Monday marked the start of Portal Madness as the window opened for the NCAA transfer portal and hundreds of FBS players officially submitted their names. For the Texas Longhorns coaching staff, that means evaluating a number of players for fit and while balancing finishing the 2023 recruiting class with communicating with current players who could return.
It’s not an easy task and for certain positions like linebacker could result in a more cautious approach tempered by the understanding that waiting too long to offer a particular player could drastically reduce the odds of landing them.
As Texas head coach Steve Sarkisian and his staff navigate those obstacles, here’s an early look at names of interest for the Longhorns, including one offer out on Monday.*
*Some players will publicly report their offers, but many will not, complicating the public-facing side of some recruitments.
Wake Forest redshirt sophomore CB Gavin Holmes
A Louisiana product, Holmes was a solid contributor for the Demon Deacons over the last two seasons and fits a need for the Longhorns as a boundary cornerback who could provide solid depth while competing for the starting job against younger players like freshmen Austin Jordan and Terrance Brooks.
With a number of Power Five offers extended on Monday, Holmes will be in demand, but the ties of Texas secondary coach Terry Joseph to the New Orleans area where Holmes is from could make the Horns a contender.
Names to know
Missouri WR Dominic Lovett
Although Lovett was a consensus four-star prospect out of East St. Louis in the 2021 recruiting class, he’s arguably overachieved his ranking as the No. 52 wide receiver nationally, according to the 247Sports Composite rankings with 82 receptions for 1,019 yards and three touchdowns over his two seasons in Columbia.
As a 5’10, 175-pounder, Lovett fits the mold that Sarkisian prefers in his wide receivers, but should one of the most coveted pass catchers in the portal and ranks as one without any clear ties to the Longhorns program.
Arizona WR Dorian Singer
One of the late targets for the Longhorns under the previous coaching staff, Singer ended up staying in state and signing with the Wildcats in the 2021 recruiting class, developing into a solid target this season with 66 receptions for 1,105 yards and six touchdowns.
A big-play threat with high-level ball skills, Singer averaged 16.7 yards per catch, but didn’t show a lot of diversity in his route running, mainly harassing defenses on go routes. Still, he was interested in Texas coming out of high school and could emerge as one of the potential targets at a need position.
Austin Peay WR Drae McCray
Although McCray will have to make the jump from FCS, he was a standout at that level, earning All-American honors as a freshman and continuing to produce this season with 75 catches for 1,021 yards and nine touchdowns. Notably, McCray was even productive in a loss to Alabama, catching 12 passes for 92 yards. Like Lovett, McCray fits the mold of wide receiver that Sarkisian prefers at 5’9, 177 pounds with explosive ability.
UCF WR Ryan O’Keefe
The Round Rock native was ranked as a cornerback and largely overlooked in the 2019 cycle before heading to Florida and ending up a wide receiver, producing 812 yards and seven touchdowns last season and 725 yards and five touchdowns this season. If there’s a knock on O’Keefe it’s the strange juxtaposition of averaging less than 10 yards per catch the last two seasons with a reasonable number of truly explosive plays.
Alabama OL Javion Cohen
Cohen was a two-year starter for Alabama at the guard position and was recruited by Texas offensive line coach Kyle Flood. And while it’s still unclear whether the Longhorns will target any offensive linemen in the portal with all the young talent on campus, it would make sense to add a proven player to the mix to compete at guard or right tackle. Notably, Flood is the only staff member who follows Cohen, but current right tackle Christian Jones does as well.
Indiana edge Dasan McCullough
Ranked as the No. 75 prospect in the 2022 recruiting class, McCullough made the surprise decision to stay at home and play for the Hoosiers despite a previous commitment to the Buckeyes. McCullough should be one of the most coveted players in the portal after a strong freshman season during which he recorded 49 tackles, 6.5 tackles for loss, and four sacks.
Oklahoma is emerging as the early favorite for the talented edge defender, but McCullough is too good not to at least judge his interest.
Oklahoma edge Clayton Smith
The one-time high school teammate of Texas freshman edge Derrick Brown, Smith is a former consensus five-star prospect from the 2021 recruiting class who was never able to carve at a successful role in Norman, but still possesses significant upside.
Considering the young talent on the Texas campus, as well as a 2023 recruit like Colton Vasek, it probably makes more sense for the Longhorns to pursue a more proven graduate transfer on the edge who could serve as a one-year stopgap while the young players develop.
And Smith’s trajectory raises an important question about the portal — two years later, who much value is there in unrealized potential when other, less-heralded players have proven it on the field?
For a program like Texas, the answer regarding a player like Smith is, likely not enough value to use a roster spot on someone already well down the pathway to becoming a bust.
Tulsa LB Justin Wright
Linebacker is one of the more difficult positions for the Texas staff to navigate because the expectation is that Jaylan Ford will return for another season, but his draft feedback could change that calculation. The Longhorns are also the apparent leader for No. 1 linebacker Anthony Hill, a situation the staff won’t want to endanger in the next several weeks by pursuing a potential starting linebacker opposite of Ford, assuming his return.
Difficult to navigate, right?
So there are plenty of moving parts at this position and, as a graduate transfer, Wright may be a player who prefers a more clear route to a starting role for his last season of college football. But there’s no question that Wright is appealing after starting the last two seasons for the Golden Hurricane and racking up 254 total tackles, 25.5 tackles for loss, 7.5 sacks, four interceptions, and two forced fumbles.
Oregon LB Justin Flowe
Once a seemingly can’t-miss prospect pursued by Texas who finished the 2020 cycle as the No. 6 player and the No. 1 inside linebacker, Flowe’s career in Eugene was derailed by injuries before a mostly unimpactful 2022 season.
So Flowe represents a different kind of reclamation project than Smith, but ultimately fits into a similar category — the Longhorns should pursue linebackers or edge players with a recent history of proven success.