Horns snare impressive offensive linemen in small Class of 2013

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By Bill Frisbie, Inside Texas Lead Writer
Posted Feb 6, 2013
Copyright © 2014 InsideTexas.com


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Darius James

We knew Texas’ 2013 Signing Day would be a class of beef that adds sorely needed muscle to its offensive line, but what does the 15-man roster indicate about the perceived trajectory of the program?

If you like your Quarter Pounder dry, then Signing Day offered just enough to temporarily stave off the hunger pains of a Longhorn fan base famished for championships. For others, it will take a tall pitcher of Kool-Aid to swallow the dry, bland taste left by the group’s five defections as well as the program’s 16 losses in the past three years.

Texas’ smallest class in eight years still managed to rank among the nation’s Top 15, according to most recruiting services. Some have listed Texas’ current crop as the Big 12’s best. Above all, the five offensive linemen inked Wednesday may be the top unit the Horns have signed in decades. For now, Mack Brown stockpiled in the one area that has been his program’s Achilles Heel for six seasons. 

“This is the best group of offensive linemen, from top to bottom, that we’ve ever signed,” Brown said of a group that averages 6-5, 300+ pounds.

But Signing Day for Texas was reframed by its five decommitments, most recently Five-Star defensive tackle A’Shawn Robinson’s decision for Alabama. That is as many defections that Texas has suffered the past five seasons combined, and it is likely indicative of the unsettled nature of the program. The Horns are  losing the kind of head-to-head recruiting battles against the likes of Baylor, TCU and Texas A&M that would have been unimaginable a couple of years ago.

“The 15 (recruits) we have are very passionate about coming to Texas,” Brown said, “and that’s what you want. If players and parents tell you they’re coming here, and then they don’t, then you don’t want those kids at Texas.”

The higher number of defections is indicative of the way college football is trending, Brown believes.

“It’s happening across the country,” Brown said.  “More players are flipping around than in recent years. I’ve looked at the guys to see why. It’s always different.  I’ve asked coaches to make sure one is (fully) committed before he’s committed.”

For now, this does not represent a seismic shift in the Longhorn landscape – but Texas fans can certainly feel the tremors. The tremble and shake is especially pronounced on the defensive line.   Brown said the D-line was not a “position of need” this season, but the Horns failed to ink a defensive tackle, a defensive end or an inside linebacker Wednesday. 

Texas also did not sign a running back, but it should be set the next couple of seasons, assuming its deep stable of backs find room to roam behind a bolstered O-line. The Horns corralled the state’s top offensive tackle and interior lineman, according to Inside Texas, while adding the nation’s top junior college left tackle in Desmond Harrison. 

Prep All-American Darius James (Inside Texas No. 5) may be the pick of the litter.  James can play all five spots, Brown said, but will begin his career at guard. James possesses a combination of size and speed that he could get a look as a pulling guard. James is listed as a Five-Star in several recruiting circles and chose Texas against Florida, Florida State, LSU, Nebraska and OU.  (Brown said the 6-5 James currently weighs 350, which may be indicative of his missing all but two games his senior season due to a foot injury).

Offensive tackle Kent Perkins (Inside Texas No. 3) is mobile, versatile and tips the scales at 6-5, 310.

“He has great feet and blocks with great leverage,” Brown said of Perkins, who picked Texas over Oklahoma, LSU and Texas A&M.

Cornerback Antwuan Davis (Inside Texas No. 9) is Inside Texas’ choice as the state’s top defensive back.  Davis (5-11, 192) has the physical stature and speed that allows him to play on an island.  Long on potential, Davis has the tools to become the program’s next lockdown corner, but Brown said he could also play safety.

Quarterback Tyrone Swoopes may be the most intriguing of all Texas’ signees. He must improve his accuracy, but Swoopes was former co-offensive coordinator Bryan Harsin’s top target primarily because he fits Texas’ recruiting profile of a quarterback who can make plays with his feet.  Harsin was also sold on Swoopes’  raw athleticism, arm strength and sheer physicality. (Swoops currently stands at 6-5 and 250 pounds and with “very little body fat,” Brown said).

Swoopes, outside linebacker Deoundrei Davis, JC-transfer tight end Geoff Swaim and center Jake Raulerson are already on campus, but only Swaim and Harrison – both JC transfers – are expected to immediately contribute this fall. Davis and Raulerson, however, have the tools to crack the two-deep.

The 6-4, 256-pound Swaim is “exactly what we’re looking for in being more physical at the line of scrimmage,” Brown said.  Meanwhile, Harrison is expected to protect quarterback David Ash’s blind side when the season kicks off August 31.

“(Harrison) has a chance to be a great tackle at this level,” Brown said. “He can come in and help us immediately. For a big man, he has great feet.  He can really run.”

Keep an eye out for Raulerson. Brown gushed over the Celina product who currently checks in at 6-5 and 268 pounds, and Raulerson will also get a look at defensive end.   Brown described Raulerson as tireless, driven, aggressive and bright. He projects Raulerson will weigh closer to 275 when August camp begins.

Deoundrei Davis is Inside Texas’ choice as the state’s top linebacker (No. 14 overall). Physical and explosive, Davis has a chance to emerge as a consistent run-stopper who is also capable of dropping back into coverage. Brown lauded Davis for his power, speed, strength and work ethic. The 6-3, 215-pounder plays well in space, Brown noted, and has the speed to cover backs and wide receivers.  Davis is expected to be cross trained at strongside linebacker and middle linebacker.

“He’s one of the fastest linebackers in the country,” Brown said.  “He could have gone anywhere in America.”

Coaches wanted faster and more physical players across the board, and Dallas Jesuit product Jake Oliver fits the bill at receiver.  The three-time first-team 5A all-stater broke Jordan Shipley’s career-receptions record and ranks second nationally with 308 catches. The son of former Texas A&M receiver Gary Oliver, he finished with 4,567 receiving yards and 56 touchdowns.

“He is a big strong receiver,” Brown said. “He’s a great blocker and has excellent hands. He’s really fast and runs great routes.”

Despite the glaring absences on the defensive line, this year’s class should complement the previous two groups that were consensus Top Five choices. It’s just that three of the past four recruiting classes have suffered attrition rates of at least 55 percent.  This year’s diminutive bunch has no margin for error, but Brown believes it has a chance to complement the nucleus of upperclassmen expected to return Texas to elite status.

“The strength of this year’s team is the sophomores and juniors who’ve played so much the past two years,” Brown concluding.  “We have 19 returning starters, and so we have a chance to be really good.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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