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The Dotted Line: What should Texas fans expect during the early signing period?

Texas coach Tom Herman has signed three straight top-10 ranked recruiting classes, including back-to-back No. 3-ranked groups in 2018 and 2019. But the Longhorns' 2021 class ranks 17th heading into this week's early signing period.

The 2021 recruiting cycle concludes for most recruits on Wednesday when the early signing period begins. Despite a recruiting calendar that went without official visits or summer camps this year, indications are that the majority of high school football prospects plan to sign early rather than wait until national signing day in February.

That includes the 18 players that are committed to Texas.

The Longhorns' class dropped to 18 players last week when three-star center Michael Myslinski backed away from his pledge. Texas' class ranks 17th nationally heading into the early signing period and second in the Big 12 behind Oklahoma. It's headlined by five-star athlete Ja'Tavion Sanders, the Denton Ryan playmaker who's ranked third on the American-Statesman's Fabulous 55.

Sanders is a 6-3, 220-pound star on both sides of the ball, as a wide receiver and as a defensive end.

If Sanders is considered a defensive prospect, Texas’ eight highest-ranked pledges project to defense. Cornerback Ishmael Ibraheem and safety JD Coffey are national top-200 prospects; California cornerback Jamier Johnson and defensive ends Derrick Harris Jr. and Jordon Thomas rank within the top 300.

Denton Ryan's Ja'Tavion Sanders is Texas' highest-ranked recruit. The two-way star is a playmaker as a wide receiver and a defensive end. He's the Longhorns' lone five-star prospect in the 2021 recruiting class.

There's not a single four-star offensive prospect in Texas' class, which is concerning considering Tom Herman is considered an offensive coach. The Longhorns' highest-rated offensive pledge is Florida wide receiver Jaden Alexis, who ranks 378th nationally. He’s followed by offensive tackle Hayden Conner and running back Jonathon Brooks. 

Five different states are represented in the class. Thirteen of the 18 prospects play in Texas. There also is one commitment each from California, Colorado, Florida and Louisiana. 

Seven of the 18 pledges project to offense. Austin High quarterback Charles Wright, a three-star who was once an Iowa State commitment, is the only signal caller pledged. The class includes three wide receivers and a pair of offensive linemen. Two of the pledges are listed as athletes. Sanders and Juan Davis could wind up on either side of the ball. 

Not including cycles that included a coaching change, this will be Texas' lowest-ranked class in 20 years. Herman has signed three straight top-10 classes, including a pair of No. 3-ranked groups in 2018 and 2019, and has finished atop the Big 12 for those last three years as well.

Seven of the 18 prospects plan to enroll in January, including Wright. Those seven players will get a jumpstart on the rest of the class. It is unknown how many will get a chance to play early because seniors will be allowed another year of eligibility because of the pandemic.

A new commitment?: Wednesday should be a relatively quiet day for Texas on the recruiting trail. The Longhorns hope to sign most, if not all, of their 18 commitments. Texas is in the mix to add a fourth defensive lineman; Texas already holds commitments from Thomas, Harris and defensive tackle Byron Murphy. 

Three-star defensive end Barryn Sorrell, a Louisiana native, is set to announce his college destination Wednesday at noon. Texas is considered the leader. The 6-3, 250-pound Sorrell is considered the 27th-best prospect out of Louisiana  according to the 247Sports composite rankings. 

Texas is one of 21 offers for Sorrell. Texas is fighting it out with the likes of Arizona State, Louisville, Vanderbilt and Virginia. The Longhorns offered him a scholarship on Nov. 7, which was late compared to the other programs on his list.

Texas' class

Athletes (2): Ja'Tavion Sanders, Denton Ryan; Juan Davis, Everman

Quarterbacks (1): Charles Wright, Austin High

Running backs (1): Jonathon Brooks, Hallettsville

Wide receivers (2): Jaden Alexis, Pompano Beach (Fla.) Monarch; Casey Cain, New Orleans Warren Easton

Tight ends (1): Gunnar Helm, Englewood (Calif.) Cherry Creek

Offensive tackles (2): Hayden Conner, Katy Taylor; Max Merril, Houston Strake Jesuit

Defensive ends (2): Derrick Harris Jr., New Caney; Jordon Thomas, Port Arthur Memorial;

Defensive tackles (1): Byron Murphy II, DeSoto

Outside linebackers (2): Terrence Cooks, Alvin Shadow Creek; Morice Blackwell, Arlington Martin

Cornerbacks (2): Ishmael Ibraheem, Dallas Kimball; Jamier Johnson, Pasadena (Calif.) John Muir; 

Safeties (1): JD Coffey, Kennedale

Punters (1): Isaac Pearson, ProKick Australia

Nation's top 10

The top-10 highest rated recruiting classes in the country heading into Wednesday's start of the early signing period, according to 247Sports' composite rankings:

1. Alabama

2. Ohio State

3. Georgia

4. LSU

5. Clemson

6. Oregon

7. Florida

8. Notre Dame

9. Michigan

10. Oklahoma