The highly-dramatic Junior Days of the Mack Brown era featuring numerous offers and commitments are long gone for the Texas Longhorns, but that didn’t blunt the importance of what head coach Tom Herman and his coaching staff accomplished over the weekend.
For many of the 2019 and 2020 prospects in attendance, it wasn’t their first time on campus or spending time with the coaches. However, it was the first time that they were the sole focus of attention with the added clarity of the support staff piecing together the needs and numbers moving forward.
Many of the prospects who toured the 40 Acres don’t have offers and may not receive offers, but building those relationships is critical for the staff as the track the development of the lower-rated 2019 prospects and position themselves to start full-on 2020 recruiting at this time next year.
There were two offers that went out, one to Camden (Ark.) Fairview offensive tackle Stacey Wilkins, and the other to Brock tight end Baylor Cupp. Additionally, a number of top targets were in attendance and spent valuable time with the coaches and support staff — in sum, the impressions made on those prospects will have a bigger impact on the overall class than the individual offers.
Port Neches-Groves quarterback Roschon Johnson
The longtime pledge is working on moving into a leadership role in the class as its quarterback take and lone commitment. So he’s becoming more active on Twitter and building relationships, especially with the offensive players who could end up catching passes or blocking for him.
Galena Park North Shore running back Zachary Evans
For the second straight weekend, Evans was on campus in Austin providing evidence of the 2020 star’s interest in the Longhorns. Good news there for the Longhorns as he emerges as one of the potential centerpieces of the upcoming cycle.
Evans had a chance to spend time with running backs coach Stan Drayton talking ball:
2020 RB Zachary Evans at the Texas Junior Day. Asked about his favorite part of the day, Evans said he enjoyed breaking down film with RB coach Stan Drayton. pic.twitter.com/wRvkCCeykZ— HornSports.com (@HornSports) February 17, 2018
Evans is currently ranked as the No. 3 player in the state for 2020 by 247Sports and Drayton’s presence on the staff should help Texas. In fact, the whole staff has done an excellent job recruiting Evans so far.
“Texas has definitely separated themselves,” Evans said, according to HornSports.com. “I know in the future of my recruiting process they are going to be able to break it down for me and keep it real with me throughout the process. I don’t want to just go to a school where they tell me what I want to hear.”
West Mesquite wide receiver Dylan Wright
The last few weeks have seen the stock of Dylan Wright blow through the roof — he picked up an offer from Texas in early January and then added Ohio State, Texas A&M, Florida, TCU, Florida State, Alabama, LSU, Michigan, Georgia, and Tennessee.
So getting him on campus was important for the Longhorns to make it clear that he’s a priority in the class. Unsurprisingly, the 6’3, 193-pounder came away impressed:
TCU was considered the favorite in January, but with so many schools entering the mix so quickly, it’s still extremely early for him.
Lake Travis wide receiver Garrett Wilson
Hailing from just outside Austin, Wilson is arguably the most important wide receiver target in the entire class after a monster junior season that included 26 touchdown catches. Like Evans, he was also on campus last weekend. Now he’s starting to echo Assistant Director of Player Personnel Bryan Carrington:
Austin, Texas.. Shushhh pic.twitter.com/PxopW10ClH— Garrett Wilson (@GarrettWilson_V) February 19, 2018
Ohio State is also a contender for Wilson and Oklahoma hosted him on Saturday.
Johnson, Wilson, and Austin Bowie wide receiver Elijah Higgins have all talked about playing together at Texas. If the ‘Horns can land those three, it will provide quite a nucleus for the 2019 offensive class at the skill positions.
Austin Bowie wide receiver Elijah Higgins
A standout performance at the Army Bowl Combine helped to seriously launch the recruitment of Higgins, who picked up his Texas offer in late January. Now he’s emerged along with Wilson and Wright as the wide receivers currently most likely to end up in the 2019 recruiting class.
“It means a lot to represent your city.” Higgins said, according to Hookem.com. “Garrett is still uncommitted and we’re talking about sticking together and hopefully that being in Austin if it works out right.”
Stanford may be the biggest threat to the Longhorns at this time, but the Junior Day was an important opportunity for the staff to make their academic pitch to the 6’3, 215-pounder.
Camden (Ark.) Fairview offensive tackle Stacey Wilkins
The 6’7, 280-pounder wasn’t really on the Longhorns radar heading into his visit, at least publicly, but he is now after picking up an offer. In fact, an appearance at the Army Bowl Combine and a visit to Norman for a Junior Day that produced an offer from the Sooners helped launch his recruitment.
Since Wilkins is of Polynesian descent, the Longhorns may have an advantage in pursuing Wilkins thanks to support staff member Jake Langi, who is also Polynesian. Langi was influential in the recruitment of 2018 offensive tackle signee Junior Angilau.
Arkansas and Oklahoma currently hold Crystal Ball predictions for Wilkins.
Houston Mayde Creek defensive end Marcus Stripling
The state’s top defensive end picked up an offer from Texas nearly a year ago and holds offers from top programs around the country. Getting him on campus was especially important, as the ‘Horns aren’t currently among his top schools — Florida, Oklahoma, Texas A&M, and then LSU.
Right now, he’s one of the Houston-area prospects who are leaning heavily towards the Aggies, so there’s some ground to make up in the coming months. The visit over the weekend was a start to that process.
Converse Judson defensive tackle DeMarvin Leal
Arguably one of the top five or so targets in the entire 2019 class, the Texas coaches are hoping to make the state’s top defensive tackle a centerpiece of #fUTure19. Leal is a top-100 prospect nationally and has Texas among his top four schools.
Leal noted the love the coaches show the players, according to HornSports.com, and spent time hearing about Texas from early enrollees BJ Foster and Caden Sterns, critical voice in favor of the Longhorns with 2019 and 2020 prospects.
After the visit, there were three Crystal Ball predictions in favor of Tom Herman’s program. Bryan Carrington steady doing work, y’all. With some help.
Flower Mound Marcus linebacker Marcel Brooks
The Longhorns offered Brooks last May and while there was some initial momentum, it worse off, leaving Texas outside of his top group of Alabama, LSU, Ohio State, Oklahoma, and Penn State. Of course, Oklahoma wasn’t heavily in the mix when he released his top six last fall, either, but got him on campus twice since then and surged in late November.
As with Stripling, Texas had some ground to make up on his visit and it’s not yet clear whether the staff did enough to make a jump into serious consideration:
For now, consider it a positive step, but Orlando has some work to do if he wants to keep the best linebacker in Texas from leaving the Lone Star State.
Westlake Village (Calif.) linebacker De’Gabriel Floyd
Since the linebacker position in state is weak this year — top-ranked prospect Marcel Brooks is more of a hybrid at 6’3, 200 pounds — landing a player like Floyd will be extremely important at a need position.
So far, so good.
Defensive coordinator Todd Orlando extended an offer in late January and quickly got Floyd on campus, where he came away impressed:
A former USC commit, Floyd is still considering the Trojans while he waits on an offer from UCLA. Oregon is also a contender after offering in December.
Fort Bend Bush cornerback Erick Young
Capable of playing cornerback or safety in college, Young is the state’s top-ranked cornerback and yet another prospect who came into the weekend high on Texas A&M. Even more importantly for the Longhorns, he wasn’t really considering Texas.
“It was a really good visit, it opened my eyes a lot,” Young told HornSports.com. “I wasn’t really feeling Texas, but after today I really like Texas.”
Texas opened my eyes— Erick Young ⁴ (@Fvmous_ey) February 19, 2018
Oklahoma also hosted Young on the weekend and LSU remains in the mix, but Young’s recruitment is shaping up to become one of the key Texas-Texas A&M battles in this cycle.
Fort Bend Bush safety Jamal Morris
Texas extended an offer to Young’s high school teammate in early December, making them one of the first major programs to officially enter his recruitment. Since then, he’s picked up offers from Georgia, Oklahoma, Arkansas, Tennessee, USC, Oregon, and Texas Tech.
As with several other prospects this weekend, the Sooners hosted Morris before he made his way down to Austin.
LSU currently holds all three of his Crystal Ball predictions.
In addition to the prospects over multiple classes to visit Texas on Saturday and Sunday, the staff was also able to get some trainers and 7-on-7 squads on campus, including Fast 7-on-7 from Houston and the True Buzz group from the Metroplex. There’s plenty of debate about the rising importance of those trainers and 7-on-7 coaches, but Herman and his staff understand that those cultivating those relationships is not an optional part of the business — it’s a necessity.
There were some top prospects in the state who didn’t make it to campus, too. Some of those players, like Allen wide receiver Theo Wease Jr., aren’t likely to end up in the 2019 class. Some recruits end up having transportation issues or otherwise can’t make it to the Junior Days.
All in all, however, the big weekend on the 40 Acres helped position the Longhorns for a successful 2019 recruiting cycle as the staff works to understand how spring official visits will alter the overall dynamics of the process.