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2018 Longhorn Recruiting: Offense and Future Depth

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NCAA Football: Texas at Texas Tech Michael C. Johnson-USA TODAY Sports

We previously took a look at the Longhorns’ 2018 recruiting class and key targets on the defensive side of the ball through the lens of projected depth charts through the 2020 season. Today, it’s the offense’s turn. Though every recruiting class has a different mix of difference-making talent at each position, part of any grand recruiting strategy is ensuring some year-over-year balance to ensure that you don’t find yourself facing a depth chart disaster down the road.

Here’s a look at how the Longhorns’ offensive depth chart figures to project over the next few seasons:

In each season the individual players are color-coded for seniority, and the number next to their name indicates a projected level of play if they’re logging significant snaps in that season (ranging from a 5 for All-American, difference-making domination to a 1 for Cam’ron Hughes-style hostage holding at the position). Generally a guy is expected to hit his star ranking as an upperclassman unless he’s already shown us something to rev our engines or give us pause. The numbers by the committed/targeted recruits’ names indicate their current consensus star ranking, not an endorsement that they’ll hit that level of play as a freshman.

As we did on defense, let’s gaze into the future of the position groups with some commentary on 2018 commits and targets excerpted from this year’s Thinking Texas Football courtesy of guest recruiting analyst and all-around stud Eric Nahlin of Inside Texas.

Quarterback: Once 2018 rolls around, the Longhorn QB position figures to feature a battle-tested junior, an up-and-coming sophomore and a couple of true freshmen in the mix. In other words, an honest-to-God healthy-program depth chart after braving the shallows since...2004 with Vince Young, Chance Mock and Matt Nordgren? 2019 should be golden if Buechele and Ehlinger stay healthy, and 2020 also starts off in strong shape with Ehlinger as a senior-season headliner. For the first time in a long time, the view out to the horizon looks good for the good guys at the game’s most critical position.

Current 2018 Commits:

QB: Casey Thompson, Newcastle (Newcastle, OK) - 6-foot-1, 195: Dual-threat who fits both the quarterback run game and run-pass-option game of the offense. Mentally mature and well-built, which isn't surprising since he'll be 19 before he enrolls next January. Everything I've heard leads me to believe he has no problem with a two quarterback class.

QB: Cameron Rising, Newbury Park (Newbury Park, CA) - 6-foot-2, 210: Originally committed to OU, but one visit to Austin was enough to secure the flip. I am mildly worried about the recent quarterback vacancy at USC. Rising has a big arm and is an underrated athlete. He's not as refined as Thompson but likely has the higher ceiling. He should be able to redshirt.

Current 2019 Commits:

QB: Roschon Johnson, - 6-foot-0, 190: Johnson is an electric runner whose passing polish and arm strength has a ways to go - more on him here.

Key 2018 Targets: Texas should have things wrapped up here, though the staff could dip its toes back in the water if USC starts making serious inroads on Rising.

Running Back: Texas doesn’t figure to lack for bodies over the next couple of seasons, but until either Chris Warren or Kirk Johnson gets through a full season with a clean bill of health then both the functional depth and difference-making ability aren’t as robust as they first appear.

Current 2018 Commits:

RB: Keaontay Ingram, Carthage (Carthage, TX) - 6-foot-1, 190: Well-rounded feature back and great zone runner -- cut and go for outside zone, feet and enough power for inside zone. Ingram has fantastic lateral agility and the rare ability to make defenders miss as a bigger back. There have been questions about his speed, but his electronic 4.52 in June should put those to rest. He does run a bit high but Deshon Elliott or Chris Brown will cure that in practice. He has good hands out of the back field, which increases his value in this offense. He's very natural, with great vision, balance, and feet to get him where his eyes lead him. He has the frame to get to 215-220. He'll be a volume back.

Key 2018 Targets: None. Ingram is the state’s top runner, and a good one. Texas will be happy to ink him next February while spending surplus ships elsewhere.

Outside Receiver: Texas is sitting pretty in 2018 with a junior-year Collin Johnson, a couple of dynamic guys with question marks in John Burt (hands) and Jerrod Heard (blocking, inside/outside fit) and a unique athlete with the potential to turn heads - and jump over them - in Lil’Jordan Humphrey. We’ll give in to a flight of fancy and imagine a dominating 2019 senior campaign from Johnson. If CJ jumps early then 2019 depth and top-tier talent gets a bit more questionable - particularly if Damion Miller (who’s currently working to get cleared and join the squad) doesn’t make it onto the 40.

Fortunately, the state is (per usual) loaded with top-tier outside talent in 2018.

Current 2018 Commits:

WR: Al'vonte Woodard, Lamar (Houston, TX)- 6-foot-1, 190: Woodard will announce two days before Eagles and that should also be a good day for Texas. He's also a bit tight in his hips but he's improving his route running and has good straight-line speed. As a Z, he'd complement Eagles well on the opposite side.

Key 2018 Targets:

WR: Brennan Eagles, Alief Taylor (Houston, TX) - 6-foot-4, 210: His stock really took off after an absurd testing performance on a day when very few fared well. At his size he clocked a 4.51 40, but more impressively clocked a 3.99 shuttle. Despite that shuttle, he's a bit stiff, but as an X WR he'll likely be running the higher numbers of the route tree. He's strong and should become a plus blocker on the perimeter. My number two receiver in the state is slated to announce on July 17th and that should be a good day for Texas.

WR: Tommy Bush, Clemens (Schertz, TX) - 6-foot-4, 190: He's an athlete on the level of Eagles while bringing more fluidity to the table. The big difference between the two is that Bush’s tape is lacking. Still, the upside is obvious and his trainer raves about his projection and calls him a quick learner. Bush also scores high in the character department. He was offered in mid-June and is one to watch to end up in the class, though Texas has some ground to make up. If they recruit him as hard as others, I think UT has a chance. His father is retired military and would love to attend as many games as possible, so proximity could play a part.

Slot Receiver: Duvernay, Hemphill-Mapps and Curtis make for a tasty 1-2-3 punch inside in 2018 and 2019, and 2018 figures to see a good bit of Jerrod Heard in the slot as well. Texas is in good shape with young, field-stretching talent here and more on the way.

Current 2018 Commits:

WR: Rondale Moore, Trinity (Louisville, KY) - 5-foot-9, 175: Known for his very uncommon testing numbers (4.33 40, 4.01 shuttle, and 42.7" vertical), what really has my attention is he combines that athleticism with actual skill. He's not just going to run by you, though he can do that too. As a slot receiver in this offense he'll receive touches in myriad ways.

Key 2018 Targets:

WR: Jaylen Waddle, Episcopal (Bellaire, TX) - 5-foot-10, 170: The priority is usually on bigger players but I love Waddle's ability, especially in a system like Herman's that uses the slot to exploit unfocused defenses. Athletically Waddle can do it all while also possessing real receiver ability. He's my number one receiver in the state and a top-5 player. His recruitment will go to National Signing Day regardless of whether he commits before then.

Tight End: Two tight end/h-back guys with the frame, skill set and pedigree to function in the run and pass game feels like another throwback to the mid-2000’s glory days. Leitao and Brewer should bring effective and complementary skill sets to the table over the next several seasons, but Longhorn fans should yearn for luxury after too many seasons cast away on Bruce Chambers’ Island of Misfit Toys. Fortunately, some viable targets in the 2018 class could offer just that.

Current 2018 Commits: None

Key 2018 Targets:

TE: Mustapha Muhammad, Ridge Point (Missouri City, TX) - 6-foot-4, 235: Tight End is a huge need and Muhammad is as good as any in the last decade, and the state has produced its share. He's equally dangerous as a receiver and blocker, and takes pride in the latter knowing it's as much a part of the equation to make it in the NFL. Michigan is my biggest fear in this one. Texas needs to win to have a good chance, but as of this writing he’s offered positive feedback to the Longhorn staff. The more Houston kids end up in the Texas class the more it helps with Muhammad, so let’s hope Herman hasn’t forgotten any of his H-Town Takeover tricks.

TE: Dominick Wood-Anderson, Arizona Western College (Yuma, AZ) - 6-foot-5, 245: The number one rated Juco tight end in the nation took an official visit to Texas and everything impressed, from the city and campus to the camaraderie of the team and immediate opportunity for playing time. The only thing standing in UT's way appears to be a July trip to Alabama. Normally that would be cause for alarm, but Bama has other targets it likes and the path to the field is much more crowded than at Texas. Wood-Anderson would like to decide in early August.

TE: Luke Ford, Carterville (Carterville, IL) - 6-foot-7, 250: This could end up being another Texas versus Alabama fight. Ford will visit both this summer. He has great size and should become a good player in both the passing and blocking game. If I'm Bama, this is the guy I pursue, and I think they will. The best projection now is Ford to Alabama, Wood-Anderson to Texas. I like Ford better overall, but love Wood-Anderson's ability to help early.

TE: Malcolm Epps, Spring Dekaney (Houston, TX) - 6-foot-5, 220: As of now, Epps is more of a one-dimensional flex option. He has Texas at the top of his list but I'm not sure the feeling is mutual. If pressed I think he'll be a Longhorn.

Offensive Tackles: Sadly we’re all but certain to part ways with Connor Williams prior to 2018, but the next two seasons should be in good hands outside if Jean DeLance and Denzel Okafor play to their athletic potential. I’m from Missouri on Urquidez’ long-term potential outside, and whether Sam Cosmi’s subpar tape was solely due to injury or indication of a limited player won’t be known for a couple of seasons. Guys who could credibly take the field in 2020 - or even sooner - are high on the priority list.

Current 2018 Commits:

OL: Reese Moore, Seminole (Seminole, TX) - 6-foot-6, 265: He plays tight end in high school but will be an offensive lineman. He's also a quality basketball player. You probably know where this is going; Moore is very raw and somewhat hard to project, but he has all the necessary size and athletic traits to offer a credible look at the highly prioritized left tackle. Some exciting upside here.

Key 2018 Targets:

OL: Rafiti Ghirmai, Wakeland (Frisco, TX) - 6-foot-4, 295: In a down year he's probably the best offensive lineman in the state. He profiles to right tackle or guard. His recruitment has already had some plot twists with Texas, LSU, and Alabama all looking like favorites at one point. Texas is back in the lead and could get a commitment this summer, but even then he'll probably take visits. That's the price of playing the leverage game before you've actually won a game.

OL: Cameron Wire, East Ascension (Gonzalez, LA) - 6-foot-6, 270: Committed to LSU and from Louisiana, I'm only mentioning Wire because he visited in June while committed to Ed Orgeron's team. Positioning yourself in second place puts in you in position for the flip, but it's hard to see Texas sealing the deal without a meltdown from LSU this season. With Orgeron at the helm, I guess that's possible. Wire is an athletic tackle prospect.

Interior OL: If Zach Shackelford’s balky ankle cooperates, Texas should sport depth and talent inside that’s the envy of the conference in 2018. A senior Shack and emerging man-grizzly hybrid in Patrick Hudson would headline 2019 nicely, but after that things thin out in a hurry. It wouldn’t be surprising to see Tope Imade make a move back to offense prior to 2018 if guys like D’Andre Christmas and Chris Daniels are ready to hold the fort at nose tackle. Even if Imade returns, getting functional depth - particularly functional depth that can snap a football - in the pipeline may be the biggest need on this side of the ball that doesn’t have a clear and current answer.

Current 2018 Commits: None

Key 2018 Targets:

OL: Sione "Junior" Angilau, East (Salt Lake City, UT) - 6-foot-6, 300: Giant guard with enough bounce in his step and flexibility to make right tackle a real possibility. Nasty disposition. He's a bit of a homebody so the Utes are a possibility, but he also likes USC and UT. He visited with family for the spring game. There’s a chance here if Texas gets him back on campus this summer and then again for an official visit.

Kicker: After a few seasons of learning how the other half lives at kicker, it’s high time to start another multi-decade run of excellence - or, at minimum, adequacy. Tom Herman isn’t just whistling Dixie when he talks about prioritizing special teams, as scholly offers to placekickers in successive classes should indicate. JUCO transfer Josh Rowland should hold down the fort in 2018, and Chris Naggar could emerge as well.

Current 2018 Commits:

K: Cameron Dicker, Lake Travis (Austin, TX) - 6-foot-1, 185: If you're offering a scholarship to a kicker he might as well be the best one in the nation. In years past Texas kickers mostly earned their scholarships. I imagine Dicker will as well. After a few seasons in the wilderness at kicker, a return to the days of Ward, Dawson and Tucker can’t get here fast enough.

Key 2018 Targets: None. Even for Herman, one kicker in a class figures to be plenty.

The Bottom Line

There aren’t as many looming chasms as there are on the defensive side of the ball, but a very light 2017 class still means holes to fill down the road on offense. There’s not much room for error, but Longhorn brand is hot and Herman should have both the momentum and the available ships to haul in a high-ceiling, well-balanced bunch in 2018.

For much more on Tom Herman’s grand recruiting strategy and how these guys figure to fit in to a fully aligned offensive attack, grab a copy of the best Longhorn season preview guide on the market.