We're less than a fortnight out from Signing Day 2016, and the fact is that Texas will be getting faxes from a lot of guys who seemed like pipe dreams during the Fall of Our Discontent. There's a lot of work left to be done and plenty of drama figures to unfold between now and when the hay is in the barn, but a Top 10-12 finish is squarely within Charlie's sights.
Most of the remaining fireworks will be going down on the defensive side of the ball, but the Longhorns' offensive haul should provide a solid foundation for the Sterlin Gilbert Era with a few high-upside targets still in the mix. Let's see who's in the fold and who's on the fence as we enter the home stretch.
Shane Buechele, 4*, Arlington Lamar (Early Enrollee)
Boo is already on campus, and figures to be in the thick of the 2016 QB Derby with some Spring reps under his belt. As an old-school Rangers fan I'll be accidentally calling him Steve at least two dozen times during his Longhorn career, but if he refines his Colt McCoy Starter Kit tools he could make quite a name for himself before it's all said and done.
Never say never to a late-breaking grad transfer, but there doesn't appear to be anybody on the radar right now. Charlie's team is on the floor.
Kyle Porter, 4*, Houston Katy
Porter's not the sexiest RB prospect to ever come down the pike - he's not a blazer and isn't possessed of jaw-dropping quicks. He does sport solid long speed, impressive balance, good patience and vision behind the LOS, some nifty shifty action in the hole, and solid lateral bounce in the open field.
You'd probably prefer a different style of back as a pure complement to D'Onta Foreman and Chris Warren, but injuries happen and you can all to easily end up here if you run out of reliable mail-carriers.
Devwah Whaley, 4*, Beaumont Central (Currently committed to Arkansas)
Whaley's got terrific acceleration and straight line speed and can easily outrun angles once he's up to gear. He runs with reasonable authority for his size and has the loose hips and balance you need to shake off arm tackles and leg slaps as he's breaking through the hole. He's got some plus receiving potential out of the backfield and can actually haul in contested grabs more than five yards past the LOS - he could be pure murder on circle routes with all the room to roam provided by the 5333 Offense.
Whaley was flirting with Georgia (a program with an eye for RB talent) for a while, but he's currently on board with Arky and likes their depth chart with Alex Collins declaring for the 2016 draft. He's not thought to be out of reach for Texas, though, and whoever speaks up first between him and Porter likely ends up as the Longhorns' lone RB signee for this class.
Darius Anderson, 3*, Richardson George Ranch (Currently committed to TCU)
Anderson can go from zero to sixty with the best of them, but this recruitment probably went from sixty to zero when he committed to TCU on Wednesday.
Demarco Boyd, 3*, Gilmer (Early Enrollee)
Boyd did it all at Gilmer and probably gets an initial look at linebacker, but ass-stomping F-back figures to be his ultimate positional destination. It may take a while to see how things shake out among all of Texas' available Extra Blocking Surfaces over the next few seasons, but out of the gate it should be fun to watch Boyd play Beowulf to Steve Edmond's freshman-year Grendel on kick cover team.
Peyton Aucoin, 3*, New Orleans Brother Martin
It's not necessarily auspicious when your senior HUDL highlights start off with an obvious hold on a kick return, but it gets better. Aucoin seems poised to carry on the fine Extra Blocking Surface tradition that has been a Longhorn hallmark since the departure of David Thomas. The good news? He can actually block! While he drops his head too much on first contact and needs tighter steps to consistently hit targets at the second level, he's got the frame and the natural strength to serve as a plus-plus in-line blocker and also keep a Tony Hills-style conversion to OT on the table. Hell, just serving as a willing KR blocker as a freshman would bring a welcome addition to a return unit that tended to make crossing the 25 yard line look like Operation Market Garden.
Irvin Smith, 4*, New Orleans Brother Martin (Currently committed to Texas A&M)
Smith has the size, frame, speed and hands to be a legit two-way threat as a more traditional TE or nu-skool H-back/B-back hybrid. Keep him around 240 and use him as an H-back and occasionally flexed out mega-blocker for the quick game or bulk him up and use him more traditionally in-line - either way, he's a talent you want on hand.
As of now Smith remains committed to A&M and they might have weathered the fallout from their Fleeing Five-Star Fandango, but Texas will push here and the flip odds are probably coin flip or better.
Committed: Collin Johnson, 4*, San Jose Valley Christian (Early Enrollee)
The 6'6" Longhorn legacy is light on recent highlights due to a September shoulder injury, but he's heavy on the kind of downfield domination potential that Sterlin Gilbert needs to get this offense firing on all cylinders.
Johnson's got the stride and glide to eat up yards, reasonable quicks out of angled cuts for a guy that tall and a real feel for high-pointing the ball. His soft hands and great body control could make him murder in the red zone and also allow him to thrive in the back-shoulder game that punishes default Cover Three looks. In a spread em' out O that affords dozens of deep sideline opportunities a game with a safety nowhere in sight, Johnson could make some immediate noise opposite John Burt.
Reggie Hemphill-Mapps, 3*, Manvel High
Hemphill sports a solid all-around skillset, and he'll probably fit inside between twin towers John Burt and Collin Johnson.
While he lacks Daje-style megaquicks, he's more than capable of racking up the RAC in the quick game. His experience under center should utlimately serve him well in ID'ing coverages and internalizing the option route concepts that take this O from explosive to nigh-unstoppable.
Davion Curtis, 3*, Temple High
Curtis brings the pure speedburner component to this class. He's probably not the most refined route runner, but that's not really this offense's M.O. He's got the speed to hang on the outside - though that high-kneed take-off isn't going to get it done against 20-year olds playing press coverage - but he'll be ticketed to line up in the slot and cook overmatched safeties.
Lil'Jordan Humphrey, 3*, Southlake Carroll
Humphrey's football HUDL highlights are private, but you can check out 45 seconds of his hardwood stylings at the link. He's been a bit of a confounding prospect as there are questions around his ultimate position projection, but when you've got a 6'5" dude who plays basketball, wide receiver and running back you get him in the mix and figure it out later. Texas and Cal are the two schools in the mix, and at this point we should feel pretty good about getting him in the fold. Some creative mix and match with Humphrey and felow multi-tool DeAndre McNeal could make the Lil' and Finessin' Apostrophe Hour a catastrophe for opposing DCs.
Jean Delance, 4*, North Mesquite
Jean Delance (possibly French for 'John the Lance') has great feet, a solid kick-slide and the wingspan you want in a future left tackle. He's a bit light in the ass at the moment and spent some of the Under Armour game on roller skates, but packing on good muscle is easy in college. As things stand now he's your likeliest bet to succeed Connor Williams on the left side - hopefully in 2019.
Denzel Okafor, 4*, Lewisville
Okafor is a tremendously athletic dude whose early 2* ranking was this year's Jesus Quintana Award Winner For Recruiting Evaluation:
I love the way he can gather himself to deliver a potent full-body punch and he takes the kind of quick, fluid steps you need to consistently hit and bury targets on the second level.
Tope Imade, 3*, Arlington Bowie
Imade's got good size, and he's an interior prospect all the way. He's a better fit for man/Power blocking, but we'll be doing plenty of that in the seasons to come. He also cuts a dashing figure on the Longhorn Network set:
Zack Shackelford, 3*, Belton (Early Enrollee)
Shackelford's an early enrollee who was a great late poach from the Purple Wizard and who brings a Coke machine build, a nasty disposition and Kim Kardashian's ass to the table. You won't confuse him for Dom Espinosa on the move, but in this offense the center's job is typically to get down and dirty in a phone booth and Shackelford should be able to handle that duty in spades (whether or not Kim K. joins him in the booth.) There will be many a fourth quarter in seasons to come where opposing DTs want nothing more than to get on the bus and get the hell out of the Zach Shack.
Patrick Hudson, 5*, Silsbee (Currently committed to Baylor)
The state's top amateur tackle prospect, Hudson is a monster with sweet feet and power to spare. Texas looks to be making a fight of it with Baylor, and Hudson visited campus a few days ago along with his sister (who's an athlete in her own right and figures to put the shot wherever she ends up). Inking Hudson would probably qualify as a long shot at this point, but Charlie and Matt Mattox are making him think and this one may go down to the wire.
Waahid Muhammad, 3*, Waco La Vega (Currently committed to Tulsa)
Muhammad is long (every bit of 6'7"), strong and (presumably) down to get the friction on. Mattox recruited him to Tulsa and loves the guy, but with Okafor and Delance already in the fold and numerical friction a real likelihood for this class it's hard to see Texas giving Muhammad the hard sell as things wind down.
The Bottom Line
Steve Shane Buechele will garner the headlines if he wins the job next summer and Collin Johnson feels like the biggest long-term difference-maker, but it's the OL haul that truly tees up the foundational potential of this offensive class. Even if Patrick Hudson takes his talents to the Brazos, the Longhorns will enter Spring ball with a young but nonetheless honest-to-God legitimate two deep that represents a massive turnaround from the flotsam and jetsam that took the field against BYU on 9/6/2014.
What say you?