Texas added its 18th member of the 2021 recruiting class on Friday when three-star offensive tackle Max Merril pledged to the Longhorns over 38 other offers. The 6-4, 273-pound product of Houston Strake Jesuit was the third lineman to commit. Texas’ class ranks 15th in the nation and second in the Big 12, trailing Oklahoma.
Tom Herman’s program could sneak back toward a top 10 class if the Longhorns can close on a handful of remaining targets:
LJ Johnson, RB, Houston Cypress-Fairbanks
FYI: 5-10, 204; four stars; No. 42-ranked overall prospect
Top schools: Texas, Texas A&M, LSU, Oklahoma
Texas is seemingly in a two-team race with Texas A&M for Johnson. He’s the state’s top-rated running back, rushing for 3,090 yards and 57 touchdowns over his past two years. He was the District 17-6A offensive newcomer of the year in 2018 as a sophomore and the district’s overall MVP as a junior. He was also an Associated Press Class 6A second-team all-state selection and a MaxPreps second-team junior all-American.
Johnson has not yet released a commitment date or a plan on when he’d like to get a decision out of the way, suggesting that he might be waiting on the ability to take official visits. The dead period was extended through 2020, meaning any player waiting for official visits won’t sign until national signing day next February because the early signing period is before Christmas.
JJ Henry, WR, McKinney North
FYI: 5-10, 165; three stars; No. 80-ranked wide receiver
Top schools: Texas, Arkansas, Florida State, Ole Miss, TCU
Henry is playing his recruitment in the shadows. He’s not overly talkative or a big presence on social media. He wants to take his visits and he thinks that can happen after his senior season whether travel restrictions are lifted or if he needs to go see campuses on his own. Texas loves utilizing a slot receiver and Henry is a prototypical slot prospect because of his quickness and route-running ability. He caught 71 passes for 1,419 yards and 16 touchdowns as a junior.
Shemar Turner, DE, DeSoto
FYI: 6-3, 282; four stars; No. 117-ranked overall prospect
Top schools: Texas, Texas A&M, Alabama, LSU, Georgia
Alabama was the leader in the spring and summer, but his recruitment is becoming a two-team race between Texas and Texas A&M. The Longhorns would love to add the big, athletic defensive lineman who can play end or grow into a three-technique defensive tackle. He possesses a similar frame and skill set as 2020 signee Vernon Broughton. Turner was the District 7-6A sophomore of the year and a first-team all-district selection as a junior. He has 12 sacks in his two-year varsity career.
Terrence Cooks, OLB, Alvin Shadow Creek
FYI: 6-2, 210; three stars; No. 25-ranked outside linebacker
Top schools: Texas, Baylor, LSU
The Longhorns remain in a solid position for Cooks, their lone remaining target at linebacker. Texas needs to improve at the position and that starts on the recruiting trail. Cooks looked good in his senior debut against Galena Park North Shore. He and his Shadow Creek teammates are adjusting to Class 6A play a year removed from capturing the Class 5A Division I state championship over Denton Ryan. He was a second-team all-district selection as a junior after collecting 72 tackles and three forced fumbles.
Andrew Mukuba, S, Austin LBJ
FYI: 6-0, 185; four stars; No. 12-ranked safety
Top schools: Texas, Clemson, Missouri, LSU
Mukuba could become Texas’ next commitment. The four-star safety is scheduled to announce his commitment on Thursday. The local product is high on the Longhorns, but Texas is in a real battle with his three other favorites, including Clemson. Texas holds an extra advantage because of Mukuba’s inability to get to those out-of-state campuses in a restricted cycle. Of his four top schools, Texas is the only one he’s seen in person. The Longhorns want to pair him with JD Coffey at safety in the 2021 class. Athlete Billy Bowman Jr. also could play safety.