As the Texas Longhorns attempt to land to a commitment from Bradenton (Fla.) IMG Academy running back Noah Cain, what’s the biggest key to his recruitment?
In an interview with SB Nation last week, the 5’10.5, 209-pounder said it’s all about the big uglies when it comes to the Horns.
“I told coach [Tom] Herman and [Stan] Drayton I want to see how the o-line develops,” Cain said. “Coach Drayton has a good track record of putting top backs into the league. But, at the same time, you got to have great offensive linemen in front of you.”
The struggles last season are no secret around the Forty Acres or with the Longhorns fan base — the 2017 group ranked No. 90 in adjusted line yards and no higher than 60th in the other eight categories used by Football Outsiders to measure collegiate offensive line play.
During the offseason, Herman opted to make a change, using the newly-created 10th assistant position to move former offensive line coach Derek Warehime to coaching tight ends and hiring well-regarded offensive line coach Herb Hand from Auburn.
If the Longhorns improve enough in the offensive trenches to impress Cain, it will almost certainly be a result of Hand’s work.
The landscape just changed in Cain’s recruitment, too, though. On Sunday, the nation’s No. 102 player reduced his list to six, a group that also includes Auburn, LSU, Ohio State, Oklahoma, and Penn State.
Cain’s parents took a visit to Happy Valley without him over the weekend, but the more important development came on Sunday when John Emery Jr., one of the few running backs ranked ahead of Cain, ended his recruitment by committing to Georgia.
What does that have to do with Cain and the Longhorns?
LSU currently has 18 commitments, including a pledge from 6’1, 230-pound running back Tyrion Davis, so there was speculation that the Tigers might not have room for Cain if Emery opted to stay home in Louisiana.
Now that Emery is headed off to Athens, however, the LSU coaching staff could start recruiting Cain more intensely. Since Cain is a Baton Rouge native, it could be hard for him to resist the draw to go home and play in Death Valley.
Texas is still considered the significant favorite in Cain’s 247Sports Crystal Ball predictions, but the sense is that this recruitment is much closer than that — it’s hard to say that the Horns lead for Cain when he hasn’t even seen what he wants to see from the offensive line.
The stakes are significant, too, as Cain could be the game-breaking running back the Longhorns need. It’s possible that player is already on campus, but no single player has proven that ability on the field yet.
And then there’s the reality that Stan Drayton has focused most of his efforts on Cain and his teammate Trey Sanders, who is still considering Texas but likely to re-commit to Alabama. All of the other running backs are further on the fringes of the radar, including Texas product Darwin Barlow, who is still waiting for an offer.
It’s not exactly Noah Cain or bust for the Longhorns at running back in 2019, but it’s not far off, either.