It’s Signing Day. And if you have ever ready anything I write, you know I LOVE signing day. Love it. Recruiting is the lifeblood of college athletics. There is an old saying in college sports that I always quote: “It’s not the Xs and Os, it’s the Jimmys and Joes.”
Which means you can scheme and plot and design plays all you want, but you need big-time athletes with big-time talent on the field to run those plays and schemes, or it won’t matter much. So as you can imagine, programs spend an incredible amount of time, resources and energy in finding those Jimmys and those Joes. But it is far from a sure thing.
Recruiting is like speculating. No matter how sure of a thing a kid is, there is a chance for it to fall apart. He gets in trouble with a girl, or the law, or gets homesick. Sometimes he’s already peaked before college and he never makes an impact: or sometimes the overlooked guy turns into a superstar. Every school at every level has their big-time busts, their went-to-jails and their out-of-nowheres and you can be sure that this recruiting class will have those stories as well.
No more talk! Let’s look at this class.
2013 Recruiting Class
The first thing you notice about this class is how small it is. The Horns are only taking 15 players this spring because of the staggering number of underclassmen already on the roster. The second thing you notice is this class is ranked approximately No. 20, depending your recruiting service of choice. That ranking is based on total number of recruits, which is a bit misleading.
Texas doesn’t have the ability to sign 25 guys (the maximum allowed per class) and that hurts their ranking; however, if you look at average star ranking per recruit, Texas ranks No. 10 at 3.6-per-player. That’s pretty good if you ask me. This class has some immediate contributors and talent all over the place. Here they are, the Class of 2013, with the Rivals.com ranking system of stars (five being the best):
- Chevoski Collins: ATH, Livingston (LHS), 5'11", 185 pounds, 3 stars
- Antwuan Davis: DB, Bastrop (BHS) , 6'0", 180 pounds, 4 stars
- Deoundrei Davis: LB, Cypress (Cypress Woods), 6'3", 215 pounds, 4 stars
- Rami Hammad: OL, Irving (IHS), 6'5", 320 pounds, 4 stars
- Desmond Harrison: OL, San Pablo, CA (Contra Costa C.C.), 6'8", 305 pounds, 3 stars
- Naashon Hughes: LB, Harker Heights (HH), 6'4", 210 pounds, 3 stars
- Erik Huhn: DB, Cibolo (Steele), 6'2", 205 pounds, 3 stars
- Darius James: OL, Killeen (Harker Heights), 6'5", 319 pounds, 4 stars
- Montrel Meander: DB, Amarillo (Palo Duro), 6'3", 180 pounds, 3 stars
- Jake Oliver: WR, Dallas (Jesuit), 6'4", 194 pounds, 4 stars
- Kent Perkins: OL, Dallas (Lake Highlands), 6'5", 300 pounds, 4 stars
- Jake Raulerson: DE, Celina (CHS), 6'5" , 262 pounds, 4 stars
- Geoff Swaim: TE, Oroville, CA (Butte C.C.), 6'5", 250 pounds, 3 stars
- Tyrone Swoopes: QB, Whitewright (WHS), 6'5", 229 pounds, 4 stars
- Jacorey Warrick: WR, Houston (Cypress Falls), 5'10", 168 pounds, 4 stars
The numbers are small, but every single guy in this class is going to make an impact, assuming everyone stays out of trouble and in school. Sorry, this is not about things that might go wrong, only good today. We are going to break this into two parts, the offense and defense, to see where everyone coming in will be a factor. This week we start with the offense.
Digging deeper, you see that Texas addressed a serious need up front with this class, taking four offensive linemen and a tight end. Texas surely would have liked to have taken another running back, but the depth in the backfield is very, very deep and you just can’t have enough big guys up front to open holes and protect the quarterback.
A sprinkling of skill players and a big-time quarterback finish it off, but the offensive line haul in this class is spectacular. There are two guys I’m intentionally leaving off the offensive list right now because I think they are going to start on the defensive side of the ball first: Jake Raulerson and Chevoski Collins, but I expect Raulerson to eventually move to the O-line and Collins might get a Daje Johnson-type role on the offense, but for now I’m leaving them where they are. Let’s dive in.
6'5", 320 pounds
I’ll just say this: I bet Rami Hammad doesn’t need to show ID to get into a rated-R movie. He physically looks like a guy that’s been playing in college for a few years already. He’s unbelievably quick for a guy his size and seems to have the tools already to play at the college level.
Hammad was a very late commit to Texas after spending the majority of his recruitment time committed to Baylor. That’s a ringing endorsement to me, because if Art Briles wants you playing on his offense, you are doing something right. And it wasn’t just Briles and Mack Brown, either: Hammad had offers from ou, Nebraska, LSU, Aggie, UCLA and about 30 others from around the country.
I think the idea is for Hammad to redshirt in 2013 and get on the field in ‘14, but it wouldn’t surprise me if he saw time next fall. He’s going to be a mainstay at guard for several years for Texas.
6/8”, 305 pounds
San Pablo, CA (Contra Costa C.C.)
For the second straight year, Texas dipped into the JuCo pool for an offensive linemen. Last year Donald Hawkins came from junior college and won the starting tackle job and this year the staff expects the same from Contra Costa Community College tackle Desmond Harrison.
Fairly new to football, Harrison has terrific athleticism and basketball moves, meaning quick feet and and the ability to slide laterally very well. He’ll probably need the summer to work on technique, but I fully expect Harrison to get to campus this summer and immediately jump into the starting tackle role.
The plan, it seems, is for Harrison to take over at the tackle spot currently occupied by Hawkins, who will move inside to guard, moving Trey Hopkins to center, where he could be a star. Or maybe Hawkins gives center a shot. Texas needs a bigger and more physical presence inside at center and Hopkins/Hawkins (or even Mason Walters) could provide that — assuming Harrison can jump right in.
I think he does, allowing everyone else to slide down. He has NFL size right now and, hopefully, the talent as well. Harrison is the most important recruit in this class in my opinion because of all the things that can open up if he’s successful. You name a school, they were after Harrison, but Texas locked him up January 21.
Killeen (Harker Heights)
6'5", 319 pounds
See Rami Hammad. The two have similar skill sets and similar talent and, from what I can see, similar abilities to look 28 rather than 18. Where Hammad is a bit stronger and will start off at guard, I think James is a bit quicker and will play center, but they are very much alike on the field.
Just as with Hammad, I expect the plan is to redshirt James in 2013, but if he gets an opportunity to play with some uncertainty at center going into the fall of 2013, he isn’t giving it back. I think you are looking at your starting guard and center for the next three to four years in Hammad and Darius James, it’s just a matter of when.
Ranked the No. 1 center prospect in the country, James was courted by everyone in the Big 12 and the SEC, but he committed in March and never wavered.
6'4", 194 pounds
Oliver brings something to the team that Texas hasn’t had in a while: a big, tall target outside for quarterbacks to throw it to. He is not going to blaze past many college defenders, but at 6'4" he has the ability to out-jump them when the ball is in the air, and from what I’ve seen, he just doesn’t drop passes.
With Jaxon Shipley working underneath and Mike Davis the deep threat in the new spread offense, a big kid like Oliver who can catch the ball outside or over the middle and move the chains is going to thrive. And, I forgot to mention, he’s a ferocious blocker on the outside, which Texas doesn’t have enough of right now.
I think Oliver works his way onto the field this fall because of that size and the mismatches he can create in four- and five-wide sets. I also think he’s going to be a crowd favorite before his time is up in Austin.
Oliver was the second commitment in the 2013 class, committing last February, but he still had ou, Oklahoma State, Michigan and Ohio State, among others, after him.
Dallas (Lake Highlands)
6'5", 300 pounds
With Hammad the future at guard, James the future at center and the likelihood of Jake Raulerson moving to guard at some point, Kent Perkins is the future at tackle, but he could easily move inside to guard if need be. He has the feet, quickness and awareness outside to play tackle (meaning he anticipates a pass rush from outside well: some guys do that well, some don’t), but he could also move inside and take on the bigger defensive linemen as well.
He reminds me a lot of another guard/tackle hybrid from Dallas — Justin Blalock. They are about the same size (Perkins is a little taller) and have very similar skill sets. I think their paths will also be the same: a terrific lineman that the staff would ideally like to move inside to guard, but he’s too good at tackle for that to happen. Not a bad problem to have, eh?
The third rated tackle in the nation, Perkins has been a Longhorn since last February, turning down the rest of the Big 12 and the SEC.
Oroville, CA (Butte C.C.)
6'5", 250 pounds
With DJ Grant and Barrett Matthews done with college, Texas has a hole at tight end. MJ McFarland has crazy skills with the ball in the air, but he’s been inconsistent blocking. Greg Daniels is still learning the new job. Texas needs an established guy to come in, block well and catch enough passes to keep the defense honest. Enter Geoff Swaim.
The California native is going to fill the role of another California native — Blaine Irby. In 2011 Irby did it all: he lined up at h-back and was the lead blocker on inside plays, he lined up at tight end and sealed the edge on runs, he was an outlet receiver when the quarterback was under pressure and he was the recipient of this awesomeness.
Expect the same from Swaim. He’s going to be an immediate contributor and he’s going to be all over the field.
6'5", 229 pounds
Tyrone Swoopes gets the comparisons to Vince Young because of his size and athleticism and that part is all true. Also like VY, he needs to work on his mechanics. The good news for him there are several quarterbacks in front of him, so he can refine his game.
Understand I am not down at all on Swoopes, but he needs time to learn the college game. He will learn the college game and he’s going to make an impact for Texas, but it is probably two years away. Or not. What do I know?
Notre Dame, ou, Stanford, Alabama and many others courted Swoopes, but he picked Texas last February.
Houston (Cypress Falls)
5'10", 168 pounds
Warrick is recovering from a mid-season knee injury that cost him his senior year, but the good news is he was told in mid-January he’ll be ready to go. His 4.4 speed should not be affected by the injury and, assuming he rehabs as he should, he’ll be cleared for when contact starts.
On the field, Warrick has Ryan Broyles-like skills. His ability to make plays, both downfield and over the middle, is outstanding. He will thrive in the new spread attack that will allow him to work over the middle out of the slot and stretch the field down the seam, just like Broyles did for oklahoma. Assuming he’s cleared in August, I expect you’ll see Warrick playing this fall and don’t be surprised if he’s one of the candidates for a kick returning job as well.
Warrick is another guy that has been committed for nearly a year, turning down ou, Nebraska, LSU and Clemson to come to Texas.
The casual fan will look at this class and see the small numbers and the No. 20 ranking and think Texas has slipped. It’s true Texas lost a few high profile recruits and had some de-commits, but don’t sell this class short. It’s small because of all the youth on the Texas roster, but I can honestly say that every single kid in this class should be a contributor and should do so pretty quickly: some will be starters in six months. Small doesn’t equal bad, it equals small.
Back next week with the class of 2013 defense.