Open Post | Tuesday, February 9th

Talking Point | Personal Rankings of the 2021 Class
– CJ Vogel

The end of the cycle has come which means it’s time to put the 2021 Texas class into a ranking because why not. If you’re new here, this is all my own opinion and it may not line up perfectly with what others on site have said or even what the rankings would suggest across the ranking platforms. But that’s the fun of having opinions.

If you want to take a look back at my 2020 class rankings, click here. (This also has my 2018 class ranking as well).

I divide my rankings into four categories. The boundaries for each category are used quite loosely, however I take into account instant impact, a level of excitement around each player and how they project for the duration of their career. In all honesty, offensive linemen get the short end of the stick in most cases.

  • 1. Instant impact with program changing talent.
  • 2. Early contributor
  • 3. Likely to be a starter late in career.
  • 4. Will take time to develop. Potential to be starter late in career.

Tier 1:

ATH Ja’Tavion Sanders – This is a no brainer. Sanders is Texas’ lone five-star prospect in the 2021 class and was recently bumped to the No. 1 athlete in the country by the ranking services. He has incredibly high ceiling on both sides of the ball and in fact, I am hoping he isn’t locked down to just one side of the ball. Sanders has a great get-off on the defensive side of the ball and tremendous ball skills on offense. Regardless, the dude knows how to make plays and Texas will absolutely love him over the next 3-4 years.

 LB Morice Blackwell – I am very high on Blackwell. Perhaps the most fun film to watch of any player in the class, Blackwell is a stud athletically and has the ability to go sideline to sideline in the blink of an eye. Plus the dude can knock guys into the next week with his physicality. Big fan.

S JD Coffey – Keeping Coffey in this class perhaps does not get the recognition it deserves. It’s hard to find a safety in the state this cycle that reads the quarterback’s eyes as well as Coffey. Not to mention the dude is not afraid to lay the boom as well. I have a feeling he is going to be a tremendous fit in Coach K’s defense at safety.

OLB Derrick Harris Jr. – A knee injury derailed Harris Jr.’s senior season but won’t stop me from putting him in the tier one category. The athletic background of being a swimmer will certainly play into his favor at the next level. The bend and fluidity allows him to get to the quarterback with ease.

Tier 2:

DT Byron Murphy – Yes, Texas missed on Shemar Turner, but I don’t want Texas fans to discredit what they are getting in his teammate Byron Murphy. Murphy moves tremendously well for his size and has a mean streak him that coaches love to have in the trenches. He’ll be a player.

CB Ishmael Ibraheem – I am very glad things were worked out for Ibraheem to sign on the dotted line on NSD2. With that said, the dude is a very intriguing prospect. Admittedly, I am a sucker for lengthy cornerbacks and when you add speed to that frame, you get a dude like Ibraheem.

OL Hayden Conner – It wasn’t a strong OL class by any means, but Hayden Conner’s rankings has criminally fallen ever since he committed to the Longhorns. All the dude did was set the Katy ISD record for pancakes in a career. He finishes blocks as well as any OL in the state, I think he’ll be a great addition on the interior.

DE David Abiara – Long, lengthy and can move. I am a huge fan of Abaira’s potential. Whether or not he will put things together or not remains to be seen but Texas is getting a dude they can mold into a multi-year contributor who has a knack for finding the ball and making plays.

Tier 3:

LB Terrence Cooks – First thing that comes to mind for Cooks is his speed. Whether he lines up at inside or outside, he’s bringing some speed that is hard to find at the linebacker position. He’ll need some time to work on play recognition and filling the hole, but the potential is there.

RB Jonathon Brooks – Texas wanted two RB’s in this class, and while they only got one, it’s hard to complain. Brooks is a stud. Brooks rushed for 69 touchdowns and 3565 yards in his senior season alone.

DE Barryn Sorrell – The first thing that stands out to me about Sorrell is his violence on the field. The dude throws people, hits people, and everything in between. I am a fun of what he can turn into at the next level.

WR Casey Cain – Like the OL group, there isn’t one real guy that stands out in the WR group this class. But there is some really nice talent that could develop into big contributors with the new staff. At 6’3″, Cain is the big body WR of the class and I love the way he positions his body in contested catches. He’s got solid hands and a willingness to block.

WR Keithron Lee – Lee was a late bloomer and really popped on the scene late, but the talent is nice. I think he’s a step or two below what Texas has currently at the slot position and that will likely hinder his ability to see the field early. But he has real nice burst and hands, should contribute later in his career.

CB Jamier Johnson – Watching film on Johnson was tough considering how his games were broadcasted, but I was able to string together enough clips to really like what he puts on the field. Johnson has great hip fluidity, something that certainly bodes well for the next level.

WR Jaden Alexis – Alexis is a burner. The dude ran a 4.41 40-yard dash so there is plenty of reason to be excited there. He needs to develop the route tree a bit and continue to improve. Alexis was able to mask a lot of things with his speed that he won’t be able to get away with at the next level.

ATH Juan Davis – I am very intrigued with where Juan Davis is going to fit at the next level. He’s got great athleticism and size for the offensive side of the ball. Whether it’s tight end or outside wide receiver, I think there will be a spot on the field for him.

Tier 4:

DE Jordon Thomas – I am probably a bit low on Thomas compared to others. But I don’t believe he will flop. I was worried about the arm length and get-off for Thomas. Athleticism is going to be met with but if he can add weight, then he should be able to grow into a solid contributor in a few seasons.

OL Max Merril – I am hopeful Merril can develop into a serviceable offensive lineman during his time in Austin. He moves his feet well and gets to the next level with ease, though will need a lot of time to grow into a division one body.

TE Gunnar Helm – Tight end is a tricky spot, especially at Texas over the last decade or so. I am hoping with the new offensive scheme from Steve Sarkisian that the tight end will prove to be more of an option, but until then I am not putting much stock into the position. With that said, Texas already has a number of able bodies at the position as well.

QB Charles Wright – Absolutely love the competitiveness from Wright. If memory serves, he lead Austin High to the playoffs for the first time in forever basically. Good arm and touch, doesn’t necessarily have the ‘wow’ arm strength but can certainly make a number of college throws.

P Isaac Pearson – No disrespect here from Pearson, as punting is a massive part of the game and can turn momentum with one boot. But I simply have not seen him in person and we know the transition from punting in Australia to college isn’t always a seamless transition.

Commitment Analysis | 2021 DL David Abiara
– D.T.

National Signing Day II came bearing a few nice gifts for the new Texas staff and Longhorn fans. Mansfield Legacy Defensive End David Abiara signed with the Longhorns after months of anonymity. Abiara became the 21st member of the 2021 class. 

What’s Texas getting in Abiara?

Ranking: 4-Star (ESPN), 3-Star (Rivals), 3-Star (247)

Size: 6’4 250

Offers: Notre Dame, Oklahoma, Texas A&M, LSU, Ole Miss, Utah

Projected Position at Texas: Defensive End (Strongside)

Player Comparison: TaQuon Graham (Texas 2017-2020)

Analysis: Abiara tends to pop up out of his stance, which will need to be corrected at the next level. He has excellent length and heavy hands. The lateral agility is there to crease zoning Offensive Linemen and his size helps him finish plays that seem out of his range. 

He reminds me of TaQuon Graham because like Graham, who spent the first half of his career playing Defensive End, he figures to grow into a guy that has Inside-Outside versatility and ultimately becomes an athletic interior lineman. I don’t see a star EDGE rusher, but I see a guy who should be able to get you 3-4 sacks a year and controls his gaps in the run game. I think that he will end up being a guy that plays both the run and the pass equally well.

I know that Texas Head Coach Steve Sarkisian mentioned that they see Abiara as a guy that they can stand up some and rush off of the edge during the Signing Day press conference, but I have a hard time seeing Abiara maintaining the ability to do that after a year or two with the unavoidable weight gain that he will experience in a college S&C program. Maybe he’s a guy who focuses on staying within a certain weight range to keep his athleticism. 

Who knows?

At the end of the day, this is a guy that Oklahoma wanted badly early in the process and Notre Dame fought to keep him committed for months. He’s an athletic big man with some rush ability and you simply can not have enough of those. This is a very nice win for the Longhorns.

Instant Impact Rating: 4. Abiara has some stiff competition ahead of him, but there’s always a possibility that talented Defensive Linemen find their way onto the field early.

Maalik Murphy | Initial In-Person Update
– Super K

Back on February 1st, we talked about the very real possibility of Texas landing 5-star quarterback Maalik Murphy (here):

This is going to be one to watch. I’ve spoken to a couple sources out west and both gave them the sense that Sark and Texas are going to be a very big player in this one.

Sark is tied in with Maalik’s camp and I was told that Maalik and a lot of the players and folks out west like and trust Sark. They see him as a West Coast guy which gives him credibility and after seeing what he’s done at Alabama, it only adds to that credibility.

I don’t want to get too far out in front of my skies here but everyone I’ve spoken to says that Texas will be a player in this recruitment.

This past weekend, I saw Maalik out in California at a Premium 7v7 tournament…

***Maalik is a sharp quarterback and a sharp young man. High academic young man and very gracious. He’s the kind of a leader you look for in a quarterback. He’s a very big fella. He’s a throwback to the 6’4ish type QBs.

***Murphy doesn’t have a formal top four but it seems Texas, Rutgers, Oregon and UCLA are currently the top group.

***Schiano and his staff at Rutgers are doing a really good job recruiting Maalik. As you know, Schiano had Rutgers rolling the first time he was there and they know landing a guy like Maalik would get them where they want to go a lot faster. While I still think it would be a tough pull for them, they are certainly trying and I can tell Maalik really likes those guys. I’d guess they may actually be Maalik’s favorite staff even if Rutgers isn’t necessarily his favorite school.

***UCLA is the hometown favorite. Maalik said if the folks close to him could choose, it would probably be UCLA given the proximity. He also grew up a Duck fan when Chip Kelly was at Oregon. So, there is a lot of admiration for Kelly who now heads up the program at UCLA. I know a lot of folks see him ending up at UCLA and that may be the case but I don’t get the sense from him that it’s a forgone conclusion. Obviously though, they are major contenders.

***Oregon is, as I said, his childhood dream school and he said he would love to visit there. My read was Oregon is going to suffer the dreaded fate of the “childhood dream school” curse.

***Texas has been in his recruitment for a while. He was offered initially by coach Beck. Maalik said that when coach Sark came in, Sark let Maalik know that his previous offer still stands and that he would be a target moving forward.

***Since that initial conversation with Sark, Maalik said Coach AJ Milwee has been his primary recruiter from Texas. Maalik said, “me and coach Milwee have been building a very good relationship. I like talking to him. He likes talking to me. I feel like we have a good vibe going. So, that’s a great thing being able to communicate and talk to the quarterback coach because that’s who you’re going to be with most”.

***Being here on the west coast, you get the real sense that the players here and the folks around them see Sark as a west coast guy and it gives him a leg up. Many of them have been around Sark when they were kids while Sark was at USC. Even though Sark’s stay at SC was brief, it came at a time when these current recruits were in late elementary school and into middle school, a time when they started going to camps. Maalik himself says he remembers being around Sark at a camp when Maalik was in elementary school.

***Speaking to Maalik off the record, I didn’t get the feeling like he has a decision made but I very much think Texas is in it.

***I think a visit to Texas would really help. And, I am told there is a chance he will be out in Texas at some point this month. So we will be following that.

***I think Maalik’s status within the recruiting world to go along with Jaydon Blue’s status, would be just the momentum Sark needs to get this 2022 rolling.

Commitment Analysis | 2022 RB Jaydon Blue
– D.T.

The ball is beginning to start rolling in a major way in the 2022 class for Texas. Nationally elite Klein Cain Running Back Jaydon Blue announced his commitment to Texas a day before National Signing Day for the 2021 class. 

What’s Texas getting in Blue?

Ranking: Consensus National Top 60 prospect overall, 4-Star Recruit

Size: 5’10 200

Offers: Oklahoma, LSU, Alabama, Ohio St, Notre Dame, Georgia, Texas A&M, Oregon, Florida, USC

Projected Position at Texas: RB1

Player Comparison: Derrius Guice (LSU 2016-18) 

Analysis: Whew.

As a Junior, Blue ran for 2,155 yards and 30 touchdowns in 11 ballgames. He surpassed the 200-yard threshold in 6 of those contests and this is at the highest classification in Texas High School football (6A).

Blessed with a prototypical RB build, he has some of the best balance I’ve seen in a while and displays tremendous vision combined with patience that far exceeds the norm for a Back his age. He rarely rushes the action as an interior rusher and does an excellent job of following the plan until it becomes time to tap into his instincts as a ballcarrier. Understands tempo and arm tackles will not bring him down. Seeks contact at the second-level and has no reservations about delivering a blow when needed. He will likely settle somewhere in the 215-220lb range. 

He is an elite athlete. Blue is elusive, with the top-end speed to take any run to the house at the high school level and unlike most prospects it will likely translate to the next level as well. He has an electronic-verified sub 11.0 100M dash to his credit while he was just a Freshman. He also boasted a 10-1 Broad Jump in January of 2020 at the Army All-American Combine, which would have placed him among the top 10 of RB participants at the NFL Combine a few months later. 

His high school team doesn’t utilize him much at all in the passing game, likely due to him being so effective as a runner. Don’t let that fool you, though, Blue has terrific hands, spacial awareness, and route-running ability that he puts on display often for his FAST 7-on-7 team. I’m sure part of his sell from Stan Drayton and Steve Sarkisian was about how they would be able to take advantage of his full range of talents.

This is a huge get for Texas and we will get to see both Blue and Bijan Robinson play together for a season.

Instant Impact Rating: 7. Blue is almost a lock to see the field and play a role as a True Freshman.

Bryce Anderson | The Latest Following his Decommitment
– Super K

The new Texas staff are going all in on 2022 4-star DB Bryce Anderson (West Brook). I spoke with Anderson following his decommitment from LSU.

***On the reasons he originally committed to LSU, Bryce said they were recruiting him and his family hard, they were his childhood favorite school and they were close to home.

***Obviously a ton of staff turnover at LSU and he felt it was best to open things up.

***Schools recruiting him the hardest: Bama, Ohio State, Clemson, Texas and TAMU. I get the sense that is his top five. So, Texas is going to have to beat the big boys for Bryce.

***I do get the sense that he’d prefer to play closer to home. I don’t think that will keep him from going to a Bama or Clemson but if he feels like he can get what he needs at TAMU or Texas, I believe proximity to home will help.

***Texas is actually recruiting Bryce as a cornerback. He said he’s open to playing any position but prefers corner. He certainly has the speed to play the position.

***Says that Terry Joseph has been recruiting him hard. In fact, when I spoke with him, he had had recent calls with both coach Joseph and coach Sark. But, he tells me he and coach Joseph communicate almost every day.

***He does have a family tie to Texas. Bryce mentioned that former  Texas DB, PJ Locke is his cousin.

***Wants to commit to a school on either August 6th or at the All American game.

***He also added that he wants to visit all five of previously mentioned schools (Bama, Ohio State, Texas, TAMU, and Clemson) before making a decision. He said he’d also like to visit UGA.

***In terms of what it’s going to take to win his commitment, “Recruiting me and my family the hardest”. He feels he can make it the league from any of the schools he’s considering so it’s going to come down to relationships. He also said he’s looking for a coach he can trust. 

***The deal breaker for him is going to be “coaching changes”. Again, he seems to be emphasizing his connection with a staff on a personal level.

My Early Take

***Bryce is definitely mature enough to go to a school farther away but, as I said, I still think proximity to home is going to matter.

***I get the sense he already likes Terry Joseph.

***It’s early but if I were ranking them at this point, I’d put Texas in a pole position. You can bet Jaydon Blue is going to be recruiting Bryce and that could help.