With roughly two months until the early signing period, the Texas Longhorns are in something of a holding pattern with offensive line recruiting as position coach Herb Hand and the rest of the staff continue to evaluate prospects, particularly at the junior college level.
Since the Longhorns hold commitments from talented tackles Tyler Johnson (Conroe Oak Ridge) and Javonne Shepherd (North Forest), the staff can afford to take its time with evaluations.
Compare, for instance, where the staff is right now compared to this point in the 2018 recruiting cycle — offensive tackles Reese Moore and Rafiti Ghirmai were committed, but head coach Tom Herman and former offensive line coach Derek Warehime went on to add three more offensive linemen to the recruiting class in the final weeks.
In fact, junior college signee Mikey Grandy, who retired from football due to concussion issues, wasn’t even on the radar. Neither was Christian Jones, a late rising prospect who didn’t receive his offer from Texas until less than two weeks before National Signing Day.
And there’s further cause for both patience and optimism — this staff has a plan and evaluates well, thanks to the efforts of the coaching staff and support personnel like Derek Chang.
Consider the finish to the 2017 recruiting class. Former head coach Charlie Strong and his staff hadn’t managed to secure a single offensive line pledge when Herman took over in late November of 2016. In the final weeks, Herman was able to land a commitment from US Army All-American Derek Kerstetter, flipping him from Oklahoma State, and decided to bring along Houston commit Sam Cosmi to Austin.
Both were consensus three-star prospects. Cosmi didn’t have a national ranking and wasn’t among the top 100 offensive tackles in the country.
And yet, Kerstetter became a starter at right tackle as a true freshman and is now the top reserve before almost certainly returning to a starting role next season. Cosmi is the starter at right tackle following a redshirt season and the top offensive lineman on the team. If Cosmi continues his current trajectory, he has a chance to become an All-American and a high selection in a future NFL Draft.
To restate the previous point — this staff knows what it’s doing and has a plan. The evaluations in the 2017 class were excellent and the close to the 2018 class was ideal. The addition of Hand in the spring only adds more cause for confidence.
Preface aside, let’s consider the two uncommitted prospects with Texas offers and look at some players on the recruiting radar.
Uncommitted recruits with offers
Garden City CC offensive tackle Bamidele Olaseni
The massive 6’8, 330-pounder picked up Longhorns offer in early September, relatively early in the world of junior college recruiting. A native of England, Olaseni holds offers from the likes of Nebraska, Ohio State, Tennessee and ranks as a top-10 prospect at the junior college level. Utah recently hosted him for an official visit, but it appears that Olaseni still has four official visits remaining. There still aren’t any 247Sports Crystal Ball picks for Olaseni yet, so it seems that his recruitment is relatively wide open. So it’s worth keeping an eye on him as a prospect to see if Texas manages to set up an official visit.
Plant (Fla.) offensive guard William Putnam
There’s been basically zero buzz with Putnam, the nation’s No. 3 offensive guard, since he received his offer from the Longhorns back in May. The current expectation is that he’ll stay close to him, with Florida State considered the favorite, perhaps in part because the Seminoles have such a glaring need along the offensive line and need early contributors.
On the radar
Garden City CC offensive tackle LaColby Tucker
Texas has clearly scouted the Kansas junior college, with Tucker serving as the bookend to Olaseni. At 6’9 and 305 pounds, Tucker is another massive prospect, though he’s much more lean. Currently committed to Utah, Tucker’s only other offer is from Southern Miss, but he could see his recruitment gain more steam in the next several months and there’s reason to believe that he would have interest in Texas. Tucker also played basketball at Garden City last season.
Iowa Western CC offensive tackle Ja’Chai Baker
The 6’6, 283-pounder is even more lightly recruited than Tucker at this time — his 247Sports profile doesn’t report any offers and still lists him at his high school position of defensive tackle. Baker now plays offensive tackle for Garden City after originally signing with Wyoming out of high school in Iowa.
Mission Hills (Cali.) Bishop Allemany offensive tackle Dohnovan West
The West Coast product has been on the radar for some time, so it’s difficult to say whether the Longhorns staff has simply moved on or whether they are simply waiting to evaluate West’s full senior film. The highlights of his first five games have been available for more than a month now. West is a player who could project at center and will only have one official visit remaining after this weekend, so the Texas staff needs to move quickly if West is going to officially become a target.
Make no mistake about it — Hand is scouring the country right now, with a primary focus on junior college prospects. It seems clear that the Horns are looking for a player or two who could potentially come in and contribute early with three starters graduating from this year’s offensive line.
Keep an eye out especially for players who could project at center, like offensive tackles without enough size or pass protection ability to stick outside, but enough mobility to project favorably over the football.
Texas coveted Crandall standout Branson Bragg for that role before losing out to Stanford during the summer.
So that’s probably the biggest remaining need in the class, but it’s never a bad thing to take big bodies that can project at offensive tackle and then simply move them inside if they can’t play on the edge.
The bottom line, however, is that patience is clearly necessary with recruiting at this position as the staff continues to evaluate at its own pace. They aren’t neglecting the position, as past staffs have done, they’re just trying to make sure they target and land the right players.