Texas Football: Position-by-Position Preview of the Longhorns' 2015 Class
The time between the arrival of the 2014 class and fall workouts gives Charlie Strong and his staff a chance to familiarize themselves with next year's group. It's also a great time to get up to speed at some positions of need.
Strong's first full class has 10 commits, and each provides solid upside and a good fit for what he wants to build on the 40 Acres. Overall, he's done well with eight months left until signing day.
But between now and then, the coach has some serious needs to fill. He has yet to reel in a commit at receiver, tight end, defensive tackle, linebacker or cornerback, all of which will lose major contributors after the season.
Adding some top targets to those spots and hanging onto the current commits at the others will be the goals leading up to the fall.
Commit: Zach Gentry
Texas' quarterback class of 2015 starts and ends with Zach Gentry, a 6'7" passer with sneaky athleticism.
The Longhorns were able to land quarterback of the future Jerrod Heard last season, lessening the need to reel in a 5-star talent like Ricky Town or Kyler Murray. But they have been starved for depth over the past four seasons, which has forced them to play freshmen before they were ready.
At the very least, Gentry provides that long-term depth that the program needs, and his legitimate arm talent gives him starting potential. A bigger name would have been nice, but he will do just fine.
The Longhorns knew they were getting some solid talents when they landed speedsters Jordan Stevenson—who runs the fastest verified 40 time of any running back in the state, according to SB Nation's Wescott Eberts—and Tristian Houston. Now Kirk Johnson's emergence is adding to their riches.
Playing through injury for most of his junior year, Johnson was a quiet addition to the 2015 class when he and his brother Collin Johnson committed in April. Since then, Kirk has generated some hype by earning SPARQ MVP honors at the Oakland NFTC thanks to an absurd 4.0 shuttle time.
A 3-star recruit according to the composite rating, look for Johnson to become Texas' third consensus 4-star pledge at the position.
The three commits above guarantee that Texas will have speed in its backfield for the foreseeable future. Now the 'Horns need some power in the form of Chris Warren or Soso Jamabo.
Malcolm Brown and Joe Bergeron each graduate after the 2014 season, leaving the team without a back who can soften the defense between the tackles. Each standing over 6'2" and weighing 210 pounds or more, Warren and Jamabo bring that dynamic to the field with enough wiggle to get to the second level.
The 'Horns are losing ground with Jamabo but are favored to land the 232-pound Warren. He will be a top priority for as long as he's available and would be a lock for immediate playing time.
Since Texas is considered out of the picture for 5-star talent Damarkus Lodge, its focus will be on closing the deal with John Burt and Ryan Newsome.
The 6'3" Burt gives Texas its best shot at landing a bigger receiver in this class. Per Eberts, he has solid 4.59 speed with a 34-inch vertical that will make him a complete outside threat. He's going to be a nice player.
Dynamic slot man Newsome is also considered a Texas lean at this stage of the process. He's on the smaller side at 5'8" but can do a little bit of everything with the football. Less of a pure receiver, he has the "add water" ability that Daje Johnson has teased throughout his career.
As for the rest of this group, the 'Horns are playing the long game in hopes that they can attract a visit or two.
Define "grasping at straws."
Texas has offered six tight ends for this class. Three of them have committed elsewhere, and Devonaire Clarington isn't interested. That leaves Will Gragg and C.J. O'Grady as the lone possibilities, and the latter's Crystal Ball is all Arkansas.
Given that the program's tight ends caught a total of six passes last season, the failure to land one on the recruiting trail should come as no surprise. The 'Horns will probably have to reach into the JUCO well for the third straight year.
Despite suffering decommitments from Maea Teuhema and Connor Lanfear, Strong and his staff are still doing a great job with their offensive line of the future. That is, as long as they can hang onto Teuhema's cousin Patrick Vahe.
Vahe has distinguished himself this spring, earning MVP honors at the Dallas NFTC because of his ability to maul the opposition. Still, he remains a flight risk so long as his family continues to try to pull him toward LSU, where he has yet to take a visit, according to ESPN's Max Olson.
With him, along with long-armed tackles Weathersby and Major, in the fold, Joe Wickline's resume is doing its job thus far.
The 'Horns have gained serious ground with Akamnonu after failing to make his top three in April. He and the 6'6" Thomas each took visits last weekend, per Eberts, and their commitments would complete one pretty picture for this offensive front.
The 'Horns have already missed out on 5-star recruit Daylon Mack, easily the state's top defensive tackle. That leaves them in hot pursuit of the next best in the state, Du'Vonta Lampkin, and hope another possibility emerges before signing day.
Texas is already thin at this spot. If Malcom Brown elects to declare for the draft after next season, the unproven Hassan Ridgeway and Poona Ford would be the starters in the middle with very little depth behind them.
Now that Kingsley KeKe has committed to the Aggies, Lampkin is one of the program's highest priorities. Darrion Daniels is considered a heavy Baylor lean, but he is just as important for as long as he's out there.
Lampkin appears to be favoring Texas at this stage, but the job with him and at this position is far from done.
Commit: Charles Omenihu
Omenihu stirred up some concern once the offers started pouring in from all over, but he has since announced that his recruitment is over. That should be a big relief for Strong, because Omenihu is set to become one of just two 4-star ends in the state.
Currently listed as a 3-star prospect, the raw pass-rusher has proved he is the real deal this offseason. He had a strong showing at the Dallas NFTC and will be a handful once he catches up with his long 6'5" frame.
Target: James Lockhart
With one up-and-coming 4-star locked in, Strong can focus on nabbing James Lockhart, the state's only current defensive end who has received that rating.
Lockhart claims he will still look at other schools, which leaves the door open for a late run. If Strong can't pull it off, he will have to look out of state or toward the JUCO ranks.
No matter the conference, field or down, Malik Jefferson belongs on the football field. He has long been connected to the Aggies, and Kyler Murray's recent commitment won't deter him, but he has been adamant that his recruitment remains ongoing.
If Jefferson doesn't work out, the Longhorns have solid backup plans in Wheeler and Townsend. Both are solid 4-star prospects on the outside, and Wheeler has the size to play defensive end should the need arise.
Obviously, Jefferson would be the best get because he is an immediate starter, but the Longhorns would survive without him.
Once again, the talent pool is rich at the cornerback position. And given the versatility of this group, Texas needs to take as many as it can get.
An impact player on defense and in the return game, Sheffield is a can't-miss prospect as the state's top corner. The remaining three in-state targets are Boyd, Hill and Elam, and the Longhorns will battle Texas A&M for each of their services.
What makes these players so valuable to the 'Horns is that they all come in at over 6'0", which makes them candidates to slide over to safety. Projected starters Josh Turner and Mykkele Thompson both graduate following this season, and Strong has no more offers out to uncommitted recruits.
Two out of Boyd, Hill and Elam should end up wearing burnt orange when it's all said and done. There is also an offer out to 5-star Californian Iman Marshall.
It's been just two seasons, but you should already be sensing a theme in the safeties that Strong is pursuing. It was Edwin Freeman in the 2014 class, a cross between a rangy linebacker and physical safety. This year it's Deshon Elliott, a violent striker who is cut from the same cloth.
Ramsey comes in 30 pounds lighter than Elliott but is also a willing tackler who fills more of a traditional role on the back end. He needs to fill out to be effective in college, but he has a high ceiling in Strong's defense.
Both Pryor and Dunning bring the type of size to the position that Strong would put to good use. Unfortunately, they're both committed to the Aggies, and it will take a lot for that to change.
Unless otherwise noted, all recruiting stats and information courtesy of 247Sports.com.
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