Get FREE premium access until April 4th, then pay a reduced monthly rate for five months! Click HERE to sign up now!
AUSTIN — After the early signing period ended in mid-December, Texas had one of the top-ranked classes in the country on any of the recruiting services. However, the class was not close to its max capacity and still had glaring needs across the defensive line, including a commit that chose not to sign when he had the chance to.
In between the first National Signing Day and the second one on Wednesday, Texas head coach Tom Herman and his staff made sure to not only address the defensive line but other needs as well. Despite that, Herman couldn’t hide his excitement at the class of big men he was able to bring to Texas.
“Obviously a lot of the work was done by December 21st, but adding the eight guys that we added today really kind of solidifies the class especially on the defensive front,” Herman said Wednesday. “We made some big-time strides there with Keondre (Coburn), Daniel (Carson), Joseph (Ossai) and Mike (Williams). So that was really important knowing that we didn’t sign any on December 21st, but knew we were in really good position with a lot of them.”
Following the early signing period, defensive line coach Oscar Giles was the subject of some criticism for not signing anyone at the Longhorns’ first chance. In addition, some of the players who eventually ended up signing had flirtations with other in- and out-of-state rivals.
Those flirtations never seriously amounted to anything in the end, and Giles brought in a stellar front-line class.
“My hat is off to Oscar Giles for staying the course,” Herman said. “This was a bit of a rollercoaster ride, especially in-state at defensive line. We finished really strong.”
In addition to the five signees who will play up front, Texas signed one of the strongest defensive back classes in history, and brought in an Under Armour All-American in Ayodele Adeoye, who Herman has previously called the best high school middle linebacker he’s seen. With that talent heading to Austin, Herman described what the situation was for defensive coordinator Todd Orlando.
“There’s going to be a lot of competition on the defensive side,” Herman said. “On both sides of the ball. But I think we all can see, whoa, that side of the ball just got real in a hurry. To sign the three best safeties in the country, as well as what we think are the two best corners in the country, and a do everything guy in D’shawn Jamison, then the two best defensive tackles in the state in Moro (Ojomo) and Keondre, then the best pass-rusher in the state with Joseph Ossai, then Mike Williams and Daniel Carson as well.”
In addition to the five big guys, three other players inked with the Longhorns on Wednesday. Yoakum athlete Josh Moore, who had offers from more than 50 colleges, chose the Longhorns on Sunday and projects to playing receiver. Running back Keaontay Ingram, who committed during the previous summer but didn’t sign due to several different circumstances, has the capability to come in and play right away. Christian Jones, an offensive lineman from Northwest Houston, comes in as a big athlete who will need several years to develop.
Part of the reason why the Longhorns’ 2018 class swelled to its 27-person size was thanks to a lot of people, as Herman mentioned in his press conference. The Texas head coach made sure to thank all the professors, support staff, signees, players and anyone involved in the visit process for a recruit who took time out of their weekends to help bring the class labeled #RevolUTion18 to Texas.
“To a person, the people that have come on visits here to the University of Texas have always given me feedback that they’re just so impressed with the people, they’re impressed with their honesty, their hospitality, their forthcomingness, and just their overall demeanor, how much they love this university,” Herman said.
Although Herman admitted no one person is more important than another in recruiting, two support staffers’ efforts made the class possible; director of player personnel Derek Chang and assistant director of player personnel Bryan Carrington.
Both staffers came from Houston following Herman’s hire in November 2016. Faced with a difficult transition class, Chang suggested that Herman not try and fill the class all the way to the 25-member mark, instead of trying to simply fill the class for numbers sake. The 18-person class who signed one year ago allowed room for the current 27-person class signed yesterday.
“What a fantastic idea by Derek, and a tremendous amount of foresight to know, and confidence in what we were going to be able to do here,” Herman said.
While Chang had an idea for the class, Carrington was able to get out on the road and help bring people into the class thanks to a rules loophole. Before hiring offensive line coach Herb Hand as the 10th assistant, Herman sent Carrington out on the road as the temporary holder of that role.
Herman praised the young staffer who worked several different non-football jobs before finding a recruiting role at Houston.
“Bryan does a fantastic job of connecting with players,” Herman said. “He’s young. He shares similar backgrounds to a lot of them. He grew up in Houston. He is passionate about the University of Texas.”
Wednesday’s press conference was the first time since following the Texas Bowl that Herman was available to the media. Since then, he made a major hire for the 10th assistant position in Hand. Hand becomes co-offensive coordinator and the offensive line coach, moving previous OL coach Derek Warehime to tight ends coach.
Herman said he was “thrilled to death” to have Hand and thanked UT president Greg Fenves and athletic director Chris Del Conte for their assistance in getting the former Auburn coach from the Plains to the 40 Acres.
“Really excited,” Herman said. “This is the first time I’ve spoken to the media since we’ve hired Herb. Excited is an understatement. This is a guy, you ask anybody in college football who the top two or three O-line coaches in the country, his name always comes up.”
In addition to being asked about Hand, Herman was asked about who would have the responsibility of calling plays in 2018. Herman appeared to have much more of an effect calling plays in the bowl game, and was seen speaking into the headset play after play in a major departure from the rest of the regular season.
Previously, Herman has spoken about the difficulty of running a program and calling plays. When asked Wednesday if he’d be open to calling plays, Herman said he would “if I felt like it helped us win,” though he didn’t 100 percent guarantee that would happen.
“It’s to be determined,” he said “I think, again, to judge any kind of coach’s abilities based on the circumstances that surrounded the offense — we got to get better as coaches. We have to get better as coaches on that side of the ball. There were a lot of circumstances there that probably didn’t allow for a fair observation.”
Herman now has a little more than a month before spring practices begin on March 20. In that time, he’ll have an opportunity to get started on the class of 2019, one UT has dubbed “#fUTure19.”
“Recruiting is like shaving, right?” Herman asked. “If you don’t do it for a couple days, you wake up and look like crap. So today was symbolic for a lot of reasons, one of them being that we are officially closing the book on the 2018 class, and now going full speed ahead on the 2019 class.”
Texas knows the landscape will be different in recruiting in-state after Oklahoma made another playoff run and Texas A&M hired a new coaching staff stocked with coaches known as high-quality recruiters.
Herman admitted other high profile coaches in-state better make his coaching staff recruit better “or you’re in the wrong place.” Herman did note one quality the Longhorns have that other schools do not.
“It’s our job to make sure that we keep the best players,” Herman said. “We’re very unique. It says ‘The University of Texas’, right? There’s very few institutions that are The University of Something. That means a lot to us. We want to make sure that the best players do stay here.”
Tom Herman on individual February signees
Daniel Carson: “I think Daniel is a phenomenal player, a great frame. He’s going to be a really, really big dude.”
Keondre Coburn and Moro Ojomo: “: I don’t think — I know we signed the two best defensive tackles in the state of Texas in Keondre Coburn and Moro Ojomo. Those guys are going to be expected to compete very early in their career. I think the biggest time you’ll see them compete, though, is maybe their sophomore year.”
Keaontay Ingram, specifically on being “the guy” come week 1: “I don’t know that you’re ever going to say we expect him to be the guy. That’s not fair to the guys that are bleeding and sweating right now for us and have in the past. Every one of these guys, all 27 of them, at some point in their career we expect them to be the guy or we wouldn’t sign you at Texas. But to your point, there is definitely a need at that position to get better. Whether that’s the development of Danny Young, Kyle Porter, Toneil Carter, Tristian Houston, great, great, we’re getting better. If that’s the infusion of a Keaontay Ingram, great, we’re going to get better. But, yeah, that fact is not lost on any of us in this program that we got to get better at that position.”
Joshua Moore: “That’s where I see him fitting in, kind of doing a little bit of everything. Per our last conversation, probably slot receiver would be where he starts off in this program. Could he play outside receiver? Absolutely. Is he going to be a dynamic returner? Yup. Could he play corner? Yup. I think the necessity right now is probably at slot receiver. If we find some other guys that can do the job as good, if not better, we’ll find another home for him. But probably the most versatile guy in this class that can do so many things.”
Joseph Ossai: “The best pass-rusher in the state.”
Mike Williams: “Mike Williams is a guy, again I told you last year who I think might be a sleeper, this guy I loved his film. He’s a 6’3″, 263 pound quarterback. I walked into his high school. He had a bar on his back with 315 pounds. His feet were perfectly straight together, and he did six reps of a squat touching his butt to his heels. Then he jumped on the power clean, power cleaned it butt to the heels with his feet straight ahead. Whoa, that’s a really, really flexible, athletic dude.”