Signing Day is still a week away, but the Texas Longhorns' recruiting class is already poised to make a formidable impact on the 2013 season, with six commits ready for immediate action.
The 'Horns picked up offensive guard Rami Hammad on Wednesday, giving them 15 commits for this 2013 class. A couple more should turn up but, aside from failing to pick up a game-ready safety, the coaches have plenty to smile about with this class. This is mainly because they were able to build for the future while also picking up a few guys that can provide some depth in areas of need.
While the 2013 class will not need to immediately field 16 players like the 2012 class did, there is certainly some talent that simply cannot be kept off of the field. Here are the six Texas commits who will make a significant contribution in 2013.
JUCO recruit Desmond Harrison is a virtual lock to start in his first year on campus and has his eye on Texas' starting left tackle position.
At 6'8" and 310 pounds, Harrison is a yeti and he plays like one. He not only has the supreme strength and quickness for dealing with pass-rushers but is an extremely gifted run-blocker, which Texas desperately needs.
The only question with Harrison is how offensive line coach Stacy Searels adjusts the rest of his guys up front. Searels already has Donald Hawkins and Josh Cochran at tackle, so one of them will either move inside or out of the starting lineup. The most likely scenario seems to be that Cochran moves inside with either Mason Walters or Trey Hopkins relieving Dom Espinosa of his duties at center.
No matter how it happens, Harrison will be Mack Brown's starting left tackle in 2013.
McFarland is expected to be the starter next year, but Swaim could use this spring to overtake the position.
Tight end Geoff Swaim, Texas' other JUCO recruit, is also guaranteed to see playing time his first season as a Longhorn. But how he develops in the spring will determine just how much we see of him.
After losing Durham Smythe, Mack Brown and his staff were very quick to lock up the 6'5", 250-pound Swaim. He will undoubtedly see the field early thanks to his blocking abilities, but developing into a reliable pass-catcher could make him the team's top tight end.
Swaim only had nine catches for Butte College last season, but do not let that fool you. He has good hands and is a solid route-runner at the position. What will help him most is that he is one of the four early enrollees for this class, so he will have plenty of time to show the coaches exactly what he can do.
Redshirt sophomore M.J. McFarland does seem to have the inside track to start at tight end next season, but it would not be surprising to see Swaim named the starter. If his hands and route-running are where the scouts say they are, he is easily the most complete tight end on the team.
Defensive end Jake Raulerson, who has been the face of this 2013 class, is one of the very few freshmen who is guaranteed to see action next season.
Recruited originally as an offensive tackle, the coaches have elected to start Raulerson out at defensive end to provide some depth now that the offensive line has added so much depth. He does have three guys ahead of him in Cedric Reed, Reggie Wilson and Shiro Davis, but the coaches have maintained that Raulerson will play no matter what.
What sets Raulerson apart is his physicality and his motor, so expect to see him in goal-line sets as well as spelling some of the other ends to start. As the season wears on it is feasible that Raulerson could jump Davis on the depth chart or simply get promoted by an injury. But he is going to play, probably more so than any of his freshman classmates.
Provided that he elects to stick with the Longhorns, defensive tackle prospect A'Shawn Robinson is another 2013 freshman that should see the field next season.
Following his visit to Alabama last week, Robinson still says that Texas is No. 1 before he arrives on the 40 Acres. This is good news for the Longhorns because Robinson could be the defensive star of a class and, along with last year's recruit Malcom Brown, solidify the interior of Manny Diaz's defense.
The 'Horns do have some depth at the position, but only Brown should be considered a lock to start. The other players just do not play with enough consistency to keep Robinson off of the field. This is especially given that Brandon Moore has bolted for the NFL draft.
It will probably take five or six games like it did for Brown in 2012, but Robinson should have no problem finding the field this season.
With his top-end speed and physical style of play, cornerback Antwuan Davis has a chance to make some early noise for a secondary that needs some depth.
Even if Quandre Diggs does not make the move to safety, the 'Horns need some help on the back end. Adrian Phillips drastically underperformed in 2012 with neither Josh Turner nor Mykkele Thompson able to consistently man the position. Beyond Carrington Byndom and Duke Thomas, Texas is lacking depth at the corner position as well.
This is where Davis could find an immediate role. With sub-4.4 speed he can keep up with anyone and he is not afraid to help out against the run, so he should at least find a spot in the nickel or dime formations. He also has a track record of being a special teams demon that can block kicks, which are skills that Duane Akina and Mack Brown value in their defensive backs.
Akina has never been afraid to play freshmen in the past so expect no different when it comes to Davis. If he is the best option, then he will play.
He would have to beat out a couple of guys, but linebacker Deoundrei Davis is another freshman with a very good shot to break into the two-deep for the Texas defense.
There is really nothing that Davis does not do well. He has sideline-to-sideline speed, covers well, has good instincts and finishes tackles. He is also a true linebacker, so the coaches will not have to spend so much time teaching him the nuances of the position.
Davis will not start, but there a couple of guys he could very well beat out. Peter Jinkens and Jordan Hicks will undoubtedly start with Steve Edmond, Tevin Jackson or Dalton Santos filling the third spot. But Kendall Thompson and Demarco Cobbs are very susceptible to getting jumped by a do-it-all guy like Davis, who has the entire spring to impress the coaches.
Along with what he does on special teams, Davis should crack the two-deep around midseason, as Jinkens did in 2012.