With an influx of offensive linemen on board, Texas set to sign a top-10 recruiting class
Like many good stories, the tale of Texas football's 2022 recruiting class features lots of chapters, a cast of characters and a few plot twists.
Once upon a time, the Longhorns received their first pledge from a 2022 recruit. Lancaster wide receiver Phaizon Wilson announced on July 31, 2020, that he'd play for Tom Herman in Austin.
But on Wednesday — the first day of the 2022 class's early signing period — Wilson won't sign with Texas. He backed off his UT commitment three months after he pledged and is still deciding between Alabama and Arkansas and maybe someone else. Herman was fired more than 11 months ago.
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But the world of Texas recruiting kept spinning, and the Longhorns expect to secure the foundation for a top-10 class this week.
Entering signing day, Texas held 23 commitments for a class ranked No. 6 in the country by 247Sports' composite ratings. The Longhorns are expected to sign a four-star running back and one of the nation's top receiver prospects. A hometown kicker, a long snapper and a quarterback from California are on their way, too.
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But the spotlight this year should be shined in the trenches. Texas is holding pledges from five offensive linemen and six defensive linemen among those 23 players.
In a three-day span that began over the weekend, Texas received commitments from three offensive linemen. Tackles Kelvin Banks and Cameron Williams committed Saturday and Sunday, and interior lineman Neto Umeozulu revealed his burnt-orange intentions Monday night. They joined previous pledges Cole Hutson and Connor Robertson.
According to 247Sports' composite, Hutson and Umeozulu are four-star prospects. Robertson and Williams have three-star grades. Banks, who's the No. 2 tackle prospect in the country, is set to become the first five-star offensive lineman to sign with Texas since 2013.
The holes in UT's line were already a clear issue that needed to be addressed this offseason. Back on Nov. 1, Texas coach Steve Sarkisian was asked about the recruitment of offensive linemen.
"What I do know is, just from a depth chart standpoint, we only signed two offensive linemen in last year's class, which is a real rarity in recruiting," Sarkisian said. "So there's great opportunity moving forward for a kid coming in as a freshman because of the lack of depth there that was in last year's recruiting class. There's no doubt we need to sign, at minimum, five guys in this class, but we want to make sure we're signing quality players."
Sarkisian reiterated three weeks later that "we've got to improve our depth on the offensive line."
In August, offensive line coach Kyle Flood said the Longhorns wanted to recruit versatile linemen. He also noted that size matters.
Banks, out of Humble Summer Creek, is 6 feet 5 and weighs 300 pounds. Williams is a 6-5, 360-pound prospect. Umeozulu (6-4, 285), Hutson (6-5, 312) and the 6-4, 296-pound Robertson aren't tiny either.
"It's no secret that we like big humans," Flood said.
A new name, image and likeness deal driven by donors will pay $50,000 annually to all Texas offensive linemen who are on scholarship. How much that factored into these recruits' decisions to sign with UT is not yet known.
If padding pockets isn't a selling point, former Texas lineman Derek Kerstetter has pitched working with Flood as a draw. Kerstetter earned all-conference honors as a fifth-year senior this fall.
"He does a real good job of relating to players and being able to (instruct) how he wants you to get his techniques done," Kerstetter said last month. "He's able to see some guys have different talents in different areas, and he tries to help you perform like your own little identity but also learn his techniques."
The early signing period opens Wednesday and closes Friday. A second signing period is set for Feb. 2, although December's early period has supplanted that traditional national signing day in February as the heaviest for signing the nation's best prospects.
If all goes according to plan, Texas will finish Wednesday with the nation's sixth-rated class heading into the final month and a half of the recruiting cycle. The Longhorns' last four classes have finished 15th, eighth, third and third. Texas also is expected to come out on top among Big 12 classes.
Along the way, Texas has had at least eight decommitments this cycle. One of those was four-star linebacker Kobie McKinzie, who flipped to rival Oklahoma on Monday.
Two of those decommitments eventually turned into prodigal sons at Texas. Jaylon Guilbeau originally committed to Herman in September 2020, decommitted in July and then committed again to the Longhorns over the Thanksgiving break. And quarterback Quinn Ewers, who was the No. 1 recruit in the nation for the 2021 class, is also in the fold, although he will arrive as a transfer since he graduated from high school early and spent this season at Ohio State.
The top five classes
Whose classes are ranked ahead of No. 6 Texas? The nation's top five in 247Sports' composite rankings:
1. Georgia (26 players, including three 5-stars, 15 4-stars and eight 3-stars)
2. Alabama (21, including three 5-stars, 16 4-stars)
3. Texas A&M (21, including four 5-stars, 14 4-stars)
4. Ohio State (18, including two 5-stars, 14 4-stars)
5. Penn State (25, including one 5-star, 15 4-stars, nine 3-stars)
OT Kelvin Banks, Humble Summer Creek
WR Brenen Thompson, Spearman
S Bryan Allen Jr., Aledo
DL Jaray Bledsoe, Marlin
DE/Edge J'Mond Tapp, Donaldsville (La.) Ascension Catholic
DE/Edge Justice Finkley, Trussville (Ala.) Hewitt-Trussville
OL Neto Umeozulu, Allen
CB Jaylon Guilbeau, Port Arthur Memorial
QB Maalik Murphy, Gardena (Calif.) Junipero Serra
RB Jaydon Blue, Klein Cain
S Austin Jordan, Denton Ryan
DL Kristopher Ross, Galena Park North Shore
DE/Edge Derrick Brown, Texarkana Texas High
OL Cole Hutson, Frisco
DL Aaron Bryant, Southaven, Miss.
DL Zac Swanson, Phoenix (Ariz.) Brophy Coll. Prep
OT Cameron Williams, Duncanville
LB Trevell Johnson, Arlington Martin
OL Connor Robertson, Austin Westlake
ATH Anthony Jones, Henderson (Nev.) Liberty
CB Ronald Lewis, New Orleans (La.) Warren Easton
K Will Stone, Austin Regents
LS Lance St. Louis, Gilbert (Ariz.) Williams Field