The headliner of each recruiting class helps determine its national perception. A quick look at the top-rated player from each of Texas’ classes this decade show an inconsistent pattern seen throughout recruiting and in the NFL draft. Scouting is an inexact science for recruiting sites and college coaches. Let’s examine the college careers of top prospects in each of Texas’ classes over the past decade. The top-ranked commitment in the current 2020 class is five-star running back Bijan Robinson.
Jackson Jeffcoat, defensive end, Plano West
Recruiting rankings: No. 5 overall, No. 1 defensive end, No. 1 in Texas
Jeffcoat was a solid player for the Longhorns when healthy. The five-star played in eight games as a freshman and just six as a junior before injuries sidelined him for the rest of those two seasons. Jeffcoat became a second-team all-conference performer as a sophomore and was an anchor of the 2013 defense. He recorded 25 sacks and 47 tackles for loss in his career. He never found a permanent home in the NFL and even played some professional ball in Canada.
Rounding out the top five: OLB Jordan Hicks, WR Mike Davis, DE Reggie Wilson, WR Darius White
Malcolm Brown, running back, Cibolo Steele
Recruiting rankings: No. 14 overall, No. 3 running back, No. 2 in Texas
Brown never became a true No. 1 back in his college career. He usually shared carries with other talented backs, though he did leave as the school’s ninth-leading all-time rusher with 2,678 yards. He started each of Texas’ 13 games as a senior in 2014 and was a second-team all-conference selection. Brown posted 11 100-yard rushing games in his career and has made a nice NFL living with the Los Angeles Rams.
Rounding out the top five: ILB Steve Edmond, DT Desmond Jackson, OG Sedrick Flowers, ATH Quandre Diggs
Johnathan Gray, running back, Aledo
Recruiting rankings: No. 6 overall, No. 1 running back, No. 2 in Texas
The five-star status caused a perception problem for Gray. On one hand, the Aledo star never lived up to the hype like Cedric Benson, but Gray did finish his career with 23 starts and more than 2,000 yards career rushing in 46 games. Injuries plagued him throughout his career with him missing games in every season except his junior year in 2014.
Rounding out the top five: DT Malcom Brown, OT Kennedy Estelle, OG Curtis Riser, WR Cayleb Jones
Darius James, guard, Harker Heights
Recruiting rankings: No. 35 overall, No. 1 guard, No. 5 in Texas
The top-three rated signees in Texas’ 2013 class were offensive linemen and none of them became impactful starters. James spent two years at Texas before transferring to Auburn. He redshirted in 2013 before playing in six games in 2014. He started two games at right tackle.
Rounding out the top five: OT Kent Perkins, OC Jake Raulerson, OLB Deondrei Davis, CB Antwuan Davis
Derrick Roberson, defensive end, San Antonio Brennan
Recruiting rankings: No. 66 overall, No. 4 defensive end, No. 9 in Texas
The 2014 class was among the most disappointing in recent memory. Roberson is the perfect example of it. He redshirted in 2014 before participating in 10 games as a redshirt freshman in 2015. The former four-star prospect then transferred to Sam Houston State.
Rounding out the top five: QB Jerrod Heard, WR Armanti Foreman, OLB Edwin Freeman, WR Lorenzo Joe
Malik Jefferson, outside linebacker, Mesquite Poteet
Recruiting rankings: No. 10 overall, No. 1 outside linebacker, No. 1 in Texas
Jefferson was a major recruiting victory for Charlie Strong. It never felt like the five-star ever reached his true potential at Texas despite starting 29 games in three years and earning co-defensive player of the year honors in the Big 12 as a junior. He declared for the draft after his junior year, but was cut by the Bengals before the start of the 2019 season.
Rounding out the top five: CB Holton Hill, OLB Anthony Wheeler, RB Chris Warren III, CB Kris Boyd
Devin Duvernay, wide receiver, Garland Sachse
Recruiting rankings: No. 37 nationally, No. 5 wide receiver, No. 4 in Texas
Duvernay was headed to Baylor until that program became snarled in the sexual assault scandal. It took the current senior a few seasons to learn the position and find consistent playing time, but he’s emerged as the team’s leading receiver as a senior. Duvernay currently leads the nation in receptions and could find himself drafted as a slot receiver. He rarely drops a pass and brings a physical element to the field to go along with his track speed.
Rounding out the top five: S Brandon Jones, OG Patrick Hudson, OLB Jeffrey McCulloch, OLB Erick Fowler
Sam Ehlinger, quarterback, Austin Westlake
Recruiting rankings: No. 119 nationally, No. 4 quarterback, No. 19 in Texas
This one worked out. The 2017 class was the transition class for Texas as Tom Herman took over for Strong. Ehlinger was committed to Texas before Herman was hired in November 2016 and would have ended up at Texas regardless of who was the coach. The life-long Longhorns fan immediately competed for starting snaps and is now entrenched as the face of Texas’ program. The local kid likely leaves Texas with nearly every major quarterback record held at Texas.
Rounding out the top five: RB Toneil Carter, DE Ta’Quon Graham, ILB Gary Johnson, ATH Montrell Estell
Caden Sterns, safety, Cibolo Steele
Recruiting rankings: No. 19 nationally, No. 1 safety, No. 1 in Texas
Herman convinced Sterns to flip to Texas and the rest is history. Sterns made his mark as a freshman last year. The five-star was the Big 12’s defensive freshman of the year and made first-team all-conference after starting 13 games and leading the team with four interceptions. His sophomore year has been marred with injury.
Rounding out the top five: S B.J. Foster, CB Jalen Green, S DeMarvion Overshown, WR Brennan Eagles
Bru McCoy, athlete, Santa Ana (Calif.) Mater Dei
Recruiting rankings: No. 9 nationally, No. 1 athlete, No. 2 in California
There’s a discussion to be had about whether or not McCoy should even be considered a member of the 2020 class. His transfer from USC to Texas before the spring of 2019 counted him as a recruit for Herman, vaulting Texas’ class to third in the nation. But McCoy never took a snap for Texas, transferring back to USC before the start of his freshman season.
Rounding out the top five: ATH Jordan Whittington, WR Jake Smith, OT Tyler Johnson, ILB De’Gabriel Floyd