From JT Barrett at Ohio State to Ed Oliver at Houston, the recruiting track record for Tom Herman is beyond reproach.
At Texas, Herman has the potential to capitalize on his ability to build relationships, his intentions of building an all-star recruiting staff capable of dominating the Lone Star State, and the potential of this Longhorns program to take a big next step in 2017.
While former head coach Charlie Strong would have had little hope to sell on the recruiting trail to close the 2017 cycle, Herman has the full ability to take advantage of that sales pitch.
On the in-state level, Ed Orgeron at LSU said on Saturday that he wants to focus on the state of Louisiana, Baylor is down after the dismissal of Art Briles and the sexual assault scandal in Waco, and Texas A&M is once again considering its future at head coach due to another late-season collapse by a Kevin Sumlin team.
Compared to the recruiting landscape when Strong arrived in Austin a little less than three years ago, Herman is in a much more advantageous position, especially since he already has relationships with many top prospects in the state, unlike Strong.
Top in-state recruits
While former head coach Charlie Strong was losing ground with most of the top in-state prospects, including getting left off the respective final lists for star linebackers Anthony Hines and Baron Browning, there is some hope that he could make headway with other top prospects.
Hines and Browning will enroll early after committing in the coming days, so it will be hard to recover with them, if not impossible.
The good news is that Herman has relationships with five-star Houston Episcopal products Marvin Wilson, the nation’s No. 1 defensive tackle, and Walker Little, the nation’s No. 4 offensive tackle.
247Sports Director of Recruiting Steve Wiltfong believes that the ‘Horns “will be a contender” for both following the Herman hire.
So while Wilson was on record as saying he would theoretically eliminate the Longhorns following the dismissal of Strong, Herman’s previous relationship with the blue-chip defensive tackle could overcome Wilson’s previous statement.
There’s also a reasonable chance that Wilson’s defensive line coach at Texas would be Brick Haley, the current position coach, or Oscar Giles, the former Longhorns assistant who worked with the Cougars under Herman this year.
With Little, the biggest competition likely remains Stanford, but he’s seemed more steadfast than Wilson in continuing to keep open the possibility of considering Texas — probably a good sign.
If the new Texas head coach brings super recruiter Tim Brewster back to Texas from Florida State, there’s an outside chance that the ‘Horns could get back in the mix with five-star safety Jeffrey Okudah, but that seems like a fairly extreme longshot given that Okudah lacks deep ties to the state.
Ohio State is currently the overwhelming favorite and watching the Buckeyes pull out a double-overtime thriller against the Wolverines today probably didn’t hurt things for Urban Meyer and his staff.
Still, bringing Herman to Austin should at least help with Wilson and Little, the two most important remaining prospects for the ‘Horns.
Brewster is a wild card there — if he returns to Texas, he’s the influential figure who ensured that Florida State is in the mix with Browning, Little, Okudah, and Wilson.
Maybe it would be better to call Brewster the trump card.
Houston commits who could follow Herman
In looking at the current class for the Cougars, several players stand out as potential future members of the Longhorns due to need.
The top player on the list is Plano West linebacker Mohamed Sanogo, the highest-rated Houston commit. Texas badly needs inside linebackers and at 6’2 and 239 pounds, Sanogo has an impressive blend of size and athleticism.
Since landing Hines is likely out of the question now, Sanogo is now emerging as an even more legitimate take for the ‘Horns than he was when he was Strong’s back-up plan at the position.
If offensive line coach Derek Warehime follows Herman from Houston, keep an eye on San Antonio Jay offensive tackle Matthew Huhn. Texas evaluated him earlier in the cycle, but without any offensive linemen currently committed, Huhn could provide long-term tackle depth and some level of insurance for missing on Walker Little.
There’s already plenty of buzz about former Texas A&M quarterback joining Texas as a graduate transfer, but don’t sleep on Tyler John Tyler dual-threat quarterback Bryson Smith, the current Houston commit.
At 6’0 and 170 pounds, Smith went to the same school as current Houston standout Greg Ward Jr. and has a similar build and skill set — it’s an easy comparison.
A wide receiver as a sophomore, Smith transitioned to quarterback during his junior season, throwing for 2,415 yards, 20 touchdowns, and only six interceptions, while gaining 1,428 yards and scoring 28 touchdowns on the ground.
Because Smith is a dynamic athlete, he could also provide value as a wide receiver in college if quarterback doesn’t work out.
His size obviously isn’t ideal, but he’s had a good senior season throwing to Texas wide receiver commit Damion Miller and shows a live arm and some good fundamentals in the pocket despite his stature.
Another potential option is Katy tight end Parker Eichenberger, a 6’4, 225-pounder who has plenty of blocking experience in the run-heavy Tigers offense. With only two scholarship tight ends on the roster for next season for Texas, that’s a pressing area of need for Herman and the staff he’s currently working to assemble.
The current commits should stick
There are only seven prospects currently pledged in the class, but Herman’s hire should be able to keep most of them in place, if not all of them. There’s even been some positive buzz recently about the possibility that former Liberty-Eylau defensive end Lagaryonn Carson could make it to Austin.
When Strong arrived in Austin in January of 2014, he was hamstrung by the fact that Mack Brown used the official visits of all the commits at the notorious Red Banquet. Since Strong relies on recruiting late in the process, the vast majority of important targets and pledges can still visit Texas in early December or January to spend time with Herman, his staff, and current players.
In that regard, the timing also helps Herman tremendously — Strong coached Louisville in its bowl game against Miami in late December of 2013 while Brown remained in place in Austin to coach Texas against Oregon at the Alamo Bowl.
Herman still has several weeks until the recruiting dead period begins on December 12, giving him an advantage of about six critical weeks over Strong. Even the extra time during the dead period matters — Herman and whatever staff he puts together by then will be able to write, call, and text prospects during that month.
The Texas program is now better positioned, Herman has relationships in the state, and his first staff should be an advantage instead of a hindrance, not to mention the struggles of over in-state programs.
All the pieces are in place for Herman to succeed on the recruiting trail.
Not errbody, but some important somebodies.