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Wrapping up the 2018 Recruiting Cycle

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The Longhorns finished with the No. 3 recruiting class in the country for the 2018 cycle. With the implementation of a brand new early signing period in December, this cycle was not without its twists and turns. Ultimately, Tom Herman closed out strong and added some nice additions on Wednesday. Here, we look at the storylines behind each February signee, what went wrong in some recruitments, and who can open eyes as a freshman.

Signees

Keondre Coburn

Texas fans were overly worried about Coburn. If you paid close attention to the reporting of our Daniel Seahorn over at HornSports.com, you would know there was nothing to worry about. Miami made a late push, but that was a minimal threat. In the end, Coburn’s heart was with Texas and the idea of playing as a freshman – which he should do. After signing, Coburn got into a spat with former OU quarterback Baker Mayfield. The Red River Rivalry is going to be fun for the next 4 years.

Keaontay Ingram

If there was worry about Coburn, there was even less reason to worry about Keaontay Ingram. The Carthage product was solid to Texas from the day he committed. One offer that gave me a bit of pause was Auburn, strictly because of Gus Malzahn’s reputation as developing good backs. However, Stan Drayton had his own staple of success stories – Ezekiel Elliot and Jordan Howard, to name a few. In the end, Ingram knew his heart was in Austin. I won’t go into detail about Texas A&M pushing late because they honestly had no chance, and Ingram made that known.

Daniel Carson

This is the type of recruitment Bryan Carrington earned a raise in. Carson was a heavy Nebraska lean, and heading into his official visit with the Cornhuskers, we fully expected him to commit there. However, he was not overly impressed with the visit, which led to Bryan Carrington swooping in. After Carrington went on the road as a temporary assistant and visited Carson coupled with an official visit that blew Carson out of the water, Texas sealed the deal. Carson has a very high ceiling and will be one to watch over the years.

Mike Williams

Ultimately the Longhorns lucked out here in that Alabama and LSU did not have room to take Williams. After Texas offered, it became pretty apparent Texas is where he wanted to be. The official visit was the icing on the cake and shortly after, Williams committed. This is the type of evaluation and recruitment that made up for an abysmal start by defensive line coach Oscar Giles.

Moro Ojomo

I still firmly believe that Ojomo would be one of the best in the state if he were a senior next year. At 16-years-old, he has so much potential and his frame is unreal. This one ultimately came down to Texas and Oklahoma. For a while, it appeared that Oklahoma had the edge, but Texas slowly began to gain traction. By the time Ojomo took his official visit to Austin, Texas had widened the gap and the visit itself sealed the deal. Texas A&M was the early favorite, but the hype surrounding the offer did not last long. An Alabama offer can always be a game-changer, but the Tide were a little too late in this one. Texas got an absolute steal here.

Joseph Ossai

Ossai was considered a heavy Texas A&M lean for a long time, but the firing of Kevin Sumlin changed things. After that and even with the hype surrounding the hiring of Jimbo Fisher, the Oak Ridge DE began to give Texas a harder look. As time went on, Ossai began to develop a better relationship with the Texas staff and Bryan Carrington. In the end, Carrington was a huge factor in Ossai’s decision. When Ossai was asked what the major difference between the Longhorns and Aggies was, he listed one thing – Bryan Carrington.

Christian Jones

This recruitment was not as obvious as some would think. Ultimately, Jones’ preferred college position is on the defensive line. Cal did a great job of selling this to Jones, and it made him take a serious look at moving out west. However, the Longhorns were ultimately able to sell Jones and his family on his offensive potential on his official visit, and Jones pulled the trigger. At 6’6, 280 pounds, Jones is an intriguing prospect that can make some noise after a couple of years under Yancy McKnight and Herb Hand.

Josh Moore

From the get go, we knew this recruitment would have some twists and turns. The first was when Moore committed to Nebraska. At the time, it didn’t make much sense. Nobody really expected Moore to stick to that pledge. After a short stint at IMG Academy, Moore returned home and his recruitment got interesting. After his decommitment from Nebraska, Texas A&M became the heavy favorites. For whatever reason, Jimbo Fisher and Jordan Moore, Josh’s brother, could not do enough to get him to pull the trigger. This allowed Texas to re-enter Moore’s recruitment. Ultimately, Moore fell in love with Austin and liked how he fit schematically in the Texas offense. Although maybe not a true slot, Moore is Texas’ take at the position. It will be interesting to see how he develops, since he also has the ability to play in the defensive secondary.

 

What could have been

Vernon Jackson – Texas A&M

This recruitment wasn’t even really close until NSD. Things got interesting when A&M took 2 running backs on Wednesday – which is Jackson’s position of choice. Because of this, Jackson became a bit worried that he would not get his chance with the way the roster was filling out. With this sense of wavering, Texas came back and began to push hard. We aren’t sure what type of effect this hard on Jackson, but he ultimately never sent in his LOI. As of yesterday morning, Jackson still hadn’t sent in the LOI. Finally, the fax was in. Ultimately Texas just couldn’t do enough to pry Jackson away, and he felt more comfortable with where he fit in College Station.

Andrew Parker – Arkansas

This recruitment was strange because Parker was not highly touted until after the early signing period. Some teams that offered Parker after December include TCU, Texas, Texas A&M and Ole Miss. Parker had to decide if he wanted to stick with his commitment to Arkansas or head to Austin. Soon after the offer, it appeared contingent that Parker would be a Longhorn. An Arkansas reporter of 247Sports even reported that he was set to go public with his commitment to Texas the Monday before signing day. For whatever reason, Parker changed his mind. After Parker failed to go public on Monday, reports surfaced that he was maybe waivering with his decision. He was set to announce at 9:00 a.m. on Wednesday, but pushed it back to 10:00. He did not announce at that time, either. At 12:00 p.m., Parker announced on Twitter that he was signing with Arkansas. Credit must be given where it’s due. Chad Morris did a fantastic job of holding off a late surge by Texas and getting Parker to honor his commitment. Linebacker continues to be a need for the Longhorns.

Tommy Bush – Georgia

Bush was always a fan of the Longhorns. After speaking with him at Junior Day in 2017, it was apparent that Texas was the favorite. But in the fall, the Longhorns stopped contacting Bush. This rubbed he and his family the wrong way. When Texas tried to come back late, Bush did not explicitly tell the Longhorns no. He listened to Tom Herman’s justification for the lack of contact and even took an unofficial visit on the Sunday before signing day to speak with the coaches. Texas was Bush’s dream school, but he just could not get past the fact that the Longhorns did not prioritize him like other schools did. Bush signed with Georgia as part of one of the best recruiting classes in recent memory.

 

2018 Recruiting Class Superlatives

Most likely to start as a freshman

Daniel – While Daniel Young and Toneil Carter showed some nice things down the home stretch of the season, I think Keaontay Ingram will be the best back on campus the moment he arrive this summer. Ingram is a complete back that will excel as a zone runner and he has the potential to be a feature back during his time in Austin.

 

Jameson – Aside from Cameron Dicker, who should start at kicker, the player most likely to start as a freshman in my eyes is Keondre Coburn. The departure of Poona Ford leaves a big need at NT, and Coburn has all the tools to anchor the middle of the defensive line. He looked very good at the Under Armor All American game, and will be counted on heavily during his freshman season.

Harrison – A pick that I think is not so obvious – but one that stands out to me – is Caden Sterns. With the departure of DeShon Elliot, Texas needs a leader in the secondary. I believe Caden Sterns is that guy. Sterns took over at the Army All-American Bowl, and stood out as a leader both at practice and in the game by calling out plays and making sure his cohorts were in the right position. Sterns displayed the same traits as a safety at Cibolo Steele. On top of leadership traits, Sterns is the most fundamentally sound prospect in the 2018 class. Simply put – he does not make many mistakes. That coupled with his high football IQ makes for early playing time. Texas needs that type of leadership and style of play in its secondary.

Highest Upside

Daniel – Almost went with DeMarvion Overshown here, but then I remembered the monster in the trenches the staff landed in Moro Ojomo just before signing day. Ojomo will arrive in Austin at the age of 16 and as good as his film is, he still has a ton of untapped potential left in his game. The big man from Katy has  chance to blossom into an absolute monster in the trenches.

Jameson – Regardless of whether he ends up at safety or linebacker, there is little doubt in my mind DeMarvion Overshown will be a stud. He is arguably the hardest hitter in the country and his upside is endless because of how athletically gifted he is. His football IQ is off the chart  and Todd Orlando will be able to utilize him in a variety of ways because of his skillset.

Harrison – Remember this: Daniel Carson is going to be a force to be reckoned with. At 6’5, 260 pounds, Carson has a great frame and fits perfectly with the 4i scheme of Todd Orlando’s defense. After a year under Yancy McKnight, Carson will be ready. I think Carson compares well with Charles Omenihu. However, I believe Carson will produce much sooner than Omenihu, who didn’t have a very productive season until his junior year. Time will tell, but Carson has immense potential and one of the highest ceilings in the class.

Most Underrated

Daniel – Byron Hobbs jumped in the boat early on in the cycle and was one of the class’ biggest assets on the recruiting trail along with his mother Natalia Vaughns. On the field, Hobbs was off to a monster start for his senior year until he suffered an injury that sidelined him for awhile. Hobbs’ athleticism and upside are undeniable at this stage in his development and it was clear he  was going to outplay his three star rating before the injury. Hobbs recently checked at 6’4, 219 pounds, and his frame isn’t even close to filling out. When he hits the weight room and a meal plan… look out.. I don’t think he is getting nearly enough love from the recruiting services given what he could develop into on campus.

Jameson – He may not be underrated by some anymore, but Moro Ojomo is the real deal. He shot up recruiting rankings in the past month once his film spread like wildfire, but I still think he should be ranked higher. The fact he had his senior season at 16 years old and dominated the way he did should get Texas fans very excited. A lot of people know him as the second defensive tackle Texas took behind Coburn, but Ojomo has just as much upside and skill.

Harrison – My pick here is the obvious choice – Byron Hobbs. Hobbs reminds me of a young Malik Jefferson – a quiet kid that puts his head down and goes to work. You can’t teach work ethic, and Hobbs has it. Hobbs could benefit from a redshirt year and an entire season in the weight room with Yancy McKnight. After that, he may be just the person to fill in the void left by OLB Gary Johnson when he graduates and heads for the NFL. Hobbs is not as quick or athletic as Jefferson, but he has all the right traits to fill the void. Hobbs position in college depends on how much he grows into his frame. He’s still growing and can easily gain much more weight. If he gets up over the 250 pounds mark, he may consider moving down to defensive line. Regardless, Hobbs will make an impact at Texas.

Biggest surprise from the recruiting cycle

Daniel – Tom Herman flipping Caden Sterns and Cameron Rising from LSU and Oklahoma will go down as to of the biggest shockers of the cycle for me. Both commitments were huge eye openers early on in the cycle and they set the tone for the rest of the cycle for how the staff was going to hit the trail and lock down the nation’s number three recruiting class. Landing these two sent an early message to regional schools that the Texas staff wasn’t going to back down from anyone and will go toe to toe with the nation’s elite programs to land top tier talent.

Jameson – The biggest surprise for me from the 2018 recruiting cycle was Tom Herman’s ability to secure commitments from Daniel Carson and Josh Moore. Despite a 7-6 record, Herman was still able to go out of state and get a huge commitment from a guy who is a great fit at defensive end. Carson seemed destined to end up at Nebraska, but Bryan Carrington and Herman never gave up. Moore had one of the craziest recruitments of the 2018 cycle. Texas A&M, Florida State and Alabama all seemed to be the favorite at one point or another, and then there was the commitment he made to Nebraska. Even after he decommitted from the Huskers following Mike Riley’s firing, he still seemed likely to end up in College Station or out of state. Drew Mehringer, Jason Washington and Herman did a great job of getting Moore on campus for an official visit, and the rest is history.

Harrison – The two big surprises of this cycle were Ryan Bujcevski and Cameron Rising. The cousin of former Texas kicker Michael Dickson, Bujcevski was almost a guarantee to end up at Texas. Nobody really knew who he was, so nobody expected his name to pop up on signing day. Regardless, Tom Herman filled a big hole with the departure of Dickson for the NFL Draft. If Bujcevski is even half the punter Dickson was, Texas will be in good shape. The flip of Cameron Rising from Oklahoma to Texas was a huge recruiting victory from the Longhorns and completely unexpected. Rising instantly became a fan favorite when his commitment talked about knowing when you’re in the right spot, and how he felt that way with Oklahoma. Then, Rising uttered the famous words of the 2018 cycle: “And then, I went to Texas.” This is where the narrative surrounding Tom Herman’s magic on official visits began. And boy, did it not disappoint. Rising was the first of many to choose Texas after officially visiting Austin, but none surprised more.

Harrison is a proud alumnus of The University of Texas at Austin and a second-year law student at Texas Tech University School of Law, where he plans to get a J.D./M.S. in Sports Management. He hales from Baytown, TX, but will always consider Austin home. In his spare time Harrison enjoys hunting, sports and any activity pertaining to his dog.

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Commitment Spotlight: Tyler Owens

Texas has landed a commitment from highly coveted safety Tyler Owens. What does he bring to Todd Orlando’s defense?

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Following the “Stars at Night” camp in July, Texas extended several offers to prospects who impressed the coaches throughout the evening. One of those offers went to 2019 Plano East safety Tyler Owens, who won the fastest man competition. The Longhorns quickly became the front runner in his recruitment, and the intriguing prospect ultimately chose to shut down his recruitment and pledge to Texas.

Owens joins a secondary class that already has commitments from Mayfield (CA) S Chris Adimora, Grayson (GA) CB Kenyatta Watson II and Alvin CB Marques Caldwell. The 6’2, 202 pounder currently ranks as the 44th best safety in the country and the 631st player overall, according to the 247sports composite rankings. Owens chose the Longhorns over offers from 14 other schools, including Baylor, Houston, Nebraska and UCLA.

Player Information

Name: Tyler Owns
Position: S
High School: Plano East
City & State: Plano, Texas

Measurables

Height: 6’2
Weight:  202
40-yard time: 4.48
Shuttle: 3.29
Vertical: N/A

Statistics

No stats available.

Film

Tyler Owens Junior Season

Pros:

  • Very reliable tackler. Wraps up and takes good angles to the ball carrier. Good technique.
  • Has a knack for squaring ball carriers up and laying some pretty solid hits.
  • While his straight line speed isn’t as noticeable as it may be when he is in shorts, Owens definitely shows the ability to stick his foot in the ground and get downhill quickly.
  • Shows a good football IQ. Diagnoses plays well and knows where to be on the field.
  • Very good special teams player. Uses his speed to get down the field on kickoffs and always seems to find the ball.
  • Played very good competition. Had highlights against 6A state champion Highland Park and plays in the same district as state powerhouse Allen.

Cons:

  • Needs to continue to develop his ball skills. Shows the ability to defend the pass, but will need to work on getting his head around and finding the ball.
  • Positional fit. Owens best fit could be at linebacker after he spends a season or two in a college strength and conditioning program.
  • Tests extremely well, but you don’t see those athletic traits translating much to his tape.
  • Seems a little stiff on tape, so that will be something to take monitor when his senior tape comes out. Could factor in to where he projects long-term.

Summary

When you turn on the film for Owens, the first thing to stick out is how projectable he is. He could easily add weight and spin down to linebacker, which wouldn’t be bad at all considering his reliability as a tackler and how well he defends the run. It is easy to see why Todd Orlando and Craig Naivar like Owens. He has a nose for the football and his athleticism will allow him to be utilized in multiple ways. 2018 signee DeMarvion Overshown had a similar build to Owens coming out of Arp (6’3, 200 pounds), and there are definitely some similarities in the way the two  play.

If Owens sticks at safety, he will need to continue to work on defending the pass. His speed helps him tremendously when tracking down the ball in the air, but there will be a learning curve as he adjusts to the passing game at the college level. Owens possesses great athleticism, as seen by his testing numbers, but it is a bit concerning that you don’t see that explosiveness and twitch on tape much. Is he a combine warrior or does he just need more time in the incubator to unlock his potential? It will be interesting to see what the senior film beholds because it could be a solid indicator for what his development curve is.

Final Verdict

After hearing how Owens performed in the camp setting and watching his film, there should not be any doubts about whether he is a take for Texas. The loaded 2018 defensive back class should allow almost all the 2019 signees in the secondary to be eased into action. Owens has a very high ceiling, and the Texas coaching staff feels confident they can tap into his potential.

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Recruiting

Commitment Spotlight: Derrian Brown

Texas picked up its first running back commitment of the 2019 class

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Photo via: The-Ozone

Texas has secured a huge commitment on one of its biggest recruiting weekends in decades. After securing a big win against USC, the Longhorns weekend got even better with the commitment of 4-star running back Derrian Brown.

Although Texas was high on top backs such as Noah Cain and Trey Sanders early on, Brown entered the picture and it was impossible for Texas to pass. Brown is a high-level back that has the potential to leave his mark in Austin. A duo of Keaontay Ingram and Derrian Brown in the backfield is not something Texas fans will be displeased to see.

Player Information

Name: Derrian Brown
Position: RB
High School: Burford HS
City & State: Buford, Georgia

Measurables

Height: 5’10
Weight:  179
40-yard time: 4.62
Shuttle: 4.28
Vertical: 35.0″

Statistics

No stats available.

Film

Derrian Brown Junior Season

Pros:

  • The first thing you notice about Brown is that he has a sneaky type of quickness about him. For his size he might not be the quickest or fastest back out there, but he certainly has some breakaway speed. His 40-yard dash time supports that.
  • With his quickness comes Brown’s fearless nature when hitting the holes. This may attribute to the fact that his offensive line creates decent lanes for him to run through, but there is no denying that Brown hits the gaps hard and without hesitation. This is something you like to see from a back, but also causes mild concerns about their patience and vision.
  • Has great ability in the second level. Once Brown gets to that second level on film, there’s no stopping him. He shows great power and lateral quickness to make defenders miss.
  • Demonstrates great awareness. Whether it is on the sideline or gaining a couple extra yards for the first down, Brown always knows what he needs to do on every play.
  • Football savvy. Shows good instincts and high football IQ. 

Cons:

  • The major area Brown needs to improve in is lowering his pad level. He’s able to get away with it in high school, but in college he won’t be able to gain extra yardage after the point of attack.
  • Catches the ball out of the backfield with his body rather than his hands. Granted, there is not much film regarding his catching ability, but using his body will result in some drops in college.
  • No film on his blocking ability. Brown is a little undersized, so he might have to adjust to the size of college-level linemen.
  • Needs to learn to have more patience. It’s not a bad thing that Brown hits the holes at full speed, but it can be a problem when your offensive line doesn’t create holes and you run right into a plugged up gap. Brown needs to learn to be a bit more patient, and will have a great mentor to learn from in Keaontay Ingram in that department.

Summary

Brown may not stand out physically on tape, but his play speaks for itself. He demonstrates quickness and a keen ability to get to the second level and beyond. Brown is a very talented 4-star back, and his abilities demonstrate that he will fit in nicely with Tom Herman’s offense. Although Brown clearly has the skillset to succeed in the Big 12, there are some concerns — mainly that the competition he faces in Georgia is not stellar. Other concerns stem from Brown’s lack of patience and limited tape on his pass catching and blocking abilities. All in all, Brown is a fantastic get for the Longhorns, and will be the feature back of Texas’ 2019 class.

Final Verdict

After trending negatively for top RB targets Noah Cain and Trey Sanders, Texas needed to come up with an alternative. Bryan Carrington and Derek Chang then identified Brown and Texas offered. After the offer, Texas continued to trend in the right direction. I see a lot of former Texas running back D’onta Foreman in Derrian Brown. His quickness and burst through the gaps has similar characteristics to Foreman’s running style — even though Foreman had much more bulk on his frame. Brown is another great add to the Texas running corps, and gives Stan Drayton the potential to find his next Ezekiel Elliot.

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Big 12

Commitment Spotlight: Javonne Shepherd

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Pure tackle prospects are hard to find and are always in high demand. Texas learned this the hard way in 2017 once Connor Williams went down and they were forced to play some guys out of position on both edges of their offensive line.

Needless to say, the Texas staff has been hard at work this cycle trying to land the top tackle prospects that reside in the Lone Star State this cycle and their hard work already resulted in landing Conroe Oak Ridge offensive tackle Tyler Johnson. With Atascocita’s Kenyon Green off the board to Texas A&M (some think Green is a tackle, but I don’t necessarily subscribe to that line of thinking) that leaves Houston North Forest’s Javonne Shepherd.

Shepherd quickly turned into one of the biggest in-state dogfights between Texas and Texas A&M this cycle, and with him potentially holding the greatest amount of upside at the position it makes sense. Early on it looked like A&M was poised to land both Green and Shepherd, as there was plenty of scuttle that the duo wanted to play together at the next level. As we all know by now there are no givens in world of recruiting and things can and always will change.

In the case of Shepherd, things begin to change in favor of the Longhorns earlier this spring when he was able to make it to Austin early in the spring and begin to form a bond with new Texas offensive line coach Herb Hand. That trip would be the first of several trips Shepherd made to Austin before the dead period hit and each time he left with Texas heavily on his mind.

This was a battle that Texas not only needed to win from a perception standpoint, but most importantly they needed it from a roster management standpoint. The Texas offensive line room needs more bodies like Shepherd in the pipeline and with his commitment to Texas; the Longhorns have solidified a big position of need this cycle.

Film Analysis

Player Information

Name: Javonne Shepherd

Position:  OT

High School: North Forest

City & State: Houston, Texas

 Measurables

Height: 6’6 (Unverified)

Weight:  319 (Unverified)

40-yard: 4.76 (Unverified)

Shuttle: 4.58 (Unverified)

Vertical: 34 (Unverified)

Statistics

No Stats Available

Film

https://www.hudl.com/video/3/7660667/5a130e5fda522d0e08ef8e64

Pros:

  • Possesses very good measurables for the offensive tackle position. At 6’6, 320 pounds his size won’t be issue for whether he can stick at the position.
  • Possesses good length, which will cause edge defenders issues when you combine it with his size.
  • Possesses the athletic traits you in a future left tackle. Moves very well laterally for his size and his vertical shows he possesses some explosiveness.
  • Has a very high ceiling and isn’t close to hitting it, which makes him a very enticing and intriguing prospect.
  • Flashes a bit of a mean streak and shows that he can be a capable block finisher.
  • Very nimble for his size and shows that he can be capable puller from the tackle spot.
  • Possesses good functional strength at this stage in his development.

Cons:

  • Lacks the quality of film you would expect from a recruit of his caliber.
  • With his size and athletic ability, I expected to turn on the film and see him dominant from snap to snap given his competition, but I didn’t see that.
  • His highlight tape probably could have done without the very meh cut block attempts on the backside of plays.
  • Very raw at this point in his development and will really benefit from collegiate coaching once he arrives on campus.
  • Possesses great physical tools, but will likely have to redshirt and shape up his technique before he can be thrown into the fire.
  • Need to see more reps of him as a pass blocker on tape. Majority of his highlight films consisted of run plays.

Summary

Javonne Shepherd is entering his 3rd year as a varsity starter at offensive tackle for Houston North Forest and has logged snaps at both left and right tackle at this point in his high school career. At 6’6, 319 pounds, Shepherd possesses very good size and should have no issues sticking at tackle from a measurable standpoint or athletic standpoint. Shepherd has been blessed with athletic traits that makes him a very enticing prospect that offensive line coaches would love to get their hands on to develop. On top of having very good size, Shepherd possesses long arms, good feet, he’s nimble and coordinated, has good flexibility, and on top of that he shows that he can be a finisher. From a physical standpoint, he checks off all the boxes that you look for when you draw up a collegiate offensive tackle. On the other side of the coin, Shepherd is extremely raw at this point from a technique standpoint and he lacks the dominant film you would expect to see from a prospect of his caliber. While he does show flashes of being up to line up and flat out dominate defenders at the POA, I was expecting to see a lot more of it from snap to snap as I sifted through his sophomore and junior film. Another red flag for me is that I didn’t get to see much from him as a pass blocker due to his tape being very heavy on run blocking, so I have questions about how far along he is in that department and it will be something I will be keeping my eye on during his senior year. This could be a result of the offense he is in being run oriented, but I would have much rather seen some clips of him in pass pro over him cutting defenders on the backside of run plays. Shepherd is a gifted prospect, but the more I watch him the more I feel like he has some boom/bust to him a player, but he’s the type of player you gamble on and trust your offensive line coach to get the most out of him. He’s a project player, but he’s a project player that has NFL upside who could potentially anchor your offensive line for several years.

Final Verdict

This recruitment reached silly levels as both coaches and media members wore out Shepherd’s cell phone trying to continuously get updates on his visit intentions over the past month. It gave everyone a sneak peek of why some prospects choose to get through the recruiting process as quickly as possible so that they don’t have to be hounded night and day and honestly I don’t really blame them.

From a recruiting perception standpoint, this is big head to head victory for Tom Herman and his staff over Jimbo Fisher and in-state rival Texas A&M, who was viewed as the favorite to land Shepherd for some time. Much was made of Shepherd and Kenyon Green’s friendship and them wanting to play together at the next level, but package deals often don’t work out in recruiting and this is another data point to support that. At the end of the day recruits are going to do what is best for them and that is how it should be.

Texas offensive line coach Herb Hand deserves tremendous credit in landing Shepherd, as his impact was felt in this one from the moment Shepherd made it to campus this spring and begin building the relationship. Slowly but surely the tide began to turn in this recruitment and it led to Shepherd giving his pledge to Longhorns and giving them a talent tackle duo in Shepherd and Tyler Johnson.

Texas has landed two talented tackles this cycle, and now it has until February to find some interior bodies to go in between them to solidify the rest of their offensive line class.

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College Football

Commitment Spotlight: Marcus Tillman Jr.

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Everyone loves surprises, right? Well here is one for you on Saturday afternoon in the form of Orlando (FL) Jones linebacker Marcus Tillman Jr. who visited Texas yesterday for the Stars at Night camp. Tillman wasn’t a name that was really on the radar until last night when he showed up and earned himself an offer, but he has a pretty stout offer list that includes the likes of Clemson, Florida, Ohio State, and Virginia Tech.

Linebacker has been an interesting plot line to follow this cycle, with the state of Texas being thin at the position. The Texas staff has been turning over rocks all over the country rather than settling on a player they think would be considered a reach and landing Tillman is another data point for that theory.

Adding Tillman to the calculator gives Texas its second linebacker commitment of the class along with De’Gabriel Floyd and likely narrows the scope a bit on who the staff will be focusing on going forward.

Film Analysis

Player Information

Name: Marcus Tillman Jr.

Position: LB

High School: Jones

City & State: Orlando, FL

 Measurables

Height: 6’1 (Unverified)

Weight:  220 (Unverified)

40-yard: N/A

Shuttle: 4.3 (Unverified)

Vertical: 35 (Unverified)

Statistics

2016: 58 tackles, 5 TFLs, 1 Sack, 2 FF, 2 FR, 1 INT

Film

https://www.hudl.com/profile/6134001/Marcus-Tillman-Jr

 

 Pros:

  • Plays downhill, physical football. Can stick his foot in the ground and go hunt the man with the football in the wrong color jersey.
  • Better tighten that chin strap up because this young man brings the funk to the ball carrier.
  • Displays good athleticism and good COD in pursuit of the ball.
  • Shows some good pop in his hands when he uses them properly and has the ability to provide a good jolt to those trying to slow him down.
  • Pretty solid tackler at this point and shows he will wrap up.
  • Appears capable of dropping into coverage on shallow routes and shows the ability to find the ball and make plays on it.
  • Could end up being a fun player to watch run down on special teams early in his career.
  • Plays with good effort consistently in pursuit of the football
 Cons:

  • Pretty raw as a player at this stage in his development and looks a lot more comfortable moving forward more than anything at this point.
  • When he uses his hands he can be very effective, but he needs to do so more consistently.
  • While he seems capable of dropping to cover shallow routes, he can get a little lost when asked to drop deeper into coverage.
  • Doesn’t exactly have a clean projection as things sit right now. Will likely be a longer curve guy when it comes to his development.
  • While he does play off the ball at times on tape, he is often used as an edge defender. Need to see more of him read and reacting from the ILB spots if that is what the staff views him as long term.
  • His sophomore tape was more impressive to me than his junior tape. Want to see more of the former this fall.

Summary

Marcus Tillman Jr. is a linebacker that hails all the way from Orlando in the Sunshine State of Florida. Listed at 6’1, 220 pounds Tillman possesses solid size for the position and has been utilized both on and off the ball the past two years. On the positive size of the ledger, Tillman shows on tape that he possesses good physicality, athleticism, COD ability, and solid field speed in pursuit of the ball carrier. Tillman shows that he is pretty comfortable at this stage in development when it comes to going forward and attacking up the field and shows that he has pretty good pop in his hands by showing he can provide a legitimate jolt to blockers. Tillman shows on tape that he is a pretty reliable tackler and shows the willingness to wrap up the ball carrier rather than always going for the big hit and coming in out of control. As far as coverage goes, Tillman’s comfort level seems to be on shallow routes at this time and he shows he can get to that depth and make play on the ball, as he was able to log both PBUs and some INTs on tape. On the negative side of things, Tillman’s comfort level appears to decrease once he is asked to drop deeper down the field and he showed he can get a little lost in that regard. This is something he will have to greatly improve if he is going to be asked to play off the ball at the next  level, as he will be asked to do this frequently and he will be victimized accordingly if he is unable to do so. Tillman is utilized more on the LOS coming off the edge, which makes me wonder what exactly his projection will be at the next level. He’s a bit of a project either way you slice it and doesn’t have the cleanest projection you will come across in that regard. I’d also like to see more read and reacting from him from the ILB spot just to see more of what he is in that regard, but we will probably have to wait for more tape to come out for that part of the evaluation to be completed.

 

Final Verdict

To say things materialized quickly with Tillman Jr. would be severely understating it. It’s clear that the staff loved him enough to make sure he didn’t leave campus without an offer and he was blown away enough to pop on the spot and get in the boat. With Texas’ need for linebackers it is hard to be disappointed with the staff once again finding a prospect that met their standards outside the state lines even though the out of state flavor for this class will probably raise a few eyebrows.

As I said above, Tillman’s projection isn’t the cleanest as things sit right now, but it is very hard to question a Todd Orlando evaluation, and that goes double when you take into account that he offered Tillman on the spot after getting to see him up close this weekend. I am going to defer to the man who has made a living making these kinds of evals and has made a lot of money developing them into quality ball players.

With Tillman and Floyd now occupying two of the linebacker spots in this class, the staff will likely narrow its focus on whom they are targeting with limited spots now available.

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