It would be tremendously understated to claim Charlie Strong and the Texas Longhorns are in dire need of some recruiting luck over the next few weeks before National Signing Day. As it currently stands, Texas' 13-man recruiting class ranks No. 35 nationally and No. 4 in the Big 12 -- all of which would be the poorest result the Longhorns have seen since the services started tracking recruiting rankings in 1999. That's a fairly concerning number considering 2016 could not only be a make-or-break year for Strong's future in Austin, but determine whether Texas finally emerges out of its current six-year slump.
This makes the impression Strong and Texas leave on the small army of recruits -- 18, to be specific -- over the next 24-48 hours so vital for the Horns' with National Signing Day looming. Here's a look at who will be on the 40 Acres in what's quite arguably the most critical recruiting weekend Strong has seen at Texas.
- Jean Delance: 4-star OT | 6-5, 291 | Mesquite, TX
- Reggie Hemphill-Mapps: 4-star WR | 6-1, 172 | Manvel, TX
- Andrew Fitzgerald: 3-star SDE | 6-5, 250 | Flower Mound, TX
- Denzel Okafor: 3-star OG | 6-4, 295 | Lewisville, TX
- Malcolm Roach: 3-star SDE | 6-3, 255 | Baton Rouge, LA
- Gerald Wilbon: 3-star DT | 6-3, 311 | Destrehan, LA
- Davion Curtis: 3-star WR | 5-11, 180 | Temple, TX
- Tope Imade: 3-star OG | 6-4.5, 327 | Arlington, TX
Until each of the aforementioned commits signs their National Letter of Intent (NLI), it would be in Strong and his staff's best interest to assure the few commits Texas has don't wander astray. With Texas' notable needs being in the trenches on both sides of the ball and finding and keeping playmaking receivers, it's crucial for this weekend's visits to assure Texas' commits that they're right where they need to be.
Jean Delance, an Under Armor All-American and the Longhorns' prized recruit will headline the commits on campus this weekend. Delance is the latest Texas commit, as he pledged January 2 at the 2016 Under Armour All-America game.
Each of the other commits have been on board for at least two months, thanks to a November spur of pledges from Roach, Okafor, Curtis, and Fitzgerald. As of now, none of Texas' commits set to visit this weekend have any other official visits scheduled, so it's unlikely that anything changes in the coming weeks.
But there is cause for concern for one Longhorns' commit, who was originally expected to join the hoards of Horns' and potential Horns' on campus.
Texas' three-star cornerback commit, Obi Eboh, was initially scheduled to be on campus with the masses this weekend, but a late Stanford offer has led to Eboh visiting the Cardinal instead of the Longhorns. Eboh will still take his official visit to Texas, which is now scheduled for the weekend of the 22nd. With Texas having a surplus of youth in in its secondary, while Stanford has only one cornerback commit in 2016, this could be a potential flip that doesn't end favorably for Strong and the Longhorns.
Recruits Committed Elsewhere
- Erick Fowler: 4-star OLB | 6-1, 226 | Manor, TX | LSU commit
Devwah Whaley: 4-star RB | 6-0, 209 | Beaumont, TX | Arkansas commit
- Chris Daniels: 4-star DT | 6-3.5, 299 | Euless, TX | Oklahoma commit
- Mark Jackson Jr.: 4-star WDE | 6-2.25, 221 | Cibolo, TX | Texas A&M commit
- Zach Shackelford: 3-star OG | 6-3, 290 | Belton, TX | Kansas State commit
Last-minute flips have become quite common in today's recruiting age, and Texas 2016 class could certainly benefit from a few potential changes of heart this weekend. To that end, the key names to watch among this handful of collective potential flips are Erick Fowler, Devwah Whaley, and Zach Shackelford.
As noted by Wescott Eberts, Fowler's family wants the LSU commit to stay much, much closer to home and play for Strong at Texas, which would allow his family to see him play in virtually every game. Fowler, the nation's No. 5 outside linebacker and No. 80 overall recruit, has been committed to LSU since last June, but is hoping to see if Texas "can offer more than LSU" this weekend. It's now or never in hopes of landing Fowler, as LSU will host its commit next weekend.
Whaley, the Texas native and Arkansas commit, is another potential flip to keep an eye on. The Longhorns appeared to be the convincing favorites in his recruitment before he pledged to the Razorbacks January 2. To date, Texas is Whaley's final scheduled OV, and after receiving visits from both, Texas and Arkansas coaches Thursday, Whaley's trip to the 40 Acres could be the final deciding factor before signing his name on the dotted line.
However, a Thursday evening update from Whaley indicates that he's changed his plans and will not visit Texas this weekend. There have been some twists and turns in Whaley's recruitment, but it may have finally reached a dead end for the Longhorns.
While Fowler and Whaley are potential flips, the buzz now seems to indicate Kansas State commit, Shackelford, is an expected Texas flip.
Since committing to K-State, Shackelford has unofficially visited Austin multiple times and appears to have his final OV set with Texas this weekend, which means the Horns’ may get the final say in hopes of keeping Shackelford in state.
Texas A&M commit Mark Jackson Jr., and Oklahoma commit Chris Daniels could both provide some much-needed depth and talent on Texas’ defensive line, but it would take a considerable impression to pull them away from their respective pledges. Following their visits to Texas, Jackson will take official visits to Texas A&M and Oklahoma, while Daniels will visit Tennessee and Ohio State.
- Brandon Jones: 5-star S | 5-11.5, 193 | Nacogdoches, TX
- Deontay Anderson: 4-star S | 6-1, 192 | Manvel, TX
- Jeffrey McCulloch: 4-star OLB | 6-2.5, 230 | Houston, TX
- Stephon Taylor: 4-star DT | 6-4, 292 | New Orleans, LA
- Lil'Jordan Humphrey: 3-star ATH | 6-5, 199 | Southlake, TX
First stop this morning will be to visit wth the best safety in the country. Just happens to live in bEASTexas!! Hook'Em!!— Jeff Traylor (@CoachTraylor) January 14, 2016
If there were one uncommitted target Strong and his staff would love to keep close to home, it’s five-star Nacogdoches safety Brandon Jones. Although Texas has decent options at safety at the moment, adding Jones, the nation’s top safety, would mean adding a game-changing piece to a young secondary that ranked 73rd nationally in passing yards allowed per game (233.4).
In hopes of landing who would eventually replace Delance as the prized recruit of the class, Texas will be competing with Texas A&M, Baylor, and Oregon. Texas appears to be Jones’ final scheduled official visit. The last six Crystal Ball projections favor the Longhorns.
Deontay Anderson is another Texas native and prized safety still considering the Longhorns, but all the buzz in his recruitment has pointed towards Ole Miss, which will host his final official visit just days before NSD. But it’s worth noting that his current Manvel teammate and longtime Longhorn commit, Reggie Hemphill-Mapps, will be on campus with Anderson this weekend, which could play a role in Texas stealing some of the glory from the Rebels.
The latest in four-star Houston outside linebacker, Jeffrey McCulloch’s recruitment suggests the longtime projected Longhorn will ultimately find a home in Austin.
Texas has been heavily pursuing McCulloch dating back to 2014, and this weekend’s visit to the 40 Acres could seal the deal for the Longhorns over the likes of Alabama, whom McCulloch will visit next weekend.
I'm committing on January 30th on NBC 5 sports # #— Lil'Jordan Humphrey (@LJ_Humphrey23) January 2, 2016
It’s down to California and Texas for three-star Southlake athlete, Lil’Jordan Humphrey, and both will receive official visits before Humphrey announces his decision at the end of the month. Two key factors to keep on eye on over the coming weeks before Humphrey commits -- he’s high school teammates with Texas commit, Obi Eboh, whose visit to Stanford could ultimately play a role in whether they continue together in Austin or not, and he will visit Cal on January 29, which will give the Golden Bears the final impression before his decision less than 24 hours later. This means the next 24 hours for Texas are critical in hopes of landing Humphrey, as expected.
Texas will have no shortage of stiff competition in trying to lure McDonogh 35 defensive tackle Stephon Taylor away from Louisiana. The Horns have now received the last three Crystal Ball projections for Taylor, but will be battling Oklahoma, LSU, and Florida State, among others, for a commitment.
It could go without saying that this is a tremendously vital 48-hour period for the Longhorns, which could prove to be the difference between the worst recruiting class Texas has seen in a decade and a half, or an eventual top-15 class with some last-minute additions at key positions. Luckily for Strong and Texas, there’s reason to believe the Longhorns add a few pieces not currently pledged to Texas.