Texas and head coach Tom Herman successfully navigated their way to a consensus top five recruiting class through the early signing period despite an unfamiliarity shared by all college coaches with how exactly the first National Signing Day would affect recruiting.
This was the first time a prospective student-athlete could send in his National Letter of Intent to a school before the normal first Wednesday in February that has become synonymous with National Signing Day. Herman and his staff inked 16 players prior to his Wednesday afternoon press conference, two more later in the night and one more Thursday morning as part of Texas’ official class of 2018 currently ranked in the top five by all of the major networks.
“We signed some unbelievable young men, some great players,” Herman said. “Make no mistake, great players, but also really, really great young men with unbelievable families, unbelievable support systems, and unbelievable maturity.”
Tim Beck will be joined by Newbury Park, CA’s Cameron Rising and Newcastle, OK’s Casey Thompson. Derek Warehime can officially welcome College of San Mateo’s Mikey Grandy from the California junior college ranks along with his three high school signees: Seminole’s Reese Moore, Frisco Wakeland’s Rafiti Ghirmai, and Salt Lake City, UT’s Junior Angilau from East High School.
Corby Meekins added Spring Dekaney’s Malcolm Epps to his position room, while Drew Mehringer welcomed pass-catchers Brennan Eagles of Alief Taylor and Al’vonte Woodard of Houston Lamar to his group.
On defense, Todd Orlando added Fort Worth Eastern Hills’ Byron Hobbs and St. Louis, MO’s Ayodele Adeoye to his room with Adeoye, who sent his paperwork in after Herman’s press conference, joining Texas by way of Florida’s IMG Academy.
Craig Naivar welcomed Lake Travis’ Cameron Dicker and Melbourne, Australia’s Ryan Bujcevski to his specialist corps.
Those are two important adds for Naivar, but he, along with Jason Washington, helped to bring in a nationally heralded defensive back group. Angleton’s B.J. Foster and Arp’s DeMarvion Overshown will start out in Naivar’s room. Houston Lamar’s Anthony Cook and Houston Heights’ Jalen Green will work with Washington. Cibolo Steele’s Caden Sterns and Houston Lamar’s D’Shawn Jamison could work with either defensive back coach.
These 19 signees are the bulk of Herman’s first full-cycle class at Texas, and he announced he expects half of the early signees to enroll for the spring semester. Even if a signee is not enrolling early, there are benefits for all parties.
“For them to be able to sign a piece of paper that says ‘I’m done, I’m coming to Texas,’ and then us be able to treat them as Texas football players, meaning we can send them playbooks, we can send them nutrition plans, we can send them weight workouts,” Herman says. “So that when they get here in roughly three weeks, three and a half weeks, they’ll have everything that our guys here currently on the team have.”
Because of NCAA regulations, Herman plans to count several of the early signees back to last year’s class in order to make more room for more players. “This will be a full, if not overfull, class of maybe 27, 28, 29 somewhere around there,” Herman said.
Last season, 16 of the top 20 players in Texas in the 247 Composite rankings went outside the state for their college career, with the Longhorns signing just one of the top 20, Sam Ehlinger.
This year, Texas swept the top five of the composite and seven of the top 10.
“We had to make sure that these players stopped leaving the state,” Herman said. “That going out of state wasn’t more attractive to them. I don’t know that the University of Texas has changed. I don’t know that we’ve changed much. Obviously, the facilities was a big point of emphasis for us when we first got here, and that helps kids deserve to train and be trained in the best facilities in the country.
“But I think it is just unbelievable proof at the power of relationships in recruiting and that parents and kids don’t want to go places where they don’t trust their coaches.”
Herman stressed that he isn’t simply looking for the best player to join the Longhorns, adding that they need to be more than good on the football field. Instead, they look for two distinct attributes.
“The culture fit would be two words: competitiveness and toughness,” Herman said. “If you’re worried about depth charts, you’re worried about guaranteed playing time, you’re worried about how many guys are ahead of me and how many pairs of shoes do I get and all that stuff, we’re good, man. We’re good. You can go someplace else. We want guys that can come in and compete because they know great teams are made from competition and toughness.”
Relationships was the word of the day for Herman, and those relationships are extremely important when it comes to recruiting the player. However, Herman needed to make sure he recruited entire families as well, and was successful doing that.
Several times throughout his press conference yesterday, Herman made specific references to families of recruits and players who helped throughout the process. Connor Williams, Malik Jefferson and Malcolm Roach and their families all were thanked by Herman specifically. He also mentioned the parents of Moore, Ghirmai, and Foster.
There is one parent that stands out thanks to her popular social media persona, Natalia Vaughns, mother of Byron Hobbs, a.k.a. “Mutha Hustla.”
“And then parents, does it get better than Mutha Hustla?” Herman asked. “She’s like the linchpin in this whole outfit, right? She might be our best recruiter.”
In addition to the parents, Herman thanked his players for being honest with those who he said are trying “to take their jobs in most cases.”
“When you get around our players, and this is true in any program, when you talk to the players, they’re going to tell you the truth,” Herman said. “They’re going to tell you the truth as a recruit and as a parent, and our players were off the charts in terms of their glowing remarks for our program with these recruits. I think what you saw too is a group of kids that, especially even the young ones, the 31st ranked recruiting class in the country, they understand they’re not going to achieve the things that they want to achieve individually if they don’t have great players around them.”
Players, parents, and recruits help a class come together, but the head and assistant coaches are the ones responsible for building the class and bringing it to campus.
This class is a special one, and it was a difficult task for the Longhorn staff, especially with having to balance preparation for the Texas Bowl against Missouri. However, despite the difficulty, Herman wants this to continue.
“Again, this needs to be the new normal, and I’m committed to making sure that it is,” Herman said.
On individual players
-Herman on the QBs: “I think maybe the misconception because they get labeled by recruiting services as dual-threat and pro style. I don’t know what that means. Cameron Rising can run. He can run good enough to run our offense, I can tell you that. Casey Thompson can throw the football. So I think it’s good to have a balance in that room. I think if you have four guys in that room that are you knower athletes that can’t run, you’ve got no shot. If you’ve got four guys in that room that can really spin the football but can’t extend plays with their feet, then you’ve got no shot. So we’ve got the gamut in there. So I’m excited about them and their skillset. I think it fits our offense really well.”
-Herman on Reese Moore: “Reese is a freak, man. He’s 6’6″. He’s 282 pounds, I think, a couple weeks ago at his visit, and at our camp he ran a 4.9, 40, and the kid isn’t going to stop growing. He’s going to get bigger and stronger.”
-Herman on Brennan Eagles: “When you talk to him, you think you’re talking to a 30-year-old businessman, not some 17-year-old high school kid.”
-Herman on Cameron Dicker: “It just so happened that the stars aligned that we were in the market for a kicker and one of, if not the best in the country, was right around the corner in Lake Travis High School and grew up a Texas fan and wanted to come here. So that was exciting.”
-Herman on Junior Angilau: “With Junior being an unbelievable run blocker, and playing in that triple option offense has a little bit of work to do pass protecting.”
-Herman on Ryan Bujcevski: “I’ve had a long relationship with those guys down at Pro Kick. It goes everywhere from Cameron Johnston who was on the Ohio State team that I was a part of, to Dane Roy at Houston, to now our punter currently here. So when those guys say, ‘hey, this guy’s the next whatever,’ you believe them because they’re that good at their job.”
-Herman on who from the DB class can come in and contribute early: “I think the corners are probably the ones that stick out to me. Just all the DBs, probably, with DeShon (Elliott) leaving and Holton (Hill) leaving, and there being in spots back there as well as even the ones that are coming back. Most of them are going to be seniors, too. So those guys need to play and play well early.”
-Herman on Byron Hobbs: “So that’s a thing I think about Byron a bunch is his length, and when he filled that frame out and gets to be 245, 255 somewhere around there, that that’s going to be a beast.”