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2013 Texas Longhorns Out of State Recruiting: Vonn Bell, Cole Luke, Marcell Harris

After signing 4 out of state recruits in 2012, Texas is still looking for their first in the 2013 class. That's largely a function of in-state talent addressing needs and a smaller class size, but we're legitimately in on 3 major talents right now - all defensive backs - one from the West, two from the heart of SEC country.

My basic tenets for OOS recruiting:

  • Talent in Texas is consistently good, but not consistent by position. Best TE in the state is a meaningless assignation if the TE crop stinks. Recruit OOS to fill needs when in-state doesn't meet absolute standards; even it offends Texas high school coaches or makes you rack up some frequent flier miles
  • Tie goes to the Texas kid, but there aren't that many ties
  • It's always easier to recruit West than East
  • Aggressively pursue elite players with a legitimate interest in Texas even if means they may say no and harm the scholarships offered vs. accepted metrics that Mack Brown cherishes. He still quotes his "hit" rate every signing day like clockwork
  • In Mack's defense, crop dusting scholarship offers indiscriminately commoditizes your brand - find 6-12 guys and focus

The Longhorn fan mindset with respect to out of state recruiting reveals a tendency to either fetishize out of state prospects for their relative novelty or, conversely, to downplay their talent and competition level as if DeSoto and Gilmer are the Texas high school talent norm.

That written, I had a work colleague who once proudly showed me video of his state championship Massachusetts high school team and I've never seen that many slow-moving, red-faced guys named Sully. "Oh my gawd, I forgot about the game against Milford, we crushed those fackin' quee-arrs. Little Sully threw to Big Sully for like two hunnert yah-ds."

I do have a lot of sympathy for our staff in one area of OOS recruiting: every year, coveted National Prospect X mentions that Texas was his dream school, but Texas never really recruited him. Fan mayhem ensues. 95% of the time that player collects scholarship offers like ego badges or he is actively represented by a street agent and wants Texas as a stalking horse and media generator to drive up his bid price. IGNORE.

Here's a quick rundown on the current considerations:

Vonn Bell

The Rossville, GA athlete (Rossville is essentially a suburb of Chattanooga, TN; roughly equidistant from Knoxville and Athens) is a complete safety with the ability to range deep or support against the run. 6-1, 190, great instincts, and a turnover machine. You know that player who always seems to be scooping up a fumble, catching that ricochet interception, or stripping an inattentive ball carrier? Yeah, you do. That's Bell.

The second half of his highlights are on offense and you can see that he's nifty, can stop-start, change direction, and has hands. If you want to be hyper-critical of this natural safety, it's that he's one gear shy of athletic freak, but I guess Cindy Crawford has a mole. Academics are solid and he seems legitimately open to going anywhere in the country. In addition to the expected SEC suitors, Ohio State and Urban Meyer have targeted Bell heavily and the Meyer full court press is a slight to behold.

Bell has already visited Texas, enjoys Austin and has sipped from the well of Akina kool-aid. This is a scholarship we'll hold open as long as it takes and the longer the recruitment lasts, the better our chances.

Cole Luke

The Chandler, AZ product (Phoenix suburb) finally got his offer from Texas after visiting back in March. Luke left disappointed by the lack of an offer, but recently took to Twitter to proclaim his joy that the problem was alleviated.

I like Luke, not just for the Cool Hand Luke reference possibilities, but also Luke, I Am Your Father if he gets burned on a go route. He's skinny, but like Carrington Byndom's HS tape, he shows he'll stick his head in there and he's wiry strong. "Needs to improve strength" is the most fixable thing you can write about a DB prospect and much preferred over "terrible feet", "is sorta pussyish" or "runs like he's wearing galoshes filled with cat turd."

He's not quite a pit bull-greyhound mix like Antwuan Davis, but the requisite athletic ability is there. There are a couple of highlights where you see him take an extra "false" step on recovery and I don't know if that's technique or speaks to his stop-start, but he's generally stuck to receivers like glue and can't be shaken. His punt return and some of his work on interceptions show that he can do some things with the ball. Mack Brown kid and academics are in order.

Our delayed scholarship offer can be interpreted in a number of ways: maybe (like me) the staff isn't quite as high on Maurice Smith as some believe or maybe Luke's offer is a subtle way of putting some timeline pressure on him. Maybe we like both and first one to commit gets the 'ship. In any event, I'm pleased to see Akina not settling.

Marcell Harris

The big safety (6-1, 205) from Orlando is a vicious hitter with surprising ball skills and mobility for an athlete with his frame and punishing reputation. He's built thick and it's not unreasonable to think that he could grow into a DeMarco Cobbs style LB, but he absolutely has the athleticism to play safety in the right scheme. I'm blown away by his physicality - evident in the tackles he breaks when the ball is in his hands or when he corrals a runner to deliver a blow or - as you see in one highlight - a body slam. The functional strength level in his hips and core is pretty much off the charts for a DB and he has instincts for the ball in the air that you don't usually see in a run-support monster.

I typically write off Florida kids as pipe dreams and tend to mock the posters who advocate intensive Florida recruiting strategies, but Harris has shown a consistent interest in Texas and camped Austin a couple of times, more or less forcing us to take him seriously. Everyone wants him and he has offers from Texas, Florida, USC, FSU and pretty much everyone else that matters. Like Bell and Luke, he has his ducks in a row academically. The smart money thinks Florida and their advantageous location and depth chart will win out, but he's well worth holding a spot for and battling down to the wire.

Harris may be a 4.55 40 guy on the stopwatch, but he covers a lot of ground and he brings bad intentions when he gets there. This is a pure football player, a player that can set the tone for an entire defense, and someone I covet. Diaz could cause a lot of mischief with this skill set.


Though Texas has also been discussed for elite prospects like Su'a Cravens and others, I don't consider us legitimate contenders. And if we are, it'll be a happy surprise for all of us. Right now, we are very much DB or bust for OOS prospects.

I'd be pleased with commitments from any of the three, but Bell or Harris could be difference makers.