- May 29, 2001
From the moment that Steve Sarkisian was hired by Texas at the beginning of January, my expectations for the 2022 recruiting class have been sky high.
For me, a top-five class straight out of the gate became the goal, especially when you consider that Charlie Strong pulled a borderline Top 10 class in 2015, while Tom Herman signed the No.4-ranked class for Rivals in 2018.
Most of those expectations centered around the fact that Sarkisian's history as a recruiter at USC included a No.1-ranked class in 2015, his staff assembled at Texas is significantly more dynamic than the one Herman brought with him to Austin and the in-state class in 2022 is as deep with high-end talent as any I've covered in 25+ years.
It's a high bar, for sure, but two of the last three newcomers at the head coaching position for the Longhorns have hit the top five metric.
With about six months to go before letters of intent start making their way across fax machines, the Longhorns sit in 10th place in the current Rivals rankings and sport a very healthy 3.75 stars per prospect, which absolutely suggests that a Top 5 class is out there for the taking if Sarkisian and Co. can close like gangbusters.
In order to get there, the Longhorns are going to have to finish with the elite of the elite prospects inside the state of Texas, of which there are more names available this year than in normal classes. Yet, as deep as the numbers go, there are only so many super blue chip prospects available before the natural resources begin to dry up. By my count, there are roughly nine elite prospects left in the state of Texas:
Evan Stewart (WR - Frisco Liberty)
Devon Campbell (OL - Arlington Bowie)
Kelvin Banks (OL - Houston Summer Creek)
Kam Dewberry (OL - Humble Atascocita)
Omari Abor (DE - Duncanville)
Harold Perkins (LB - Cypress Park)
Denver Harris (CB - North Shore)
Bryce Anderson (DB - Beaumont Westbrook)
Brenen Thompson (Ath - Spearman)
Of the nine, the Longhorns are on the outside looking in for Dewberry, Abor and Perkins. Of those three, the Longhorns are scheduled to get Dewberry on campus this month, but in his top five, the Longhorns are probably 5th coming into the busy visit process and he just said that LSU moved into his top following the weekend, meaning the Longhorns could....ummm.... just need to get him on campus this month and worry about positioning later.
That leaves the following six as absolutely critical to this class: Stewart, Campbell, Banks, Harris, Anderson and Thompson.
The good news is that the Longhorns are in a very good position with each of the six. In fact, I've got Futurecasts for the Longhorns in for Harris, Campbell, Anderson and should probably put one in for Thompson.
The bad news is that there's not a lot of wiggle room as things stand for this staff if it wants to finish with a nationally elite class. If we're talking about out of state national Top 70-level prospects (5 stars or high 4 stars) that the Longhorns are seriously involved in, the list probably includes Santa Ana (Ca.) Mater Dei wide receiver C.J. Williams and Mission Hills (Ca.) Bishop Aacdemy linebacker Niuafe Tuihalamaka.
Overall, this isn't a call for panic; it's just an acknowledgement of the reality that exists for this coaching staff in recruiting. If it can finish strongly with the six mega in-state prospects and pluck an out of state big-timer or two.... Then this class will generally meet very high expectations because it would include 5-7 of the state's truly elite blue chip prospects.
There will be a lot of names over the next six months that come and go from your consciousness, but Stewart, Campbell, Banks, Harris, Anderson and Thompson will remain paramount throughout.
This program needs difference makers, and this is the list of difference makers that Texas must close with.
No. 2 - About the weekend...
Considering I just spent the entire opening sequence of this week's column about the importance of six in-state prospects that weren't on campus this weekend, there probably needs to be a slight disclaimer at the top of this section to cut off the commentary that almost certainly follow; there will be future weekends with more critical targets involved than this one.
Only one Rivals 100 member (and none from the 247 Composite) made his way to Austin this weekend.
Still, if this weekend is any indication of how future weekends are going to be perceived by those taking the visits, you have to feel good about the new coaching staff's ability to make an impression.
Some perfect 10s were handed out. Small brotherhoods were formed by those that visited together. Promises of return visits were in the air, as well as ominous commitment clouds.
As the guy that stresses the importance of national Top 70 prospects at every turn, forgive me for putting heavy positive spin on prospects that aren't in that tier, but these are my thoughts about the players that visited this weekend that appear closest to giving verbal pledges to the Texas coaching staff.
I'm not so sure that Gatson isn't the second-best running back prospect in the state. He's certainly in the discussion. We're talking about a kid with a ton of productivity over the course of his first three high school campaigns (3,940 yards and 61 touchdowns) and electricity to his game. He kind of reminds me of Ronald "Don't Call Me Roland" Jones. If this is a Texas/USC battle, I have to believe this is one Sark wants to win.
In the most recently updated Rivals rankings (due to be updated this week, Brown is ranked as the No. 56 player in the state of Texas (high three-star). 247 ranks him as the No.64 player in the state (high three-star). ESPN has him as the No.35 prospect in the state (low four star). All of these rankings are somewhat fascinating because while Brown isn't a true blue chip prospect coveted coast to coast, he is regarded inside the hallways at UT as a very important prospect in this class. At 6-4/6-5, 215-ish pounds, Brown is a very raw, very athletic edge rush prospect that isn't quite as polished as most of those ranked above him, but there's a high level player inside of Brown if the stars align for him. Frankly, his athletic profile is a high risk, high reward combination. He's not quite as wildly athletic as former Texas player/East Texas star Mike Williams, but he's kind of built in that mode. Here's a look at him playing off the edge this spring in a 4-3. You can see the flashes of upside and also the time in the weight room he still needs to put in.
It's hard for me to get a complete read on Patton because he's the biggest, baddest, dude on every field he plays on at the moment. At his best, he's a very physical linebacker prospect that brings the hammer when he gets downhill. My biggest question about him is whether he's a little too much downhill sledgehammer and not quite as versatile and dynamic as you'd like to see from a true national-level prospect. I'm curious to see what he'll look like after a couple of seasons in a big-time weight program.
No. 3 - Sark gets some juice for the 2021 offense...
I don't know what was going on inside of Keilan Robinson's mind when he entered the NCAA Portal last week.
After all, he's a player that both fans and those covering the team had high expectations for both coming into this season and in the future. As stacked as the Alabama running back room is (5 redshirt freshmen and freshman, including two five-stars), there was a feeling from everyone covering the program that he was going to be an impactful player for the Tide.
Whatever the reasons (maybe word just trickled down to him that Sark could use a player with exactly his skill set), Alabama's loss is going to be Texas' gain, and if we're being honest, it kind of feels like Alabama owes the Longhorns a few players after the last decade.
Now I'm not going to go overboard with hype on Robinson, but I am going to make three points that I think cannot be underscored enough.
a. From a skill set standpoint the Longhorns don't have anyone on campus quite like Robinson, who at 5-9, 210+ pounds and possessing 4.4 speed (at worst) gives the Longhorns a big-play option in the backfield behind Bijan Robinson. No offense to Roschon Johnson, Gabe Watson and Jonathan Brooks, but those dudes aren't exactly explosive plays waiting to happen in the blink of an eye... like this dude can. Check out this 74-yard touchdown run against the Devin Richardson-led New Mexico State Aggies two seasons ago (go to the 1:10 mark).
b. This not only elevates the Texas backfield in terms of giving it some explosiveness, but it boosts the position as a whole going into the year. When it comes to touches inside the offense behind Bijan Robinson, I think Johnson will have his hands full with the Alabama transfer. Assuming that he's able to come in and carve out a niche for the program, we're talking about a player that should be contributing into the 2023 season. These guys all compliment each other really well.
c. Consider this comment from an Alabama insider this weekend: "Robinson has what Saban refers to as the juice. Extremely fast, decided to opt out last season and that really hurt him. He was surpassed by other backs. I predict he’ll be super successful. Just too crowded at Bama."
No. 4 - Handling Business ...
Say whatever you want about the likes of Arizona State, Fairfield and Southern, but over 27 innings this weekend, each of the teams in the Austin Regional wanted a piece of the No.2 ranked Texas Longhorns... and they got some. To the tune of a combined 33-5 score.
With chaos occurring at times in regionals across the country, the Longhorns didn't let anyone put a glove on them all weekend. For a team with national championship dreams, there wasn't a sign of any nightmares over three games, just complete dominaton.
Now the Longhorns find themselves in a position where they'll be hosting a super regional next weekend against the No.3 (South Alabama) or No.4 (South Florida) seed from the Gainesville Regional. I'm not sure you could ask for a better and easier path to a CWS bid on paper.
Anything less than that will be a massive disappointment when you consider how primed this team appears to be.
No. 5 - About Quinn Ewers...
As I prepare to release the updated 2022 LSR Top 100 on Monday, I wanted to make a full confession about Ewers in advance of the release in an effort to just go ahead and get it out of the way.
I've come around on Ewers as the No.1 quarterback prospect in the state.
A few thoughts on the subject.
a. As he continues to develop physically, his arm talent is starting to reach a level that is different from personal favorite Cade Klubnik. I've already thought of him as the most accurate short and intermediate outside of the hash marks thrower I've seen in quite a while, but he's basically made that skill an artform.
b. While I have him rated as a five-star prospect and project him to be the kind of player that collects money playing the sport on Sundays down the road, I do have two minor concerns. The first one is that he's not remotely as deadly at working the middle of the field (down the deep intermediate seams) as he is with short and intermediate outside throws. It's not something I'd make a huge deal out of with a kid still going into his senior season in high school, but it's a piece in my scouting notes that hasn't been resolved in my mind. Call it a baby nitpick.
c. I'm still curious to see what he looks like when he is consistently playing in an unclean pocket. A lot of what Ewers does in high school is pitch and catch because of his offense's ability to put him in a position to get the ball out effortlessly before he's ever under pressure. Yet, when pressure gets to Ewers, I wouldn't say he's always the most composed player in the face of pressure. So much of playing the position comes really easy for him, but how a quarterback performs under the fiercest pressure is how he is defined.
No. 6 - Random recruiting thoughts...
Here are some added random thoughts on some of the top prospects in the state after going back through them several times over the course of the last couple of weeks.
Devon Campbell: He's got some Justin Blalock in him. I'm not sure if he's a tackle or a guard, but I think he's an ass-kicker no matter where he plays, and as far as footwork and balance go, he's got the skill set to stay outside. An absolute mauler in the running game, he feels/looks like a player beyond his age. Of the top three offensive linemen in the state, his downside/basement is smaller than the rest. Again, very Blalock-ian for me.
Kelvin Banks: Of all the top offensive line prospects in the state, Banks is the guy that probably has the best chance to stay at tackle. Every time this kid goes to a camp, he absolutely looks the part in pass rush drills, no matter who comes his way. Also, I know this is going to sound very unscientific, but I was able to let this picture be the tie-breaker when trying to decide between him and Kam Dewberry in the rankings. He's just a little longer and a little more naturally athletic.
Evan Stewart: Holy hell, at some point you have to look at the 10.58 100 meter time, the 21.38 200 meter time, the 24' 6.5 long jump and the 48' 9 triple jump, and realize that we're talking about one hell of an athlete. Oh, and these are just his junior track numbers. Couple all of that insane raw athleticism with the fact that you can basically just toss him the ball and he'll make something happen with it and we're talking about one of the top handful of offensive prospects in the country. As a reference point, Marquise Goodwin posted bests of 10.38 in the 100 meters, 24' 4 in the long jump and 50.0 in the triple jump as a junior at Rowlett.
Kam Dewberry: My only hesitation with Dewberry is that he might not have the physical frame to play anywhere other than inside at the next level. Still, we're talking about a guy that will have a serious chance to play on Sundays when it is all said and done, as I think his basement rivals Campbell for the smallest among the top linemen in the state, but he doesn't bring the potential positional versatility of Campbell/Banks. I'll be very surprised if he's not a plus-lineman at the high college level.
Omari Abor: Dudes like this don't grow on trees. At 6-4, 245 pounds, Abor can make plays up and down the line of scrimmage, yet it feels like he's just scratching the surface of what he's capable of. Historically, players from the state of Texas with his physical profile and ranking do very well at the collegiate level. That the Longhorns aren't really involved with this kid is a major loss because there's no one else like him in the entire state.
Jaydon Blue: Blue drops out of the five-star range for me after a little longer evaluation this spring. Although he won his district in the 100 meters with a time of 10.88 in early April, he finished with a 11.13 time in the regional meet, times that just don't indicate that he has the kind of speed to warrant a five-star ranking. That being said, he's still the top running back in the state by an entire tier in my grades, but No. 5 overall was a bit too high in the last rankings.
Brenan Thompson: Let's start here... he ran a 10.4 and a 21.27 at the state track meet in May as a junior. That's freaking flying. Of all the tools in the tool belt, Thompson brings something in the way of speed that most kids can't touch.
No. 7 – BUY or SELL …
Buy or Sell: It looks likely the Big XII could be a dead man walking and if so, Texas would never join the SEC?
(Sell) Never say never with this new group directing Texas athletics. I've felt a sense of urgency in the last 12 months that is different than we witnessed under previous leadership.
B/S Devin Richardson from NMSU will be the most productive LB on the Texas roster over the course of the next 3 years?
(Buy) I'm not even sure who his competition is at this point.
B/S Because coaches are leaving spots available for portal acquisitions, Ketch will adjust his player rankings to include together high school and portal athletes?
(Sell) I won't mix them together, but I'll definitely have a current set of portal rankings in 2022.
B/S We have the OL necessary to win the conference and make the playoffs in 2021?
(Sell) I think it's nonsense to mention the word "playoffs in 2021" right now. That idea is mind-bottling.
You'd take Keilan Robinson over all of the #2 backs we are recruiting in the 22 class?
(Buy) All of the No.2 running backs probably project as less than 20-25 percent guys to emerge as NFL level prospects, while the sense I get from those in the Alabama program is that he's a much surer bet.
B/S: Three of the OL already on campus make the first or second team All Big 12 in at least one of the remaining years of their career.
(Buy) In Kyle Flood we trust, right?
B/S - Kam Dewberry makes it into Austin for an OV.
(Sell) He mentioned that LSU is suddenly in his top five after a visit this weekend, and if that's true, something has to give, and if the Longhorns were No.5 going into the weekend, it might be them.
Texas goes 2-1 with OU, Iowa st, TCU
(Sell) No, I don't believe that in June.
B/S Due the the depth at running back, Jonathan Brooks is moved to safety after Jaydon Blue arrives on campus.
(Sell) My brain isn't there yet.
B/S - our official visit list for June is lacking compared to other schools and is a cause for concern?
(Buy) It's not a terrible line-up of names by any stretch, but it's not as packed from top to bottom with in-state and out of state war daddies as you'd like to see.
B/S - the background for the player photo shoots with the barrels is embarrassing and the all has no brakes motto is kind of lame.
(Sell) It wasn't embarrassing. That feels like too strong of a word. I'm just not sure I get it. Why the barrels? What's in the barrels? Why would you have barrels around neon lights? It was a rather strange motif, but the kids that were there seemed to like it, so what the hell do I know? It'll be interesting if there's any alterations in that department next week.
B/S: By season end, Texas has (at least or more) 3 defensive TDs, 2 special teams TDs, 1 blocked punt and 1 blocked FG.
(Buy) Yeah in P.K. and D'Shawn Jamison, I trust.
A tight end will be on our roster this fall who, at some point while playing at UT, will make first or second team all Big 12 tight end.
(Buy) Let me introduce you to Ja'Tavion Sanders. He's good.
With the NIL, Texas branding has A LOT to offer. Lot's of TV sets in Texas.
B/S: This fact alone may turn the tide on Oklahoma and OOS schools stealing Texas talent.
(Sell) Winning and national relevance matter more.
No. 8 - Scattershooting on the sports weekend...
... I watched a hell of a lot of the Squeeze Play (NCAA Baseball) version of the Red Zone Channel this weekend. This is where I spent my time with less soccer to watch.
... Damn, TCU. Punked out like THAT?!?!
... I've been wondering all weekend how you guys would react to being eliminated in 2 games in the Austin regional, including a 19-1 loss to end the season, and I'm just going to say you wouldn't handle it well. Have a nice off-season, Florida.
... I'm not sure if I'm Luka Doncic that I'm making a long-term commitment to the Mavs. A player can't do more than he did Sunday to advance beyond the first round of the playoffs, and his supporting cast just isn't good enough. Mark Cuban better get to putting some better pieces around that dude.
... Kawhi still got the glow. Everyone in these NBA playoffs better watch out.
... My Sixers ran into quite the hot-shooting Hawks squad on Sunday. It's not time to panic, but I'd be lying if I said I wasn't concerned. If they shoot anywhere close to 42.6-percent from three-point land throughout the series, the Hawks will advance. The 51.2/42.6/95.2 shooting splits against one of the top defenses in the league was eye-catching.
... With James Harden out of action with a hamstring injury, Kevin Durant can place his name in the discussion as the best basketball player alive in the next two weeks. I'd be a little worried if I was the Bucks that the Nets did what they did in game one when Durant and Kyrie Irving were probably B-versions of themselves.
... The Titans look scary on offense. Derrick Henry, AJ Brown and Julio Jones is one hell of a threesome.
... The Falcons did not get enough in that trade.
... No one in the sports world had a worse Saturday than Jon Rahm.
No. 9 - My Top 10 Oasis songs...
The deep dive is complete. After wondering a week ago why there was so much fuss in the UK about this particular UK band and comparing them to another 1996-97 contemporary The Wallflowers, I put in the work to try and understand it all.
Therefore, I've listened to more Oasis in the last week than Noel Gallagher himself, putting in at least three listens to every studio album they created, including the B-sides favorite of fans The Masterplan.
Before I get to the Top 10 list, three thoughts...
a. I think Noel Gallagher is a musical genius as a song-writer, musician and composer of music. I definitely emerged from the process with a healthy amount of respect for the fact that he’s writing everything and giving the group its true push to be a standout band.
b. Consider me far less impressed with his brother Liam, whose limitations as a singer become more and more apparent with each passing album. He's like a great relief pitcher that has one great pitch and can get through a line-up once, but at some point I wanted a little more from him and I'm not sure he was ever able to give it to me.
c. After Heathen Chemistry, there wasn't really an album that they produced that was memorable from my perspective. Noel might have been a pain in the ass, but the band's best work is his doing. Once the song collaborations and songwriting truly became a group process in the final decade of the band... meh.
d. Be Here Now might have been my favorite album. It's a toss up between it and "(What's the Story) Morning Glory"
e. The point where the group crosses over from Britpop to legit rock music is when it soared to its highest heights in my mind.
f. The Wallflowers' "Bringing Down the Horse" is better than any album that Oasis ever produced. Sorry, but it's true.
Ok, here are my rankings.
10. Fade Away
9. Gas Panic!
6. Don't Go Away
5. Live Forever
3. Slide Away
2. Champagne Supernova
1. All Around the World
p.s. Before anyone attacks me on "All Around The World, just know that Noel calls it one of the best songs he has ever written, so save it!
No. 10 - And Finally ...
I came across this song this weekend by way of accident, while listening to Oasis. I told someone that I had never heard a single Robbie Williams song and couldn't pick him out of the line-up.
I was told that wasn't possible and then I was sent this link as proof that I was obviously wrong.
Not so much. I feel like I've been Rock-rolled. This can't have been a real thing, right? This banged in the clubs in the UK? Woof.