On Wednesday, 21 of the 22 Texas Longhorns commits became signees on Early Signing Day, leaving head coach Tom Herman and his staff with five or six remaining spots in the 2019 class.
“We’re not just going to sign guys to sign guys,” Herman said at his Wednesday press conference. “But if the right guys are available, then we’ll certainly do that.”
So, what are the remaining positions of need?
After missing on standout running backs Noah Cain and Trey Sanders on Wednesday, Herman admitted that the Longhorns would like to add another running back. And with Sugar Land Dulles offensive tackle Isaiah Hookfin delaying his decision, offensive line is another area of need with one signee and one commit in the class currently.
“We’ve got our eyes on some guys already,” Herman said. “Then I think it would just be, you know, on a best-player-available basis probably would be the best way to put it.”
The clear target at running back is Katy product Deondrick Glass, who plans on visiting Texas before making a decision on Jan. 14. A previous visitor on campus for last February’s Junior Day, Glass does have a familiarity with Texas and potentially a fellow Katy alum in his position room in Kyle Porter.
Glass has taken official visits to Alabama and Ohio State, but the Crimson Tide now have two signees with the addition of Sanders, so the Buckeyes are the more likely landing spot now. Oklahoma State, the school that holds all eight 247Sports Crystal Ball predictions, may have trouble keeping up with Ohio State and Texas.
The most operative question may be whether Glass holds any ill will towards the Longhorns staff for not making him a consistent priority throughout the recruiting cycle.
Along the offensive line, Hookfin looms as the biggest target after co-offensive coordinator/offensive line coach Herb Hand declined to pursue Florida State junior college offensive tackle signee Jay Williams by offering and did the same with Miami graduate transfer offensive tackle signee Tommy Kennedy.
Speaking of graduate transfers, Texas could once again supplement both positions on that same market this offseason after benefiting tremendously from adding Cal graduate transfer running back Tre Watson and Rice graduate transfer offensive tackle Calvin Anderson last offseason.
Watson led the Longhorns in rushing yards after starting 11 of his 13 games in burnt orange and white. Anderson started every game at left tackle and solidified a position that struggled last season when All-American Connor Williams was injured.
The two players currently on the radar are former Arizona center Nathan Eldridge, a multi-year starter at center, and Oregon guard Jacob Capra, who was a key reserve in Eugene.
Eldridge has more experience as a starter at the center position, so he’s more intriguing than Capra from that standpoint, but Capra is the relatively rare graduate transfer with two years of eligibility remaining.
“Hadn’t thought about it,” Herman said when asked about taking more graduate transfers. “‘Anticipate’ might be a strong word, but I think it’s certainly a possibility.”
Since Hand already has Eldridge and Capra on his radar after hosting Kennedy for a visit, it’s clear that Texas is more serious about graduate transfers than Herman was willing to let on, for whatever reason.
However, the focus along the offensive line right now is on Hookfin, who doesn’t have a decision date set after pushing back a planned signing on Wednesday afternoon. Baylor was prepared to celebrate landing Hookfin’s signature, but Texas has an opportunity now to pull off a coup similar to winning out for junior college offensive lineman Mikey Grandy on Early Signing Day last season. Grandy looked locked in for UCLA before ultimately siding with Texas.
So Hookfin is one of potentially two prospects that Herman thinks could sign before the early period ends on Friday.
The other possible recruit is more speculative, but it’s not out of the question that the nation’s top athlete, California product Bru McCoy, could sign ahead of his Jan. 5 decision in San Antonio at the All-American Bowl. McCoy also qualifies as the best-player-available-basis that Herman mentioned.
Then there’s Mansfield Legacy safety Jalen Catalon — the Longhorns don’t necessarily have to land another safety in the class with four defensive back signees, Catalon is just good enough to secure one of the remaining spots after filling the needs.
Beyond the potential to seriously target the graduate transfer offensive lineman on the radar or a graduate transfer running back, Texas will also continue to evaluate options at the junior college and high school levels at offensive line and running back.
Offensive line recruiting, in particular, could echo last season, when Cy Woods offensive tackle Christian Jones emerged just before National Signing Day to become part of the class.
Since the staff brought in Bradenton (Fla.) IMG Academy defensive tackle Antoine Whitner for a visit, nose tackle is another position where Oscar Giles will continue to evaluate options.
With Huntsville defensive end T’Vondre Sweat listed at 285 pounds and 2018 nose tackle signee Keondre Coburn redshirting this season, along with late riser Moro Ojomo, Herman and Giles may decide to save that nose tackle spot for the 2020 class.
Right now there’s not a lot of clarity there since Whitner signed with Indiana and there aren’t any offers out.
By way of overall perspective, Texas added six new commits to the two previous commits on National Signing Day last February, with most of those late additions filling major needs along the offensive and defensive lines. The pressure to keep nose tackle Keondre Coburn and running back Keaontay Ingram was massive.
This year, the Longhorns don’t have nearly as many needs — hence Herman’s comments about taking the best players available. Even the needs in this cycle at running back and offensive line aren’t nearly as pressing as last season.
Call it progress.