Through two games we’ve noticed some data points about the current team. Namely, it’s still not up to Charlie Strong’s standards when it comes to mental toughness and it lacks the type of athletes he’ll need to land if he wants to win big.
Strong has, and will, simultaneously benefit and be hamstrung by Mack Brown’s recruiting. There is a lot of upper-class talent on defense, but other than that, the overall depth in quality is either lacking or too young to perform at a high level.
It’s going to be a long process for Strong to right the ship. First, he must keep it from listing on the field, then he needs to infuse the depth chart with better talent who fit his schemes perfectly. Let’s take a look at where recruiting stands.
The situation: New Mexico product, Zach Gentry, is committed but he looks to be a project who will require some time. That sounds like the quarterbacks currently on the roster. Going forward the staff knows it must prepare like David Ash is done playing.
2015 outlook: The staff must find a JUCO quarterback with some snap who can come in and compete to start next year. I like Gentry, but I can’t see him being the guy from Day 1. I doubt former Clemson quarterback, Chad Kelly, will pass the character test, but the staff should kick the tires on him. He’s playing JUCO ball in Mississippi. There’s always Daniel Fitzwater. The staff has the opportunity to fix that mistake. He should have been offered a minute after Max Wittek fell through.
2016 outlook: I still believe Louisiana’s Shea Patterson will end up at LSU. California quarterback Malik Henry isn’t going to be an option. Shane Buechele is the most likely prospect to end up at Texas. I wish he was 2015 because I believe he’ll be ready to play early.
The situation: Ultra-thin. Johnathan Gray hasn’t looked like an early entry player yet, so for now I’ll assume he’ll be back. Behind him, there’s absolutely zero proven depth, though Duke Catalon has shown promise in practice. There’s also D’Onta Foreman who showed nice burst against North Texas.
2015 outlook: Texas is going to throw bodies at the problem. Kirk Johnson blew me away at the July 18th camp. Previously I liked him at safety but after seeing his quickness in person he’ll be hard to move. Jordan Stevenson won’t be a high-volume back, but he’ll be a game breaker if deployed properly. Tristian Houston looks like a very ‘safe’ take. He won’t be great but I think he can be productive behind a solid line. Chris Warren looms. His commitment would make this one of the best running back hauls in the nation.
2016 outlook: Beaumont Central’s Devwah Whaley is the lone 2016 running back offer at this point. Stratford’s Rakeem Boyd, Kingwood’s Sewo Olonilua, and Katy’s Kyle Porter appear to be the most likely to join Whaley on the offer list. If Texas lands Warren as expected, they can be very picky in 2016.
The situation: Where are the game breakers? There’s nobody who can stretch the field or command double teams. Texas needs size and speed on the outside and I don’t see much help in sight.
2015 outlook: Florida’s John Burt is committed and Texas is in good position with Aledo’s Ryan Newsome. They’re solid complementary parts, Burt is an outside threat and Newsome is a blur in the slot, but again, a receiver with 6-3+ size and speed is a desperate need.
2016 outlook: Kirk Johnson’s brother, Collin, is that tall player who can stretch the field but Texas would be wise to try and address the need sooner. At this point, Texas is being curiously picky with its offers. They’re already late on LSU commit, Dee Anderson and have yet to offer the player many consider to be the best in the state at the position, Bellaire’s Courtney Lark. Of the other outstanding offers, I don’t see Texas being the favorite for anyone with the exception of Reggie Hemphill.
The situation: M.J. McFarland is showing a pulse so that will buy a little bit more time. Blake Whiteley and Andrew Beck both have the majority of their eligibility left and the staff is high on both.
2015 outlook: I think the staff wants to see what Will Gragg decides before offering more tight ends (possibly Comanche’s Hunter Thedford). Gragg, the Arkansas native and Razorback legacy, will visit Texas in October. This should give Texas time to further evaluate Thedford.
2016 outlook: Tight end will certainly be a need position in 2016. Currently Texas has offered only Kaden Smith from Flower Mound Marcus. I think he ends up at Stanford. Carthage’s Marquis Guinn could get a look but I’m not so sure. I expect the staff to look out of state, perhaps to New Orleans’ Jamal Pettigrew.
The situation: Sheesh. Between a transfer, suspensions, injuries and youth, Joe Wickline can’t catch a break. It’s a rag-tag group with very little experience but there is talent in the younger ranks and more on the way in 2015. Help can’t get here soon enough.
2015 outlook: With the recent addition of Coppell’s Connor Williams, this is a fully complementary line with many possible combinations. Westfield’s Toby Weathersby may be UT’s highest rated recruit. Euless Trinity’s Patrick Vahe is also highly coveted. Buck Major has as much upside as just about any offensive lineman in the state and Garrett Thomas is a big, decently athletic and aggressive guard/tackle. Texas may still add North Shore’s Tyler Moore.
2016 outlook: The top two prospects in the state, Greg Little and Patrick Hudson, are committed to A&M and Baylor respectively. The drop off from those two is significant. I doubt JP Urquidez’s offer is committable. Belton’s Zach Shackleford is receiving genuine interest and I can see him getting an offer down the road. Over the next couple of months I expect more offensive lineman to emerge, they’re typically the last to surface because of the developmental curve.