The Longhorns have 20 2015 commitments (that number could be viewed as 18 depending on how you perceive John Burt's fidelity or Matthew Merrick's greyshirt). I see 18. That means Strong and his staff should close out with 6-10 athletes to finish out the 2015 recruiting class. For a Texas fan base accustomed to securing 90% of their recruiting class by August, a late push recruiting model that lets the tea steep, evaluates senior tape, slow plays, takes their own counsel and hits the road nationally in earnest is both a source of interest and considerable angst. For the first time in a long time, the success of this class will be determined late. All-Star games and National Signing Day take on real drama.
Strong and his staff have worked hard to form a solid base of talent so far (I really only see 3-4 guys that I need to be persuaded on and twice that number are gems in plain sight), but the difference between good and great will be determined in the last sprint to the finish line. I wish this final push was just cherry picking, but the program doesn't have the depth for that sort of luxury. We need players. Everywhere.
Let's go position by position...
We'll take a graduate transfer or a JUCO if it's the right fit. The options are myriad and I don't want to bog down in speculation. Just know that we'll take the right guy in a heartbeat. Assuming we can beat out others suitors. Merrick is a longer term play on a different developmental timeline and Gentry is solidly committed. The coach's decision to not throw Heard to the wolves was the right one and it will help us down the road. Right now, this program needs a steady-handed mercenary.
Chris Warren or bust. The big power back is coveted for his size and vision and while his highlights don't always leap from the screen, there's a sophistication in his skill set that should adapt well to higher level football. I think we get him.
I don't think Burt ends up here. If his late flirtation was with UCLA or Notre Dame I'd feel better. Auburn. We've courted jitterbug slot Ryan Newsome for months, but I wonder if there has been a small element of slow play at work with rising sleepers like TCU commit JF Thomas and Florida product and Georgia commit Gilbert Johnson still out there. Or maybe both sides are just taking their time on sealing the inevitable. In any event, we'll take Newsome and Thomas if we can. Thomas isn't wavering from his Frog commitment though.
Big Michigan decommitment Chris Clark and Miami product Devonaire Clarington are legitimate possibilities (can't say the same for Gragg); big-time prospects that could contribute immediately. Texas is in the final three of four for both. Landing one is crucial, but I fear this may be the position where we brick outright. At least we won't have to read any recruiting write ups about the lack of TEs to recruit in Texas. Strong and his staff did the impossible and traveled outside of Texas. Planes and such. Is that legal?
I think the staff grabs Mississippi JUCO OT Brandon Hodges and calls it a day. Hodges is an early enrollee with increasing late interest from several SEC programs. Joe Wickline isn't counting on simple age and experience to improve his OL even with five MASH unit starters returning next year. He's eager to replace two or three of those guys outright. We're taking OL with different developmental timelines to help facilitate that. I like the core of this OL group quite a bit.
We need a defensive tackle. Your guess is as good as mine. We also need to make sure Du'vonta Lampkin doesn't stray.
Three outstanding prospects remain on the board in Indiana ILB Darrin Kirkland, Mesquite standout OLB Malik Jefferson and Florida hit man ILB Cecil Cherry. Jefferson is as good as it gets, Kirkland is a big-time national recruit and Cherry is an evil thumper. We'll land one of them. Two is very possible. Skyline's Anthony Wheeler seems to have cooled.
The Longhorns have a glaring need at CB and four big candidates to sell on playing time and first rate coaching. Securing two of these guys would be ideal. One would be a disappointment. Zero would be a disaster. Holton Hill and Kris Boyd are elite in-state prospects and Texas has legitimate shots at both. I like both a lot. The #1 ranked JUCO CB in the country, Justin Martin, has legitimate interest in Texas and Florida product Davante Davis is currently enamored with Strong, but we'll have to fight hard to get him out of the Sunshine state.
Florida product Sheldrick Redwine may be a fallback if we don't get who we covet most.
Malik Jefferson's versatile teammate DeAndre McNeal has suggested he'd like to attend the same school as Jefferson, but that's standard recruiting chatter. Dynamic Tim Irvin plays bigger than his specs and could help the Longhorns at safety or on offense. Hall of Famer Uncle Michael may not approve of a non-Florida destination though, no matter what Luke Campbell recommends. Similarly, another Florida product, Jordan Cronkrite, could play a number of positions, though he seems to prefer the ball in his hands at RB. Seems unlikely.
Soso Jamabo seems like a pipe dream.
We'd gladly take any of these guys.
- This staff needs to show closing ability to fuel buy-in and establish credibility. A floundering finish on the trail paired with a bowl loss makes for tough off-season headwinds.
- It's 1100 miles as the crow flies from Miami to Austin. That's longer than Miami to Columbus, OH, much less the SEC or ACC. Just sayin'.
- Texas fans haven't seen it in a very long time, but securing a couple of key high profile commitments late in the process can capture fence sitters with a palpable sense of momentum and guarantee against late defections, raising a respectable class ranked in the teens well into the single digits. Alternatively, recruiting isn't horseshoes. Being in the mix is nice, but it's winner-takes-all.
- CB, LB, TE, a DT and the right short term solution QB are glaring needs. Nail them all and Texas fans should feel rightfully giddy.
Which five players do you covet most? What constitutes a good finish for Texas? Best case? Worst case?