Tom Herman capped his first full recruiting cycle on the Forty Acres with the third-best class in the country, which marks the most highly-touted unit to sign with the Texas Longhorns since Mack Brown’s No. 2-ranked class in 2012.
The 27-man haul featured a pair of five-star prospects in Caden Sterns and BJ Foster, who respectively ranked No. 1 and No. 3 at the safety position. Two others — kicker Cameron Dicker and punter Ryan Bujcevski — ranked within the top five at their position, and another eight newcomers finished as one of the top 10 prospects at their position.
Considering such a considerable amount of talent has arrived on the Forty Acres since the start of the new year, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that many of the fresh faces are already making their presence felt ahead of their freshman season.
Senior cornerback Kris Boyd, now one of the team leaders and a candidate to become a team captain in his final season, is taking notice.
Thank you to the freshman class! #revolution18 for coming in hungry as ever, making the biggest impact, ready to work as me and the seniors lead finishing our last camp. Can’t explain how much I love y’all bois! And can’t wait to see y’all grow!!!— kris boyd™ (@kris23db) August 19, 2018
Texas defensive coordinator Todd Orlando, who met with the media on Saturday and provided high praise for the #RevolUTion18 class, is taking notice, too.
“I think the young class, the RevolUTion class, has come in there, and I know [Herman] has said this a couple of times too, that they’ve been very impressive,” Orlando said. “They’re as advertised. They’re making moves up the depth chart. Some of them are just a little bit green but very talented. That’s our job as a coach, to get them ready.”
Orlando added that he sees himself relying on three or four true freshman in 2018 and arguably the most notable of the bunch is Sterns, who was named as a starter on Monday, making him the only true freshman to earn a first-team nod.
If there’s any position group on the Longhorns roster abundance with talent, it’s the secondary, but Orlando raved about well Sterns has developed, earned his trust, and ultimately, a starting job opposite of junior Brandon Jones.
“That’s a lot of thinking back there at that position, and just a lot of communication. When you’re a young guy coming into it especially with vets that have played in the system, you can be a little hesitant. He’s taken over. He’s got big speed and big range. We’re very, very fortunate to have him,” Orlando said of Sterns.
“He’s a real good ball player. That’s the part that I see. He’s always had the tools, but in this system, to me the hardest position is at safety. There’s a lot of thinking and a lot of moving parts that go into it,” Orlando added. “During the spring, there was ‘what’s going on?’ Now, going into fall camp, he’s really picked it up. He’s one of the guys now. They’ve accepted him. They know how talented he is and they’ve helped him along.”
#Texas HC @CoachTomHerman with very high praise for former @Football_Steele standout Caden Sterns (@lil_STERNS2) who enrolled early in Austin...Herman adds "I wish we could sign 25 Caden Sterns a year" (via @markmendez) @TexasFootball @SteeleAthletics @SCUCISD #KSATsports pic.twitter.com/k9laeIsUBF— RJ Marquez (@KSATRJ) May 15, 2018
Sterns has garnered the most praise of any freshman and, of course, a role running with the first-team defense, but he’s far from the only newcomer being noticed for his early efforts.
When asked which freshman have jumped out besides Sterns, Orlando noted fellow five-star safety B.J. Foster, B-Backer Joseph Ossai, and former All-American cornerbacks Anthony Cook and Jalen Green.
“Some of those guys come in and normally when you have a recruiting class, what you see on film may be sometimes not what you get,’ Orlando said. “Really, when we look at this the whole collection offensive and defensive wise, we can’t see anybody you would say is a ‘bust’ or say to yourself, ‘Oh my goodness, we’ve got to really work with this guy.’
“It was a really good class. Did a really good job recruiting not only the outside but the inside. These are all great kids from great families raised the right way. They come into our program and they know how to work.”
Orlando’s sentiments were on full display last week.
After impressing throughout the first half of fall camp, Herman reached out to Michelyn Moore, the mother of freshman wide receiver Joshua Moore, to express gratitude for how well she raised him and how well he’s performed.
“Joshua Moore’s doing great. I called his mom the other night... ‘This is a good call,’” Herman said he told Michelyn. “I’m calling to tell you that your son’s doing an unbelievable job and you did an unbelievable job raising him.”
With Texas losing starting slot receiver Reggie Hemphill-Mapps to a transfer this offseason, Herman said Moore is pushing for playing time at the position, as is D’shawn Jamison, who made the transition to the slot after arriving on the Forty Acres as a four-star cornerback.
“[Moore] will be in the slot. I think what that gives us is two guys with him and D’Shawn Jamison that [have a] completely different skill set than [Lil’Jordan] Humphrey,” Herman told the media on Thursday. “LJ is our most versatile player on offense, but those two guys are so dynamic and so quick and fast.
“I told both those guys, ‘We’re going to put you in the game and you’ve got a responsibility to make sure that you don’t let the rest of the team down by having a full grasp of what you’re supposed to do exactly and doing it perfectly right.’”
Jamison took advantage of his opportunities during Saturday’s scrimmage, reportedly breaking off a 70-yard run on a jet sweep and scoring two touchdowns.
Entering the season in a situation similar to that of Moore and Jamison is running back Keaontay Ingram.
The Carthage product arrived in Austin this summer as the top-ranked running back in Texas on the heels of back-to-back 2,000-yard campaigns and brought with him a do-it-all skill set, which has prompted comparisons to Arian Foster. When Ingram put pen to paper in February, many expected him to see the field sooner than later and those expectations are beginning to prove true ahead of his debut season.
Fast forward to his first fall camp and Ingram has already established his place within the top tier at running back, ahead of options including Toneil Carter, Kyle Porter, and Kirk Johnson. Not only has Ingram impressed the coaching staff enough to climb the depth chart in a matter of weeks, but he’s caught the attention of the quarterbacks with whom he will share a backfield.
“I love him already. He’s a great kid. He’s a guy that has the football smarts,” Sam Ehlinger said of Ingram. “He has really good wiggle as well. He’s a really shifty guy. He understand where we’re trying to run the ball and what’s going to be open depending on what happens with defenses. I think it’s just something that he has in a knack for football and understanding the flow of where the play is going to go.”
Ehlinger added that he trusts him to pick up blitzes in pass protection as well.
“I’ve seen him step up and block huge linebackers off the edge and hold his own so I have full trust in him with whatever.”
Shane Buechele echoed Ehlinger’s sentiments, saying Ingram has everything you want in a running back from a physical standpoint.
“He’s just dynamic. He’s really fast. He makes moves. He’s a good back,” Buechele said. “Pass pro, he’s been good. Now he just needs to dive into his playbook, dive into the film room, and just continue to add to his brain. He’s got to get into the film room and continue to make himself a better player in that aspect because physically, he’s got everything you need.”
Even some players who are likely to redshirt are impressing the coaching staff. Quarterback Cameron Rising, one of the early enrollees from the spring, isn’t that far behind Ehlinger and Buechele, Herman said on Monday.
All of the necessary talent is there for Rising, so now it’s simply a matter of the game slowing down for him and he gains more experience. So the staff believes that the future is bright for Rising.
In fact, the future already looks bright for many key components of the heralded #RevolUTion18 class, with Sterns set to become the first freshman defensive back to start a season opener since Blake Gideon in 2008.
A handful of other players should serve in key roles, while others contribute in the four games in which they can participate without losing a season of eligibility, Right now, the staff would like to save those games for later in the season in the event injuries begin to take a toll.
The highest-ranked classes in recent history have largely been disappointing, but if the early indications lead to a long-term trend, #RevolUTion18 will end that ignominious streak.
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