As the recruitment of Pflugerville (Texas) Hendrickson cornerback PJ Mbanasor has taken off in recent weeks, one of the oddities was why the Texas Longhorns had not yet extended an offer, despite Mbanasor making the short trip for a spring practice several weeks ago.
A consensus four-star prospect, Mbanasor was impressive enough at the Dallas NFTC on Saturday to earn a coveted invite to The Opening. He's ranked as the No. 21 cornerback nationally and the No. 38 player in Texas, as well as the No. 260 player overall.
Mbanasor committed to TCU in late January just before his recruitment started to take off. An offer from Oklahoma jump-started the process in earnest and Washington State, Notre Dame, Texas Tech, Ole Miss, Wake Forest, Missouri, Oklahoma State, Wisconsin and Ohio State followed before Mbanasor opted to open his recruitment again on March 12. Then Arkansas, Nebraska, LSU, Texas A&M, Louisville, and Michigan State followed before Texas finally entered the fray on Wednesday.
The concern is that the Longhorns may be too late, as Mbanasor is thought to be an Sooner lean at this point after taking in a Junior Day in Norman. And while the excuse may be that the staff needed time to properly evaluate Mbanasor, it's a poor excuse when there are timestamps to enter many recruitments.
Part of the job that faces the support staff, which includes Director of Player Personnel Mike Giglio, who came with Strong from Louisville, is to identify fast-rising prospects and have the staff evaluate them because the timing of offers is extremely important for prospects.
This isn't to say that the staff should automatically offer a prospect just because other schools are doing it, but merely to point out that the stakes of waiting are high. Every day that passes is a day that the staff isn't trying to build a relationship with an offered prospect, merely trying to convince that a prospect is wanted without the prospect really believing it entirely because all the others schools are expressing that sincere interest in the form of an offer.
And inviting them to campus and not offering them while many other top programs are doing so is another mistake that can sink a school in a prospect's recruitment. That was exactly what Texas did several weeks ago.
At 6'1 and 171 pounds, Mbanasor is yet another tall cornerback targeted by the staff -- it's clear that the defensive brain trust of head coach Charlie Strong, defensive coordinator Vance Bedford, and defensive backs coach Chris Vaughn prefer tall, rangy cornerbacks with long arms who can excel in press man coverage. At the moment, there aren't any cornerbacks on the roster listed at over 6'0, but the new staff has offered tall cornerbacks like Holton Hill and Roney Elam.
The question is whether he can remain at cornerback at the next level. ESPN has him at 4.91 in the 40 with a 4.40 shuttle and a 28.7-inch vertical at what was likely the Houston SPARQ Combine in February of last year. In all likelihood, Mbanasor earned his invitation to The Opening with improved numbers last weekend, though they are not yet available from Student Sports.
To stay at cornerback, it would be ideal to see the 40 time down in the 4.6s at least. Still, Mbanasor is good in coverage at the high school level, using his size and length to disrupt opposing players -- he's at his best when aggressive at the line of scrimmage.
Against the run, Mbansor is aggressive beating blockers and maintaining the edge with proper leverage and a willingness to get physical and make tackles. In that respect, it's easy to see him transitioning well to safety in college if cornerback doesn't work out for whatever reason.
Regardless of his skill set and ability to remain at cornerback, the bigger question is whether Texas simply waited too long to offer.