Numbers and needs are ever-evolving as the coaches assemble more data on the current status of their program. Some positions, once thought to be well under control, need help. With other positions, it is the opposite.
2017 has told us a lot about Charlie Strong, many members of his staff and a great many players. Because of that, the entire future of the program under Strong’s guidance is up in the air. Priority No. 1 for Strong is to right the ship in order to keep his job. Priority No. 2 is rounding out his roster so he is not moving wide receivers to running back or cornerback and protecting against potentially crippling injuries down the road.
We have heard the ceiling on the class is 22 so we will work within that frame.
Committed: 1 (Sam Ehlinger)
Comments:I have often stated a program needs at least four quarterbacks in the pipeline and next season Texas will have three in sophomore Shane Buechele, redshirt sophomore Matthew Merrick and true freshman Sam Ehlinger. There are two ways to look at filling the second quarterback: a JUCO who helps offset the youth of the three aforementioned, or a slash player like Greg Ward at Houston.
Solution:Get Greg Ward at Houston, but get him before he gets there. Like Ward, Bryson Smith hails from John Tyler. Also like Ward, Smith committed to Houston. That would be the easiest de-commitment call ever, “Coach Herman, you know better than I the allure of the University of Texas.” It does not have to be Smith, but a player like him makes more sense than a JUCO to me, simply because Shane and Sam already have leadership qualities and are more advanced than their age.
Comments:An amendment to previous class needs is adding a second running back to the class. I am not saying they will, but they should consider it because of Foreman’s impending departure, the injury history of Chris Warren and Kirk Johnson and Tristian Houston’s ineffectiveness. That leaves Texas with one running back without immediate questions, and Kyle Porter was hurt a couple of times in high school.
Solution:Texas is running the ball 50 times a game and a lot of those carries will likely depart in Foreman and definitely depart in Swoopes. That makes for an attractive sell to someone like JK Dobbins who wants early touches. UT’s commitment to running the ball should have running backs far and wide returning coaches’ phone calls. If Dobbins is a no-go, the staff could look to Cedar Hill’s Kaegun Williams. I would offer Eno Benjamin regardless, and then search out-of-state as well as JUCO. The state is not awash in talent this cycle.
Needs: 2, maybe 3
Committed: 1 (Damion Miller)
Comments:If we are going to add numbers at running back and quarterback, we are going to have to steal from somewhere. Texas only loses Jacorey Warrick this season, and has way more elder contributors than what was thought just two months ago. Armanti Foreman, Jake Oliver, Dorian Leonard and Lorenzo Joe all return next year, so go big for receivers in 2018. There is still plenty of young talent in John Burt (hands issues aside), Devin Duvernay, Jerrod Heard, Collin Johnson, and Lil’Jordan Humphrey, as well as Davion Curtis and Reggie Hemphill-Mapps coming off of redshirts.
Solution:Miller’s Mr. Outside, and ideally Jalen Reagor is Mr. Inside. Remember, in this system you are just as much a deep threat from the slot as you are the outside and Reagor is without peer in that regard. I could see the staff taking Omar Manning, who like Leonard, is a target receiver who can take it the distance. Three receivers is a luxury in this class, however. If Texas cannot land either, I like Charleston Rambo as a guy who can play inside or outside which adds versatility in a small class. There are a number of receivers who are talented enough to be in this class. I’ll be interested to see how it shakes out.
Needs: 0, maybe 1
Comments:Texas has one completion to a tight end this season. The staff would like to sign a player here, but do not want to reach. Per his Twitter, Peyton Aucoin thinks he will be more than ready to help fill the void left by Caleb Bluiett next season. Hopefully that’s the case, otherwise the Texas run game will lose some punch. Garrett Gray is also at the position but it is tough to have expectations of him at this point.
Solution:Tell every quality tight end who fits the system your tight ends average 39 yards and a touchdown per reception and see who bites. I would probably look JUCO to find a more physically ready player who can help with blocking responsibilities. That would give you Andrew Beck as a senior, a junior JUCO, and redshirt freshman Aucoin. As I’ve mentioned, Naashon Hughes could move over like Bluiett before him but his athleticism on defense is perpetually tantalizing. If I am looking for a tight end and am having trouble finding one, I would check and see who other schools and coaches with a good track record have offered at the position, like the guy who unearthed Geoff Swaim.
Comments:After Xavier Newman stuffed himself into that new pneumatic tube running from Desoto to Boulder, Texas is left with no commits on the o-line. Bad break, he is a good player, but Texas is set at center with the emergence of Zach Shackelford and Jake McMillon. While Newman could play guard, Texas prefers more size at the position. Currently the right side of the line is under-performing which is unfortunate because you expect more out of senior Kent Perkins. Right tackle has essentially been manned by depth players rather than front-line starters. They are battling, but they’re limited.
Solution:Texas could look to for a JUCO right tackle but that is highly unlikely because of all the talented youth on the roster. Someone of Buck Major, Denzel Okafor, Jean Delance, or Patrick Hudson will likely emerge at the position. Or maybe that player is Walker Little. Little is talented and physically developed enough that he could player early if needed (though he should redshirt). Because of the back-to-back large classes, Texas does not have to reach for bodies, but landing Little is an absolute must. Other than Little, things are pretty quiet on the o-line recruiting front. They’ll continue to chip away at Chuck Filiaga, who fits as a great OT/G prospect.
Committed: 2 (Lagaryonn Carson, Taquon Graham)
Comments:The worst kept secret in recruiting is Carson’s issues. You have to count him as a luxury if he makes it, rather than a sure thing to be a part of the class. Graham’s a great SDE prospect, especially in a 4-man front. Overall the Texas defensive line has performed admirably as the upperclassmen have played like the experienced veterans they are and the younger players have flashed the talent we know they have.
Solution:Texas has the potential to assemble an elite, top-to-bottom, defensive line unit in the coming years if they can finish out this class to pair with last year’s. In order to do that Texas has to land K’Lavon Chaisson and Marvin Wilson and then protect itself against the potential loss of Carson, a player with as much upside as anyone in the country. That’s where one of Alec Jackson or Ryan Johnson, both from Alabama, could come in. I also like Ondario Robinson but I suspect he’s firm in his A&M commitment. Chaisson would be the first true Fox candidate Strong has landed since his arrival. Anyone watching Hager and Roach this year have to be salivating at the possibility of the North Shore Mustang.
Comments:The linebackers have been solid versus the pass this year but not physical enough, or disruptive enough, in the run game. Such is life in the Big 12 where you have to make trade-offs with player strengths and weaknesses. UT desperately needs a b-gap to b-gap ‘backer with enough range to not be exploited in the passing game. Strong could also use an athletic freak who does display physicality. Fortunately those players exist…
Solution:Unfortunately Texas is not at the forefront of Anthony Hines’ recruitment, though its thoroughly in the mix for Baron Browning. A player I like if Hines doesn’t happen is Sachse’s Riko Jeffers; a physical linebacker who can run. While recruiting is important for filling holes, Texas should have the bodies on campus to improve ILB next year in Jeffrey McCulloch, Erik Fowler, and Demarco Boyd. If nothing else, competition should improve play.
Committed: 3 (Kobe Boyce, Montrell Estell, Josh Thompson)
Comments:As a unit the Texas secondary has been poor to put it mildly, which is the largest mystery of the season. Individually we have seen some positive things from Kris Boyd, Jason Hall, and even some others, but the regression from Davante Davis and Holton Hill has been crippling. Texas loses Dylan Haines (playing better of late), Kevin Vaccaro, and Sheroid Evans. We know they want to get faster at corner, and want to be more comfortable with DeShon Elliott and Brandon Jones at safety (it’s only a matter of time for those two).
Solution:The raw upside of the three committed players is fantastic. Boyce is fleet of foot; the type of corner you can play man-off and not expect to give up a 65 yard touchdown. He is a field corner who should not need constant safety help. Estell is a highly coordinated athlete with range and ball skills, as I have stated, he is Mykkele Thompson. Josh Thompson is having a monster year as Nacogdoches has moved him from corner to safety. His range, play making and willingness to mix it up makes him a take for any team in the country, recruiting rankings be damned. So that gives Texas a solid trifecta of field corner, deep safety/nickel, and safety/nickel. What remains as needs is another corner or two, preferably with speed. You will not find a faster corner in the nation than LSU commit, Kary Vincent. The staff should also look at Kendall Sheffield at Blinn who would provide immediate help. And my fondness of Saiid Adebo is legion
TL;DR version:an extra quarterback, an extra running back, potentially no tight end, potentially one less receiver, holding at four on offensive and defensive line, potentially one less linebacker (the issues are not numbers), an extra defensive back, probably should find a kicker too