Texas is on a three-game winning streak heading into an open date. Tom Herman’s program weathered two conference defeats early to keep its Big 12 title hopes alive with Kansas, Kansas State and Iowa State remaining.
But, can those wins help Texas on the recruiting trail?
The 2021 class ranks 17th in the nation. It consists of 17 members. The last commitment came on Sept. 25 when three-star offensive tackle Max Merril joined the group.
Here are three important recruiting questions facing the program with six weeks to go until the early signing period:
1. Will the momentum on the field translate to recruiting?
The losses to TCU and Oklahoma, and the social media push to replace Tom Herman, led to negative results on the recruiting trail; the Longhorns lost commitments from 2021 four-star athlete Billy Bowman Jr. and 2022 five-star quarterback Quinn Ewers. Bowman was the current class’s second-highest ranked recruit. Ewers is the top-ranked quarterback in the 2022 cycle. Both were enormous losses.
Flash-forward three weeks and Texas is righting the ship on the field, including its first road win over a top-10 team in a decade. Herman’s job security looks revived, at least through the season. Adding to the current class would be the best way for him to prove that his program isn’t falling behind with recruits.
The problem is the 2020 cycle itself. This year is different for obvious reasons — coaches can’t go watch prospects in person. and prospects can’t take official visits to colleges. Recruiting was reduced to virtual campus tours and phone calls. In a normal year, the Longhorns could push prospects to visit on game day, which provides an easier opportunity to flip a commitment or convince a young player to join the program.
There aren’t a ton of available prospects. Only seven members of the Fabulous 55 remain uncommitted. The Longhorns are in good shape with three-star linebacker Terrence Cooks, but Texas is trailing for the other targets on the list. Unless that changes, the Longhorns are expected to limp into the early signing period. Herman and his staff are more worried about keeping the current class together as they are about adding new pieces to the future roster.
2. Who are the top remaining targets?
Cooks, from Alvin Shadow Creek, has been a long-time target of the Longhorns, as the three-star defender was labeled as the top target at linebacker on Texas’ recruiting board back in the spring. Cooks is close with a few UT commits and current players, which is good news for the Longhorns. And Texas needs to improve at linebacker. But he’d be pledged to Texas if it was a slam dunk. Baylor and LSU are legitimate players in Cooks’ commitment.
Other Fab 55 members on Texas’ target board include four-star running back LJ Johnson, four-star guard Bryce Foster and four-star offensive tackle Savion Byrd. Four-star wide receiver Antonio Harmon, a native of Mississippi, is an out-of-state prospect trending toward Texas. Six of the 17 UT commits in the 2021 class are from outside the state.
3. What happens with the 2022 class?
The Longhorns would be smart to put 2022 recruiting into the rear-view mirror until after signing the 2021 class. The Longhorns entered the 2020 season with high expectations, which were conducive to looking ahead in recruiting because programs must strike while the iron is hot.
Texas was the favorite to win the Big 12 recruiting crown. Many thought quarterback Sam Ehlinger was a Heisman Trophy candidate. That allowed the Longhorns to add Ewers and build an early three-man class in 2022 that rivaled any other program’s in the country. The 2-2 start led to decommitments from Ewers and four-star wide receiver Phaizon Wilson. Four-star cornerback Jaylon Guilbeau remains the only commitment in the 2022 class.
Herman and his staff should make the 2022 class an afterthought, at least for now. Herman’s priorities should be on winning the final three games and securing the 2021 class. There will be plenty of time and opportunity for the Longhorns to recruit 2022 targets after the season.