“We have to live in Dallas.”
When Texas Longhorns head coach Tom Herman told the Dallas Morning News of his plans for recruiting the Metroplex as his transition class signed more than two years ago, he did so with a limited track record of success recruiting that area with the Houston Cougars.
Up until recent days, Herman’s Texas program continued those trends, landing only six Metroplex-area recruits in the 2017, 2018, 2019, and 2020 classes combined. And that’s including 2019 wide receiver signee Kennedy Lewis, who hails from Melissa, a small town just north of McKinney.
By contrast, Oklahoma currently boasts seven pledges from that same geographical footprint, 70 percent of the 2020 recruiting class for the Sooners. Four of those players hold offers from the Longhorns.
The calculations of Darius Terrell at The Football Brainiacs indicate that of the 107 players signed by Herman, only seven of them have come from the Metroplex — a mere 6.5 percent.
As a result, there were significant concerns about Texas recruiting efforts in that talent-laden area, especially after Herman opted to retain all of his assistants, effectively entrusting any improvement to quality control coach Ra’Shaad Samples, the son of legendary Metroplex high school head coach Reginald Samples, who is now at Duncanville.
The younger Samples played at Dallas Skyline and is now a primary recruiter for the Horns in the Metroplex, even though he can’t go off campus. As Texas missed on some targets in the Dallas-Fort Worth area earlier in the 2020 cycle, his importance increased due to his connections to Duncanville standouts like Chris Thompson Jr. and Ja’Quinden Jackson.
A recent graduate of Houston, Samples has been on the Longhorns staff for less than 16 months, but he’s already earned a reputation as a “grinder” who has a deep knowledge of the area despite his youth. He grew up there and he’s remained entrenched in the community even after leaving for Oklahoma State and then Houston.
Last week, Samples landed his first major coup — a pledge from Jackson, the dynamic quarterback who nearly led his team to a state championship last December, only to fall on a last-second Hail Mary by Galena Park North Shore.
Jackson’s commitment gives Texas a needed second quarterback in the 2020 class following the transfers of Shane Buechele and Cameron Rising and a strong complement to Lake Travis standout Hudson Card. Both are versatile players who could contribute at other positions if quarterback doesn’t work out — Card was an excellent receiver for most of his sophomore season and Jackson projects favorably at a number of other positions, including wide receiver, tight end, and linebacker.
More than that, Jackson is ranked as the No. 55 player nationally and the No. 6 player in Texas, according to the 247Sports Composite rankings, so he’s an elite prospect who could help the Longhorns land other targets in the 2020 class, like his teammate Thompson.
The hope for Herman and his staff is that Jackson helps make Austin a desirable destination once again for Metroplex recruits to stop the flow of prospects north over the Red River or southeast to SEC schools.
Samples continued his burst of success, too, as Texas landed a commitment from 2021 Dallas Skyline wide receiver Quay Davis on Sunday. He’s another top-100 prospect who is an emerging home run threat on short passes or deep routes due to his explosiveness and tackle-breaking ability. Davis is also the first pledge in his class for the Longhorns.
The work is hardly finished, however, as Thompson looms as perhaps the key target in the secondary right now, while Arlington cornerback Jahari Rogers increasingly looks like a potential addition to the 2020 class. Securing a commitment and eventual signature from Highland Park edge rusher Prince Dorbah, the likely B-backer take in the cycle, is another major priority.
In the 2021 class, the top five prospects are all from the Dallas-Fort Worth area, including another Duncanville star, offensive tackle Savion Byrd, and the nation’s top dual-threat quarterback, Dallas Parish Episcopal’s Preston Stone. The narrative is still forming in that cycle, but the early returns suggest that success in that area will have a large impact on whether the Texas class accomplishes its objectives.
Even without noted Metroplex recruiter David Beaty on the support staff yet, the commitments of Jackson and Davis provide some important evidence that the work of Samples is starting to change the recruiting landscape in the one area where Herman and his staff have struggled ever since the Texas head coach assembled the group at Houston.
If the momentum continues, Samples could quickly cement himself as a rising star in the recruiting world, just as Director of Recruiting Bryan Carrington has in the last year and a half.