Since 2000 — the year after recruiting services began tracking prospects — the fertile football soil in the state of Texas has owned a reputation as one of the nation’s premier high school hotbeds.
Entering the 2018 recruiting cycle — the 19th since 2000 — the Lone Star State has produced a total of 83 five-star prospects, second only to California’s whopping 100.
Of the 83 homegrown five-star recruits, 10 were cornerbacks, safeties, or athletes recruited as defensive backs, which represents 12.6 percent of the nation’s total five-star secondary prospects since 2000.
In short, Texas remains abundantly rich in talent, and defensive back prospects are no exception. If the five-star label is tossed aside and the sample size is extended to the state’s top 40 prospects each year, per the 247Sports Composite, the talent pool becomes even more mind-boggling.
Hence the presence of powerhouses such as Alabama, Ohio State, LSU, and USC traveling various lengths to build their secondary.
For sake of consistent sample size, only the noted top 40 prospects in Texas were considered, regardless of position. By that measure, there’s a convincing case favoring the 2018 defensive back class as the deepest and most talented the state has produced since the dawn of the recruiting services.
Amid an era where recruiting rankings reign supreme, the star system serves as the football kingdom’s hierarchy. As we inch further into an age where recruiting is more glamorized and as thoroughly covered as ever, four- and five-star prospects are borderline celebrities among fan bases.
A program’s recruiting haul is typically judged by its star power. The same can be applicable to an entire class, a particular state, or in this case, a specific position — cornerbacks and safeties — in the 2018 Texas class.
Courtesy of an unprecedented blend of talent and depth, the star power ranking created here, which simply compiles the sum of stars among the collective recruits in Texas’ top 40 prospects each year (Ex: 5-star + 5-star = 10 > 4-star + 4-star = 8), indicates 2018’s defensive back crop is the best the state has produced during the modern internet era of recruiting.
By this metric, the top five classes are ranked in order below:
Diving even further, only three of the 19 recruiting classes under consideration have produced more than two defensive backs ranked in the top 10 in Texas, according to the Composite — 2018 (4), 2014 (4), 2016 (3).
Not only is the 2018 class the only among the trio to feature the state’s top overall prospect — five-star safety BJ Foster — it’s the only class since to ever see a defensive back serve as the top-ranked player in Texas. Additionally, 2018 currently stands as the only class to feature not only the top overall prospect, but the top two prospects with five-star cornerback Anthony Cook joining Foster.
And while 2014 saw five-star cornerback Troy Brown rank as the No. 2 player in Texas, along with five-star safety Jamal Adams sitting at No. 5, 2018 stands as the only class to feature three defensive backs in the top five in Texas.
Furthermore, with four-star LSU safety commit Caden Sterns in the mix at No. 4 in Texas, all three rank in the top five at their position nationally, which has only been the case three other times — 2016’s seven-man class, 2014’s 11-man class, and 2004’s five-man unit.
While classes like 2016, 2014 and 2004 are worthy of partial comparison to the 2018 crop in regards to star power at the top, where the 2018 secondary crop substantially separates itself historically is in sheer depth.
Strength in numbers
On average, bearing in mind the noted top 40 in Texas sample size, the average defensive back class, the average class size is 6.4 members (6.35), though that list excludes the current cycle since the rankings may change.
This average is equal parts bolstered by 2014’s 11-man class and nine-man inclusions form 2015, 201 and 2009 and hindered by 2008’s three-man class and four-man units in 2000 and 2007.
The 2018 class, on the other hand, currently features 14 prospects ranked in the top 40 in Texas — more than double the class average prior to the current cycle. That total accounts for 35 percent of all prospects in the state’s top 40, regardless of position.
Not only do other classes fall short of 2018 when it comes to the best vs. the best, at least in regards to rankings, but the depth of other classes pale in comparison, even considering 2014, 2015, 2011 and 2009.
With the 40-prospect sample size, 2014’s 11-man class consists of just 28 percent of all prospects — a distant second behind 2018. That portion drops to just 23 percent for 2005, 2011, and 2009, so in short, no Texas class has ever seen defensive backs dominate the upper echelon of the rankings as heavily as 2018, and it’s not even relatively close.
To put into perspective just how stacked the Lone Star State’s 2018 defensive back class is, consider this — remaining with the top 40 in Texas sample, all 14 prospects rank within the top 315 nationally among all recruits. If only the nation’s top 315 recruits were considered, the state of Texas features more talent in the secondary than 42 other state’s total prospects, regardless of position.
In 2018, Texas features 14 DBs ranked in the top 315, per 247 Comp. Only 6 states have more total players in top 315: FL, CA, GA, OH, NC, LA— Cody Daniel (@CodyDanielSBN) February 14, 2017
Along with being well on its way to cementing itself as the deepest and most talented defensive back pool to emerge from Texas since rankings surfaced, the 2018 class could essentially serve as one of the nation’s most talent-rich states overall based on its cornerbacks and safeties alone.
During his National Signing Day press conference, Tom Herman emphasized the importance of keeping the best players in the state within its borders, as well as the significance of a nationally-recognized 2018 class during his first full cycle in Austin.
With the state’s top two recruits, four of the top eight prospects, and seven of the top 18 prospects playing defensive back, Herman’s hopes of a class similar to what Charlie Strong landed in 2015 and 2016 largely depends on whether Herman and the staff can land talents like Foster, Cook, Jalen Green, Atonza Vongor, DeMarvion Overshown, and D’shawn Jamison, just to name a few.
Herman and the Longhorns can take a significant step to that end this weekend, as each of the noted targets will be on the Forty Acres for February 25 Junior Day.