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I’ll revert back to the previous cycle to give extensive thoughts, but for now, it’s goodbye, 2015, hello 2016.
On its face, this cycle won’t be as talented as the previous one. That should be of little concern to a Texas staff taking a smaller class, being great at identifying proper fits, and possessing the ability to go out-of-state and Cherry-pick players. Furthermore, the class of 2015 was so large in scope, it plugged a lot of holes. That said, you always need to re-stock talent because that’s how you reload rather than rebuild.
Let’s look at the needs as I see them. I don’t really have unique insight into the actual Texas big board just yet (I’ll get that info), but this will give you an idea.
I believe the target number to be about 20, give or take, but you know how attrition can come in waves and alter the number.
QUARTERBACK: Needs, 1 or 2
The ‘or 2’ is based solely on Matthew Merrick. I believe he’ll end up counting towards the class of 2015 so for all intents and purposes, 2016 will likely be a one quarterback class.
UT has set laser focus on Shane Buechele. You Rangers fans will certainly recall his father. Shane’s arm is a chip off the old block. He delivers smoothly and accurately, has good feet, sees the field and has an expedited understanding of the passing game. Very solid prospect. Colt McCoy-like for those of you who like comparisons. Buechele has many other overtures, including Oklahoma, Ole Miss, and TCU. Noted commenter Halas told me Buechele and I are built similarly so you know the kid is an ALL OUT STUD. Do you hear that, hackers??? Forgive my gallows humor.
If I had to guess who the quarterback in the class would be, it’s Buechele by a mile. I think he ends up getting on board pretty early and becomes a catalyst for a strong offensive skill class. He’s a Top 150 player in the nation.
Even with expected schematic alterations, Buechele is a good fit. Just as Ohio State can tailor its offense to a dual-threat or pocket passer, Texas will hopefully be able to do the same.
RUNNING BACK: Needs, 1 or 2 (2nd being a fullback)
Texas will be wise to shoot for the 5-stars in this class. Having back-to-back classes consisting of Duke Catalon (future star), D’Onta Foreman, Chris Warren, Kirk Johnson, and Tristian Houston provides some breathing room.
Charlie Strong has only offered two “running backs” so far. I put that in quotes because Lil’ Jordan Humphrey (sounds like what Chuck F’n Strong would call him) and Devwah Whaley project all over the field.
Texas can afford to be a bit patient here. They should evaluate hard and zero in on some true difference makers like the freshman you saw run wild this past season.
Alex De La Torre will graduate after next year. Texas will likely look for a fullback in 2016 if they can’t fill it with a walk-on. Maybe Demarco Boyd fits here?
TIGHT END: Needs, 1 (maybe)
By this time next year we’ll have a much better idea of how and where Devonaire Clarington and Deandre McNeal project. If both look like future tight ends or h-backs, Texas may not feel the need to take one in the 2016 class.
Kaden Smith is the best tight end the state has produced since I don’t even know when. Texas would take him no matter what but has some ground to make up with Stanford and Alabama.
WIDE RECEIVERS: Needs, 2 or 3
Another position Texas can afford to be patient. With already two commitments – Collin Johnson (CA) and Reggie Hemphill (TX) – Texas is sitting pretty, especially when you consider the big 2015 class. My hope is Texas will use Malik Jefferson’s Mesquite hegemony to pry Dee Anderson (West Mesquite) from LSU. He’s a tall receiver who plays big when the ball is in the air but small when running his routes. A true stud.
Overall in-state wide receiver talent won’t blow you away so expect Texas to continue looking out of state. Promising quarterback play in 2015 would certainly help this endeavor.
OFFENSIVE LINE: Needs, 3
With Joe Wickline having Charlie Strong’s ear, this number may go up if Texas can find serious help. But right now there are a lot of bodies on campus and not a whole lot graduating after the season.
Like at running back, Texas should only recruit elites. Greg Little’s the No. 1 player in the nation right now (I don’t think he ends up there but he is special) but is already committed to Texas A&M. UT will only have a chance with him if his high school teammate, Kyler Murray, goes the MLB route. Even then, the chances are minimal.
Texas likes to flip Baylor offensive lineman. It’s just something Strong does, it doesn’t define it. Wickline should prioritize Patrick Hudson, a player who is essentially Mike Williams 2.0. He projects as a monster right tackle.
Offensive lineman are usually the last to hit the radar because their development typically requires more time. Many more names will emerge. Soon we’ll add ‘potential offers’ to the list below and you’ll see some more candidates.
DEFENSIVE TACKLE: Needs, 3
Holding on to Du’Vonta Lampkin was huge. Missing on Daylon Mack was not, though he would have obviously been a great late steal. Texas was always content with taking one defensive tackle in 2015. 2016 will be a different story.
Defensive tackle is probably the most loaded position grouping in the state so the timing of the Longhorns having needs couldn’t be better. Ed Oliver will be my No. 2 player in-state. He’s the most athletic defensive tackle you’ll see in high school, though he’s a tad undersized. LSU will be UT’s greatest hindrance to landing Oliver. Compounding matters, Oliver’s former teammate at Westfield just signed with the Bayou Bengals.
The near mythical Kendell Jones from Killeen will also be a priority for UT and Strong has a great chance of landing him. Texas also has a good shot at landing Michael Williams from All Saints’ Episcopal in Fort Worth.
Look for some more defensive tackle offers to go out in the spring, perhaps to Hightower’s Darius Anderson and John Tyler’s Braylon Jones. Hitting numbers here shouldn’t be difficult.
With news breaking of defensive tackle coach, Chris Rumph, possibly leaving for Florida, the next coach may come in with targets already in mind. Personally, I’m in agreement with Helmet Boy. Hopefully Strong expands his scope westward. Unless, of course, Strong wants Brick Haley, LSU’s former d-line coach.
DEFENSIVE END: Needs, 2
Finding a Day 1 defensive end should be a priority with Texas taking some guys who will require time to develop in ’15. Finding a true SDE who can bounce from 4-tech on out should be a priority as well. Those guys are much more rare than the Fox-End guys who permeate the state so Texas may have to look far and wide to find the ‘big’ defensive end.
Erick Fowler is a Fox-End in the truest sense; part pass rushing defensive end, part outside linebacker. Think of a middle class man’s Sergio Kindle. Hailing from Manor, you have to like UT’s chances with Fowler if Strong prioritizes him. The same goes for Cibolo Steele’s Mark Jackson.
McKinney North’s Justin Madabuike is a guy I’ve liked for over a year and he could be the SDE the roster needs. He wants to hear more from Texas and I expect that to take place now that 2015 is put to bed.
LINEBACKER: Needs, 2
Jeffrey McCulloch has yet to be properly evaluated by the services but once that happens he’ll climb the charts. Judging by his growing offer list, he’ll be in high demand. Him landing anywhere but Texas would be an upset at this point. He’s a lengthy linebacker who could even dabble as a Fox down the road.
With the 2015 class being heavy in numbers, Texas can afford to be selective. Look for the premium to be put on athleticism and size. I expect Texas to look nationally at linebacker.
CORNERBACK: Needs, 2
UT has ground to make up on Jared Mayden. A lot of ground based on his previous comments. It’s not too late for him and Texas, though. We know Strong wants size and tackling ability at the position so small corners need not apply. Mayden has the traits Strong wants.
Others will emerge on our ‘potential offers’ list.
SAFETY: Needs, 2
Tons of talent at the top – as in three Top 50 national players. Texas is behind for all three so this will be a huge spring for Longhorn recruiting efforts.
This position grouping will tell you if Texas is truly turning the corner as far as becoming the dominant in-state team when it comes to recruiting. LSU is looking good for both Deontay Anderson and Eric Monroe. Brandon Jones may be the best of the bunch (could be a corner as well) and he’s largely predicted to end up at A&M. I have a weird feeling about him, though. I think Texas is in better position for him than many think.
Texas needs to land one of the three but preferably two of them.
Predicting trend lines next year, there will be a lot of youthful bodies flying around the Texas secondary next year. That’s always attractive to recruits.
The 2015 secondary haul was so strong and deep, UT can afford a miss or two here, but you’d rather not see it.
QB Shane Buechele, Lamar (Arlington, TX)
QB Dwayne Haskins, Jr., Bullis School (Potomac, MD)
QB Malik Henry, Westlake (Westlake Village, CA) – FLORIDA STATE
QB Shea Patterson, Calvary Baptist (Shreveport, LA)
RB Lil’ Jordan Humphrey, Carroll (Southlake, TX)
RB Devwah Whaley, Central (Beaumont, TX)
WR Devin Duvernay, Sachse (Sachse, TX)
WR Reggie Hemphill, Manvel (Manvel, TX) – TEXAS
WR Collin Johnson, Valley Christian (San Jose, CA) – TEXAS
WR Mykel Jones, Patterson (Patterson, LA)
WR Tre Nixon, Viera (Melbourne, FL)
TE Kaden Smith, Marcus (Flower Mound, TX)
OL Parker Boudreaux, Bishop Moore Catholic (Orlando, FL)
OL Patrick Hudson, Silsbee (Silsbee, TX) – BAYLOR
OL Greg Little, Allen (Allen, TX) – TEXAS A&M
OL JP Urquidez, Copperas Cove (Copperas Cove, TX)
DT Derrick Brown, Lanier (Buford, GA)
DT Kendell Jones, Shoemaker (Killeen, TX)
DT Ed Oliver, Westfield (Spring, TX)
DT Michael Williams, All Saints’ Episcopal (Fort Worth, TX)
DE Erick Fowler, Manor (Manor, TX)
DE Joseph Jackson, Gulliver Prep (Miami, FL)
DE Mark Jackson, Steele (Cibolo, TX)
DE Justin Madubuike, McKinney North (McKinney, TX)
LB/RB DeMarco Boyd, Gilmer (Gilmer, TX) – TEXAS
LB Jeffrey McCulloch, Aldine Davis (Houston, TX)
CB Jared Mayden, Sachse (Sachse, TX)
S Deontay Anderson, Manvel (Manvel, TX)
S Brandon Jones, Nacogdoches (Nacogdoches, TX)
S Eric Monroe, Galena Park North Shore (Houston, TX)
ATH Christian Wallace, Tompkins (Katy, TX) – TCU
QB Shawn Robinson, Guyer (Denton, TX)
WR DJ Matthews, First Coast (Jacksonville, FL)
OL Adrian Ealy, University Lab (Baton Rouge, LA)
ATH Dylan Moses, University Lab (Baton Rouge, LA)