Early Signing Day is in the books and it appears Steve Sarkisian and the Texas Longhorns have locked in another top-five recruiting class. Outside of Arch Manning and Anthony Hill, what signee are you excited about the most?
Daniel Seahorn (@DanielSeahorn) - Sydir Mitchell. Texas went head to head with Georgia to land Mitchell and when you look at the monsters they are churning out on the defensive side of the ball you’ll realize how significant this is. Mitchell has a chance to be a guy that has a significant impact for Pete Kwiatkowski’s defense once he arrives on campus and gets acclimated.
Gerald Goodridge (@ghgoodridge) - For me it's probably Johntay Cook. We saw this year that Texas needed some additional passing threats and frankly, his current skillset probably fits the vertical routes that frustrated fans this year, which will allow Xavier Worthy to do what he does best and break ankles out of breaks. He’s also a kid that just loves Texas and will bring energy and magnetism to the group.
Cameron Parker (@camerondparker) - Derek Williams. There’s been a ton of hype around the 4-star safety and I can see why. He can be used in various different ways on defense and has the speed, size, and football IQ to make him an instant contributor.
Wescott Eberts (@SBN_Wescott) - Anthony Hill. The Denton Ryan standout is one of the best linebackers to ever sign with Texas. He’s hard-working, he’s fast, he’s physical, and all those qualities make him a strong candidate to start the 2023 season opener for the Longhorns.
Last year Texas signed arguably the best offensive line class in the country, did they do the same with linebackers/edges in 2023?
Daniel - Georgia (shocker) probably takes the crown in that category, but you won’t hear the Texas coaching staff complaining about their haul. The Longhorn linebacker group checks all the boxes and I won’t be surprised if a couple of them find their way to the field early on after enrolling early.
Gerald - You definitely can’t say this is better than Georgia’s group from a national perspective, but comparing it to last year’s OL haul is not a bad comparison as far as future impact for Texas. When Sark and Co. came in, they saw that the roster composition needed an overhaul and they had a clear plan. It seems like Phase 1 of the recruiting plan was the OL and DL and Phase 2 was the edges and linebackers, in an effort to reshape this roster to look like one that can compete in the SEC.
Cameron - I’ll lean towards Georgia having the best linebacking class in the country but just as the offensive line looks promising heading into 2023, I’ll say it’ll be the edge/linebacker positions that will look that way going into 2024. Outside of the OL, the edge might be the position that will have the most depth next season.
Wescott - I think a better comparison is looking back through Texas history in the modern recruiting era and I would slot this group as the best for the Longhorns. More importantly, both of those positions were huge needs for Texas, so being able to address those roster gaps was a massive priority for head coach Steve Sarkisian and Jeff Choate came through huge with some help from other assistants, including defensive coordinator Pete Kwiatkowski.
There are a lot of positives but were there any weaknesses in the class? Any areas you thought the staff didn’t address?
Daniel - I think the class lacks a bonafide receiving threat at the tight end position. Spencer Shannon is mainly an in-line blocking tight end and I think Will Randle, while he does have some ability as a receiver isn’t one who will strike fear in a defense. The staff kept Ka’Morrean Pimpton warm and got him on campus the final weekend before signing day, but he ultimately flipped to LSU. Duce Robinson has been a long shot the entire cycle, but the staff continues to pursue it since he will sign in February. This feels like a position for a possible portal addition with Ja’Tavion Sanders about to be a junior in 2023 and the position group needing another body in the pipeline.
Gerald - I think the small group at the defensive back means that Texas is likely going to have to dip back into the portal again next year to try and add talent and depth in the back of the defense. They’ve already got Jaden Allen committed for the 2024 cycle, which helps, but it was odd to me to see such a small group in the secondary.
Cameron - Only one interior lineman signed (Sydir Mitchell) but the staff must feel confident about the guys they have on the roster now. Outside of DL, it wasn’t a big class for the secondary and hopefully, some of the ‘22 guys develop (B.J. Allen, Turner-Gooden, Austin Gordan) or address those needs in the secondary.
Wescott - It’s a small group in the secondary with only Derek Williams at safety and Malik Muhammad at cornerback, so landing Jelani McDonald as a big nickel will be important next month. Other than that, I think the tight end group is not particularly highly rated and I agree with Daniel that I don’t see Spencer Shannon or Will Randle making a big impact in the passing game. Perhaps a late surge with Duce Robinson is possible since he didn’t sign in the early period – Sark has shown a willingness to play two tight ends together and Robinson would project as the starter in 2024 with Ja’Tavion Sanders likely going pro after next season.
National Signing Day is not until February 1st but it appears Sark has the 2023 class largely sown up. Are there any other recruits Texas may target in the next month or is this class finalized?
Daniel - Jelani McDonald is one more to watch and he has reportedly already signed and will announce at the Army All-American game. The staff will recruit five-star tight end Duce Robinson to the bitter end, but that recruitment looks to be trending towards Georgia.
Gerald - To reference my previous answer, Texas brought in cornerback Tyler Scott out of Georgia for an official visit ahead of Early Signing Day but he clearly left uncommitted. They’re likely going to stay on him in the hopes of adding another defensive back to the group, but it seems pretty unlikely.
Cameron - The two biggest names seem to be 4-star Jelani McDonald who is signing on Jan. 7 or Syracuse DB Ja’Had Carter. Carter would instantly fill a spot in the secondary left by Anthony Cook. Outside of that, the staff may be waiting for portal additions after spring camp.
Wescott - McDonald is the big remaining target. Georgia cornerback Tyler Scott is also on the radar and will commit the same day, but I think Auburn has the edge there. With the vast majority of prospects signing in the early period, I don’t expect any currently unknown targets to emerge for Texas – the 2023 recruiting class, at least as it pertains to high school prospects, is almost entirely complete with the possible exception of landing Robinson, which still feels like a longshot.
What was the biggest storyline outside of Austin that you saw pertaining to ESD?
Daniel - Alabama being back to being Alabama on the recruiting trail just months after Nick Saban sent a very loud message to the rest of the college football world about NIL. Oregon was also making a lot of noise, but they did ultimately lose Peyton Bowen to Oklahoma today after he initially flipped to the Ducks. Not sure I’ve seen a recruit be committed to three different schools publicly in a span of 24 hours.
Gerald - It’s got to be Oregon. It started the night before with former Texas staffer Will Stein poaching Baylor’s quarterback from the class, leaving them without one. In addition to the hilarious flip of Austin Novosad, it felt like they landed a ton of talent on the day – including flipping a blue chip corner from LSU and gaining the commitment of five-star edge Matayo Uiagalelei.
Cameron - Venables and the OU staff kept blowing and going their way into a top-10 class that includes a few studs. I know Texas fans don’t want to hear it but it wasn’t a total dud for Boomer Sooner this year.
Wescott - Even with Oregon unable to secure the signature of five-star safety Peyton Bowen after he flipped from Notre Dame on Early Signing Day, the Ducks were red hot in landing big prospects. Tosh Lupoi was doing what he does best – making sure those bags get delivered.