It was an insanely wild weekend at the second Texas Junior Day, with the Longhorns picking up commitments from seven recruits, far above the number of 3-4 I expected to commit and putting the Longhorns at 19 commitments already. Even at the high range, I would not have guessed more than five. It's absolutely unbelievable what the Texas coaching staff is doing right now and every other program in the country must be looking enviously at what is brewing in Austin -- the makings of a program poised to assert itself as the absolute best in the country.
The "No Surprise Crowd"
Of the seven commitments, three of them came from players widely expected to receive offers and make a quick decision:
- Traylon Shead, running back, Cayuga - The son of the school's principal, Shead was planning on waiting to make a decision ($), but, as happens with so many players courted by the Longhorns, the experience of meeting with the coaches and receiving his offer was too much for him to pass up. He made the decision quickly and began calling the other coaches who had recruited him to inform them of his commitment. At 6-2, 210 pounds, Shead is a big back, but has remarkable quickness and feet for someone his size. Coupled with decent, but not elite acceleration, those feet make Shead almost impossible to bring down for the level of competition he faces, aided by consistently running with good pad level, a notable difference from Chris Whaley. Even with that caveat about competition in mind, it's not hard to see why Texas coaches liked Shead enough to make him an offer -- the kid has incredible balance and vision. Now, even if the Longhorns miss on Lache Seastrunk, the running back class won't be a complete loss, as Shead looks like a good fit into Mack Brown's professed philosophy of a pounding ground game.
- Dominic Espinosa, offensive lineman, Cedar Park - Espinosa's persistence paid off. After not hearing from the coaching staff for some time, the local lineman and top 20 player in the state called to check on the status of his recruitment, eventually drawing an invitation to the second Junior Day and giving his commitment ($) after receiving his offer, describing the moment as leaving him "speechless" and "shocked." Standing 6-3 and weighing 280 pounds, Espinosa plays on the outside in high school, but projects as a guard in college, which doesn't fill the need for a tackle in this class. Espinosa does fill a need as a capable reach blocker with good feet, the requirements for a player in a zone blocking scheme. Recruiting is probably done now at the position, except for the coaches waiting on a decision from Jake Matthews. A player like Evan Washington could receive an offer if the coaches decide they need three prospects in the class and Matthews decides to go somewhere else
- Bryant Jackson, cornerback, Sulphur Springs - A lifelong fan of the Longhorns ($), the decision to commit wasn't a hard one for the East Texas defensive back, who compared the decision to winning a state championship. Despite being limited by tonsils that needed removal and a bout with mononucleosis, Jackson still registered nearly 100 tackles as a junior, while intercepting five passes and breaking up 10 more. At 6-3 and a lanky 175 pounds, Jackson still needs to work on filling out his frame, but could play cornerback or safety at the college level -- exactly the profile of a Texas defensive back. The word from Jackson is that the Longhorns recruited him as a cornerback ($).
The "Who?" Crowd
Of the seven commitments, two came from players not even known to be attending the Junior Day:
- Greg Daniels, defensive end, Houston St. Pius X - Known as a somewhat raw but athletic prospect ($), Daniels began to draw attention in recent weeks, leading to his offer and commitment to the Longhorns. His commitment was surprising because there wasn't any information anywhere that he was even going to be in town, much less that he was on the radar. Daniels showed up to the Junior Day with his junior highlight tape, which he gave to the coaches. Judging by the fact that they watched it and then offered Daniels, the coaches might not have seen him play before he brought the highlight tape, which would seem highly unusual with the amount of resources the program devotes to identifying and recruiting players. Daniels isn't exactly an unkown, however, as Oklahoma had extended the 6-4, 240 pounder an offer. Despite his developed size for a junior defensive end, Daniels reportedly runs a 4.65 40 -- remarkably fast, though he doesn't show the same explosiveness on the field as Jackson Jeffcoat. Daniels shows good strength, as well, but doesn't use his hands violently enough to create and maintain seperation, instead using his lower body strength to knock opposing players into the backfield. The most likely reason for Daniels not receiving more attention was the broken collarbone that he played with for weeks before tellilng the coaches he was hurt. Tough kid, who also provides insurance should Jeffcoat and Reggie Wilson both decide to go elsewhere. Another factor in the lack of early interest was the huge growth spurt ($) he underwent between his sophomore year and the end of his junior campaign, as Daniels grew two inches and put on 40 pounds.
- Chris Jones, wide receiver, Daingerfield - Jones is another player who wasn't known to be attending the Junior Day before showing up on campus and receiving an offer. I have been speculating for some time that the Longhorns would take a smaller, faster receiver like DeAndrew White or Trovon Reed. White, however, didn't receive a scholarship offer, likely because of some trouble with his grades, but Jones fits the mold of a slot receiver ($) -- standing at an even 6 feet and weighing 172 pounds, Jones runs a 4.4 40. Despite his relative lack of size, his coach claims that Jones isn't afraid to catch the ball in traffic ($) -- a necessity in the current iteration of the Texas offense. It's surprising that he didn't register on the recruiting radar earlier, as his junior season production is nothing short of sensational: 42 catches for 1,045 yards and 12 touchdowns, along with 21 carries for 340 yards and six touchdowns. With fans everywhere clamoring for a Percy Harvin-type threat out of the backfield and lined up as a receiver, Jones has the skill set to fit perfectly into that role.
The "Not Expected To Get An Offer" Crowd
Of the seven commitments, one of the players was known to be in town, but was not expected to receive an offer:
Ashton Dorsey, defensive tackle, Tyler John Tyler - The news that Jarvis Humphrey has a kidney condition that will keep him from practicing indefinitely must be serious, because two defensive tackles received offers this weekend, even though there was some thought that recruiting was done at the position after receiving commitments from Taylor Bible and De'Aires Cotton. Clearly not the case. While Torrea Peterson received an offer but did not commit, Dorsey took advantage of the offer ($) and committed. The younger brother of Texas A&M's Adren Dorsey, the 6-3, 275 pounder is more highly rated than his brother was coming out of high school due to his great explosion off the ball and better motor. Along with his quickness, the younger Dorsey is also known for using his hands violently and understanding how to use his pad level to create leverage, leading his coach to draw a comparison to Jamarkus McFarland.
The "Expected To Take More Time" Crowd
Of the seven commitments, one was expected to receiver an offer, but take time to think about it and possibly not even chose to attend Texas:
- Ross Apo, wide receiver, Arlington Oakridge - There are some disappointed football fans in Provo, Utah today. A coveted target in Ross Apo decided to attend Texas, despite his Mormon background -- seemingly the perfect fit for BYU. Since BYU was the acknowledged leader, Apo wasn't thought to be a Texas lean at all, much less willing to commit shortly after his visit ($) and getting his offer. Considering the incredible size of the recruiting class at such an early date, however, serves as a reminder not to underestimate the incredible recruiting clout the program currently possesses. With Garrett Gilbert and Sally Brown in the ear of Apo throughout Saturday's practice, perhaps it's no surprise that Apo decided to permanently join the friendly, fun, family-like environment he witnessed. It wasn't just the youngster ($) that the Longhorns impressed, as his mother enjoyed spending time with the wives of the coaching staff and his father, not a big fan of the program before the visit, also enjoyed the visit. Another element that no doubt helped Texas is the friendship between Apo and Eryon Barnett, cultivated since they were young. A big play waiting to happen with an average of more than 20 yards per catch as a junior, the 6-3, 190-pound Apo will provide insurance should the Longhorns fail to land other big-play receivers like DeMarco Cobbs and Darius White.
The "Didn't Make It In" Crowd
- DeMarco Cobbs, wide receiver, Tulsa Central - Once again, the recent promotion of his football coach and ride to athletic director derailed his visit. Cobbs still hopes to make it down to Austin as soon as he can, but could lose his spot is Darius White makes a decision soon -- a move that could end recruiting at the wide receiver position with commitments already from John Harris, Darius Terrell, Ross Apo, and Chris Jones.
- Earl Hines, linebacker, Port Arthur Memorial - Hines was the only linebacker invited to the Junior Day, with Kris Catlin deciding not to attend when he found out that an offer was not forthcoming. The most likely reason for Hines not attending is his desire to go out of state to attend college.
- Quentin Parks, wide receiver/h-back, Atascocita - The writing was on the wall for Parks, who wasn't going to receive an offer.
- Jeremy Johnson, athlete, Silsbee - Johnson hasn't sounded particularly interesting in the Longhorns recently, exacerbated by his desire to continue to play quarterback, an option Texas could not provide him.
- Tyler Stephenson, cornerback, Lancaster - It was likely that only one of Stephenson and Jackson would receive an offer, but Stephenson seemed to stand a chance. The most likely reason for him was that word got out that he wasn't going to receive an offer.
The "Trolling Aggie Theory"
Miketag stopped by the website over the weekend to opine that the Texas coaching staff was moving too quickly in recruiting, leaving no room to identify late-developing talent, citing in paticular the case of Tevin Mims. While it did take the staff a long time to get in on Mims, part of the problem resulted from a miscommunication on the staff about who was recruiting him, so the evaluation proccess didn't take as long as previously believed. Miketag specifically pointed to an inability now to identify players at the summer camps and offer them. I think what our Aggie friend is failing to fully understand is that the kids are the ones who decide when they make their commitment, though there may be some pressure on the less-highly regarded kids to take advantage of having a spot.
Texas is actually offering later than most programs, waiting until after the previous classes sign -- it's just such an honor right now to receive an offer and the program is performing so well that kids from Texas highly covet an offer from the Longhorns and don't have a hard time deciding that they want to spend four or five years in Austin.
When you have the ability to secure commitments from many of the top players in the state, you don't have to wait to evaluate players who show up on the radar later. While a few may rise to the top, there aren't many and it's hard to believe that Texas will ever get burned by offering the players who had the best junior seasons. So no, miketag, there aren't any problems with how things are going with Texas recruiting. In fact, I would hazard to say that things could hardly be going better.