Since the name of this blog is College Football Crazy, clearly I love college football. But, I actually love football at just about every level and I have been a huge fan of recruiting almost as long as I can remember.
Recruiting is the life blood of any college football program. Say what you will about the rating systems being overrated, and sometimes they can be. But, all you really have to do is look at the recruiting rankings and look at the best teams in the country and you may change your mind a little bit. Alabama has dominated recruiting since the arrival of Nick Saban and look what they have
accomplished on the field.
Look at Florida State, Ohio State and Clemson in recent seasons and they have all recruited well. On the flip side of that is TCU, Oregon and Baylor who have not signed the top rated guys and they have been competitive.
But, those coaches are usually getting a lot of the guys they are going after, so you can still say that recruiting is majorly important for everybody.
Let’s look at the 2016 signing class and see who might have helped themselves the most. ESPN had Michigan rated 6th and Texas 10th. Michigan had a really good season in 2015 with Jim Harbaugh taking over the program. But, they did that with mostly previous coach Brady Hoke’s guys. What can Harbaugh do with his own recruits?
Texas did not have a good season at all and finished 5-7. Then, Texas coach Charlie Strong went out and had an amazing signing day and finished #10 in ESPN’s rankings.
Of all the top 10 teams in this year’s class, the Longhorns may have helped themselves the most.
Here’s how I believe they did.
It’s not exactly a secret that the Longhorns have struggled at Quarterback since Colt McCoy used up his eligibility after the 2009 season. That’s a long period to be without solid Quarterbacking and a major reason why the Horns have dropped dramatically from the national picture. Texas does return previous starters Jerrod Heard and Tyrone Swoopes, plus redshirt freshmen Kai Locksey and Matthew Merrick. With the 2016 recruiting class, they brought in Shane Buechele from Arlington Lamar High School. Buechele’s father, Steve, played 3rd base for the Texas Rangers.
The younger Buechele is listed at 6-1, 185 and with 4.8 40 speed. He ran the spread offense in high school and looked a little quicker than the listed 4.8. He has a good arm and can throw accurately on the run and seems to make good decisions.
The problem that Buechele is going to have is people are already looking at him as if he’s something of a savior that will immediately lift the Texas program back to elite status and that’s just not going to happen. He is a tough, gritty young man that can make plays with his feet and his arm but it’s a huge step from being a 4 star recruit to a starting college Quarterback.
Kyle Porter was a surprise addition to the Longhorn class. The 5-10, 190 4 star recruit from Katy, Texas. Porter is ESPN’s 15th rated Running Back. He is not overly big, but he is a good inside runner. He’s fast, but not the fastest guy around. Porter is one of those cut back runners that follows his blocks well and just makes play after play. At traditional powerhouse Katy High School, Porter ran for just under 2,000 yards as a senior. But, he missed 3 games and played throughout the playoffs on a bad ankle.
Collin Johnson is the son of Longhorn legend Johnnie Johnson. The 4 star receiver from San Jose, California is supposed to be 6-5, 200 and some people are already calling him Young Megatron. While I am not ready to anoint a high school recruit as the next Calvin Johnson, he does have similiar attributes. He has the ability to make the leaping catch over defenders much like Megatron, and he is very physical. Everybody was after Collin Johnson, but his older brother signed with Texas a year ago and Collin was going to stick to his commitment. He is not a speed burner, but he can go up and get the tough catch which makes him a very valuable recruit in this class.
Reggie Hemphill-Mapps committed to Mack Brown originally and then Charlie Strong had to warm up to him. He’s not very big, and he’s not overly fast. But, he is quick and shifty and has some good hands apparently. He played some Quarterback as well as Wide Receiver.
Davion Curtis is a burner that is a serious deep threat. I think Curtis could play right away because Texas could use a deep threat other than John Burt. Curtis is not particularly big, but did I mention
that he can run pretty fast?
Peyton Aucoin is an excellent blocker, but wasn’t used much in the passing game. He is 6-5, 255 and could grow into an interior lineman. Or, he can remain at Tight End and become a force in the running game.
The Longhorns need Offensive Linemen and Jean Delance is the 13th ranked Offensive Tackle in the nation. Rated a 4 star recruit, Delance obviously has some talent. He is 6-5, 280 with plenty of athletic ability. In high school, Delance used sheer strength and size to overpower opponents. He played really high, also, but those things are easily correctable.
He has a shot at playing as a freshman because of the Horns’ recent lack of talent and depth up front.
Offensive Guard and Center:
The 6-3, 290 Denzel Okafor is rated as the 16th best Offensive Guard in the country. He played Offensive Tackle at Lewisville High School and played it well. Okafor looks like he’s been well coached and has something of a nasty streak. He’s athletic, with quick feet and seems to enjoy burying his opponents. He looks like an intriguing Guard prospect.
Tope Imade is a giant of a man at 6-5, 325 that played against good competition in high school. He’s not the quickest guy around, but he used great strength to over power smaller high school opponents. He was rated as the 37th best Offensive Guard prospect in the country, and a 3 star prospect which is
Zach Shackleford is not a hard guy to spot. Not only is he the biggest guy on the field, but he’s also the one that is always blocking somebody or several somebodies until the whistle blows. He played Offensive Tackle in high school and is way too slow laterally to handle speed rushers at the college level but he is projected as a Center prospect in the college ranks and he has a chance to be really good. He has a nasty streak and looks to be very competitive on the field.
By all accounts Andrew Fitzgerald has a motor and a tremendous work ethic which is what it takes to succeed in the game of football. The 6-5, 245 Defensive End from Flower Mound, Texas is a terror off the edge even if he is only rated a 3 star. He supposedly has 4.9 speed but looks really quick. This guy looks to have a ton of upside if he gets some solid coaching.
Malcolm Roach was the Longhorns’ lowest rated recruit, but that didn’t stop Will Muschamp from South Carolina from trying to steal him late in the recruiting process. Roach played Linebacker and Tight End and even some Quarterback in the Wildcat formation. This kid is an animal that loves to mix it up. He seems to love contact even if he is pretty rough around the edges. He is projected as a Defensive End and he is supposedly already 6-3, 255. He looks to have the speed and athletic ability to be able to add a few pounds without losing much quickness.
The Longhorns needed Defensive Tackle help and they landed 5 and might have gotten more but a couple of others seemed to not be interested in competing. Jordan Elliott committed to Baylor and then to Houston and then to Michigan and then signed with Texas when it was all said and done.
Jordan Elliott is the highest rated of the bunch as the 12th in the country according to the experts. He played a lot of Defensive End in high school probably because his school had some monster Defensive Linemen that could play inside but none of them matched Elliott’s athletic ability. He is listed at 6-4 to 6-5 and around 300 pounds and he can move. He was pretty much unblockable at the high school level and that is against top competition in the Houston, Texas area. With the loss of Hassan Ridgeway to the NFL Draft and very little depth, Elliott has a chance to play really quickly at Texas.
Chris Daniels is rated just over Elliott at 14th in the country and played at one of the state’s best big schools in Euless Trinity. He is 6-5, 300 and he is dominating against the run and as a pass rusher. Playing at Trinity High School, Daniels has gone against top competition not only in games but in practice. Texas freshman Offensive Guard from last season Patrick Vahe went up against Daniels in practice daily. Daniels is a beast that is super quick off the snap and he should see playing time really early at Texas.
In my opinion Marcel Southall is a bit underrated. He is 6-3, 290 and has super quickness. He is rated as the 24th best Defensive Tackle in the country, but he is really impressive. The best high school football in the state of Texas is played in the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex, East Texas and Houston. Southall played at Duncanville High School against some of the best players in the state and in the nation.
From the school that produced Leonard Fournette comes 6-3, 290 Defensive Tackle D’Andre Christmas-Giles. He is only rated as the 37th best Defensive Tackle in the nation and a 3 star prospect, but he has a lot of potential. For his size, Christmas-Giles has a lot of quickness and he was hard to block for high school offensive linemen.
Gerald Wilbon was rated slightly under Christmas-Giles at 39th. Another Louisiana product, Wilbon has super lower body strength and is fairly quick for his 6-3, 310 frame.
Between Jordan Elliott, Chris Daniels, Marcel Southall, D’Andre Christmas-Giles and Gerald Wilbon Texas more than likely found some quality depth for their really thin Defensive Tackle positions. I would expect at least 2 of them to play from day one. The Texas coaching staff came through big
time recruiting Defensive Tackles.
Last year, Texas signed the state’s best Linebacker in Malik Jefferson who started the first game and was a leader for the defense. This year, they also signed the state’s best Linebacker in Jeffrey McCulloch from Aldine Davis High School. Nicknamed the Shark, McCulloch is the 2nd rated Outside Linebacker in the nation. He is nasty off the edge in a blitz. He seems to diagnose the play rather quickly and close even quicker on the ball carrier. When he arrives on the play, he brings some serious attitude and hits like lightening. Texas fans can’t wait to see him team up with Jefferson.
Erick Fowler is from Manor, Texas which is just outside Austin. Fowler was committed to LSU for quite a while before switching to Texas on National Signing Day. I’ve seen him listed as 6’1″ up to 6’4″ which is typical in recruiting. Either way, Fowler is a baller and comes off the edge with speed and determination. Fowler is rated as the 9th rated OLB in the nation and that may not be good enough. This guy is really impressive and he was a huge addition to the Longhorns recruiting class on signing day. He doesn’t give up on plays and he has tremendous closing speed. Texas has some good young Linebackers outside of Malik Jefferson, but it’s going to be hard to keep Fowler off the field.
Demarco Boyd is the younger brother of last year’s recruit, Cornerback Kris Boyd. Boyd has been a valuable team leader for East Texas 3A powerhouse Gilmer High School for the past 2 seasons. He is a gifted athlete that could play Middle Linebacker or he could switch over to Fullback. The encouraging feature of Demarco Boyd is not only his huge leadership qualities but he has a huge heart and a motor that never stops.
The Longhorns signed several Corners last year, but there is still room for a talent like Eric Cuffee.
He is a tall and athletically gifted Cornerback with great coverage skills. He is super aggressive and possesses great tackling ability. He played at Waco High School against quality competition such as Texas recruit Davion Curtis.
Brandon Jones is one of the top recruits in the country and the 2nd rated Safety prospect. He is every bit as talented as the guy ranked ahead of him. The 6-0, 195 Jones has tremendous speed and he hits like a truck.
Chris Brown is better than his ranking indicates. He is a heavy hitter with outstanding speed. He has good size and was recruited for the Safety position, but he played Cornerback in high school at times. The special teams demon should help out fairly early at least on Kickoffs or Punts. Brown was a 3 star recruit and the 38th ranked Safety in the nation and I have no idea how the experts determined that.
Lil’Jordan Humphrey has possibly the coolest name in sports. But, he is also a talented athlete. The 6-4, 190 Humphrey played Running Back in high school at Southlake Carroll High School in the Dallas area. He also played Wide Receiver and he excelled at both.
The Longhorn faithful were concerned about this class all the way up until signing day, but the Texas staff had a remarkable day on National Signing Day which I wrote about here: http://collegefootballcrazy.com/texas-longhorns-most-incredible-recruiting-day-2016/
A lot of these guys will play and they will play early as the Longhorns continue to rebuild.