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Texas Gang Or Die: How the No. 2 Longhorns class in 2012 fizzled and flamed out

Racked by attrition and sunk by underacehievers, one of the nation's top classes hasn't panned out in Austin.

(L-R) Daje Johnson, Tim Cole, Malcom Brown, and Caleb Bluiett at the International Bowl signing ceremony
(L-R) Daje Johnson, Tim Cole, Malcom Brown, and Caleb Bluiett at the International Bowl signing ceremony
Wescott Eberts (SB Nation)

Texas Gang Or Die.

The brash 2012 Texas Longhorns recruiting class intended to take the Horns back to the top of the college football world after two subpar seasons and, at least according to the recruiting rankings, looked poised to do just that.

Unfortunately, if the "Die" part also includes washing out, whether through transfer or as a result of a dismissal, that was the path taken by many of the top prospects in the group.

From the departure of the lead recruiter, quarterback Connor Brewer, to the legal troubles that forced out wide receivers Cayleb Jones and Kendall Sanders to the discipline issues that resulted in the dismissals of running back Jalen Overstreet and offensive tackle Kennedy Estelle, massive attrition now stands in for potential in defining the group.

As a result, the No. 2 class according to the 247Sports Composite team rankings doesn't even rank among the top 10 most impactful groups in the country, according to Sports Illustrated. Nor should it.

And after breaking it down, it's not hard to see why former head coach Mack Brown's penultimate class couldn't surpass those of lower-ranked schools like TCU, which slotted at a modest No. 29 nationally.

Let's take a look at it:

Original 247Sports Composite rank: 2

Record since 2012: 23-12

BCS/CFP bowl appearances: 0

Conference titles: 0

National titles: 0

2014 major contributors: RB Johnathan Gray, DT Malcom Brown, CB Duke Thomas, DT Hassan Ridgeway, DE Caleb Buliett, S Dylan Haines, K Nick Rose

There are some other players who challenged for a spot on this list, including defensive end/outside linebacker Shiro Davis (3.5 sacks, 4 tackles for loss), defensive tackle Paul Boyette (28 tackles, 3.5 tackles for loss), and especially third-leading receiver Marcus Johnson.

But Davis hasn't managed to convert the athleticism that made him such a desirable high school recruit into high-level college production. And while Boyette somewhat unexpectedly broke out last season, he was still a reserve. As for Johnson, after promising moments in 2013 as a sophomore, his production as a junior was a disappointment.

It's also worth pointing out that junior college offensive tackle Donald Hawkins was a significant success story as a two-year starter at left tackle, while defensive tackle Brandon Moore was a solid contributor during his one season on campus, though it's probably a bit of a stretch to call him a major contributor.

But notice that only one player on the major contributor list from 2014 played on offense? And the conspicuous absence of any offensive lineman, despite signing three out of high school? How about the fact that two of the major contributors on this list didn't even have scholarships when they came out of high school?

What happened with the class?


Offensive tackle Kennedy Estelle (No. 3 overall recruit in class)

The nation's No. 5 offensive tackle contributed as a freshman and started eight games as a sophomore before he became the most experienced player on the offensive line after the injury to starting center Dominic Espinosa in the opener last fall. However, Estelle got himself suspended before the second game and was ultimately dismissed less than three weeks later.

Offensive guard Curtis Riser (No. 4 overall recruit)

Out of powerhouse DeSoto, the expectations were high for Riser -- he nearly cracked the top 50 nationally and was the No. 4 offensive guard nationally. However, he didn't make the depth chart under the previous staff and was quickly buried by new offensive coordinator Joe Wickline last spring despite a lack of available options. So when he transferred to Sam Houston State before the start of the spring semester, it caught no one by surprise.

Wide receiver Cayleb Jones (No. 5 overall recruit)

The temper that often flared during high school got Jones in trouble at Texas when he was charged with felony aggravated assault in March of 2013 after he allegedly fractured the jaw of a Longhorns tennis player in an altercation over Jones' failed relationship with volleyball player Khat Bell.

Those charges eventually got reduced to a misdemeanor, but Jones still opted for a fresh start by transferring to Arizona that summer, joining his friend Brewer. After sitting out a year, the Austin product emerged as the team's leading receiver in 2014, catching 73 passes for 1,019 yards and nine touchdowns.

Wide receiver Kendall Sanders (No. 7 overall recruit)

The explosiveness Sanders showed in high school was never especially apparent on the field for the Horns and he removed any opportunity to break out as a junior due to his involvement in the alleged sexual assault of a Texas student last June with fellow wide receiver Montrel Meander. Now facing two felony charges, Sanders received an indefinite suspension shortly thereafter. Unlike Jones, Sanders probably can't look forward to another second chance in football -- he'll just have to try to avoid major jail time.

Quarterback Connor Brewer (No. 12 overall recruit)

Considered the ringleader of the class, Brewer's early commitment helped secure the pledge from Jones and provide some early momentum for the Texas Gang Or Die group. However, once he arrived on campus, he was never able to surpass Brown's favorite quarterback, Case McCoy, and opted to bail once Tyrone Swoopes seemingly passed him on the depth chart heading into his redshirt freshman season. Things didn't work out in Arizona and Brewer is now back on the market as his father admits that his son never should have left Austin. Now he might not have a chance to return.

Running back Jalen Overstreet (No. 20 overall recruit)

Hard to imagine now, but the 2012 class was so deep that Overstreet wasn't even the lowest-rated four-star prospect in the group. A quarterback in high school, Overstreet moved to running back in 2013 when the Horns faced a diminished depth chart, but he didn't see much action. After violating team rules repeatedly throughout the early part of new head coach Charlie Strong's tenure, Overstreet dismissed himself as part of the pre-camp purge last fall.


Linebacker Peter Jinkens (No. 8 overall recruit)

The former Dallas Skyline star looked like a breakout candidate in the 2013 season after a strong finish to his freshman campaign, but since then he had strong games against Baylor and Oregon as a sophomore, then only started two games last fall. Relegated to a special teams role and spot playing time at the strong-side linebacker position, Jinkens only has one more year left to remove his name from this list.

Offensive tackle Camrhon Hughes (No. 9 overall recruit)

Hughes enrolled early, then suffered an ACL injury during the summer of his freshman season and seemingly lost the body quickness that made him a consensus four-star prospect. Sure, he started six games in 2014 because of a lack of better options, but his nickname -- NCAA (No Contact At All) -- tells the tale of his on-field contributions, which ranged from merely adequate to downright bad at times.

Safety Adrian Colbert (No. 10 overall recruit)

The late-rising track star from Mineral Wells was the No. 5 safety nationally by 247Sports, but hasn't been able to translate his physical talent to the football field in Austin. Passed by walk on Dylan Haines and lightly-regarded freshman Jason Hall on the depth chart last fall, Colbert could continue to struggle to find playing time unless the light finally flicks on for him this spring.

Running back/wide receiver Daje Johnson (No. 14 overall recruit)

Perpetually suspended or injured, Johnson's massive upside is still apparent at times. But he struggles so much to stay out of trouble and wasn't a big part of the offense when healthy in 2014 that it's hard to really hold out much hope that he gets things turned around as a senior. In fact, his track record suggests that he's a constant candidate to wash out of the the program at any time.


Three years later, six of the 28 prep players are gone (21.4%) and two of the seven major contributors were walk ons who didn't even count against the scholarship limit when they stepped on campus in June of 2012. Three of the top five recruits are gone (and four of the top seven), while Johnathan Gray hasn't lived up to the massive expectations he faced coming to Austin.

In fact, now-departed defensive tackle Malcom Brown is the only highly-ranked player in the class who truly lived up to his billing coming out of high school, with fellow defensive tackle Hassan Ridgeway standing out as the only major gem to emerge as a big-time impact player. Still, Ridgeway was hardly an unknown as a consensus four-star prospect and US Army All-American.

A handful of players could still make contributions after providing depth chart following redshirt seasons, but it can't camouflage the fact that 10 of the top 14 players in the class washed out or have been disappointments, with several more just behind those players who could easily fit the definition.

At this point, the group looks much more like a Texas Gang Of Duds and it's really cost the program, especially after so many other recruiting classes that didn't pan out to the extent necessary for the Longhorns to sustain the success experienced in the 2000s.