For the second consecutive year, National Signing Day was relatively quiet for the Texas Longhorns, especially since there weren’t any committed prospects who opted not to sign during the early period.
As a result, the only drama surrounded three remaining targets — Bastrop Cedar Creek defensive end Alfred Collins, Manor defensive end Princely Umanmielen, and Duncanville cornerback Ennis Rakestraw.
And while Umanmielen and Rakestraw both made decisions that went against the expectations entering Wednesday, neither chose Texas. So when Collins announced for the Horns and Carthage athlete Kelvontay Dixon signed after committing on Tuesday evening, there weren’t any surprises in favor of Texas.
So it goes.
With only two additions, the school opted against holding the traditional press conference for head coach Tom Herman, who has also added a number of assistant coaches to his staff since he last met with the media following the Alamo Bowl win over Utah.
Nonetheless, Herman did release statements through the school about the class overall and its two additions.
“February is not really regular signing day anymore,” Herman said. “It’s almost late signing day with most of our class wrapped up in December. Something we’re extremely proud of — all but one of our recruits in this class are from the state of Texas.”
In fact, 14 of the 26 signees in the 2019 class were from out of state, including two late junior college additions, a historic reach beyond the borders of Texas in the modern era for the Longhorns.
But that changed in 2020 as Texas was able to land more in-state prospects despite losing the commitments of several recruits, including Austin-area defensive end Princely Umanmielen and Temple wide receiver Quentin Johnston.
From the wide-angle perspective, Herman remains publicly committed to recruiting the great majority of his players from the Lone Star State.
“We have over 60 guys on our roster from the state of Texas,” he said. “Recruiting here in this state is going to be our lifeblood. We love going out of state when the interest is reciprocated, but we know that for us to have the kind of success that is expected here, we’ve got to do a great job in our state, and I feel like we’ve done that.”
Since that’s the case, Herman made sure to include the favored buzzword of Texas high school coaches — straight-line recruiting, which means going through the coaches and their assistants to initiate contact instead of going to the recruit directly or working through intermediaries like trainers, 7-on-7 coaches, or other assorted handlers.
“I want to thank the high school coaches here in the state of Texas and their straight-line recruiting model,” Herman continued. “We take a lot of pride in getting the best of the best in our home state to play for their flagship university, which is The University of Texas. We couldn’t be prouder. We addressed a lot of areas of need, and brought in a lot of guys we think will be able to come in and play early.”
Unless Herman has high expectations for Collins and Dixon to play early, however, that statement contradicts his stance during his Early Signing Day press conference back in December.
“Oh, it’s too hard to say,” Herman said when asked about early contributors. “You know, that’s predicting the future — I think like I told you guys before, we recruit the skill and combo guys, so we’re talking about non-linemen, non-quarterbacks. If we’re doing a good job we expect them to come in and play and contribute. Certainly on special teams at the very least.”
Since Texas only took two linebackers — the greatest position of need — Herman’s statement in December will probably prove more accurate than his optimism in February.
Still, there are plenty of reasons to be optimistic about the two signees on Wednesday.
“With Alfred, it seems like we’ve been recruiting him for forever,” Herman said. “It’s been about two-and-a-half years. He’s from right here in Bastrop. His mom played basketball here at UT for Coach (Jody) Conradt. His dad has got a great job here in Austin. All of the boxes were checked a long time ago from a character and work-ethic standpoint. When you turn the film on, this is a guy who just continues to get better. He’s so long, and strong, but extremely athletic. He’s a starter on their basketball team and a guy that’s going to do everything right. He’s going to give his teammates everything he’s got every time he steps on the field.”
Collins took a big jump as a senior in recording 86 tackles (53 solo), 35 tackles for loss, eight sacks, forced four fumbles ,and three recovered fumbles as a senior. Proximity played a factor in his decision — he wanted his mother to be able to see him play — but the move to a four-man line also impacted Collins staying close to home.
And that’s a potentially key recruiting lesson from the 2020 recruiting class regarding the schematic preferences of high school defensive ends.
As for Dixon, he has reported 10.71 100 meter speed, plenty of quickness, the ability to break tackles, and some experience as a senior working outside as a deep threat.
“Kelvontay is a fantastic young man,” Herman said. “He goes by ‘Moochie’, so that’s really what I know him as. Obviously, being Keaontay Ingram’s little brother, and us having a relationship with that family, made him a no-brainer. His two grandparents that are heavily involved in his life really made it well known that he was one of our kind of guys. With him, you get a ton of speed, a ton of aggressiveness and a knack for finding the football. And you get a guy that has played a lot of different positions in his career in high school.”