With classes set to start next Tuesday, students are starting to arrive back on the Forty Acres, including members of the 2020 signing class for the Texas Longhorns who will begin their careers early.
The seven early enrollees arrived on the Forty Acres on Thursday — quarterback Hudson Card, offensive guard Logan Parr, center Jake Majors, defensive lineman Vernon Broughton, defensive tackle Sawyer Goram-Welch, safety Xavion Alford, and safety Jerrin Thompson.
Fortunately for the trajectory of the Longhorns program right now, none of the early enrollees project as players who will be forced into action this season, but no one expected that Roschon Johnson would have to step in at running back this time last year, so anything can happen.
The most likely avenue to playing time for this group is for guys like Alford and Thompson to earn spots on special teams, which seems like a reasonable assumption given their respective talent levels.
Lake Travis quarterback Hudson Card
Ranked as the No. 2 dual-threat quarterback in the country, according to the 247Sports Composite team rankings, Card is the second highest-rated recruit in the class behind consensus five-star running back Bijan Robinson. There are high expectations for the former Lake Travis standout, who looked impressive in the 2020 Under Armour All-American game, showcasing his accuracy and speed decision making on the opening drive, then throwing a touchdown pass later in the game. He also flashed his escapability on one play, avoiding a sack while keeping both hands on the football and keeping his eyes downfield as he scrambled outside the pocket.
The biggest question for Card is whether he’ll have to compete with Johnson during the spring or if he’ll be able to receive third-string snaps behind senior Sam Ehlinger and sophomore Casey Thompson. Card is expected to redshirt in 2020.
Helotes O’Connor offensive guard Logan Parr
Here’s what CoachLamons had to say about Parr when he signed back in December:
Parr posted a 4.64 shuttle at The Opening in 2019, so he has adequate quickness to be effective both as a pulling guard and in pass protection. Parr does a good job in pass protection and has adequate skills to seal the edge at the high school level. He also shows the ability to be effective as a pulling blocker at the next level. Parr needs to become more consistent in his pad level. Additionally, he sometimes struggles in with hand placement, especially in pass protection.
With improved quickness and balance, Parr could develop into a tackle at the collegiate level, but chances are he will make the move to guard opposite fellow 2020 signee Jake Majors. Regardless of which position Parr eventually fills, he should develop into a solid starter at the collegiate level.
Parr is expected to redshirt in 2020.
Prosper center Jake Majors
Like Parr, Majors played outside in high school and took a few snaps there in the Under Armour game, but started at center in Orlando and will stay at that position at Texas. He’ll initially go through rehabilitation after recently undergoing surgery to repair a ruptured flexor tendon in his left ring finger.
While Majors played left tackle during his time at Prosper, he profiles more as an interior lineman at the collegiate ranks. On film, Majors shows a high level of understanding of the game for a high school player. Majors executes virtually all run blocks well, using the correct angles and his precise footwork to help him gain leverage on opponents.
Majors showed quickness at The Opening in Frisco, displaying a 4.66 shuttle run, but his overall speed could improve, as he ran a 5.42 at The Opening. Majors displays excellent balance and explosiveness, allowing him to execute his blocks against virtually any opponent he saw at the high school level. Majors shows the ability to be effective when pulling, a factor that will be beneficial as an interior lineman at the collegiate level.
Majors needs to improve his consistency in pad level. Additionally, Majors sometimes struggles one on one in pass protection on the edge, especially against quicker defenders. He also needs to work on his eye discipline when pass blocking, as he sometimes commits too early inside, allowing delayed blitzes to come free off the edge. Some of these improvement items will prove to be moot points if he moves inside in the collegiate game as expected. Overall, Majors profiles as an intelligent, well coached offensive lineman who should develop into a starter on the Forty Acres in the near term.
Houston Cy Ridge defensive lineman Vernon Broughton
When Broughton initially committed to Texas, he was ranked as a defensive end, then re-classified as a defensive tackle as the cycle progressed. At 6’5 and 286 pounds, he was an ideal fit in former defensive coordinator Todd Orlando’s scheme as a defensive end, but with the move to a four-man front, it’s not quite as clear where he fits.
In the Under Armour game, Broughton made plays outside at defensive end and inside at defensive tackle. Because he started playing football late — he was a basketball player growing up — Broughton is considered relatively raw compared to some of his peers, but he clearly has the physical tools and enough refinement to make plays in an all-star game environment. In fact, he was so disruptive in his limited snaps that he earned more playing time.
So it will be interesting to track Broughton’s physical development because he has enough speed to remain outside, but may have to re-distribute some of his weight to maximize his ability at that position. If not, there’s no question that he could be an impact player inside, too.
Broughton has a shot at earning playing time this season if he can take advantage of his spring semester on campus. Of this group, he’s arguably the most intriguing player to watch in the Orange-White game this April.
Longview defensive tackle Sawyer Goram-Welch
Goram-Welch is lighter than Broughton right now, but has a more clean projection as an interior defensive lineman. A late addition to the class, Goram-Welch became a take when Texas moved out of Todd Orlando’s three-man front and was quickly able to flip him from Oklahoma State.
A productive run defender, Goram-Welch earned a spot in the class in part because of his growth as a pass rusher — he went from five sacks as a junior to eight sacks as a senior. As Goram-Welch gets stronger, he could blossom into an impact player because there’s evidence of some significant natural power rolling out of his hips and controlling opposing offensive linemen with heavy hands. He also showed a swim move that should serve him well playing defensive tackle at Texas.
Goram-Welch is a strong redshirt candidate this season.
Pearland Shadow Creek safety Xavion Alford
Unfortunately, Alford suffered a knee injury in the first game of his senior season that kept him from participating in the Under Armour game and likely set back his development. Known for his striking ability and ball skills, Alford projects as an impact player against the run and the pass — he broke up 20 passes and had six interceptions as a junior.
One area for growth with Alford is improving his shuttle time, which nearly matched his strong 4.55 40-yard dash. It could be that he just tested poorly in that particular drill on that particular day, as he posted a 35.9-inch vertical leap, too, but it could also be the case that he needs to open up his hips to improve his fluidity and change-of-direction ability.
Alford should be able to earn a spot on special teams this season, but could have a trajectory like David Gbenda or Kenyatta Watson II as a special teams contributor who only ends up playing in four games to preserve his eligibility.
Lufkin safety Jerrin Thompson
Thompson isn’t quite as strong of an athlete as Alford when comparing testing results, but he did have a much better shuttle time. In fact, Thompson’s feet are good enough that he could project as a nickel back if he adds enough strength to be able to defeat blockers in the perimeter passing game.
Last session with my guy @bugg_24 before he enrolls at The University of Texas tomorrow. His high motor and quick twitch and ball skills will soon be noticed by everyone, not to mention that hit stick!! Go crazy at DKR family...it’s up!! #HookEm #ThisIsTexas #FamilyTies pic.twitter.com/ADixj1oPbX— Fast Houston /// 3Stripes (@theradiokilla) January 14, 2020
Physicality isn’t an issue for Thompson, but he will have to improve his tackling technique in college.
However, Thompson should be able to find a spot on special teams in 2020 and could become valuable enough in that phase to play to in every game as a true freshman.