Walker, Texas Stranger

Walker Little. (Will Gallagher/IT)

Walker Little. (Will Gallagher/IT)

We’ll title this episode The Aftermath. Also, forgive the title.

There’s no way around it, losing long-time Longhorn lean Walker Little to Stanford is not good. He represented Herman’s best chance at a true headliner to place on the marquee. There are still some very fine supporting actors in play, namely K’Lavon Chaisson and Eno Benjamin, but the new Texas coach’s casting department is struggling to sign a big name to its recently greenlit project.

Let’s take a look at what it all means.

FOR THE TEAM

I made my thoughts pretty clear that losing Little doesn’t hurt the on-field product in 2017. It’s an opinion but I feel pretty strongly about it given the numerous talented bodies Derek Warehime has to work with. Little is deservedly a five-star but he’s still filling out and will need a bit of time to fully acclimate to play tackle in college. I doubt he’d beat out rising sophomores like Jean Delance or Denzel Okafor.

Where losing Little hurts is in 2018 and after Connor Williams departs early for the NFL. At that point, assuming we get there, the tackles will reshuffle. Little would have been a prime candidate to work at left or right tackle. Again, Texas should be fine and he offensive line is poised to be a position of strength for the foreseeable future, but you never want to lose a guy with first round potential.

If you want a better idea of what Texas has in the pipeline on the o-line, be sure and read the Humidor from Friday morning. Texas still has a bright future at the second most important position grouping in the sport.

FOR THE CLASS

Little would have made a great ally with Sam Ehlinger as lead recruiters for the class. He’s rather soft-spoken, but when he speaks up people listen. It helps being 6-foot-7.

Little would have become a sign of Herman buy-in, and would have been a foundation for the class; a name that carries some weight nationally. He also would have made Marvin Wilson less of a longshot.

It wasn’t to be and there’s no use crying over it, but it is important to realize Herman’s uphill battle to finish out his first class at Texas just became steeper.

FOR HERMAN

Recruits and fans alike are looking for any sign that Herman has the ability to close out top talent. He recruited very well at Houston, relative to conference, but now he’s going up against the Urbans, Sabans, Sumlins, etc. of the country, rather than the, uh, ….well the other coaches of the schools in the AAC.

In many ways losing Little is simply a bad beat. Herman played his cards right, Shaw just had a better hand.

After Little announced, his father Doug pulled me off to the side, and unsolicited said, “The new Texas coaches did a great job in their short time with Walker. Herman’s going to be very successful there. That visit made the decision very difficult for Walker. They were very impressive. Coach Herman called me last night and asked what he could have done differently, and I said, ‘nothing, you guys were great.'” Those words will undoubtedly ring hollow to Herman, but it’s not like his pitch was way off. He simply lost to a school and staff who had been on Little for a very, very long time, and had all the pluses the Little’s were looking for built in to their sell. It’s Stanford – you don’t have to work hard to sell academics or offensive line play.

The takeaway for me is Herman didn’t do anything fundamentally wrong in this recruitment. Another positive (and no, this isn’t a moral victory, but it is important to know what you did right and wrong in each situation) is Herman soliciting feedback from Mr. Little.

WHAT’S NEXT FOR OL RECRUITING?

The staff wasted no time offering San Antonio Reagan’s Derek Kerstetter. At this point I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention a phone call I received last week from a subscriber. Said he, “Texas should really look at Kerstetter. His coach is highly connected and it would be a great gesture from Herman. Also, the kid is really good.”

Voila.

Kerstetter is an Army All-American committed to Oklahoma State and since that conversation last week his head coach has joined the Baylor staff. So, this is no slam dunk for Texas, but he’s at least an option.

Herman could also look to offer one or more of the linemen he had committed to Houston. None of them are anywhere near as good as Little, but none would be out of place at Texas either. They are Samuel Cosmi, Matthew Huhn, and Dennis Bardwell.

Cosmi is likely the highest upside player of the three (at least according to a Houston source), but he’ll also require the most physical development.

Texas will likely offer more linemen while continuing to work on Chuck Filiaga (probably OU or Michigan) and Grant Polley (currently committed to Colorado but will visit in January).

It’s a good time to only need two offensive linemen.

IS THE SKY FALLING?

Not at all. None of this is ideal, but good players will commit to Herman. Herman will field a good product next year, and then we’ll get a better idea of what he is as a recruiter.

My evaluation of Herman is that he’s a good recruiter. I’m fairly rigid to my evaluations, but I haven’t seen anything truly concerning yet. There have been some peculiar moves (offers to hard commits of rival schools), sure, but nothing that has me questioning his ability as a recruiter.

Watch the Houston game tomorrow, then imagine that team with UT’s talent. If that comes to fruition, recruiting will be fun again, just not as quickly as we had hoped.

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