One of the worst-kept secrets in the college football recruiting world became public on Wednesday when DeSoto wide receiver Johntay Cook committed to the Texas Longhorns.
While Cook tried to maintain as much drama as possible in his recruitment, the Longhorns clearly led throughout much if not all of it and were able to officially seal the deal in the immediate aftermath of Cook’s friend Arch Manning delivering his ground-shaking decision last week.
Michigan and Oregon were the other two finalists for Cook and the Ducks did receive an official visit from the consensus five-star prospect. In a behind the scenes video of his commitment, Cook said he’d be heading to Eugene had he grown up anywhere but Texas, in part because Oregon was neck and neck with the Longhorns in building quality relationships with Cook.
But Cook is from Texas and the Horns did everything right in his recruitment, so he’ll be playing for his state on the front of his jersey and his family on the back.
Here’s what Cook’s decision means for head coach Steve Sarkisian and his program.
Brennan Marion has lived up to his reputation
When Sarkisian moved on from wide receivers coach Andre Coleman following the 2021 season, it was in large part due to Coleman’s inability to land the type of dynamic pass catchers Sarkisian needs to make his offense hum. Sure, Coleman did help land Panhandle speedster Brenen Thompson, but after decommitments from Evan Stewart and Armani Winfield, Thompson wasn’t enough.
Enter Brennan Marion, a dynamic young coach who helped Jordan Addison win the Biletnikoff Award at Pittsburgh.
Known as a strong technician, Marion’s first and most important task was bolstering the talent in his room. So far, Marion has landed another a speedy prospect in Aldine Eisenhower’s Ryan Niblett and Spring Dekany’s Jonah Wilson, a big-bodied outside receiver just starting to scratch the surface of his potential.
But in the 2023 class, the must-land prospect for the Longhorns has always been Cook and Marion helped close the deal, allowing the Texas staff the opportunity to pick and choose in filling what is likely the last wide receiver spot as the cycle progresses.
And for Marion, that means he’s already lived up to the primary imperative for which he was hired after only six months on the job.
Cook will serve as a key recruiter for the Horns
Manning has worked to build relationships throughout the recruiting process to prepare for these moments after his commitment, but Cook has a much more dynamic personality and greater willingness to use social media as a recruiting tool — in that regard, Manning and Cook should complement each other well as recruiters.
Cook should have the greatest impact in the Metroplex, where he has longstanding relationships, including with South Oak Cliff cornerback Malik Muhammad and Denton Ryan linebacker Anthony Hill Jr., both key targets for Cook and the Longhorns.
Johntay Cook (@_jayythegreat_) on who he plans to recruit to Texas now that he’s in the class:— Nick Harris (@RivalsNick) June 29, 2022
"Malik Muhammad (@Returnof7) will be a Longhorn. Anthony Hill (@thegoatanthony1) is on my list for sure, but Malik Muhammad will be a Longhorn."@OB_JasonS @RivalsCole https://t.co/pY58fOvclf
Cook could also help filling out the wide receiver class with remaining targets on the board like Longview’s Jalen Hale, Temple’s Mikal Harrison-Pilot, and Houston Langham Creek’s Jaquaize Pettaway or try to help Texas get firmly back into the mix with Arlington Martin cornerback Javien Toviano.
Cook fits the mold Sarkisian prefers in his wide receivers
“I’m a Sarkisian receiver,” Cook said. “Like, I’m a modern-day DeVonta Smith.”
Sarkisian helped mold Smith, the lanky, raw prospect from Louisiana, into the Heisman Trophy winner with a monster 2020 season that highlighted Sarkisian’s creativity as an offensive mind.
At 6’0, 175-pounds, Cook is built similarly to Smith and to Texas standout Xavier Worthy, although his route-running ability is significantly more advanced than Smith at the same age, slotting much closer to Worthy, who was ready to make an impact as soon as he stepped on campus last summer.
A strong deep threat, Cook can separate with his releases and burst off the line of scrimmage while possessing the short-area quickness to win at the top of his routes. He’s a threat at every level of the field and has a knack for making opponents miss, another trait that compares favorably to Worthy.
With an excellent catch radius for his size, strong hands, and high-level body control, Cook is close to a complete wide receiver heading into his senior season of high school.
If there’s one question about Cook compared to Worthy, it’s the lack of verified speed. Cook is a two-sport athlete at DeSoto who competes in track and field — he’s a long jumper and a triple jumper who shows his explosiveness in those events yet isn’t a state-level contender in either — so he doesn’t have the clear 100-meter speed that Worthy did coming out of California last year or Evan Stewart did in the 2022 class.
In a full assessment of Cook’s skill set, however, it’s easy enough to overlook because he plays fast in pads and does everything else well — his speed is less a concern than an unknown in a camp or track setting.
Ultimately, Cook has a long history of competing at and winning at the highest levels of Texas high school football and profiles as the type of prospect with a high hit rate who should be ready to contribute in the 2024 season when the depth chart opens up for him.