The Dotted Line

Stay updated on the latest Texas Longhorns recruiting news brought to you by Longhorns recruiting beat writer Mike Craven of Hookem.com. The Dotted Line will publish M-F at 10 a.m. each morning to provide Texas fans with an in-depth look at the latest for the Longhorns on the recruiting trail.

Texas head coach Tom Herman speaks about national signing day and the team's acquisitions during a press conference at the Moncrief Athletics Complex in Austin, Texas, on Wednesday, Dec. 20, 2017. NICK WAGNER / AMERICAN-STATESMAN

Football

The Dotted Line: National experts Bud Elliott, Barton Simmons talk Texas recruiting

Posted July 10th, 2018

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Proof of concept time for Tom Herman, Texas

The first full recruiting cycle for a new head coach usually equals success. Hope sells. Tom Herman’s first recruiting cycle at Texas was 2017, but he took the job only months before national signing day. The 2018 class was the chance for Herman to build his foundation. He capitalized with the third-ranked class in the nation, signing the top five players on the Fabulous 55.

Texas head coach Tom Herman watches his players run drills during a Longhorns football spring practice at the Frank Denius practice fields in Austin, Texas, on Tuesday, April 3, 2018. NICK WAGNER / AMERICAN-STATESMAN

“That’s the key. They knock it out of the park in the first full class. You basically have to because if you don’t, that’s tough to recover from,” said Bud Elliott, the recruiting director at SB Nation. “You have to reload the talent because that first full class will be the second- and third-year players in year two or three when the fanbases start expecting real results. If you strike out, it’s hard to win.”

Texas A&M is experiencing the same bump in the 2019 class. Jimbo Fisher technically recruited the 2018 class, but this is his first real cycle at A&M. The Aggies are riding the wave, currently holding the No. 2-ranked class in the country. The class consists of 21 commitments, including 10 off the 2019 Fabulous 55.

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Elliott, who also runs the Florida State site for SB Nation, knows Fisher well and watched him recruit in Florida for years.

“Jimbo is really good at identifying who the decision maker is in the process,” Elliott said. “Finding out who matters and what matters to the kid. He’s great at maintaining relationships and he’s hired staff that is focused on recruiting. LSU is kind of down, so Texas A&M needs to exploit that.”

Texas isn’t enjoying the same success inside the state as it did last cycle. Some of that is because of Fisher and the continued success of Oklahoma. The Sooners hold commitments from 11 members of the Fabulous 55, which leads the country. Texas holds five. That doesn’t mean the Longhorns are struggling to recruit. Texas gained its 12th and 13th commitment of the cycle this past weekend. Six of those players are from out of state.

“It’s proof on concept time,” Elliott said. “These next two years are important to the future for Herman. You can sell a vision. You can sell hype. Eventually you have to win and sell success. You can sell that success in Houston and as a coordinator to a limited extent, but at some point, you have to own your success at the highest level.”

Experts impressed with Floyd, Watson

The only two Texas commits invited to The Opening Final were from out of state despite the state sending 25 players to the event in Frisco. De’Gabriel Floyd, a four-star linebacker from Westlake Village, Calif. impressed at the event. Kenyatta Watson II, a four-star safety from Grayson, Ga. is recovering from a shoulder injury and couldn’t compete.

Floyd used to be more of an athletic space linebacker, noted Barton Simmons, the director of scouting for 247Sports. But he’s growing into a potential middle linebacker, he said.

“It’ll be interesting to see how he keeps that speed,” Simmons said. “He’s become less of a hybrid and turned into a true linebacker. If he can handle playing in space at that size, he’ll be fine. He’s played in space a lot in the past.”

Watson caught Elliott’s eye at a national camp before the injury.

“Kenyatta is a long kid. He’s really athletic. He impressed me at a camp this offseason,” Elliott said. “I don’t know what position he’s going to play, but he looked great in coverage. Is he a safety or a cornerback? I say you let the weight room decide and he has the length to be the type of cornerback Texas needs to run its defensive scheme.”

The battle for the top spot

Garrett Wilson, a five-star wide receiver from Lake Travis, is the No. 1 player on the summer update of the Fabulous 55. It’ll be updated again after football season. There are plenty of prospects in the running for the final distinction of top player in Texas, and even national experts can’t agree on the best player.

Lake Travis Cavaliers wide receiver Garrett Wilson is ranked No. 1 on the Fab 55. (Austin-American Statesman)

“There are a lot of options for top players in the state. There are so many great athletes,” Simmons said. “I love Garrett as a wide receiver because of his productivity and his elite explosiveness. He’s a kid that understands the position beyond just being a good athlete. His upside is tremendous. He checks all the boxes.”

Elliott was impressed with a handful of players at The Opening Final: “Wilson, the athleticism jumps out of the gym. Marcus Stripling looked explosive and looked good. It’s a great receiver year in Texas. (Elijah) Higgins looks great, as do the Oklahoma commits. (DeMarvin) Leal is freakishly explosive, even though he isn’t here. (Kenyon) Green also looked great. Went 3-0 against Nolan Smith. He’s a thick kid with the athleticism to stay in front of people.”

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