The 2013 season will be a significant one on the field for Texas Longhorns offensive line coach Stacy Searels -- with an experienced group and entering his third football season on the 40 Acres, it's time for the offensive line to become more consistent, especially against strong defensive fronts.
But it's also an extremely important fall in recruiting that will bleed into an important spring and summer because Texas is short on tackles moving forward. The only pure prep tackle prospect the Longhorns took among the five 2013 signees is Kent Perkins, who is universally projected to play right tackle, though it's possible he could end up on the left side because he does have excellent feet. And other than the outside possibility that Darius James can play tackle -- he's slated to play center, his high school position -- the other two high school signees, Jake Raulerson and Rami Hammad, are both interior prospects.
Then there's the 2014 recruiting class, which only features Terrell Cuney at this point, another center prospect. In 2015? Well, the group is off to an incredible start, for which Searels deserves significant credit, but of the four commitments, only Austin-area product Connor Lanfear is a pure tackle. Sure, Maea Teuhema could end up playing right tackle as he does in high school, but the kid is 340 pounds. A freakish 340 pounds, but still 340 pounds.
So what's the plan? In the 2014 class, there isn't much of one at the moment, at least nothing apparent. The 'Horns offered La Grange's Zach Ledwik at the first June camp and he visited again a week later, but five days after that he committed to the Aggies, despite most of his 247Sports Crystal Ball predictions pegging him as an eventual Texas commit. Since Ledwik was the only in-state tackle offer out, the loss was a significant one in a class that has been full of battles lost to Texas A&M.
Searels opted to pass on Dallas Skyline's Ty Barrett, who will commit this Saturday to the school of his choice, but that decision was somewhat understandable because Barrett doesn't have the look of a guy who will unquestionably stay outside at the college level, no doubt a major consideration for the Texas offensive line coach. Dallas Bishop Dunne's Jovan Pruitt never made it down to Austin despite repeated attempts by the coaching staff, so it seems that they eventually gave up and Pruitt committed to Arkansas last week.
So it's not exactly news at this point, but recruiting efforts at the position in the 2014 class have been severely hampered by the lack of in-state talent. If there is a tackle take in the cycle, it may have to come form the JUCO ranks. It's telling looking at the list of the top tackles in the country and there isn't a representative from Texas until No. 29 (Pruitt).
In the prep ranks, there's a four-star tackle out in Arizona at Christian Westerman's school, Chandler Hamilton, who appears to be down to Arizona State and Texas A&M, Casey Tucker. But, of course, all typical lateness caveats apply in regards to getting into that recruitment.
As far as junior college prospects go, there is a tackle at East Mississippi CC -- the school that produced former defensive tackle Brandon Moore -- who is ranked No. 3 nationally at his position named Avery Gennessy. There's also a Navarro lineman named Carter Wall, though his measurables (6'4 and 325 pounds) don't exactly scream collegiate tackle.
As for the 2015 class, there's an outstanding in-state offer to Rockwall-Heath's Trevor Elbert, who has an Alabama offer and a recruitment that may come down to the 'Horns and Aggies, at least if the early predictions are believable. Beyond another pure tackle prospect emerging or an eventual look into the JUCO ranks, he could end up being the final take in that class, as Texas can't afford to take any more interior prospects in 2015.
Right now, the 'Horns have two pure high school tackle prospects committed or signed amongst the nine prep offensive linemen from 2013 to 2015. And that's simply not enough, which may force Texas to scramble to find prep players in 2014 or continue relying on junior college transfers to provide short-term solutions, a notoriously dangerous proposition as the qualification saga of Desmond Harrison proved.
It's the one crack in Searels' otherwise superlative recent recruiting efforts, but it's a potentially significant one.