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+
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
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
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.”