Following a 2019 National Signing Day that only featured the signature of Texas Longhorns offensive tackle Javonne Shepherd and the official addition of USC Trojans wide receiver transfer Bru McCoy — neither of whom are still with the program — the major storylines on Wednesday are about the last remaining targets for #cloUT2020.
During the early signing period, the Longhorns landed 16 signees on the first day and then announced the addition of former Utes linebacker commit Jaylan Ford hours later.
In the weeks since then, Texas has hosted the remaining three targets and Tuesday evening’s pledge, Carthage athlete Kelvontay Dixon. He signed his National Letter of Intent during the school’s ceremony at 8:30 p.m. Central and Texas announced his addition to the 2020 class not long thereafter.
With roughly 80 percent of FBS recruits signing during the early period, the relatively quiet nature of 2020 recruiting in recent weeks is simply the new normal — most coaching staffs now use January to extend offers and host upcoming classes ahead of the February dead period. The remaining recruits, like Duncanville cornerback Ennis Rakestraw, are more highly coveted as programs across the country seek to fill needs late.
Before the NCAA instituted the early signing period, many of those late targets came from smaller programs from which the larger schools could poach late-rising prospects. Now players like Rakestraw and brief Texas wide receiver target Savion Williams see their stocks shoot through the roof over the cycle’s final weeks with only a few committed recruits unsigned.
In the case of the Longhorns, former Razorbacks pledge Williams opted not to visit in the final days and landing Rakestraw could take convincing him to stay home instead of choosing the Crimson Tide. Between the early and late signing periods, three-star prospects are the new four-star prospects.
As much as the recruiting landscape has changed in just the last several years, however, Texas is once again back in a position to significantly improve its recruiting class on National Signing Day. It won’t look anything like the 2016 finish for Charlie Strong — nothing in early February will look that way again if the current rules remain in place — but Tom Herman and his staff do have a chance to impact future roster in a substantive way.
Duncanville cornerback Ennis Rakestraw
Finalists — Alabama, Missouri, and Texas
Ceremony time — 8:00 a.m. Central
The announcement time and the three finalists are both relatively unofficial — Duncanville will hold its signing ceremony at that time and those are the three schools that received official visits from Rakestraw over the final weeks.
Missouri was the first of those three schools to offer the late-rising prospect, officially entering Rakestraw’s recruitment in mid-October, long before his stock took off in late December and early January. Offer timing is an important factor for a lot of recruits and there was temporarily one Crystal Ball prediction in favor of the Tigers.
Texas is the home-state school that already boasts a signature from teammate Ja’Quinden Jackson and has the advantage of proximity over both of the other major competitors. Despite offering Rakestraw less than a month ago without the presence of a new cornerbacks coach at that time, the Horns were able to get him on campus last weekend for an official visit.
The new cornerbacks coach, Jay Valai, apparently made an impression on Rakestraw in a short period of time.
One of the realist coaches n the game @JayValai pic.twitter.com/yVRDg4DePB— Ennis Rakestraw Jr (@EnnisRakestraw) February 4, 2020
However, Rakestraw described Alabama as his dream school when the Crimson Tide offered and there were at least five Crystal Ball projections for him to Tuscaloosa on Tuesday, a sign that head coach Nick Saban and his staff were making a late push for Rakestraw, too.
[8:30 a.m. Central update]: In an upset, an emotional Rakestraw picked Missouri on Wednesday morning.
Manor defensive end Princely Umanmielen
Finalists — Auburn, Baylor, Florida, Texas
Ceremony time — 2:20 p.m. Central (ESPN2 and ESPNU)
The former Longhorns commitment made two short trips to Austin in January, including an official visit late last week before taking a slightly longer journey up I-35 to visit new Bears head coach Dave Aranda and his staff.
Texas was able to get back in the mix for Umanmielen with new defensive coordinator’s Chris Ash preference for a four-man defensive line, the lack of which turned off Umanmielen when he was pledged to the Horns. However, Aranda made a shrewd decision by keeping some of the former high school coaches on the staff and that might have preserved the ability of Baylor to remain a contender.
Since Baylor was able to land that late visit from Umanmielen, though, Auburn never got an official visit. Technically, the Tigers weren’t eliminated and Umanmielen could make an unpredictable decision on Wednesday, but it seems safe to put them near the back of the four finalists.
Umanmielen is also on the record about his parents preferring him to stay closer to home, a statement not long before National Signing Day that suggests Baylor and Texas have the best chance of landing his signature.
On Tuesday, the momentum belonged to Baylor, with five Crystal Ball predictions in favor of the Bears.
[1:35 p.m. Central update]: There’s some buzz with Umanmielen and Florida this afternoon, including this from the Florida defensive line coach:
Somebody wants to be a GATOR!!!#ChompChomp— David W. Turner (@coachdt48) February 5, 2020
Notably, the Gators don’t have any defensive line targets left besides Umanmielen, so it’s possible that he’s headed to the Sunshine State. If that’s the case, then at least he’s out of the conference.
[2:30 p.m. Central update]: Turner was referencing Umanmielen, who picked the Gators on Wednesday afternoon.
Bastrop Cedar Creek defensive end Alfred Collins
Finalists — Alabama, Oklahoma, Texas
Ceremony time — 3:50 p.m. Central (here’s your open thread for his announcement)
Now a five-star prospect in the 247Sports rankings after an impressive week at the All-American Bowl, Collins is unquestionably the biggest target among the four prospects making — if he picks the Longhorns, Collins will become the third highest-rated recruit in the class.
Texas also has a need along the defensive line with the scheme changes and doesn’t have any excuse not to land the Longhorns legacy who grew up 30 miles away from campus.
In a key development, Collins visited the Forty Acres in January, his only late trip. Official visits to Alabama and Oklahoma happened way back in September.
The result is 13 Crystal Ball predictions in favor of Texas.
[4:15 p.m. Central update]: Following an extensive ceremony, Collins picked Texas.
Plugerville Weiss cornerback Edric Whitley
Ceremony time — 8:30 a.m. Central
Whitley is one of the cornerbacks that the Longhorns evaluated down the stretch, ultimately deciding to offer and target Duncanville’s Ennis Rakestraw. On Tuesday evening, however, Rakestraw started to trend heavily towards Alabama. As the Crystal Ball predictions poured in for Saban’s program, Whitley announced his decommitment from UNLV, a decision that he made on Sunday.
Ole Miss is also a contender with Whitley — he took an official visit to Oxford in the final visit weekend — so it’s possible that the Rebels simply made a final push for the Austin-area product.
Still, it’s a situation worth monitoring on Wednesday morning.
[8:30 a.m. Central update]: It was actually Arizona that made the late push for Whitley:
#AGTG committed... pic.twitter.com/u7hL5ITNiZ— (@Edric_Whitley) February 5, 2020