National Signing Day is officially in the books and that means Texas head football coach Steve Sarkisian has put the bow on his first full recruiting cycle in Austin.
Much of the heavy lifting was done during the early signing period, but that didn’t mean there wasn’t still work to do heading to NSD2.
Longtime priority offensive line target Devon Campbell stuck to his timeline to announce on NSD2. Campbell narrowed his choices down Oklahoma and Texas and did not take any additional visits last month before making his decision known.
The Longhorn staff had a few lines in the water heading into the final hours, but the main focus was securing the five-star big fella from Arlington. Landing Campbell put the finishing touches on a top-five finish for the Longhorns and one hell of a foundation in the trenches.
With the ink signatures dry, it’s now time to take a look at Texas’ class. There’s certainly a lot to like about it, while also being able to acknowledge spots that could still be addressed via the portal this spring.
In this edition of the the roundtable, we’ll hand out some superlatives for 2022 recruiting class as we head into the spring period and prepare for the next wave of talent to arrive in Austin.
The Longhorns cemented a top five recruiting class in Steve Sarkisian’s first full cycle at the helm. How do you feel the staff did all things considered with this class?
Cody: All things considered, it was a fairly ideal haul. Sark and his staff landed some unexpected but additions late with an assist from coaching changes elsewhere, and added some potential Day 1 starters at positions of need courtesy of the transfer portal. Sure, you could point to a couple places where Texas could have done better, but given the 5-7 season and just how well Texas not only landed talent, but landed immediate impact talent at positions of need, it’s hard to not feel good about the foundation this staff has created with their first class.
Gerald: While I am a firm believer that I don’t think you can judge a class for at least a couple of years, I think that Texas added most of the right pieces to put itself in a position to at least be in the right spot when the time does come to judge. Going into Arkansas and getting absolutely dominated showed how not-SEC ready Texas is at in the trenches, so a class with half of its members playing OL, DL, or Edge feels like the right move. Especially with what we know about Kyle Flood and Bo Davis as developers, having pieces like they do on both lines feels like a recipe for Texas to improve in the most important ways. That is the difference, at least from my perspective, on this class and the other recent big recruiting years for Texas.
Daniel: Considering that things got a little shaky in the summer on the recruiting front and that was followed up by a less than stellar season, I think the staff made out more than ok. I definitely think Texas benefited a good bit from the coaching shake up via the coaching carousel, but I also have to give the staff credit for fostering healthy relationships and staying in the fight on multiple fronts. The staff needs to get things right in a hurry with the on-field product, but they definitely put together a strong showing on the recruiting trail all things considered.
I mentioned previously that there are positions on the roster that still need to be addressed moving forward. What is one position group that you think the staff missed on addressing?
Cody: Understanding how important the transfer addition of Isaiah Neyor was, I’d still say receiver — struggles throughout the cycle are why the Wyoming transfer was so necessary in the first place. Both Evan Stewart and Armani Winfield, the No. 2 and No. 29 receivers, respectively, were once committed but ultimately signed elsewhere, while Texas never really seemed too much of a factor for other receivers it went after. The Brenen Thompson addition was absolutely huge, and more so given the other receiver misses, but those misses make for some real concern about the depth in that room next season until we see some younger guys emerge.
Gerald: The easy answer is wide receiver. While I think Brenen Thompson is a guy who will thrive in this system, Texas needed to add multiple top-end players in this class and just couldn't. The misses mounted early and often. They were never seemingly in it for Chris Marshall, Jordan Hudson was hot and cold, and it appears as if Evan Stewart didn’t want to be a part of a rebuild. Add to that Armani Winfield playing double-dutch with his commitment status, it made for a very frustrating cycle trying to keep track of receiver recruiting.
Daniel: I think we are all aligned here when we say the wide receiver position is a spot that sorely needs attention going forward. I was pretty optimistic Steve Sarkisian would be able to lure some high level skill talent to Austin after what Xavier Worthy accomplished as a true freshman, but outside of Brenen Thompson they were unsuccessful at recruiting the position at a high level. This issue is compounded by the fact that Texas has missed on elite talent for several years running and has not done a satisfactory job of developing the position for some time, so the need to do so is highlight more than ever. With Evan Stewart signing with Texas A&M, it was huge for the staff to be able to flip Wyoming transfer Isaiah Neyor from Tennessee. The early returns on Neyor are encouraging and I think you pencil him as a starter come the fall. Aside from wide receiver, I’ll also add that I would like to see the staff address the linebacker position before heading into the fall. That is a position that is too green as is and finding quality off the ball backers among the high school ranks is proving tougher and tougher.
The staff once again was aggressive in the transfer portal to address needs. Which incoming transfer do you think will have the biggest impact in 2022? Why?
Cody: Many might default to Quinn Ewers but I’d argue for Isaiah Neyor. He’s going to step into an immediate role as a starter, where he should both benefit from the gravity of Xavier Worthy and garner enough attention of his own. If Neyor does prove to be that bona fide No. 2 alongside Worthy, I think that also really helps someone like Jordan Whittington, who can become a star in the slot if he can remain healthy.
Gerald: Isaiah Neyor seems to have a pretty clear path to playing time and fills a major need in the offense. With Jordan Whittington and Troy Omiere struggling with injuries, as well as Marcus Washington needing polish as a consistent receiving option, Neyor stands to be the 1B option next to Xavier Worthy’s 1A option for whoever wins the quarterback battle in the fall.
Daniel: The easy answer would be the blonde mullet, but I am trying to keep my expectations in check until we see how he handles a true competition this spring. I side with the rest of the panel by saying Isaiah Neyor stands to have the biggest impact come the fall, as he will stand to benefit from Xavier Worthy being opposite of him. Neyor went for 12 touchdowns in 2021 and now defenses will have to pick their poison between he and Worthy. I think is Steve Sarkisian has to be licking his chops, as he already showed he is capable of hunting mismatches. If Texas gets good quarterback play this fall then the offense has a chance to really take off.
Looking over the recruiting class as a whole. Which incoming recruit has you excited the most?
Cody: Give me Justice Finkley. From his film to all-American practices, it seems like he wins damn near every single rep, and physically he’s already a grown man on his second mortgage. I think there will naturally be some adjustment to the size and physicality of college ball, which him being an early enrollee helps with, but I’m pretty confident saying this kid is going to be a star on the edge sooner than later.
Gerald: This is a tough one, especially in light of the next two questions, because I think there’s a bit of overlap. Justice Finkley deservedly got a big bump in the final 247 rankings and I think he’s got the personality and skillset to end up being a fan favorite when it’s all said and done. Everybody loves a good edge rusher who can also work the media.
Daniel: I’m going to show my bias towards the big fellas here. Kelvin Banks is my pick and I’m picking him because not only did Texas need to win the recruitment, but they NEED a guy with his skillset on campus right now. Finding pure tackle bodies like Banks are highly coveted for a reason and when you watch his senior tape the trend line is pointing up. He’s athletic, he plays the game with an edge, and he competes from snap to snap and that bodes well for his projections at the next level.
Which recruit in the class do you think has the best chance to contribute early?
Cody: I’d think it’s Ewers. He’s obviously not going to just be handed the starting job, but I think he was brought here to start — possibly why sitting starter Casey Thompson went ahead and transferred out — and he has the raw talent to win the job.
Gerald: My money is on Terrance Brooks. He’s a very talented player who fits in at a position of need for Texas. Without being reductive, it’s easier for a young guy to come in and contribute at one of the “skill” positions (skill is in quotes because I hate that term, but there’s not a better one) than it is for a lineman.
Daniel: I’m also sticking with Banks here for one of the reasons I mentioned in the last section. Kyle Flood is going to have to get both offensive tackle spots solidified this spring between what he already has on campus and what is coming in this June. I’m not saying Banks is going to start from the moment he arrives because that is unrealistic expectations. But he definitely has a chance to make his case for the two deep given how things look on the roster today. If he comes in and acclimates well, then I think we will see him in some capacity in 2022.
Which recruit in the class you think has the highest ceiling?
Cody: That’s a tough one cause based on pure potential, there’s a ton of upside in this class. I think guys like Finkley and Brooks could develop into first round picks some day, but I’d say one of Devon Campbell or Kelvin Banks. Kyle Flood finally got his guys in the door, and the look the part of the prospects he recruited and developed at Alabama — the kind of guys who hear their names called really early in the draft.
Gerald: It has to be one of the linemen. Devon Campbell is probably the highest ceiling guy, in spite of also coming in with one of the highest floors. He’s already got most of what makes a successful offensive lineman and as he continues to grow into that body, he will skyrocket. Kyle Flood is a master developer, so giving him a guy like Campbell to shape into an NFL offensive lineman will be fun to watch.
Daniel: If we are counting Quinn Ewers as part of the class, then you will be hard pressed to find a better case. Before he opted to skip his senior year to reclassify, evaluators were already calling him a potential generational talent as a passer and when you watch what he is able to do with a football you start to understand why. I don’t know if Ewers is going to live up to the lofty expectations, but he is now under the watchful eye of Steve Sarkisian who has the kind of track record with quarterbacks that make this an ideal pairing.
Which recruit do you think will be the surprise of the class?
Cody: Maybe this wouldn’t be much of a surprise, but given that the general sentiment is the receiver recruiting didn’t go well, I think Brenen Thompson might get overlooked a bit, but he could be an absolute game-breaker in Sark’s offense. I don’t think we’ll see much of it this season, but we’ll probably get flashes of how valuable his speed downfield can be as a big-play threat, and that could start coming to fruition in 2023 and beyond.
Gerald: Ethan Burke was a late addition to the class, but he has the potential to grow into one of those elite edge rushers if things pan out. A friend in the high school football coaching scene described him as “unblockable” when he watched his film. He’s 6’7” and weighs just 225, so he probably will put on good weight once he gets on campus and he could be an absolute monster.
Daniel: Jaydon Blue sat out his senior season due to a falling out with his high school coaching staff. Before that he was a highly coveted recruit that had offers from just about everybody and showed to be a very versatile back on tape. Everyone has had their opinions so I will give mine here. I think people were quick to count him out for one reason or another and he will have plenty of opportunities to remind people of his talent level once Bijan Robinson (likely three and done) and Roschon Johnson move on to the NFL. There will be carries to be had and Blue will be one of the biggest beneficiaries when that time comes.
Name a recruit that signed elsewhere that you wish ended up being in this class. Why?
Cody: I mean, it’s clearly Evan Stewart, especially since he was once committed and seemingly gave the Longhorns ever chance to win this recruitment. In the right system, Stewart can be an absolute star and alongside Worthy could have been incredibly fun and productive for the next couple of seasons.
Gerald: The easy answer for me is Evan Stewart, especially because he was once committed to Texas and seemingly was looking for any reason to end up in Austin. Texas clearly wanted to add at least one more receiver in this class and the fact that they couldn't close on the No. 4 player in the state that gave them every chance to is frustrating. Fan issues with his personality aside, he’s insanely fast, can go up and locate balls, and is already an accomplished route runner. Dude can ball, regardless of how you feel about him.
Daniel: Harold Perkins is the one for me. He was pegged early by many to be the wildcard of the class and he lived up to that expectation right down to the end of the cycle. I mentioned earlier that Texas needs to upgrade at the linebacker position, and Perkins is the kind of player the linebacker position is trending towards right now. He is a guy that was worth recruiting through the whistle even if you only had a sliver of hope to land him because he is that good of a player and he would have likely helped Texas in the immediate future.
Kyle Flood and Bo Davis did a masterful job upgrading the trenches in the 2022 cycle. Which group do you think ends up making the bigger impact on the roster?
Cody: It has to be the offensive line, right? it will take a year or two before most of that group is ready to contribute, which is expected along the offensive line, but I think they could ultimately form the first truly elite Texas offensive line in a long time. All while ideally affording Flood the time to continue recruiting at an elite level and developing the next-in-line so that the Longhorns can enjoy a more natural transition along the line going forward, rather than being forced to play younger prospects who just aren’t ready yet.
Gerald: It’s hard to argue with the group that has three top-100 players, two five stars, and the No. 10 player in the country. This is the type of offensive line class that Texas has needed for at least 10 years if not longer. And we saw how Kyle Flood was able to develop the unit already on campus, now you add in seven new pieces of talent to the mix and the offensive line room can go from liability to strength in a hurry.
Daniel: I like the defensive line class a good bit, but I think Kyle Flood knocked it out of the park this cycle. Landing high end talent like Devon Campbell and Kelvin Banks was one thing, but he complimented those guys well with high floor players like Connor Robertson and Cole Hutson who played crucial roles for the class as recruiters. When you mix in guys like Cameron Williams and and Malik Agbo, who are guys who are massive bodies with high ceilings then you have yourself one hell of a foundation that could set the tone for the program rebuild going forward.