On Sunday, Texas will host the first of several camps in the coming days, marking the only major recruiting event in Austin during the long summer months without football. It's also the only chance every year for the coaching staff to work out high school athletes and evaluate them in a setting they control. In a lot of seasons, that means that the class the Longhorns will offer the coming February can work out for the coaches for the first time, with the current class usually all but wrapped up this time of year.
While the Longhorns already have 16 2012 pledges, that number represents five fewer than at this time last season, and more importantly, the targeting of players out of state who haven't yet visited is putting pressure on Stacy Searels and Duane Akina, as well as Oscar Giles, to continue evaluating the in-state talent in case Texas falls out of the running with the big-time targets outside the state. With the commitment of Michael Starts to Texas Tech Thursday, the need to determine an in-state pecking order to receive an offer is paramount.
For Carthage's Greg Brantley, Friendswood's Seaver Meyers, and Celina's Jordan Roos, the camp presents their collective best chance to impress Searels enough to earn an offer. At 6-7, 310 pounds, Brantley has the size offensive line coaches covet to play the tackle position and may be the top option after Port Arthur's Tre-von Armstead committed recently to Baylor (Armstead is still expected to attend J12). Meyers features almost entirely non-BCS offers, so there are some serious concerns about whether he is of the quality to play for Texas. Taking another Taylor Doyle doesn't particularly benefit the Longhorns. As for Roos, Rivals has his only offers as Purdue and South Alabama, so he's probably just along for the ride with 2013 star prospect Jake Raulerson, his teammate.
The story at the defensive back position is similar -- with offers out to national prospects like Landon Collins, Nelson Agholor, and Geno Smith, the Longhorns will continue to evaluate in-state talent. SA Brandeis defensive back Colin Blake is a fast-riser on the scene right now and features tremendous athleticism and massive upside -- he recently returned to football after playing basketball his first two seasons in high school. At 6-2, Blake likely projects as the type of rangy, ball-hawking safety that can terrorize opposing quarterbacks. If an in-state offer goes out, it would be almost criminal for Blake not to receive it.
The younger brother of Kenny Vaccaro, Brownwood's Kevin, while also be at the event. If it's true that he's grown since the fall and now stands between 5-10 and 5-11, he has the size to warrant a look and similar physicality to his older brother. However, the simple fact is that he's just not on the level of Blake as a prospect. The same is likely true of Bryson's Echols' future teammate at DeSoto this fall, Lancaster transfer Jalen Mills, whose offer list is about on par with Meyers, though he does have the size at 6-0 that college coaches covet in defensive backs.
West-Orange Stark cornerback Justin Thomas is another familiar name, having been on the radar for some time. His playmaking ability and pedigree as the cousin of Earl Thomas aren't in question. However, his grades and his size are serious question marks and will likely keep him from receiving a Texas offer unless several other prospects fall off the radar. Given the upside of Blake, it's hard to see Thomas being offered instead.
Finally, the defensive position is another to watch. It's not clear that the Longhorns will definitively take a weakside defensive end in the class with two likely strongside commitments in Caleb Bluiett and Hassan Ridgeway. From this perspective, the need is there, and LSU commit Torshiro Davis, another Louisiana prospect in Denzell Devall, and McKinney Boyd's Jamal Palmer, will also soon make visits to Austin.
Davis likely won't work out and may come in the following day -- no real surprise since his athleticism jumps off the screen when watching his highlights. He's a clear target without needing to make an impression in the camp setting and looks like a clear take. Devall also is unconfirmed and looks like more of an outside linebacker at 6-2, so he may even be behind some of the in-state targets. Palmer is a bit on the short side too and may be behind Katy Morton Ranch's Danielle Hunter, who won't be in attendance, possibly to the detriment of his recruitment by Texas.
The camp is also an important get-together for the 2012 commits, the first time they have all been together since the spring game and Johnathan Gray's first chance to bond with his future teammates since they've become, well, future teammates. All 16 commits are expected to be in attendance with the exception of the Skyline duo and Echols.
Unfortunately for Texas, the often powerful scene of the committed players bonding won't be witnessed by the top out-of-state targets at defensive back and offensive line. The inability to work the players out isn't of concern to the coaches -- the players are too talented to need to prove themselves -- but getting those players onto campus alone to meet with the coaches probably won't have the same impression that meeting the commits would provide.
To circle back around to the introduction, the camp also provides a chance for some 2013 prospects to get to know the coaches or land squarely on the radar with a strong performance. Top prospects like the aforementioned Raulerson, a possible target along the offensive line, Harker Heights OL/DL Darius James, and Bastrops DB Antwuan Davis, who recently transferred from Del Valle and has impressed with his athleticism this spring, are confirmed as attendees. More top 2013 players are expected at J12.
Unlike some schools, Mack Brown keeps the camp closed to the media, so any reports on the happenings there will have to trickle out in bits and pieces, but despite the lack of concrete coverage, that reality doesn't detract from the overall importance of the event as a major date to circle on the recruiting calendar.