John Bonney at the Army Combine - Wescott Eberts (SB Nation)
The first Junior Day of the 2014 recruiting cycle had a distinctly different feel to it than previous events.
The Texas Longhorns hosted their 2014 committed prospects and a handful of their top targets at the first Junior Day on Sunday.
In the past, the 'Horns would have a few committed prospects at the first Junior Day -- Jake Raulerson last year, Connor Brewer the year before, the Friday night takes to generate momentum from years past. This time, however, many of the seven committed prospects who made it to Austin over the weekend have been pledged to Texas for some time, but had not had an opportunity to all get together and meet in person.
For those who aren't familiar with the process, the prospects showed up in the morning and went on a tour of the facilities and campus, spoke with the coaching staff, and some met with head coach Mack Brown.
In a break from previous tradition, since most of the offers to the top prospects in the state went out in August, the staff was much more selective at this particular Junior Day.
On Sunday, only two new offers went out -- to Katy Seven Lakes defensive end Jarrett Johnson, a 6-3, 225-pounder with early offers from Missouri and Northwestern, and Houston Lamar defensive back John Bonney, a 6-0, 180-pounder who holds offers from the likes of Baylor, LSU, Ohio State, and Oklahoma. Neither prospect opted to commit at the time, but the word is that Texas is in good shape with both.
There was, however, a big commitment for the 'Horns that went down on Sunday morning, when Dallas Carter linebacker Cameron Hampton decided to end his recruitment in favor of the 'Horns. Besides rating as one of the top linebackers in the state and top-20 prospect in the state of Texas overall, Hampton's pledge was an important one because the staff had already missed on two top targets in Gilmer's Josh Walker and La Porte's Hoza Scott, both of whom have committed to Texas A&M.
The new strategic change has not yet had an impact on some of the 2014 committed prospects -- the decision by Brown to take a hardline stance on committed prospects taking visits and not allow them to do so after being burned by A'Shawn Robinson in the 2013 class.
Aldine Eisenhower running back Donald Catalon told Hookem.com that he won't be taking the visits he had talked about recently ($), though it does not yet appear there are any updates from San Antonio Brennan defensive end Derick Roberson, who has also discussed the possibility. Working in the favor of Texas is the fact that Roberson grew up a Texas fan.
What used to be like Christmas in February for recruitniks has now morphed into an entirely different event. Some of the top prospects are being encouraged to attend the second Junior Day for the opportunity to watch practice, where in the past the top prospects were always given top billing at JD1.
The other big change is asking prospects to wait to commit if they think they may want to take a visit down the road, while instructing the members of the staff to decrease pressure to make an early decision. It's possible that Bonney and Johnson decided not to commit on the spot for those reasons, though Bonney has plenty of options already and Johnson has been planning on taking in the LSU Junior Day next weekend.
As usual, there were also a number of prospects who had planned on being in attendance, but did not make it in. West Mesquite safety Dylan Sumner-Gardner couldn't find a ride, but will attend the second Junior Day in two weeks, Dallas Bishop Dunne cornerback Nick Watkins had a family emergency, causing his teammate, offensive tackle Jovan Pruitt, so also miss the event. All three are expected in for JD2, as well as Lewisville Hebron safety Jamal Adams.
There were several high-profile targets who did end up making the journey -- Beaumont Ozen cornerback Tony Brown, with whom the Longhorns needed to surge, and Mansfield Timberview defensive back Edward Paris, who is also not thought to be particularly high on Texas. It remains to be seen just how much Texas put themselves into contention with those two players, though simply getting them on campus was a positive development.
Overall, the event was a successful one of the Longhorns -- they picked up a commitment at a position of serious need, held on to every committed prospect despite Brown's new hardline stance on committed players taking visits, targeted two prospects who may well end up at Texas, operated cautiously extending new offers, and had the chance to make an impression on two of the top defensive backs in the state.
Not a bad day.