’s still around entering his junior year so we won’t put him in the bad category. He has started two games in 23 appearances. He recorded 26 tackles as a sophomore last year. He played mostly special teams as a redshirt freshman in 2018.
Kobe Boyce, cornerback, Lake Dallas: Boyce has stepped away from the UT program to concentrate on himself, citing depression. He was entering his junior season with six starts over 19 games. He started two of the six games he played in as a redshirt freshman in 2018 and then three of the 13 games he played in as a sophomore last year. Boyce will be back in the defensive backs rotation if he returns to football. He was a three-star recruit. The Longhorns signed elite prospects at cornerback in 2018, including D’Shawn Jamison and Jalen Green, who jumped Boyce on the depth chart.
Marqez Bimage, defensive end, Brenham: Bimage won’t play this fall because of COVID-19 concerns. He was poised to start as a senior after having participatied in 34 career games as a reserve. He played in every game last year as a junior, recording 12 tackles.
Reese Leitao, tight end, Jenks (Okla.): Leitao, entering his junior season, is still trying to find a role. The former prep tight end is transitioning to the defensive line as a junior.
Toneil Carter, running back, Houston Langham Creek: Carter never lived up to his four-star rating in his two seasons at Texas, and he transferred to Sam Houston State. He had an impressive debut there — 106 yards and three touchdowns in last year’s win over Oklahoma Panhandle — but had only eight carries over the final eight games of the season. He left the program in January. Carter was the country’s 10th-rated running back prospect in 2017.
Jordan Pouncey, wide receiver, Winter Park (Fla.): After not finding the field in two years at Texas, he transferred to Florida last year. As a Gator, he’ll be reunited with his younger brother, four-star freshman defensive back Ethan Pouncey.
Joshua Rowland, kicker, Mississippi Gulf Coast C.C. (Miss.): Rowland struggled in 2017, hitting only 11 of 18 field goal tries. He was beaten out in 2018 by then-freshman Cameron Dicker, and ended up kicking for Texas State last year. He quickly established himself there, booting a 35-yard field goal in triple-overtime to beat Georgia State in late September.
Rob Cummins, defensive end, Fort Worth All Saints: Cummins was forced to retire from football due to medical reasons.