Tom Herman’s debut junior day in Austin is Texas-sized, to say the least.
To date, upwards of 80 visitors (it’s likely some don’t make it) have been confirmed or listed a potential additions to a recruiting event that’s become so massive in size, Herman and his staff have needed to span junior day visits throughout the entire weekend – Friday, Saturday and Sunday – as opposed to the typical one-day mass visit.
For a variety of reasons, the next 48-72 hours will prove tremendously important for Texas’ recruiting efforts in a critical 2018 class after concluding 2017 with the lowest-ranked class the Longhorns have recorded in the modern era.
For now, Herman and his staff are able to enjoy the luxury that comes with taking over a program that’s overflowing with potential, but hindered by recent struggles – more so, one that boasts the historical success and brand that Texas does.
Similar to Charlie Strong’s tenure in Austin, Herman is currently able to sell recruits on the future of Texas: The resurgence of a program many prospects now have just faint memories of actual on-field success from. While the ‘Horns slogged through more losses than wins under Strong, in which Texas went 16-21 in three seasons, the current crop of recruits are familiar with the success the Longhorns new head coach had in two seasons at Houston: A 22-4 record and a 6-0 record against ranked competition, including victories over No. 9 Florida State, No. 3 Oklahoma and No. 5 Louisville.
Not to mention, the staff that traveled to Austin from Houston happened to recruit the area tremendously well, which should prove beneficial is a key 2018 class that’s headlined by Houston-area talent.
A small army of such talent will be in Austin this weekend.
Between the relationships from their time in East Texas and the excitement that comes with a new head coach taking over a historically prominent program, this weekend’s junior days will mark as the first, and possibly the only mass recruiting event in which Herman can sell elite prospects on a bright future in Austin. After three years of the same message, yet numerous losses under Strong, that message won’t be as easily welcomed should Texas struggle in 2017 as it will be in the coming days.
While the prospects belief in the Longhorns future is at a premium, capitalizing on the multitudes of in-state talent on campus will be critical. If the staff can convince a few of the headliners throughout the weekend that Texas is the place to be in 2018, expect that to resinate throughout many of the ‘Horns key targets.
If history repeats itself, as it always does, more than a few of the prospects on the Forty Acres this weekend will boast burnt orange by next February’s signing day.
In just considering Texas’ junior days under Charlie Strong, more than 20 visitors ultimately committed to the Longhorns, which doesn’t include prospects already committed, and accounts for the numerous potential commits Texas missed on after failing to produce on the field last season.
Considering the almost unfathomable size of Texas’ 2017 junior days list, it’s fairly safe to assume several of the targets on campus will be Longhorns by this time next year, especially if Texas can win at a high level next season.
To that end, several prospects are on commitment watch entering the weekend. It’s quite possible Justin Watkins, a Florida State commit and the nation’s top-ranked athlete, flips to the Longhorns this weekend. Four-star Arp safety DeMarvion Overshown, four-star Carthage running back Keaontay Ingram, three-star Marshall offensive guard Chasen Hines and three-star Allen offensive tackle Trey Stratford are all prospects that may pull this trigger this weekend, as well. Additionally, four-star South Grand Prairie safety Atanza Vongor is really high on the ‘Horns and reportedly hopes to make a decision shortly after his Texas visit, so if Herman and the staff can blow him away, Vongor may be a Longhorn by next week.
In a class that currently lacks a single commitment, any of the above pulling the trigger and joining Herman’s first full recruiting cycle, or any prospect for that matter, would help get the ball rolling for subsequent commitments throughout the coming days, weeks and months.
It’s difficult to overstate the importance this weekend will ultimately have on Herman’s first full cycle. Along with hosting enough talent to fill an entire roster top to bottom — one that would be tremendously talented, no less — and the potential to enter next week with Texas’ first 2018 commits, this weekend will serve as the ‘Horns only opportunity to get numerous prospects on campus, aside from official visits.
For now, Herman and the ‘Horns have momentum on their side and a clean slate to build upon. A successful weekend is essential to assuring that recruiting momentum only increases and key targets leave Austin with burnt orange on the brain.
Following a sub-par 2017 class by Texas’ standards, Herman assured the ‘Horns would haul in another top 10 class in 2018. The next three days will have a significant impact on if Herman can hold true to his promise.