As the visitor list for the Texas Longhorns quickly expanded headed into an important weekend for new head coach Tom Herman and his staff, the implications became more significant.
By the time the weekend finished and the dead period began, the ‘Horns had secured an important commitment from Mississippi Gulf Coast kicker Josh Rowland and hosted a handful of key targets.
On Friday, Wylie East running back Eno Benjamin visited Texas, only a day after he received his offer from the Longhorns.
Great visit. .— EB5™ (@eno_benjamin5) December 9, 2016
(: Hook'em pic.twitter.com/ov9oaxVt71
A 2017 US Army All-American, Benjamin will make his decision on January 7 at the all-star game and the ‘Horns now look like the heavy favorite — 16 out of the last 18 predictions in his 247Sports Crystal Ball are for Texas, though 247Sports Director of Recruiting Steve Wiltfong did make one for Arizona State.
On Saturday, TCU wide receiver commit Omar Manning also made it to campus. Once considered a Texas lean heading into the season, Manning is one of the best in the state in a good year at the position. Things seem to be trending in a positive direction with Manning, as well, as there have been three flip picks made in his Crystal Ball since Herman was hired.
Two tight ends were also on campus that day — Nebraska commit Reese Leitao and Scottsdale CC’s Salvatore Cannella. It’s not quite clear yet where the Longhorns stand with Leitao, though his visit certainly suggests significant evidence of interest, but Texas is in the final three for Cannella.
#ESPNJr50 TE @salnells (Sal Cannella) on OV to #Texas. #Auburn, #Maryland or #Longhorns pic.twitter.com/OjVhU9e74i— Gerry Hamilton (@HamiltonESPN) December 11, 2016
Great experience at @LonghornNetwork pic.twitter.com/qk9SvLedNd— Salvatore Cannella (@salnells) December 11, 2016
On Sunday, Texas hosted Minnesota linebacker commit Kyrei Fisher, a consensus three-star prospect out of Oklahoma, where offensive line coach Derek Warehim has ties dating back to his playing days at Tulsa.
2017 OLB @KING_FISHER30 (Kyrei Fisher) on OV to #Texas. #Minnesota verbal. #Arkansas also in play. pic.twitter.com/NGFcNe4lAP— Gerry Hamilton (@HamiltonESPN) December 11, 2016
The 6’2, 230-pounder now holds an offer from Texas, which has had difficulties recruiting linebackers in the current cycle.
And, despite the start of the dead period, the upcoming week will have a significant impact on the 2017 class, with decisions looming from Cannella on Wednesday at 1 p.m. CT and from five-star offensive tackle Walker Little at 11:30 a.m. CT on Friday.
Auburn is still considered the heavy favorite for Cannella after he spent three days on campus, but Texas likely has at least a reasonable chance after his visit on Saturday.
As for Little, there’s some recent optimism since Herman and four assistants held their in-home visit with Little and his family last week. Winning out over Stanford would still be something of a surprise, but there are four recent Crystal Ball picks in for Texas, including one from Horns247’s EJ Holland, who is close with Little’s family, and Nole247’s Josh Newberg, who could well have spoken with Little’s recruiter at Florida State, Tim Brewster.
Landing Little could be a huge boost to the long-term future of the offensive lineman and the short-term future of how well Herman and his staff can close out the 2017 cycle.