Thirsty Thursday | Blessing in Disguise, Sky is Not Falling, Image and Likeness
Welcome back to another edition of Thirsty Thursdays! As always, I’m here to try to help quench your thirst for Longhorn Football in the drought of the offseason, along with other topics of interest in Longhorn sports this week.
2021 Recruiting a “Blessing in Disguise?”
In what has become a yearly event, at least during the Tom Herman tenure, we’ve reached the point of the year where there are concerns amongst the fan base that frequents message boards about the direction of recruiting in this year’s class.
I’ll concede two points.
- Wide Receiver recruiting has been all over the place.
- Offensive Line recruiting is looking bleak, especially if no Brockermeyers.
I’ve written in this very forum at length about my thoughts on the approach to Wide Receiver recruiting this year and the concerns that I have about Andre Coleman’s ability to reign in big fish. The interesting part comes when we hear about Casey Cain, the lone WR commit in the class to date, being handpicked by the Offensive Coordinator, Mike Yurcich. It would appear that QB and WR belong to the Offensive Coordinator, while RB and OL are handled by the position coaches. It actually makes sense when you consider that Texas has had multiple WR coaches the previous two seasons under Tom Herman.
Royse City WR Ketron Jackson remains on the board and I think that he ultimately winds up in the class. He’s one of the few guys left that meets the “star quota” desired by the fanbase. Again, it’s not a strong year at the position in-state this cycle, which could lend some explanation to the wide net of offers cast across the country earlier in the spring.
Outside of Jackson, I’m not sure there’s another name on the radar that will satisfy the desired ranking to make folks happy. A part of me loves this reality because it means that the Texas staff has to do their homework. I think that this will lead to a higher hit rate than we’ve seen at Texas for the better part of a decade now.
Year after year, we see 4 and 5-Star guys flame out across the nation for different reasons. The guys that are “easy” evaluations often are close to their physical ceilings as football players already. There are more 3-Star prospects than any other because so many kids have so much room left to get better. This year especially, I think the rankings (which really aren’t all that accurate outside of the general top 60-75 players nationally, the obvious guys, every year) are going to be thrown more out-of-whack than usual for the 2021 class due to their extenuating circumstances with this pandemic.
Every year when watching the NFL Draft there are double digit guys from Texas that weren’t highly rated that get drafted over the three-day event. It’s time for Texas to start producing some of those guys and this in a step in that direction. Texas is being forced to take a closer look at their own state and that could be a huge blessing in disguise, contrary to what the Signing Day lists have told you in the past when it comes to the Longhorns.
I wish I had some answers for you guys with questions about the Offensive Line. The hope is that Texas can land the twins and then find a hidden gem similar to what they did last year with Andrej Karic. It’s been much more difficult to find that guy this spring with there being no camps or visits. So, my answer there is to be patient.
Let’s play a quick game. I’ll call it the “Guessing Game” since that’s all recruiting really is, right?
We’ll use two examples from the 2021 class.
(Inside Wide Receiver)
Player A (5’10 155)
2019 Stats: 71 rec, 1419 yds, 16td (12 Games)
Offers: Texas A&M, Baylor, Colorado, Texas, Florida St., TCU
Player B (5’10 167)
2019 Stats: 22 rec, 322yds, 1 td (13 games)
Offers: Baylor, Texas, Alabama, Arkansas, Mississippi St., Ole Miss
Player A is a consensus 3-Star.
Player B is a consensus 4-Star.
Who would you rather have based on this information? I’m guessing most of you are saying Player A, but if we only look at star ratings, Player A would be a player that you guys are telling me you would be upset about landing and Player B is the real prize.
Player A (6’3 275)
Profile: Triple Jumper for the Boys Varsity at a 5A program in the DFW metroplex. The first of his kind as far as my knowledge.
Offers: Baylor, Colorado, Boston College, Missouri, Kansas, Texas, Washington St.
Player B (6’1 295)
Profile: Unique background playing both sides of the ball as a Fullback and Tight End on Offense and Defensive Tackle on Defense. Electronically verified sub 11.4 100-meter dash time as a Sophomore at 270+lbs.
Offers: Baylor, Houston, Illinois, Minnesota, Louisiana, TCU, North Texas
I’ll tell you right now, I’d take both of these guys and Texas needs to offer Player B yesterday. For exercise purposes though, based on this information who would you be most excited about landing?
Player A is a low-ranked consensus 3-star.
Player B is a 4-Star prospect on 247 and a top-35 player in Texas.
Can you guess who the mystery recruits are on both sides of the ball?
CJ did a great job touching on the latest offers earlier this week and I’ll do it again with my own little spin on it today for those that may have missed it. Again, we should be taking a deeper look beyond just their star rating.
Jonathan Jones DE McKinney HS (6’4 235)
I wrote about Jones in a piece that was posted on the board yesterday. He’s been heavily recruited by Baylor and Missouri (two schools that develop DL at a high rate over the past decade) over the past few months and is a priority for both programs. Texas already stole a priority defensive recruit away from Baylor earlier this cycle in Morice Blackwell Jr. The hope for the Longhorns is that they can continue to have success swiping priority prospects from conference foes that have been giving them problems with far fewer resources. Jones fits the description to a tee with his impressive frame, inconsistent motor and raw, unrefined tools.
J.J. Henry WR McKinney North HS (5’10 158)
This guy has an 9-minute highlight reel as a Junior playing 5A ball in the DFW metroplex at 5’10 and less than 160lbs. What more else needs to be said? He wins with technique over and over on tape and it doesn’t hurt that he’s been gifted with terrific burst and plenty of football speed. Unlike some smaller slot guys who win only with speed, Henry’s game will likely translate instantly to the next level due to how nuanced he is as a route-runner. As I mentioned earlier in the piece, Henry has an offer list that speaks for itself and he matches up favorably with any Slot WR that the state of Texas has to offer in 2021. Duncanville WR Roderick Daniels (Baylor commit) is another guy that is an undersized beast that doesn’t get anywhere near enough love.
Ike Iwunnah Garland Lakeview Centennial HS (6’3 275)
I mentioned this in the thread that K posted earlier in the week about him, but I figured it was worth mentioning again:
Iwunnah participates in the Triple Jump for the Lakeview Centennial Varsity. I have NEVER heard of a Defensive Lineman participating in the jumps at the High School level. This is 5A at that. This little tidbit is a huge testament to the type of rare athleticism that he has for his size. As a few people that have watched his film have mentioned, his first and second step really stand out.
In a year where the state has produced a ton of Linemen that profile as Ends, Iwunnah has long been one of the better options available that wasn’t getting much attention. When you add in the fact that he’s teammates with Camar Wheaton, some could argue that this offer should have been made months ago. It would also make sense for Texas to kick the tires on a guy like Byron Murphy from DeSoto at some point as well, in my opinion.
David Abiara Mansfield Legacy HS (6’4 245)
Abiara is a bad dude and when I update my class of 2021 rankings and expand the list to 33, he will be making an appearance. Ignore the 3-Star rating from some places and turn on the tape. Admittedly, after being high on a few Legacy guys in previous classes, I glossed over Abiara’s name despite seeing it numerous times due to Texas not showing much luck in landing Legacy players and they weren’t showing Abiara any attention at the time. He has been committed to Notre Dame for a few months, but according to TFB sources he is on the verge of either flipping his commitment to Oklahoma or re-opening his recruitment completely. Abiara belongs in the same conversation as guys like Jordon Thomas, Marcus Burris, Landon Jackson, etc.
Show Me Where the Sky is Falling
Texas has the makings of another top-10 class. Seemingly every year of Tom Herman’s tenure there’s been some sort of narrative around the summer time about a lack of momentum on the recruiting trail. Seemingly every year, Texas picks up multiple summer-time commitments. I don’t expect for that to change this year and the commits will have the number of stars that you guys like to see. In the meantime, let me quickly refresh the memories on what is already on the way from this class.
DE Ja’Tavion Sanders (6’4 225)
Remember this guy? He’s a consensus top-50 national recruit and stars for a 5A power at both Defensive End and Wide Receiver. He’s one of those “obvious” guys that I was talking about earlier. He’s a 5-Star talent as far as I’m concerned and sometimes I think we suffer from amnesia as a fanbase when we start getting upset about missing on certain recruits. Despite the DL talent that Texas has landed in recent classes, Sanders will see the field as a true Freshman. Texas fans should wake up every morning with a smile on their face knowing that Ja’Tavion Sanders is committed.
Junior Highlights: (Single-game)
ATH Billy Bowman Jr. (5’10 175)
Another consensus top-50 national recruit that committed last summer that fans have seemingly forgotten about. Billy Bowman Jr. is in the conversation for best player in the 2021 class on a pound-for-pound basis. If he were two inches taller, he’d be a top-10 player in the country. Regardless of which side of the ball Texas decides to use him on, Bowman will be on the field as a true Freshman.
QB Jalen Milroe (6’2 195)
In a year that the state has both strong top-end talent as well as depth at the position, Milroe arguably represents the highest upside of all of the available signal-callers in this year’s class. He is dynamic when he decides to run and has a cannon for an arm. Despite his immense potential, Milroe is certainly more player than prospect. He’s the real deal and in a perfect world he would be in the 2022 class to provide more space between himself and Ja’Quinden Jackson/Hudson Card.
LB Morice Blackwell Jr. (6’2 205)
Blackwell Jr. is in contention for top LB in the state. He’s different from guys like Clayton Smith and Derrick Harris because he’s more of a natural every-down LB instead of a specialized Pass Rusher. Blackwell Jr.’s stock will likely rise as more eyeballs gravitate towards his film after his commitment to Texas. Big-time pickup for the Longhorns.
OL Hayden Conner (6’6 325)
Conner’s stock has slipped since his commitment last season and I attribute most of the blame for that very reason. In a deep year in-state, Conner’s very early commitment took him out of the conversation of other places and I think he’s a guy that is suffering from a bit of media amnesia. Conner is a mauler of a blocker on tape and is surprisingly agile for his size. I think he’s a likely multi-year starter at Texas as a Right Tackle or Guard. You’ll take five of him every year and have what you need for a championship contender.
LB Derrick Harris Jr. (6’2 220)
Harris Jr. plays a role very similar to that of Prince Dorbah when he was at Highland Park. His job is to create pressure. Due to the way he is used, he is not as developed in pass coverage as some other top LB prospects may currently be at this stage of their development. Harris Jr. is a long, slippery athlete that has a knack defeated one-on-one blocks and creating turnovers with his length. He’s heading towards a near-perfect situation for himself at Texas to develop while being used to his strengths early in his career.
H-Back Juan Davis (6’3 220)
Davis is perhaps the most intriguing of the commits that Texas has so far. He has the legitimate size, yet he possesses light feet and agility that reminds me a little bit of Lil’Jordan Humphrey on tape. If Texas utilizes him as a Slot weapon and out of the backfield in the passing game, he has a chance to be a weapon during his time in Austin.
DE Jordon Thomas (6’3 240)
Thomas missed pretty much all of his Junior season due to a lower-body injury. He’s a huge kid with impressive strength that put enough on tape as a Sophomore to earn offers from all of the regional powers save for Oklahoma. While he’s not likely to be a star, Thomas is a rock-solid pickup as a piece of the 2021 Defensive Line puzzle.
Junior Highlights: (Sophomore Highlights)
WR Casey Cain (6’2 175)
Casey Cain doesn’t have a great offer list. I thought that his HUDL highlights were impressive. I saw a long guy with impressive body control and some twitchiness in his route running. I saw a player with some savvy understanding of how to attack a Defensive Back’s leverage. All of those things translate to the next level. I think that Cain is a sneaky good pickup and could surprise some folks during his time at Texas. I guess I could say that I also wouldn’t be shocked if he never amounts to much. Lets call him an acquired taste.
RB Jonathon Brooks (6’0 185)
See Casey Cain. I see some things on Brooks’ HUDL that really excite me and give me hope for what he can become. While I think he’s a very nice prospect and a guy I’d consider a top-70 player in-state, the odds are against him making much of a dent early in his career due to the depth that will be in front of him. He also won’t be the only RB taken in the class. Brooks is versatile and I think he will find a way to contribute. Flashbacks of Tre Newton.
“Player Likeness” profits is in its infancy, but …
I found these tweets from Texas Director of Recruiting Bryan Carrington to be fascinating. With the new rule being passed to allow for student-athletes to profit from their own likeness, this is absolutely something that a place like Texas could take advantage of.
The only issue is that I believe that a majority of young men would really need this broken down and explained to them. It’s a lot easier to understand heavy suitcases and $100 handshakes better than “potential earnings,” but this is a positive in my eyes. It’s another legal selling point that Texas will have in the years to come.
Maybe a guy like Southlake Carroll’s Quinn Ewers sees the potential value in the future?
New Defensive Line Offer to Keep an eye on
– Super K
Before the Corona virus shut down, I was able to swing by Lakeview Centennial. I had stopped by to of course see, 5-star running back Camar Wheaton (who by the way should be narrowing things down further, soon).
While I was there I met a defensive linemen whose film I really liked. This past weekend, Texas offered him.
2021 3-star DL, Ike Iwunnah is another recent in-state offer the Horns have made that I think is a pretty good one.
Ike’s first and second step jump off the screen. In person he’s around 6’3 and pretty thin 275 lbs (plenty of room to add weight). When I saw earlier this year he had zero offers which surprised me. Since then he’s picked up offers from Baylor, Colorado, Boston College, now Texas and others.
While Iwunnah is teammates with Camar, I do not believe this offer is at all connected to Wheaton. I don’t think either’s decision will impact the other.
Ike is a high academic athlete so I certainly think Texas will sky rocketed at or near the top in this recruitment.
Recapping Weekend Offers
– CJ Vogel
With Memorial Day weekend behind us, let’s take a look back at some of the recent offers the Texas staff gave out over the last couple of days.
The Longhorns were busy in the Dallas area, specifically McKinney.
2021 McKinney North WR JJ Henry
The three-star wide receiver lit up the box score as a junior, hauling in 1400+ receiving yards and 18 touchdowns on 76 receptions. Henry’s film doesn’t lie either.
This recruitment should be one to keep an eye on.
2021 McKinney High DE Jonathan Jones
Jones is currently listed at 6-feet-4-inches and 230 lbs, but has a frame that will allow his body to put on much more weight. He’s a basketball player as well which is evident on tape.
A source close to the McKinney program told me Jones has a high ceiling if he can put everything together on and off the field.
2021 Mansfield Legacy DE David Abiara
Abiara is currently committed to Notre Dame, though before his decision, the Sooners were very involved in his recruitment. Texas will have some work to do.
2021 Lakeview Centennial DE Ike Iwunnah
K posted about Iwunnah earlier this morning. Good stuff there.
2023 John Paul II CB Braxton Myers
Corners coach Jay Valai is looking towards the future here with an offer for 2023 CB Braxton Myers.
2022 St. Louis University CB Isaac Thompson
Thompson has great size for a corner at 6-feet-1-inch. The offer list for Thompson is impressive, some notables include Florida, Michigan, Penn State and LSU.
A guy I’d love to see Texas pursue is 2022 McKinney North DE Dylan Frazier
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Quick-Hitter | Virtual Visits
– Super K
Just a quick note here. I’m told there will be no virtual visits this week. I’m guessing the staff was giving the week off before they hit the ground running going into the summer.
The Latest | In-State 2021 DL Offer is One to Keep an Eye On
Texas made the move over the weekend to extend an offer to McKinney HS 2021 Defensive End prospect Jonathan Jones. Jones is a consensus three-star prospect across the recruiting sites and at this time I agree with that assessment.
What could be attracting Texas to him?
Jones possesses some really impressive physical tools. He’s a legitimate 6’4 235lbs currently and has a wingspan that is close to 7’0. He’s athletic and has some closing speed. He shows a motor on tape and finds ways to the ball on effort alone at times.
I was able to get in contact with Jones and he gave me the latest update on his recruitment.
He had been in contact with Texas for “2 or 3 weeks” before the Longhorns made the move to extend him an official offer. Defensive Coordinator Chris Ash is the person that has been in regular communication with Jones on the Texas side, which I found to be interesting. The Longhorns are recruiting Jones as a Defensive End with “some Outside Linebacker too.”
Jones currently holds offers from programs like Baylor, Virginia Tech, Colorado, Missouri, and Nebraska. He informed me that he has already done virtual visits with both Baylor and Missouri, with plans in the works to do a virtual visit with Texas soon.
He wants to decide in the first week of September, which means that there is plenty of time here for ground to be made up. In his own words, the most important factors that will go into his decision are “life after Football, development, and playing time.”
My Take: Texas threw that hat into the ring here just in time. Jones has started to see his stock take off as of late and schools like Baylor and Missouri have been putting the hard press on him. He wants to wait to see if he will be able to take Official Visits, which means that even if he does stick to his plan of committing in September he’s a candidate to be flipped if he remains steadfast in his desire to take visits if that option becomes a reality again in the coming months. I think Texas has a good shot here.
Junior Season Highlights: