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.

Football

The Dotted Line: Three recruiting questions facing Texas during the latest dead period

Posted August 14th, 2018

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Recruiting currently sits in a dead period that doesn’t allow on-campus visits by players to colleges or by coaches to high school campuses. It exists to give recruits an opportunity to focus on the preseason and their respective high school teams. It also gives the college coaches a chance to pour time into preparing for Week 1.

Texas holds 15 commitments in a class ranked No. 10 in the nation. The Longhorns are done at quarterback, tight end and likely at cornerback. Needs remain at wide receiver, both lines, inside linebacker and at safety. There are plenty of questions remaining in the 2019 cycle and we break down three as the preseason continues:

What is the plan at linebacker?

The 2019 class consists of 15 commits, including four-star outside linebacker De’Gabriel Floyd (Calif.) and three-star outside linebacker Marcus Tillman Jr. (Fla.). It’s clear that the Longhorns covet an inside linebacker prospect in the 2019 cycle and Katy Cinco Ranch product David Gbenda emerged as the top remaining target as the summer window closed and the last dead period before the season began.

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Katy Cinco Ranch linebacker David Gbenda is the only in-state middle linebacker with a Texas offer. (Mike Craven)

Gbenda, a four-star recruit, was a first-team all-district selection as a junior after recording 56 tackles, including eight for loss, and two sacks. He’s received 23 offers, including one from Texas on March 4.

Gbenda made his way to Austin for an unofficial visit in April. His recruitment as seen as a three-team race between Texas, TCU and Texas A&M with the Longhorns in the lead. The 6-foot, 212-pounder ranked No. 34 on the 2019 Fab 55.

Texas extended a new offer to JUCO outside linebacker Caleb Johnson on Aug. 11. The 6-1, 215-pound three-star is the No. 2-ranked outside linebacker in the JUCO ranks and is currently committed to Iowa State. Don’t expect new offers to go out at the prep level if Gbenda picks the Longhorns, but the offer to Johnson shows the staff wants some instant impact at the position in 2019 with the program set to lose Gary Johnson and Anthony Wheeler.

Is Noah Cain still an option at running back?

The only position unit yet to pick up a commitment in the 2019 cycle is running back. Texas extended 11 offers at the position. Five remain uncommitted, including four-star Noah Cain of IMG Academy (Fla.). The nation’s No. 6-ranked running back is a long-time target of the Longhorns.

He played his first two seasons at Denton Guyer before his move to Florida. He was born in LSU, and the Tigers currently carry the momentum in his recruitment.

The good news for Texas is that Cain doesn’t plan to commit before the early signing period, giving the Longhorns a whole season to convince him. The problem for Texas is that LSU can use the same push. The trajectories of each program are in question heading into the 2018 season, so nothing is set in stone.

Texas would take Cain even if it picked up a commit at the position prior to December. It’s unclear whether the Longhorns plan on taking a commitment until they know where Cain is headed, even if that decision isn’t yet public. Derrian Brown, a four-star from Buford (Ga.) has emerged as a realistic target. Texas holds a commitment from a Georgia native — Kenyatta Watson II — in the 2019 cycle and the two play less than an hour away from each other.

Katy’s Deondrick Glass, a member of the Fabulous 55, is the only in-state running back with an offer from the Longhorns. Trey Sanders, a teammate of Cain’s at IMG Academy, is considering another visit to Texas in the fall. Alabama is the leader for Sanders.

What’s next for the offensive line?

The duo Texas has committed in the 2019 class are elite. Tyler Johnson and Javonne Shepherd are both four-star tackle prospects who are ranked inside the top 30 of the newly updated Fab 55. Johnson is a big, physical offensive tackle with great technique from Conroe Oak Ridge. Shepherd, from Class 4A Houston North Forest, is an athletic freak for a teenager who is over 6-6 and 300 pounds.

Javonne Shepherd particpates at The Opening in Frisco. (Mike Craven/ American-Statesman)

Two linemen won’t be enough in the cycle. The Longhorns want to sign another tackle prospect and an interior lineman. The options are limited, however, unless new offers are extended once the staff can do in-person evaluations under the Friday night lights. Only two prospects offered by UT along the offensive line remain uncommitted and Texas isn’t considered in the mix for either.

Expect Texas to offer a handful of offensive line prospects in September and October, whether it be at the prep or JUCO level. Texas closed well at the position in 2018 and big guys blossom as seniors more often than skill positions. The Longhorns also won’t stop pursuit of committed prospects like Andrew Coker, a three-star from Katy Taylor who is pledged to TCU.

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