Since our last roundtable, Texas has added nine commits including 5-star WR Johntay Cook II and 5-star Safety Derek Williams, and now the Longhorns sit at #2 in the 247 class rankings for 2023. In the words of Jim Halpert…what is going on?!?!
Daniel Seahorn (@DanielSeahorn) - This. Is. ARCH! This momentum was kick-started by landing the top quarterback in the country in Arch Manning and the Texas staff positioned themselves very well with the guys they were recruiting to be able to take advantage of the momentum that has been generated. You have to tip your cap to Steve Sarkisian and his staff for the groundwork they laid for this to even be possible because they were all in on Manning from the beginning and never wavered despite the lackluster year on the field in 2021.
Gerald Goodridge (@ghgoodridge) - We knew the Arch effect was going to be real, but I think we somehow underestimated how big it would be. I think part of the credit for this has to go to Kyle Flood’s ability to land that offensive line class a year ago. Not only did the coaches go all-in on Arch, but they were able to sell him on the fact that they will be able to protect him. And now that Arch is in the boat guys want in and it’s going to create a bit of a squeeze. It won’t be the same squeeze as in years past because of the change to counters, but at some point, there’s not going to be a spot for nine receivers in the class. So guys know that if they want in, they need to get in.
Cody Daniel (@CodyDanielSBN) - In the words of Future, Texas is ballin’ like it’s Arch Madness. Adding the top prospect in the country, especially one with the last name Manning, is going to send shockwaves throughout the class, and kids are going to want to join him. That can’t be discounted – it’s helped, to be sure – but I also think the staff as a whole is doing a phenomenal job on the trail, swinging momentum in their favor and closing on recruits who were considering Longhorn leans. And it probably isn’t going to stop anytime soon …
In Steve Sarkisian’s recent interview with Pete Thamel, the Texas head coach said now you want to get “hot” in recruiting around June and July instead of later in the year. We’ve seen this with the Longhorns filling up the 2023 class a lot quicker than in years past. Do you agree with Sark’s assessment?
Daniel - Absolutely. With recruits taking their official visits earlier in the cycle these days you really want to try to get the ball rolling in the summertime so you don’t have as much pressure to try to flip guys and load up the Saturdays in the fall with official visitors when the staff will be tied up with Gameday responsibilities. By getting the hay in the barn in the summer they will be able to allocate more focus on the product on the field and there will be a lot riding on it given how the class is shaping up.
Gerald - Without a doubt and I think this is going to be the norm for this Texas staff moving forward. Steve Sarkisian and his staff jumped in on the 2022 kids late, because most coaches had already been recruiting them since they were rising juniors at the latest. So being able to kick off this 2023 class when they were rising juniors, sets them up to grab commitments from all of the guys who want to shut it down before their senior years. It’s also advantageous for the coaching staff because now they don’t have to focus as much on recruiting during the grind of a football season.
Cody - For sure. You’d absolutely prefer to have recruits like Manning and Cook and so on committed much sooner than later. Decommitments happen, but even then, you’d much rather fight that battle than try to scrape together a class towards the end of the cycle, essentially settling on what’s left in the class. Mack Brown used to lock his classes up really early in the cycle, and it became a thing where Texas more or less handpicked a lot of its recruits and kids wanted to commit early to ensure a spot. It’s a luxury if Sark and the staff can maintain it.
Time to play Devil’s Advocate. Tom Herman landed back-to-back top-3 recruiting classes in 2018 and 2019 and we know how that turned out. Sark finished with a top-5 class in his first full recruiting cycle in Austin and is on track for another in 2023. Is this time around going to be different for Texas?
Daniel - Hard to say with having a small sample size to look at. This year will be very telling for the overall trajectory of Sarkisian’s program and there seems to be urgency on the staff’s part to load up the roster with as much firepower as they can to try to get things turned around this fall. They were very aggressive in the transfer portal this spring and winter by going after guys like Quinn Ewers, Isaiah Neyor, Agiye Hall, and Ryan Watts and that lets me know they are trying to win NOW and get things going in the right direction.
Gerald - When we have that conversation, the nuance we have to add is that is what the composition of the classes were. Tom Herman put up big recruiting numbers, but Herb Hand really struggled to recruit on the offensive line, both talent, and numbers. Flood recruited nearly as many offensive linemen in his first cycle as Herb Hand did in two. The skill players are great and floated the average for Texas, but offensive line recruiting was lacking under Tom Herman and I’m a believer that it’s easier to win with elite lineman and average skill players than it is to win with average lineman and elite skill players.
Cody - It’s simply too early to say. Recruiting has never been the issue. Development and coaching and maximizing the recruiting success have been. With the staff that’s in place, there’s reason to feel optimistic that this time will be different, but if it were that easy, Charlie Strong or Tom Herman would still be in Austin, and Sark’s first season wouldn’t have ended with more losses than wins. I’ll say it’s different when I actually see it.
Outside of Arch Manning, which of the recent commitments have you the most excited for?
Daniel - I’d probably say Derek Williams because he is a guy who the staff was able to get to expedite his timeline and it sent a clear message about what kind of momentum the staff is working with right now. Landing Williams meant beating out the Alabamas and LSUs of the world and now the Longhorns have two of the top prospects from The Boot in the fold as they continue to target more in the Pelican State.
Gerald - I think I’m tied between Johntay Cook and Billy Walton. Johntay Cook was the Evan Stewart of this class, meaning he’s a Day 1 starter type of guy looking for every reason to commit to Texas and just needed that last push. Texas was unable to do that a year ago with Evan but managed to do it with Johntay. It was a must-win for Texas from a recruiting branding perspective, as well as getting someone else on board that is a vocal advocate and recruiter for the brand. Conversely, Billy Walton is a guy that may have a longer development curve than some, but Texas managing to go in and flip a kid from a Dallas-area school is a HUGE deal for recruiting. I’ve also been a loud advocate for more kids with gold fronts (shouts to J’Mond Tapp), so Walton is my dude.
Cody - For me, it’s Johntay Cook. He’s the kind of elite, game-changing WR recruit that Texas has lost out on far too often in recent years, and you then go on to see those kids excel elsewhere. If Cook lives up to the hype, Texas will win games because of it.
The Horns now turn their attention to Malik Muhammad, Anthony Hill, Cedric Baxter, and others. Who’s next?
Daniel - Of the three I would probably put my money on Muhammad because it seems like he could be close to pulling the trigger and he is a guy the staff is trying to urgently close out. All three guys have a common denominator and that’s Texas A&M being right there in the mix as well. You can bet the house that the Aggies are going to do everything in their power to try to put a cap on this Texas momentum and they are going to fight like hell for all three guys.
Gerald - Baxter has a date already, which is a bit farther out than the rest, and Hill is currently scheduled to see Aggy at the end of July, which is still a month or so from now. It seems lime Muhammad is trying to find his moment to pop, so that’s where my money is.
Cody - Sydir Mitchell, the four-star defensive tackle out of New Jersey, is set to announce on Sunday, and the Horns seem to be the team to beat. My guess is he’s next.