With just more than three months until National Signing Day, the Texas Longhorns are looking to finish head coach Charlie Strong's first recruiting class by landing some of the top prospects still left on the board.
With the regular season over, the Longhorns are embarking on an important stretch that will include a big visit weekend coming up and a host of in-home visits with commits and targets.
But how many spots are left in the 2015 class? Texas technically has 19 pledges in the group, but recent quarterback commit Matthew Merrick of Irving Cistercian is expected to grayshirt, so he'll count against the 2016 class when he enrolls in January of that year. And the Longhorns can count as many as five early enrollees against the previous class, meaning that there is room for 11 more recruits in the current cycle, 12 if Florida wide receiver John Burt decommits as widely expected.
Here's a look at where things stand.
Commits: Zach Gentry, Matthew Merrick
Needs: Two or three
The Longhorns will likely continue to scour the junior college ranks for prospects and consider graduate transfers to add depth at the position, but there aren't many top-flight quarterbacks available in the former category and the latter category wouldn't count against the overall class size.
Unless something major changes in the next three months, Texas is now set at quarterback as it pertains to the 2015 recruiting class.
Commits: Kirk Johnson, Jordan Stevenson, Tristian Houston
Needs: Three or four
Despite having three pledges already, recruiting at the position has continued, with Chris Warren and Plano Soso Jamabo as the top in-state options. Warren has long been thought to be a Texas lean, while Jamabo was early in the process
There are also several Louisiana prospects on the radar, as LSU commit Nicholas Brossette and former LSU commit Derrius Guice have both discussed the possibility of visiting Austin, though neither has done so yet.
Neither one is overly likely to end up in burnt orange, leaving Warren and Jamabo as the strong possibilities to commit to Texas. But is there room for both of them?
And which one is a better fit? Jamabo comes in at 215 pounds, but at nearly 6-3 he's not really the power back that would make the most sense for this class. Warren unquestionably does fit that mold at 6'2 and over 230 pounds now, making him the better fit of the two.
Commits: John Burt
Needs: Two or three
Taking a big wide receiver class in 2014 initially reduced the need in 2015, though the dismissals of wide receivers Kendall Sanders and Montrel Meander then put a dent in the depth chart, especially the loss of the redshirt freshman Meander since he had four years of eligibility remaining.
As a result, the need for wide receivers in 2015 has increased. The problem is that Burt is seriously considering a flip to Auburn, leaving Ryan Newsome, JF Thomas, DeAndre McNeal, and Gilbert Johnson as the main targets at the position.
Newsome will take his final official visit to Texas next weekend and is still considered a Texas lean, while Thomas has remained committed to TCU and hasn't made it to campus this fall, despite a flurry of predictions in his Crystal Ball for the Horns after he picked up his offer back in September.
The success of the Horned Frogs offense this season may have helped solidify his commitment, especially as the Longhorns have proven to be inconsistent on that side of the ball.
Meanwhile, McNeal will make his decision on December 19 in a ceremony along with five-star teammate Malik Jefferson, but his recruitment is a bit of a mystery.
The new target is Gilbert Johnson, a 6'2, 190-pounder rated as one of the top prep players in the country. He visited Austin in early November for an official visit and his only reported offer at this time is from the Longhorns. Out of high school, Johnson signed with Georgia over offers from LSU, Louisville, and Mississippi State, among others, so he had a relationship with head coach Charlie Strong out of high school.
No news with Burt is probably good news for Texas, but the continued likelihood that he will decommit puts some serious pressure on the staff to land a big wide receiver like Johnson, Thomas, or McNeal.
Needs: One or two
The final stretch until National Signing Day will define success or failure at this position. Florida target Devonaire Clarington has already visited, while Michigan commit Chris Clark and Arkansas commit Will Gragg are scheduled to visit before Signing Day.
Clarington visited for the West Virginia game with a number of other prospects from the Sunshine State, connections that could end up helping Texas if some of those recruits, like current Tennessee linebacker commit Cecil Cherry, end up in Austin.
Unfortunately, the Longhorns aren't considered favorites to land any of those three prospects, resulting in the significant chance that the 2015 class doesn't end up including a tight end.
Commits: Patrick Vahe, Toby Weathersby, Garrett Thomas, Connor Williams, Tristan NIckelson
Needs: Five or six
Offensive coordinator/offensive line coach Joe Wickline has been hard at work bringing in needed bodies along the offensive line and has achieved a great deal of success. But he's seemingly not done yet, as East Mississippi CC offensive tackle Brandon Hughes visited for the TCU game and is still on the radar as a potential early-impact player.
Less clear is whether the staff is still pursuing Tyler Moore, the offensive lineman from Galena Park North Shore who was once thought to be a near lock to eventually commit to the Horns. However, a number of predictions in his Crystal Ball have come in for Minnesota sandwiched around an official visit he took on November 14.
At this point, it looks like potentially adding Hodges is the most likely way that Texas closes out along the offensive line.
Commits: Du'Vonta Lampkin
The numbers are still pretty thin at defensive tackle with the expected departure of junior Malcom Brown and the move redshirting freshman Jake McMillon to offensive guard, so this continues to be a need position.
In-state recruiting has been a struggle over the last several years and that has mostly continued with Texas losing out on Daylon Mack and Kingsley Keke to Texas A&M. There has been a noticeable lack of offers out -- only eight in total -- and since it isn't likely that Alabama prospect Daron Payne takes an official visit to Austin, much less commits, the Longhorns aren't in position to add any of the recruits currently offered.
So does the staff simply take Lampkin and hope to take three defensive tackles in the 2016 class? Or will another offer or two go out late in hopes of adding to the numbers here?
Keep an eye on Oklahoma State commit Motekiai Maile, a Euless Trinity alum now at Tyler JC who received some interest from Texas before committing in early June.
Commits: Charles Omenihu, Louis Brown
Another position at which Texas has missed at times in recent years is defensive end. The good news is that the Crystal Ball for Georgia commit Quincy Vasser is starting to move in favor of Texas with a decision coming soon from the Navarro College prospect and he was publicly contemplating that decision on Twitter after visiting.
With a weakside end in Charles Omenihu and a project athlete take in Brown, Vasser would provide some experience and strength at the point of attack to make for a well-rounded end class despite few in-state options at the high school level.
Commits: Cameron Townsend, Breckyn Hager
Needs: Three or four
As much help as the Longhorns need at quarterback, the departure of Jordan Hicks and Steve Edmond means that there will be two new starting linebackers next season for head coach Charlie Strong, making the recruitment of Malik Jefferson extremely important to the entire class, especially since he's considered the type of prospect who could draw other recruits to Austin.
Besides Jefferson, the Horns are also targeting Cherry, who says he won't make a decision until Signing Day and hasn't officially decommitted from the Volunteers yet, but seems intent on doing so, with Texas the most likely destination for him when that happens.
The other linebacker Strong and company are pursuing is former Michigan commit Darren Kirkland Jr, a planned weekend visitor considered a possible Ole Miss lean at this time. Can the Horns land a nationally-recruited prospect of his caliber with only one visit?
The prospect of early playing time and success of Hicks and Edmond this fall should help there, but he's still the least likely of the three remaining targets to commit.
A class of Townsend, Hager, Jefferson, and Cherry would give Texas the bodies it needs moving forward, especially with Jefferson widely viewed as an instant-impact contributor. More than that, Jefferson's commitment would be the biggest at linebacker for the Longhorns since Jordan Hicks in 2010 and one of the most significant pledges since that time.
Commits: Deshon Elliott, Jamile Johnson
No other position has as many moving parts as the secondary -- there are over 25 offers out to prospects at cornerback and safety and close to 10 players still uncommitted or considering a visit to Texas.
The two remaining in-state prospects are Holton Hill and Kris Boyd. Both were in Tallahassee over the weekend, but the story has changed in regards to the competitors for the two -- instead of an A&M-Texas battle brewing for both, Hill has now eliminated the Aggies, leaving the Longhorns are the last team standing there.
That fact plays in favor of Texas for Hill, while Boyd may be increasingly open to schools like Florida State and Baylor, but does have the family connections since DBU alum Curtis Brown is his cousin and his younger brother Demarco, a linebacker/athlete in the 2016 class, now has an offer from Texas.
Still, it seems hard to imagine that the Horns land both of those players, so for an ideal finish to the class, Strong and his staff will need to land a Florida prospect. Sheldrick Redwine has said he plans to visit, though it's not clear when that is going to happen. Ronnie Hoggins has also talked about visiting.
Then there's also Davante Davis, who visited with the big Florida group for the West Virginia game. However, Florida State has been trending hard for him in the last month, making him unlikely to end up in Austin.
The competition for Redwine and Hoggins isn't as significant and Redwine is probably the preference of the two because he has prototypical size at 6'1 and Hoggins does not, for all of his proven playmaking ability on the field. And Redwin has impressive ball skills of his own due to his height, length, and leaping ability.
If there's a bottom line for this position it's that Texas needs to add at least one player capable of playing cornerback with two safeties committed in Elliott and Johnson. As for the recent recruiting trends, landing either Hill or Boyd would be significant after missing out on so many highly-rated defensive backs in the last several years.
In a reasonable best-case scenario, this is how Texas closes out the class assuming the loss of John Burt:
- Chris Warren
- Ryan Newsome
- Gilbert Johnson
- Chris Clark
- Brandon Hodges
- Quincy Vasser
- Malik Jefferson
- Cecil Cherry
- Holton Hill
- Sheldrick Redwine