With residence halls opening for football players on Thursday and classes for the spring semester starting on Tuesday, the 12 early enrollees for the Texas Longhorns in the 2022 recruiting class have arrived on the Forty Acres to officially begin their careers in burnt orange and white.
The early enrollees have arrived pic.twitter.com/hoG7w94zYr— Texas Football (@TexasFootball) January 14, 2022
Here are the players getting an early start to their Texas careers and the expectations for them in the 2022 season.
Ohio State QB transfer Quinn Ewers
The No. 1 recruit in the 2021 recruiting class with a perfect rating in the 247Sports Composite rankings left Columbus after playing two snaps for the Buckeyes after reclassifying from the 2022 class, but that hasn’t diminished expectations for Ewers with the Longhorns.
Head coach Steve Sarkisian brought Ewers in to win the starting quarterback job in 2022 and regardless of whether the Southlake Carroll product can secure that role over the 15 spring practices, the Horns need him to quickly prove his generational talent.
For Sarkisian to succeed in bringing Texas back to national relevance, Ewers almost certainly has to play an outsized role.
Gardena (Cali.) Junipero Serra QB Maalik Murphy
The big-framed, big-armed quarterback from California arrives on campus after playing two high school football seasons in the last year, including leading Serra to the Division 1A state title.
During that time, Murphy made tremendous strides as a quarterback in his first extended varsity action, but to what extent the 6’4.5, 225-pounder was able to move from a high-upside developmental prospect to a quarterback capable of contributing early if necessary remains unclear.
It is certain, however, that Murphy has a strong chance of becoming the backup quarterback this year if Ewers wins the starting job and Hudson Card elects to transfer as a result.
So there’s some definite pressure for Murphy to learn Sarkisian’s offense quickly since he may spend the 2022 season one play away from seeing the field.
Klein Cain RB Jaydon Blue
Once ranked as the nation’s No. 1 running back by 247Sports, Blue dropped from No. 4 to No. 14 in the 247Sports Composite rankings after opting out of his senior season.
But Blue’s decision not to play for Cain last fall didn’t magically transform him into a lesser player, it simply ensured that he could arrive on the Forty Acres this month injury free and without the wear and tear from a final high school football season.
However, with the top four running backs all returning from the 2021 Texas team, Blue is unlikely to crack the depth chart unless the Longhorns suffer injuries on the same level as the 2019 team.
Frisco OL Cole Hutson
The only early enrollee among the six current offensive line signees for Texas, Hutson has a chance to quickly break into the two-deep depth chart because the Longhorns simply don’t have large numbers of healthy returning offensive linemen.
When more depth arrives this summer, though, Hutson may not be able to maintain that positioning since he’s considered a developmental prospect.
Marlin DT Jaray Bledsoe
Bledsoe is ranked as the fifth-best prospect among the high school signees in the class, but plays one of the deepest positions on the team — five returning interior defensive linemen have substantial experience and the sixth, Sawyer Goram-Welch, is entering his third season in the program.
Bledsoe shouldn’t have any pressure develop quickly on the Forty Acres, but since three of those defensive linemen could depart after the 2022 season, the timetable for Bledsoe to seriously enter the rotation is 2023.
Trussville (Ala.) Trussville-Hewitt edge Justice Finkley
An Under Armour All-American who already looks the part, Finkley combines athleticism with maturity at a need position for Texas. Those traits make him one of the early enrollees most likely to contribute early and bolster the moribund Longhorns pass rush, but that projection could change quickly if Texas adds an edge target through the NCAA transfer portal like Drew Sanders or Ochaun Mathis.
Southaven (Miss.) DT Aaron Bryant
Like Bledsoe, Bryant will have to pass multiple older players to make an appearance on the depth chart and see any playing time in 2022, affording him the chance to grow into the position before needing to see the field.
Ohio State transfer CB Ryan Watts
After two years with the Buckeyes, Watts opted to return to the Lone Star State with 19 career games, 11 total tackles, and two interceptions to his credit. The addition of Watts bolsters a cornerback position that lost Josh Thompson to the NFL Draft and Darion Dunn to graduation. Combined with the struggles of D’Shawn Jamison late in the season, Watts has a chance to compete for a starting job, whether it’s beating out Jamison or Jahdae Barron, who flashed in 2021 but still remains relatively unproven.
Little Elm CB Terrance Brooks
Flipping Brooks from Ohio State on Early Signing Day marked a significant coup for Texas — Brooks is ranked as the No. 59 player nationally and the second-best best high school prospect in the class. Since cornerbacks are typically capable of contributing early, the question for Brooks is where he’ll end up playing since the Longhorns have solid depth at cornerback, but limited depth at nickel and at safety. Perhaps Brooks emerges as a starting-caliber player at nickel and allows Anthony Cook to move to safety.
Aledo S Bryan Allen Jr.
Texas will enter the spring with only three returning players at safety following the graduation of Brenden Schools and departures of BJ Foster, Chris Adimora, and Tyler Owens. As the No. 10 safety nationally and after playing at state powerhouse Aledo, Allen has the skills and pedigree to become an early contributor, especially if the Longhorns are unable to add an experienced player through the transfer portal.
Mission Hills (Cali.) Bishop Alemany S Larry Turner-Gooden
A one-time Arizona State commit who publicly committed to Texas last weekend at the All-American Bowl after signing in December, Turner-Gooden is another addition at a need position. The concern with Turner-Gooden is that he missed most of his senior season due to injury and had his junior season impacted by the coronavirus pandemic while playing both ways — he’s lost a lot of reps at the safety position for those reasons. During spring practice, getting those repetitions won’t be a problem for Turner-Gooden, affording him a chance to earn more playing time in 2022 than just on special teams.