Just one class removed from savoring a thorough stranglehold on in-state recruiting, as the Texas Longhorns signed 12 of the top 20 talents the state had to offer in 2018, including six of the top seven, Tom Herman’s 2019 recruiting haul doesn’t boast quite the same quality, nor quantity of home-grown talent. Throughout the early signing period, 22 of Texas’ 23 pledges put pen to paper, officially inking their future on the Forty Acres, yet of that bunch, only two — No. 5 Tyler Johnson and No. 7 Jordan Whittington — are among the top 20 prospects the state has produced this cycle, per the 247Sports Composite.
Much went into the many misses this cycle, whether it be five-star Austin Laker Travis wide receiver Garrett Wilson (No. 2), who grew up in the Columbus area, heading home to Ohio State, or other prized prospects such as Cedar Hill Trinity Christian School safety Lewis Cine (No. 11), local Austin Bowie receiver Elijah Higgins (No. 18), and Fort Worth Nolan Catholic edge rusher NaNa Osafo-Mensah (No. 20) taking their talents beyond the state’s borders to Georgia, Stanford, and Notre Dame, respectively. Most notably, between the new-car smell in College Station — which Texas reaped the benefits of last cycle — and the national title-contending success taking place in Norman, 10 of the top 20 recruits in the state are taking their talents to Texas A&M (7) and Oklahoma (3), which is twice as many as the Aggies and Sooners secured signatures from last cycle.
This isn’t to say Texas hasn’t still enjoyed its fair share of success at home, because that couldn’t be further from the truth. In addition to Johnson and Whittington, top 300-ranked recruits such as Plano East safety Tyler Owens, Port Neches-Groves quarterback Roschon Johnson, and Katy Cinco Ranch linebacker David Gbenda are proof to that end.
But nevertheless, missing on major targets such as the aforementioned Wilson, Cine, Higgins, and Osafo-Mensa, or DeMarvin Leal (Texas A&M), Marcel Brooks (LSU), and Dylan Wright (Texas A&M) forced the Texas staff to look beyond the Lone Star state to construct the #fUTure19 class.
They did so without hesitancy and with tremendous success — quite arguably more out-of-state success than any Texas class has enjoyed throughout the modern recruiting era, in fact.
Of the 22 talents who have signed and solidified their future on the Forty Acres, 11 hail from beyond Texas’ borders, marking the most significant haul since the recruiting services began tracking prospects back in 1999. The only class that comes notable close is Charlie Strong’s 2015 coup, in which 10 of the 29 signatures came from out-of-state prospects.
Yet even then, that 34.5 percent out-of-state prospect clip — 29.6 percent if you consider that Florida 5 members Devonaire Clarington and Gilbert Johnson never qualified academically — pales in comparison to a mind-boggling 50 percent of Herman’s 2019 class — Javonne Shepherd excluded, as he’s still evaluating options — coming from six other states, with California, Arizona, Florida, Georgia, Missouri, and Louisiana each represented.
“As I’ve said, and I think every high school coach in the state knows our philosophy, if there are 25 national championship-caliber players in the state of Texas that want to come to Texas, that’s what we’re going to fill our roster with. When there aren’t, when those criteria aren’t met, and you have to go outside the state to find national championship-caliber players, then it does say something about the respect of the brand that is the University of Texas, that these kids have grown up watching some of the great teams and programs in Texas’ history,” Herman said on Wednesday of half of Texas’ 2019 class coming from outside of the state.
“Again, when dealt with a situation where you need to go find that person out of state, I credit our coaches,” Herman added. “They did a great job identifying those. Again, you’re not going to go out of state unless you think that guy — I mean, that guy better be able to be developed into a national championship-caliber player. I think our coaches do a phenomenal job of that.”
Even beyond the sheer bulk, though, the breadth of top-tier talent throughout Herman’s 2019 out-of-state collection far-and-away trumps Strong’s 2015 class, which was, in fact, a historical haul in itself, as Texas had never signed more than six out-of-state prospects in a class prior to that point with 10 classes even featuring two or fewer signatures.
Of Texas’ 11 out-of-state signees, seven are ranked as four-star prospects, including the National Gatorade Player of the Year in Arizona receiver Jake Smith — each are ranked within the top 300 nationally, which more than doubles the total from 2015 when only three out-of-state signees were top 300 talents.
Texas’ out-of-state signees ranked within the top 300 nationally:
- 4-star ILB De’Gabriel Floyd — Westlake (Calif.) Village — No. 64
- 4-star WR Jake Smith — Scottsdale (Az.) Notre Dame Preparatory — No. 81
- 4-star Kenyatta Watson II — Loganville (Ga.) Grayson — No. 135
- 4-star TE Brayden Liebrock — Chandler (Az.) — No. 182
- 4-star WR Marcus Washington — Saint Louis (Mo.) Trinity Catholic — No. 191
- 4-star S Chris Adimora — Lakewood (Calif.) Mayfair — No. 206
- 4-star RB Derrian Brown — Buford (Ga.) — No. 234
Of the four three-star talents, two are elite JUCO prospects ranked within the top three at their position in No. 2 strong-side defensive end Jacoby Jones (Missouri) and No. 3 outside linebacker Caleb Johnson (California).
Now that the ink has dried, six of the top 10 prospects taking their talents to Texas aren’t actually from Texas, which is a feat previously unfathomable on the Forty Acres. By comparison, of Strong’s 10-man out-of-state haul in 2015, only John Burt (No. 7) ranked within the top 10 in the class.
Such success was partially by necessity; partially by design.
The state of Texas has long been considered an extremely fertile recruiting landscape, but that can be both, a blessing and a burden. The Longhorns will enjoy an abundance of options from which to choose, but those recruits, too, enjoy an abundance of options, as programs such as Alabama, Ohio State, LSU, Georgia, Notre Dame, and Oklahoma are among the many joining Texas, Texas A&M, TCU, and others in pursuit of the state’s top prospects.
Though those program’s reach hardly hindered Texas’ recruiting efforts in 2018, the 2019 class, of course, painted a different picture. As a result, Texas adapted and adjusted its stroke, extending offers to 92 out-of-state targets, which is 18 more than the Horns have offered in any previous class — 74 out-of-state offers in 2018 was the previous peak.
The fruits of those labors, of course, was the Longhorns landing the program’s most significant out-of-state recruiting haul of the modern era.
Texas’ 2019 class may very well prove to be an exception to the rule around the Forty Acres, and that’s fine. But that 11-man out-of-state haul has much to do with why Texas currently sits at No. 9 in the national recruiting rankings, and there may be more to come.