After the inevitable resignation of Mack Brown on Dec. 14, the Texas Longhorns find themselves in a weird sort of purgatory state, entering the meat of recruiting season with a new athletic director, Steve Patterson, and no long-term vision at head coach, despite being linked to seemingly every potential candidate—pro or college; tenured or young; realistic or utterly absurd—who's ever led a respective sideline.
Heading into post-Christmas bowl season, Texas has the No. 12 overall class in the 247Sports team rankings, though it's unclear how (or if) Brown's resignation will affect the status of those who have already committed to UT. Still, until something changes, the Longhorns have the best incoming class in the Big 12...by a lot.
Things can still get better, too. The Longhorns have a realistic shot to land a couple of undeclared 5-star prospects, which could help them weather the storm of this coaching change and dull the roars from their (rightfully) apprehensive fanbase.
Here's a live, updating primer of the entire class.
Note: All measurements, grades and rankings, unless otherwise noted, courtesy of the 247Sports composite.
Update: Jan. 26 – 8:00 p.m. ET
Linebacker Otaro Alaka announced on Twitter that he has decommitted from Texas and accepted an offer to play at Texas A&M. Huge loss for the Longhorns.
Update: Jan. 20 – Afternoon
Offensive guard Alex Anderson flipped from Arizona State to Texas, becoming just the second offensive lineman in the Longhorns' class. He is only a 3-star prospect.
Update: Jan. 19 – Afternoon
Three-star running back target Treyvon Hughes committed to UTEP.
Update: Jan. 16 – 2:02 p.m. ET
Three-star receiver Emanuel Porter flipped from Texas to TCU, where he had formerly been committed.
Update: Jan. 16 - Afternoon
OLB Edwin Freeman commits to Texas.
Update: Jan. 9 – 9:00 a.m. ET
Four-star defensive tackle Zaycoven Henderson flipped his commit from Texas to Texas A&M on Wednesday evening. My full story can be found here.
Fortunately, 3-star defensive tackle Chris Nelson, a Louisville commit, has been in contact with coach Strong and might be able to fill his place. According to 247Sports, he has been offered a scholarship from the Longhorns.
Update: Jan. 8 – Afternoon
Three-star tight end Blake Whitely has committed to Texas, as expected.
Update: Jan. 7 – Afternoon
Trey Lealaimatafao made it official and decommited from Texas, which seemed more inevitable than surprising.
Update: Jan. 6 – Afternoon
Former Louisville boss Charlie Strong was officially announced as the 29th head football coach at the University of Texas, ending the prolonged search and saga.
Update: Jan. 2 – 6:45 p.m. ET
Running back Leonard Fournette, the No. 1 overall player in the country, committed to LSU during the Under Armour All-American Game. No surprises there. Texas was always a massive longshot to land the Louisiana native.
Update: Jan. 2 – 6:15 p.m. ET
Five-star cornerback Tony Brown committed to Alabama during the Under Armour All-America Game. Like Adams, he didn't have the Longhorns listed among his final teams, but his commitment elsewhere remains a disappointment in Austin.
Update: Jan. 2 – 5:10 p.m. ET
Five-star athlete Jamal Adams committed to LSU during the Under Armour All-American Game. Texas was a long shot to land him, so this doesn't come as a shock, but he was a Longhorns target nonetheless.
Update: Dec. 29 – 11:03 a.m. ET
It's nothing concrete, but according to Chuck Carlton of The Dallas Morning News, Texas is beginning to narrow down its field of coaching candidates. Citing two industry sources, Carlton says that field includes Jimbo Fisher, Art Briles, Charlie Strong and James Franklin, all of whom are very strong candidates.
One of Carlton's sources also refused to rule out Nick Saban, who appears to be Texas' No. 1 candidate in an ideal world. But Longhorn fans shouldn't hold their breath.
Update: Dec. 27 – 11:40 p.m. ET
According to Damon Sayles of ESPN.com, top OLB/S target Edwin Freeman, who is choosing between Texas and Texas A&M, said his decision "will come from where he feels he fits best, in addition to a coaching staff that he feels is best for him."
That first part is good news, since Freeman was a childhood Longhorns fan, but the second part is obviously troubling—especially since Freeman indicates that he might announce his decision at the Under Armour All-American Game on Jan. 2.
That doesn't give Texas much time.
4-star QB Jerrod Heard (Denton Guyer High School)
|Jerrod Heard||****||96.17||6'2.5''||190 lbs||4.59|
Heard re-affirmed his commitment to the Longhorns after Mack Brown's resignation, telling Rivals.com, via EJ Holland of the Dallas Morning News, "I'm pretty sure I'm with Texas. It's more than just one person, and I'll just be patient and see who they bring in."
Actions speak louder than words, but it sounds like Heard is locked pretty firmly into Austin. That sparks a huge sigh of relief in Longhorn fans, who have already tabbed the 4-star dual-threat QB as the next Vince Young—and might not be crazy for doing so.
If the current roster holds, he'll compete with fellow blue-chip dual-threat QB Tyrone Swoopes, who's also been tabbed as the next Vince Young, for the right to be Texas' future under center. Swoopes' redshirt was burned at the end of this season, though, so if Heard takes a redshirt in 2014, the two could stagger their eligibility and both become multi-year starters.
David Ash is also still a candidate (and a strong one) to start next season.
4-star RB Donald Catalon (Eisenhower High School)
|Donald Catalon||****||91.76||5'11''||190 lbs||4.48|
|Kevin Shorter (ATH)||****||89.47||6'0''||186 lbs||4.40|
|D'Onta Foreman||***||83.83||6'0''||207 lbs||4.60|
Texas did well to add a deep running back class in 2014, one year removed from bringing in zero tailbacks. Catalon is the No. 10 pure back in the country, higher than any other commit in the Big 12. Shorter is a versatile athlete who might also play cornerback, while Freeman is another dart thrown at the board.
Note: 40-yard dash time for Donald Catalon via Scout.com.
4-star WR Armanti Foreman (Texas City High School)
|Armanti Foreman||****||94.73||5'11''||176 lbs||4.43|
|Lorenzo Joe||****||91.90||6'2.5''||196 lbs||4.70|
|Roderick Bernard||***||87.92||5'9''||172 lbs||4.40|
|Blake Whiteley (TE)||***||86.63||6'5''||240 lbs||n/a|
|Dorian Leonard||***||86.34||6'4''||200 lbs||4.60|
|Garrett Gray||***||84.95||6'4.5''||212 lbs||4.40|
The receiver class is deep but not quite top-heavy. Assuming Noil doesn't land in Austin, which he won't, Texas will have missed on all of the top four players it offered at the position, and five and the top six.
That's the bad news. The good news is that aforementioned depth, with six receivers already committed and a tight end, Blake Whiteley, hopefully on the way. Foreman and Joe are the stars, but a bunch of the 3-star guys—Porter in particular—have rare and remarkable physical tools, which gives them massive upside. They just need polish.
OC Terrell Cuney (Jasper High School)
|Terrell Cuney (OC)||***||87.07||6'3.5||270 lbs||4.89|
|Alex Anderson (OG)||***||83.98||6'3''||300 lbs||n/a|
|Elijah Rodriguez (OT)||***||81.66||6'6''||285 lbs|
It's a weak year for offensive lineman in the state of Texas, which usually produces some decent quality in the trenches, but the Longhorns still should have been able to add some more beef up front.
According to ESPN.com, the top three committed linemen that Texas offered scholarships to are all playing elsewhere next year, including future expat Demetrius Knox, who is heading to Ohio State. Undeclared Smith is also ranked ahead of Cuney, the lone Texas commit, and even he appears to have little interest in playing for the Longhorns, preferring Notre Dame, TCU and Texas A&M.
Luckily, this comes on the heels of a 2013 class that was well-stocked along the line. Texas' top-three recruits last season were offensive linemen—one tackle, one guard, one center—and two other quality players rounded out the class. This isn't a good thing, obviously, but it's also not as bad as it looks.
|Derick Roberson (SDE)||****||96.67||6'3.5''||218 lbs|
|Poona Ford (DT)||****||89.94||6'0''||285 lbs|
|Chris Nelson (DT)||***||84.89||6'2''||295 lbs|
|Jake McMillon (SDE)||***||84.89||6'3''||240 lbs|
Lealaimatafo is the biggest question mark right now—so much so that we'll list him as a "target" for the time being, despite his soft verbal commitment to play at UT. Oregon recently offered the big defensive tackle a scholarship and appears to be emerging as a favorite, which would strike a massive blow to the Longhorns class.
If Texas can land Thomas, though, much of that would be forgiven. He's one of just five 5-stars in the state and would combine with Roberson to give the Longhorns one of the strongest one-two punches in the country. At any position. Teuhema and McMillon provide decent depth and balance.
Ayeni is an interesting prospect, too. 247Sports fancies him much more than the other recruiting services, grading him out at 92.00 and ranking him the No. 2 JUCO strong-side end. Arizona State and West Virginia are the Longhorns' biggest competition to land him, though Northern Illinois is also lurking.
4-star OLB Otaro Alaka (Cypress Falls)
|Edwin Freeman (OLB)||****||93.30||6'0.5''||212 lbs||n/a|
|Andrew Beck (ILB)||***||86.65||6'3''||227 lbs||4.69|
|Cameron Hampton (OLB)||***||86.47||6'1.5''||205 lbs||4.55|
Landing Freeman is one of Texas' biggest priorities right now, if not the single most important thing it could do. He's a versatile 'tweener who can play both linebacker and safety (Texas has recruited him as the latter), which would make him valuable with a new coaching staff en route. He can fit into almost any scheme.
Hopefully, the coaching flux—especially relative to Kevin Sumlin's extension at Texas A&M, the other team in his final top two—doesn't push Freeman the wrong way, but even if it does, this linebacker class is solid. Alaka looks like he can compete on special teams from Day 1, if not become a full-fledged rotation linebacker on the outside.
4-star S John Bonney (Lamar High School)
|John Bonney (S)||****||90.45||6'0''||182 lbs||4.62|
|Jermaine Roberts (CB)||***||88.31||5'9''||175 lbs||4.40|
|Jason Hall (S)||***||84.38||6'1.5''||192 lbs||4.73|
Tony Brown and Jamal Adams both chose different schools—LSU and Alabama, respectively—during the Under Armour All-American Game on Thursday. With three commitments in the secondary, the Longhorns should be able to survive, but with the coaching situation in such flux, they never really stood a legitimate chance at either guy.
With all the safeties Texas has recruited and landed these past few years, compared with the relative lack of corners, some players will likely be asked to make a modest position switch. Bonney, with his impressive height, slender frame and versatile coverage skills, could be a candidate for the transition.
3-Star P Corbin Daly (Audrey Kell High, NC)
|Corbin Daly (P)||***||82.57||6'3''||190 lbs||100%|
He looks happy wearing burnt orange in the picture above, but Daly doesn't appear like the sure-fire Longhorn he once did. According to 247Sports (subscription required), the one-time Texas commit no longer plans on playing in Austin, opting to remain closer to his family in North Carolina.
Texas' depth chart is loaded with scholarship kickers, though, so despite losing Anthony Fera and Cade McCrary to graduation, one of the other guys who doesn't start at kicker should be able to learn the punter position and provide a long-term solution.