For the second straight year, the Texas Longhorns are gaining momentum heading towards National Signing Day, as Waco cornerback Eric Cuffee pledged to the Horns on Thursday in a televised appearance on ESPNU.
HOOKEM #LetsRide #wolfpack NEW ERA pic.twitter.com/LfVYDNxwIK— CUFFEE (@JaeRican27) January 28, 2016
#ESPN300 No. 127 & UA @AllAmericaGame DB @JaeRican27 commits to #Texas on @ESPNU pic.twitter.com/xn7kaFVz9U— Gerry Hamilton (@HamiltonESPN) January 28, 2016
Big time addition to the Longhorn Family! #LetsRide— Charlie Strong (@Strong_TexasFB) January 28, 2016
"Coach Strong has something great going on at the University of Texas, and I want to be a part of something great," Cuffee said. "He's the best coach there is in college football and it's only an hour away from home, so it's great to be a part of what Charlie Strong is doing."
Like Strong, Cuffee believes that the Longhorns are close to turning the corner and getting back to the top.
"He talks a lot about how this 2016 class can go overboard with talent, so I believe in what he says," Cuffee said. "He says a lot of great things about the 2016 class, how we're going to set everything off and I believe that's true.
Cuffee isn't totally finished with the process, though. And no, he's not visiting Texas A&M this weekend -- he's busy trying to add more recruits to the 2016 class.
"I'm recruiting a lot of guys who are interested in Texas who aren't committed. A lot of guys like Deontay Anderson, Dontavious Jackson, Brandon Jones, the list goes on and on of the guys that I'm recruiting right now. Chris Daniels, Jordan Elliott, a lot of those guys."
The best part of the announcement, though? Cuffee and his family taking a page out of head coach Charlie Strong's playbook on in-home visits and hitting that dab:
The 2016 Under Armour All-American had previously considered announcing his commitment in Orlando during the game back in early January, but put off his decision after he was not able to reserve a television slot. He's the second Under Armour All-American to join the Texas class this month, joining North Mesquite offensive tackle Jean Delance, who was able to announce his decision on ESPN2 during the game.
Once considered an A&M lean after numerous visits to College Station throughout the fall, the Longhorns surged after the recent struggles in College Station and Cuffee looked like a lock to end up in burnt orange ever since shortly after his official visit in December. There was even a rumor that he was recruiting for Texas while on an official visit at Arkansas last weekend and though that hasn't been substantiated, Rivals no longer reports an offer from the Razorbacks.
Back in the spring, the 6'0, 188-pounder spent almost as much time in Austin as he did at Texas A&M during the fall as a frequent visitor to the Texas campus, setting the stage for the Longhorns to finish in recent weeks.
Several weeks ago, he described what he's looking for in a school:
"Just the family-type environment. Just getting along with the players and talking to them, and seeing how the coaches really are there at the school and that they treat their players the way they should be treated," Cuffee said. "You come across some schools that say they're going to do something for you, and at the end it's different. I really try to get to that school and see who's real and who's fake. That's major key in my recruiting process that I look at."
While Cuffee lacks the height and length that head coach Charlie Strong typically prefers at the cornerback position, he does have good size to play cornerback at the next level at a shade under 6'0. An invitee to The Opening Finals in 2015, Cuffee ran a 4.65 40-yard dash in Oregon after clocking a 4.1 shuttle and 33.6-inch vertical leap at the Dallas The Opening regional camp last March.
Likely to play at around 200 pounds in college, there's some belief that he could end up at safety because of his size and willingness to get physical, though nickel corner is also an option since his shuttle time indicates a strong ability to change direction. As a cornerback, he has the fluid hips to transition and can plant and drive on passes in front of him.
In the Under Armour game, he showcased his tenacity by ripping a pass away from a wide receiver for an interception deep in his team's territory:
Another look at Eric Cuffee's takeaway at the Under Armour All-America game! What a play by the Waco High star! pic.twitter.com/EcVCA4v08j— Jessica Morrey (@JessicaMorrey) January 2, 2016
On a podcast with Bleacher Report's Damon Sayles and Sanjay Kirpalani, Cuffee explained that he was in position to make the play because he noticed a route-combination tendency when the ball placement was in the middle of the field, adjusted his pre-snap alignment as a result, and was able to get a quick jump on the ball when it was thrown. That's some high-level recognition right there.
And it illustrates that even though Cuffee has some excellent qualities as a cornerback, he could make an extremely valuable safety if he could translate those big-picture recognition abilities to a position that would put him around the football more frequently.
He went on to describe himself as a guy who likes playing out on an island because of his physicality and footwork. Some of the safety talk comes from that physicality, but he thinks that coaches believe he can play cornerback when they see his footwork.
The Waco product is a consensus four-star recruit ranked as the No. 280 player nationally, the No. 28 cornerback, and the No. 43 player in Texas, according to the 247Sports Composite rankings. Prior to his commitment, he held 35 offers, including invitations to play at Alabama, Arizona State, Arkansas, Auburn, Baylor, California, Colorado, Florida, Illinois, Kansas, Kansas State, Michigan, Michigan State, Minnesota, Mississippi State, Missouri, North Carolina, Northwestern, Notre Dame, Oklahoma, Ole Miss, Oregon State, Stanford, TCU, and UCLA, among others.
Now the 14th pledge in the 2016 class for the Longhorns, Cuffee pushes the group's ranking to No. 34 nationally and No. 4 in the Big 12, according to the 247Sports Composite rankings. He's currently the only defensive back committed in the class following Southlake Carroll cornerback Obi Eboh's decommitment last weekend.