The clock is ticking toward next week’s early signing period and questions still surround Texas’ 2019 recruiting class, which ranks sixth nationally and first in the Big 12.
The Longhorns, who have 20 commitments, hope to add a few more key pieces and climb in the rankings. The early signing period begins Dec. 19 and there still are looming decisions from JUCO outside linebacker Caleb Johnson and Fort Bend Dulles offensive tackle Isaiah Hookfin.
But what else can Texas do? What are the main concerns? Here are the three biggest questions Texas must tackle days before prospects can sign national letters of intent:
1. Who is the second running back?
Noah Cain is the ideal answer, though Penn State is surging as the favorite for the four-star running back out of IMG Academy. He’ll take an official visit to Tennessee this weekend before announcing his decision on Dec. 19 (10:30 a.m., ESPN). The former Denton Guyer star would be considered the best available prospect left in the state if he was still playing high school football here.
So If not Cain, then who?
Texas made a good run for his IMG Academy teammate, Trey Sanders, but the five-star back appears headed to Alabama and also will announce his decision live on television on the 19th. Sanders is the country’s top-rated running back.
A forgotten name to watch is Katy’s Deondrick Glass. The 5-11, 200-pound four-star is the 12th-rated running back in the class and is a long-time holder of a Texas offer. The Longhorns backed off some during this season as they hunted the bigger targets.
But Glass wouldn’t be the worst Plan B. Texas signed Katy defensive tackle Moro Ojomo in 2018 and current Longhorns running back Kyle Porter shared a backfield with Glass in 2016, the year Katy won a Class 6A Division I state championship.
The JUCO route also is an option, as three-star running back Rhamondre Stevenson holds a UT offer. The Cerritos College (Nev.) product is the No. 2-ranked running back in the JUCO ranks. The 5-11, 235-pound prospect is a thumper who’d provide a change of pace to Keaontay Ingram.
2. Can Texas close at offensive line?
Offensive line coach Herb Hand proved his pedigree as an on-field coach in 2018 with the undeniable improvement in the trenches. Now he must prove his worth as a recruiter by helping the Longhorns finish off the 2019 cycle with a bang. Texas already holds commitments from four-star tackles Tyler Johnson and Javonne Shepherd. The Longhorns hope Hookfin gets added to the mix after his official visit this weekend.
Texas still would want a fourth lineman and the Longhorns would prefer a JUCO target that can provide depth or compete for a starting spot at right tackle once Samuel Cosmi transtions to the left side in the offseason. Most high school lineman need a redshirt season. Cosmi was afforded one in 2017 and the dividends were noticeable. Johnson is the best offensive lineman that Tom Herman has recruited in his first two years at Texas, but it would be hard ask Johnson to start at right tackle as a freshman.
If a realistic target doesn’t emerge over the weekend, Texas likely heads back to the grad transfer market like it did with Rice’s Calvin Anderson last offseason.
3. Any surprises in store?
Texas is in position to land major difference-makers in 2019, but it won’t be easy. Texas is trailing for Cain. USC is still the favorite for five-star athlete Bru McCoy despite a full-court press from the Longhorns. Four-star safety Jalen Catalon isn’t the lock that many thought he’d be for Texas when the season started. And Florida State appears to be the favorite for JUCO offensive line target Jay Williams.
Landing two of those four players would put an exclamation point on the 2019 class. McCoy will announce his decision during the All-American Game in San Antonio on Jan. 5. Catalon holds his cards close the vest and Arkansas is inching toward the driver’s seat. The 5-9 safety is the top in-state target remaining for the Longhorns.
Names also will emerge after the early signing period. Last year at this time, Texas held 21 commitments and 19 of them signed early. Guys like Ojomo, Joshua Moore and others became realistic targets once the early period passed and the dust settled around the country. That’s sure to happen again in the 2019 cycle.