One sign of strong evaluations by a football program is identifying rising prospects who weren’t highly considered early in the process, for whatever reason, then landing then. During the 2019 recruiting cycle, the Texas Longhorns have done exactly that with Sugar Land Dulles offensive tackle Isaiah Hookfin, Many (La.) defensive end Myron Warren, and Plano East safety Tyler Owens.
For Longhorns fans, those are extremely positive developments for #fUTure19 and speak highly and head coach Tom Herman and his staff — Texas evaluated and offered those prospects as they were trending upwards and then secured signatures from all three.
On Thursday, with the news that Texas was the potential destination for former five-star prospect Bru McCoy, who signed an aid agreement with the Horns on Friday, that development and the rise of those three prospects prompted quite a reaction from TexAgs publisher Billy Luicci:
...after several insane post-season ratings bumps for multiple commits. Even by Texas standards what happened with Owens, Hookfin and Warren is pretty laughable. https://t.co/owvOlAIgdh— Billy Liucci (@billyliucci) January 24, 2019
Even though a prospect like Texas A&M tight end signee Brock Cupp has justifiably seen his ranking skyrocket a full 431 spots since he was first evaluated, this type of conspiracy theorizing has been a common theme for Aggies for years.
Here are the real reasons why those three were overlooked early and boosted in the rankings late.
Tyler Owens didn’t become a freak athlete yesterday
Change since first ranking: +775
In early March, the Plano East safety ran a 10.34 100m at a track meet before jumping 377 spots in the rankings from late April to early May. Then Owens showed up at a Texas camp during the summer and impressed the coaches enough to earn an offer.
When he committed to the Horns in late September, 247Sports called him a freak athlete, citing that 100m time and an 11’2 broad jump, in addition to improved early season senior film, helpfully uploaded week by week to Hudl.
For evaluators, those are two huge considerations — are there verifiable measures of athleticism and improvement on film? Owens clearly checked both boxes. Did his ranking jump after he committed to Texas? It did, 370 spots, as a result of the combination of testing times and improved film.
As a result, Owens was clearly as on the radar of the top 247Sports evaluators in late September, as well as the All-American Bowl selection committee, resulting in his pledge to play in that showcase game before he continued to show out on the field.
“His senior year, really caught up to those measurables,” Texas head coach Tom Herman said in December. “You could tell the light switch went on. Had a phenomenal senior year. He’s an athletic freak. We’re excited to see him develop. Coach Naivar and Coach Beck found him early. Talked to his high school coaches about his potential. We got him to camp and just absolutely fell in love with him.”
The release of the senior film for Owens resulted in a boost of 90 spots in mid-December.
With a big senior season that confirmed those initial impressions from late September and a strong showing in San Antonio that featured constant footage emerging of Owens making plays in practice, the 6’2, 197-pounder showed out against top competition. And while Owens showed areas for growth during the game, he also flashed that tantalizing upside.
After more evaluators got to watch Owens in person, the final two updates moved him close to the top 100 prospects in the country. Because when a freak athlete combines that athleticism with production, that’s the result. How many players are there in the country with that combination of size, speed, and production?
That’s a rhetorical question.
Owens isn’t the first prospect with a remarkable trajectory of improvement to match elite athleticism and won’t be the last. Other prospects with verifiable measures of athleticism and growth have received similar boosts and will once again in the future. That’s just how this works.
The biggest movement for Isaiah Hookfin happened before he signed
Change since first ranking: +1,020
Every cycle, there are prospects who emerge late on the scene and skyrocket up the rankings. Sugar Land Dulles offensive tackle Isaiah Hookfin was one of those prospects after suffering from injuries early in his high school career. When he got on the field and showcased his high-upside athleticism and movement abilities, the rankings boost followed suit.
At the risk of redundancy, that’s how this works.
In late October, when Hookfin’s stock started to rise around college football, he jumped 780 spots in the rankings as schools like Baylor, Mississippi State, and Auburn extended offers. In fact, more than 76 percent of Hookin’s jump in the rankings happened before Texas even offered. He moved up 251 more spots before he signed with Texas after nearly inking with Baylor.
The final change of 125 spots when evaluators were able to see Hookfin in action as a senior represented only 12.5 percent of his overall rise — the opinions on the Sugar Land Dulles product had already calcified by that point.
If anything, the rise of Hookfin represents something of a correction for evaluators who haven’t put enough value on offensive linemen with all the tools to succeed except for the ideal weight to contribute early.
Myron Warren was a public mystery until he released his senior film
Change since first ranking: +560
Want to create a profile for an underrated and under-evaluated prospect? Put them in a small town of less than 3,000 people. Keep them off the camp circuit. And make sure they don’t have any available film until late in the process.
Meet defensive end Myron Warren, the product of Many, Louisiana, situated south of Shreveport and north of Lake Charles.
For a serious evaluator, the commitment of the 6’3, 240-pounder in early May of 2018 to TCU would be a sign to pay attention to that prospect. Horned Frogs head coach Gary Patterson unquestionably knows his business, after all. Unsurprisingly, Warren saw his ranking improve by 234 spots late that month.
In early October, Texas offered, sparking a decommitment from TCU. At the time, however, Warren was largely a mystery because he didn’t have any publicly-available film.
After he committed to the Longhorns in mid-November two days after taking his official visit, he was still largely a mystery. And then, in early December, he finally released his senior film, which revealed a physical specimen with significant upside. Clips of his basketball highlights showed a player with the ability and intent to dunk on anyone in his way.
“Excels at basketball, very explosive,” Herman said of Warren. “He’s a guy that, especially when you see him play basketball, you’re just amazed at how a guy that big can move that way.”
Between the release of Warren’s film and the mot recent rankings update, those attributes Warren displayed in spades resulted in him moving up 269 spots in the rankings. Racking up 14 sacks and 30 tackles for loss will do that. Evaluators be evaluating.
The Horns now have the No. 3 class nationally according to the 247Sports Composite rankings, aided significantly by the addition of McCoy, but the presence in the class of late-rising prospects like Hookfin, Warren, and Owens is a not-insignificant reason why Texas is in position to once again end a cycle with an elite group of prospects.