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When will Longhorn football commits begin the 2020 season?

UT commits could take the field again in 3 weeks. Or in October. Or next March. Or a year from now. It’s anybody’s guess.

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2021 safety JD Coffey (Kennedale) is scheduled to begin his senior season August 28, but most other UT commits will have to wait weeks or months longer.
247Sports

In recent weeks there have been significant changes to the 2020 college football schedule due to the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic, with major FBS conferences opting for conference-only slates and at least one FBS program (Connecticut) sitting out the 2020 season altogether.

The Coronavirus pandemic — which as of this writing has resulted in the deaths of over 160,000 people in the U.S. known to have contracted it, with nearly 8,000 of those deaths being Texas residents — is understandably having a significant effect on the 2020 high school football season as well, and most states have pushed back their start date for football by anywhere from a few weeks to six months.

Twelve states and the District of Columbia have moved their football seasons from this fall to the spring of 2021, and several others have delayed their season’s kickoff by at least a few weeks and/or announced that they will play a shortened schedule. Players all over the country who would normally be participating in fall practices by now and looking forward to playing games a few weeks hence are left wondering if they will play in this calendar year at all, or if they’ve played their final high school game already.

Below, I’ll discuss the current status of the upcoming high school football season as it pertains to the recruits currently committed to the Texas Longhorns.

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In each of the past five years I’ve written a weekly post at BON during the high school football season previewing the upcoming games for Longhorn commits and chronicling their exploits, successes and failures in the prior week’s games. In some years when the program has had commits from parts west of the Central time zone, those posts have begun in mid-August, and in every year they’ve continued through late December, as UT virtually always has at least one recruit playing for a Texas state championship the weekend before Christmas.

If there is a 2020 season, it’s already guaranteed to be completely unlike the five I’ve documented before it. Judging by how contagious the novel Coronavirus has shown itself to be, and by how it has spread among the rosters and support staffs of even professional teams in sports with much less crowded locker rooms and a lot more distancing on the field between players than competitive football can reasonably allow (see: Major League Baseball’s Miami Marlins and St. Louis Cardinals), it’s definitely possible that there won’t be a high school football season at all in this school year, not a full-fledged one anyway. Things will hopefully change for the better, but one should consider any calendars for the 2020-21 football season at any level to be fluid and subject to change.

Here’s where each UT commit currently stands with regard to when schools in their home state will be allowed to start the football season.

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Texas

12 of the Longhorns’ 17 commits (16 from the 2021 class and 1 from 2022) are in-state products. The University Interscholastic League (UIL), which governs athletics and other organized extracurricular competitions among the state’s public schools, announced in July that schools in the two largest classifications, 6A and 5A, would have the start of their 2020 football season delayed by four weeks, while those in Class 4A and below would begin play in the final weekend of August, as originally scheduled.

If this plan holds, then two future Longhorns will begin their senior season on Friday, August 28: 2021 safety JD Coffey, whose Kennedale team competes in Class 4A Division I, and 2021 running back Jonathon Brooks, who attends Class 3A Division I school Hallettsville.

Every other in-state commit attends schools at the 6A or 5A level and will play their first game on September 24, at the earliest. Those commits are:

2021 QB Jalen Milroe (Katy Tompkins) - Class 6A
2022 WR Phaizon Wilson (Lancaster) - Class 5A Division I
2021 TE Juan Davis (Everman) - Class 5A Division II
2021 OL Hayden Conner (Katy Taylor) - Class 6A
2021 DE Jordon Thomas (Port Arthur Memorial) - Class 5A Division I
2021 LB Morice Blackwell (Arlington Martin) - Class 6A
2021 LB Derrick Harris Jr. (New Caney) - Class 5A Division I
2021 CB Ishmael Ibraheem (Dallas Kimball) - Class 5A Division II
2021 ATH Billy Bowman (Denton Ryan) - Class 5A Division I
2021 ATH Ja’Tavion Sanders (Denton Ryan) - Class 5A Division I

Whether those 5A and 6A athletes actually play in September or later will also depend on the policies of their respective school districts, even assuming that nothing else changes between now and then. Most large school districts in the state are beginning the fall semester with online-only instruction and delaying the start of in-person classes until after Labor Day, and some have signaled they plan to wait longer than that before opening up their campuses to students. Some districts have said their schools will not participate in extracurricular activities (including athletic events) until after in-person classes start, while others intend to participate in workouts and scheduled games even if their schools have not yet had students attend classes on campus by that time.

Trying to keep up with football schedules week-to-week in September and October could cause more heads to explode than in the climactic showdown in Kingsman: The Secret Service.

California

2021 cornerback commit Jamier Johnson (John Muir - Pasadena, California) has known for a few weeks that his senior football season would not begin until the winter, if at all.

The California Interscholastic Federation (CIF) announced on July 20 that the start date for football practices would be pushed back to December, with games tentatively scheduled to begin on January 8, 2021. If that schedule holds, California’s sectional and state championship games would be played in April.

Colorado

2021 tight end commit Gunnar Helm (Cherry Creek - Englewood, Colorado) faces an even longer wait than Jamier Johnson for the start of his senior season.

On Tuesday, the Colorado High School Activities Association (CHSAA) announced a modified sports schedule for the 2020-21 school year, one that reduced the number of games to be played and the number of playoff participants in every sport and pushed back the start of most traditional fall sports by several months. Practices for football are now slated to begin in late February of 2021, with the first games to be played on March 4 and the state championships to be awarded by May 8.

Florida

2021 offensive lineman and newly-minted Longhorn commit Michael Myslinski (Bishop Kenny - Jacksonville, Florida), along with his fellow Sunshine State athletes, does not yet know when he’ll play his next football game. If not for Covid-19, his Bishop Kenny team would be taking the field for its first game two weeks from today. As of now, it might not kick off until mid-December.

On Wednesday of this week, the Athletic Directors Advisory Committee voted between three options proposed by the Florida High School Athletic Association (FHSAA) for when practices and games should begin. Eight of the 15 athletic directors on the committee voted to recommend “Option 3”, which would push the start of practices back to the week after Thanksgiving and have games begin December 14, just two days before the NCAA’s early signing period begins for senior football student-athletes.

Seven of the 15 favored Option 1, which would have games begin on September 11, but would also result in a complicated reshuffling of the state’s football playoff framework. The FHSAA’s Football Advisory Committee recommended that same option last month. The FHSAA’s Board of Directors will announce which plan the state will implement when it meets on August 14.

Louisiana

2021 wide receiver commit Casey Cain (Warren Easton - New Orleans, Louisiana) faces the most uncertainty about this season out of anyone in the #trUTh21 class. The high school football season in Louisiana was originally scheduled to kick off on September 3, but it will not begin until at least five weeks after that, and even an October start date might be optimistic at this point.

According to the Centers for Disease Control’s COVID Data Tracker, Louisiana leads all states in the number of reported Coronavirus cases per 100,000 residents, and is fifth in the rate of deaths per 100,000. Orleans Parish, where Cain’s high school is located, has the state’s third-highest cumulative number of confirmed cases among its 64 parishes, but is outside the top 25 in the number of cases per 100,000 residents.

Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards moved the state into Phase 2 of its reopening plan on June 4, but the number of daily reported new cases increased steadily throughout June and much of July, and the governor has extended Phase 2 at least twice, most recently on Tuesday of this week. Louisiana will remain in Phase 2 until at least August 28.

Per the Louisiana High School Athletic Association (LHSAA), football teams are currently allowed to practice but under tight restrictions on contact, the type of equipment used, and the size of groups working together in different spaces. Teams will not be allowed to hold full-contact practices or scrimmages until the state moves into Phase 3 of its reopening plan. Actual games cannot be held until the state’s Covid figures improve enough to allow it to move beyond Phase 3.

This week, the LHSAA tentatively moved the start date for football games from September 3 to October 8. For the season to actually start by that time, Louisiana’s Covid-19 situation would have to improve enough between August 28 and late September to allow it to move into Phase 3 and then advance beyond it after spending nearly three full months at Phase 2.

I’ll make no prediction on whether or not that will happen, but will note that Louisiana reported just under 2,800 combined new cases on August 4 and 5, which was the smallest two-day total it has seen from consecutive reporting days since late June.

Australia

No, I didn’t forget about 2021 punter commit Isaac Pearson of ProKick Australia, but I’ve got nothing on him because he doesn’t seem to play for an actual American football team. He has said he plans to enroll at Texas in the spring of 2021, so he’ll likely move to Austin before some of his fellow 2021 commits even play their next game.