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By: The HornSports Staff
With the dead period kicking in we’ve officially reached that point in the summer months where things will get a little quiet on the recruiting front with players and coaches being restricted to certain kinds of contact. Now that doesn’t necessarily mean something couldn’t pop off here soon, but right now is the perfect time to recalibrate and refresh everyone on the players currently on the board for Texas and to give a update on where thing sit.
There may be some players not listed below, but that probably means interest hasn’t really be reciprocated or that Texas isn’t necessarily pressing hard right now for one reason or the other despite an offer being reported.
RB Trey Sanders
The 5-star ball carrier out of IMG took an unofficial visit to Texas earlier this month. If Sanders continues to let his recruitment play out and take his official visits, there is a good chance he will make a return trip to the 40 acres on UT’s dime. With that being said, it is hard to envision Sanders ending up in Burnt Orange. Right now, Alabama or Florida likely have the lead for the nations top running back, with UT sitting in third.
RB Noah Cain
There is talk Sanders and fellow IMG RB Noah Cain want to stick together and play together at the next level. We need to see it to believe it. Unlike Sanders though, we feel fairly confident in Texas’ chances at landing Cain, who originally played at Denton Guyer before transferring to IMG. RB coach Stan Drayton has done an excellent job in this recruitment and has prioritized Cain from the very beginning. The Longhorns will need to fend off LSU, Ohio State and Georgia, who recently hosted Cain for an unofficial visit, but if Texas stays the course, they have an excellent chance and reeling in one of the top backs in the nation.
RB Deondrick Glass
Glass attended junior day back in February and was impressed with what the Longhorns had to offer. The 4-star from Katy named his top 10 schools in February, and Texas made the cut. If the Longhorns choose to take one running back in 2019, it is not likely to be Glass unless Sanders and Cain end up at other schools. Should Stan Drayton and Tom Herman choose to take two running backs, Glass could become a realistic option.
An important note with all 3 running back targets is they appear to be in no rush to make commitments. It would not be surprising to see things move quickly though once one name comes off the board and the dominoes begin to fall.
WR Elijah Higgins
Higgins recruitment has been a little more complicated than most people expected. Most had the Austin native pegged to Texas, but those assumptions have not come to fruition. Several factors are working against Texas, including Stanford, who we would put as the favorite at this time. Percentages or confidence numbers are useless this time of year and subject to change, but based on what we know, we would handicap Texas’ chances at 60/40 in favor of the Cardinal.
WR Dylan Wright
Unlike some of the other targets, Wright has a firm commitment date set in stone, January 4th at the Under Armor All-American game. Texas is squarely in the mix, but so to is Alabama, TCU, Texas A&M and Arkansas. He will likely use all 5 of his official visits this fall, and Texas is a likely to receive one.
WR Jaylen Ellis
Last year, Texas got burned on several targets who were offered too late in the recruiting cycle and were locked into other schools. This year, Tom Herman and his staff have done a much better job of getting offers to guys the staff knows may be a priority down the road. Ellis is still committed to Baylor, but he wasn’t shy in the past about saying Texas was an offer he really wanted. Right now, we wouldn’t expect much movement regarding Ellis until a little later in the cycle, but if Texas pushes they have a very good chance of flipping the talented speedster.
WR Langston Anderson
Similar to Ellis, Anderson received an offer from the staff but may not be the highest priority at the moment. As a matter of fact, Anderson could be very close to commiting to Baylor. The 3-star wideout could become a priority down the line if Texas misses on a couple of other wide receiver targets, but for right now it appears Anderson is trending to the Bears.
OT Stacey Wilkins
The 4-star OT from Arkansas received an offer in February during Junior Day and expressed legitimate interest in the Longhorns. Despite his interest, it appears OU is the leader in his recruitment, and there were multiple times where it was thought Wilkins would shut down everything and commit. Wilkins told HornSports he will be taking an official visit to Texas for the USC game, but it will take an unbelievable visit and a great season by the Longhorns for Texas to have a chance.
OT Javonne Shepherd
If you are still riding the rollercoaster that is the Javonne Shepherd recruitment, congratulations. The 4-star has said in the past Texas is his number one school, and his actions have supported it. He has visited Texas multiple times and gives greats remarks following every visits. A&M is running second and is doing everything they can to try to catch Texas. Shepherd could shut down and commit at any time, but right now the Longhorns are firmly in the driver’s seat.
OT Chris Akporoghene
Akporoghene recently named a top 5 of Texas, Tennessee, Nebraska, Oregon and Duke. The 3-star IMG product attended the heat wave pool party and came away impressed. If there was a front-runner at the moment it would likely be Oregon, but Texas seems to be in good enough position to host Akporoghene for an official visit at some point this fall. His ranking does not reflect his play on film, so it wouldn’t be surprising to us if he is a priority for the Texas staff.
DE Jermaine Johnson
The highly sought after JUCO edge defender made his way to Austin recently for the Heat Wave event and by all accounts really enjoyed his time on the 40 Acres. As things sit right now, Texas is battling for one of the remaining official visit dates with trips to Colorado and Oregon already in the books. Georgia has been the trendy pick here so they are likely getting one of those dates, so it will be a dog fight for those last two OVs.
DE Taurean Carter
Carter’s recruitment is a bit of an interesting one because it likely comes down to whether Texas decides to go all in and press for his commitment. Personally I think he is a take right now after taking a look at the tape, but I’m not a Texas staffer and they are still evaluating their options. Carter is teammates with Jalen Catalon and now Jeffrey Carter, and landing him could potentially help with the others.
DT DeMarvin Leal
This one felt like it was going to get interesting after Leal quietly made his way to Austin for an OV shortly after committing to Texas A&M, but things have been oddly quiet since. Leal recently made his OV to Alabama, which resulted in some scuttle of a possible flip, but that hasn’t transpired and he is scheduled to make his way to Clemson next. Anything that loosens Leal’s commitment to A&M is good news for Texas, but the staff needs to continue working the right angles and get him back to campus this fall.
DT Faatui Tuitele
This one was always a long shot from the beginning, but despite only making one trip to Austin this spring, Tuitele named Texas in his Top 5 and will likely get an OV at some point this fall. Getting a shot at a player of Tuitele’s caliber is all you can really ask for and kudos must be given to Jake Langi for serving as the point man in this one from the beginning. At this time Alabama is viewed as the favorite, which is scary to think they may be building a polynesian pipeline.
LB Maninoa Tufonu
Tufonu is another stud from the island that made his way to Austin recently and like Tuitele he left giving rave reviews about his time on campus. Unlike with Tuitele, the odds seem much stronger that Tufonu will play his collegiate ball on the West Coast and Texas still has to solidify its spot for an OV this fall.
LB David Gbenda
Gbenda’s recruitment has been an interesting one given how quickly his stock seem take off and then abruptly cool this spring. Texas and Texas A&M seem to be the key players in this one, but ironically neither one seems to be pressing very hard for his commitment and that’s particularly interesting given Texas’ need for linebackers. It will be interesting to see how this recruitment unfolds this fall, but it definitely feels like Gbenda is being kept warm at this point.
LB Rian Davis
The former Texas resident made his way back to the Lone Star State for an OV in Austin and he came out of the visit saying Texas co-leaders with Georgia who has been the trending favorite in his recruitment. Texas drawing even in this one was an accomplishment in itself, but he still has his visit to Athens on the docket and can you can never count out someone like Alabama. Texas will keep its foot on the gas here, but they may end up needing some things to go their way to get him out of the Southeast.
LB Jaren Mangham
Despite Mangham being offered early and tripping to Austin there hasn’t been a ton of chatter since. Mangham recently dropped his Top 9 and listed both Texas and Texas A&M on that list, but time will tell how serious of a player Texas is in this one.
CB Jeffrey Carter
Saying Carter’s recruitment has been all over the map would be putting it mildly. He committed to Oklahoma early, but decommitted once he received a Texas offer, but since then he’s been linked to several different schools including Alabama, Oregon, and Texas A&M. Carter recently moved from Aledo to Mansfield Legacy where he will team up with two other Texas targets in Jalen Catalon and Taurean Carter. There have been some off the field issues implied in this recruitment, which is why things have been off and on in regards to Texas, but the two parties are staying in contact with each other and the Longhorns made the final cut for Carter.
CB Marques Caldwell
This is one we’ve had the good vibes about ever since an offer was extended. Caldwell has never been shy about his love for Texas despite being committed to Oregon, but that commitment is likely not going to last much longer I imagine. There were some things transpiring behind the scenes in regards to Caldwell making his trip to Austin last week, but he was able to make it in just before the dead period kicked off. In my opinion you just have to let nature take its course in this one.
(Update: Caldwell de-committed from Oregon last night.)
S Jalen Catalon
There is not much new to report on this front and that’s good news for Texas given that they started surging in this recruitment once they extended an offer and Craig Naivar got on his trail. Naivar has been putting in overtime and pressing all the right buttons with Catalon, including sharing a love a of baseball which the two have bonded over during the process. Texas just needs to stay the course with this one and I think when it comes decision time the staff will be happy due to the amount of effort they’ve put into it.
S Demani Richardson
I wish I had something positive to put here in regards to Richardson and Texas, but the efforts of the staff to get him on campus this spring just haven’t had any returns. As things sit, Richardson seems to be pretty content with his commitment to Texas A&M, which is why efforts have been tuned up a notch elsewhere.
S Chris Adimora
Here’s your Demani Richardson “contingency” plan. Adimora is a baller in his own right and if you look at the tape it makes you wonder how schools out West would let him get out of California. Adimora was blown away when he made a visit to Austin this spring and it made a lasting impression on the four star safety that will have Texas in the thick of this recruitment. Texas is in a very strong spot here and just needs to stay the course and make sure they do what they do when Adimora comes to town for his OV.
S Lewis Cine
When Cine was initially offered it seemed like his recruitment was going to be a bit of an afterthought given the geography involved, but once Cine relocated to Cedar Hill Trinity Christian in Dallas things got a bit interesting. With proximity now on Texas’ side that opens up the door for Texas staff to get a leg up in this recruitment, but they will still have to fend off some heavy hitters if they want to land Cine. Cine was recently in Austin for an UOV and enjoyed his time on campus. You can probably expect him to make his way back to campus this fall as the staff continues to stay after him.
ATH Bru McCoy
Probably the bluest of blue chips on this list and while the odds still favor him heading to USC, Texas at minimum has his attention after his trip to Austin this spring. It doesn’t hurt that De’Gabriel Floyd is in his ear about the Longhorns and he is likely to make way back to Austin for an OV this fall. All you can ask for is a shot here when it comes to elite players like McCoy, and he seems to have legit interest in Texas at this point.
ATH Makiya Tongue
Tongue’s recruitment is another weird one that’s had a few twists and turns as of late. At one point it looked like he could be nearing a commitment to Texas and that his OV would seal the deal, but now that visit is well in the rearview and the latest scuttle is that he is favoring Georgia. The interesting part about that is that Georgia is recruiting at a very high level right now and while Tongue certainly isn’t a bad take, he may not necessarily be a take for them as things sit today. Tongue recently narrowed his list down to Arizona State, Georgia, and Texas, so it will certainly be interesting to see how things unfold going forward. If the Bulldogs take his commitment then it’s likely the destination, but if not then things get interesting.
Commitment Spotlight: Javonne Shepherd
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.
Name: Javonne Shepherd
High School: North Forest
City & State: Houston, Texas
Height: 6’6 (Unverified)
Weight: 319 (Unverified)
40-yard: 4.76 (Unverified)
Shuttle: 4.58 (Unverified)
Vertical: 34 (Unverified)
No Stats Available
- 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.
- 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.
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.
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.
Commitment Spotlight: Jake Smith
With Lake Travis wide receiver Garrett Wilson off the board to Ohio State, the Texas staff was forced switch gears a bit with who they were prioritizing at the position. Jordan Whittington has already reserved his spot in the class and assumed the position as a class leader, but he was overdue for some company at wide out. Particularly some company that could be featured in the slot.
That’s where Jake Smith comes into the equation. Smith made multiple trips to Austin this spring as he made visits to several of the nation’s top programs. Despite making trips to some of the nation’s elite, there was something about Texas that he just couldn’t shake.
Smith was viewed as a USC lean for some time, but after his second trip to Austin for the spring game things started trending strongly for the Longhorns in this recruitment. Things began trending so strongly that even a great visit to Los Angeles couldn’t slow down Texas’ momentum with Smith.
Smith became a much bigger priority when Wilson chose the Buckeyes, but you should know better by now than to doubt this staff on the recruiting trail. Smith has given his pledge to the Longhorns and gives them another nationally ranked wide receiver commit.
Name: Jake Smith
High School: Notre Dame Preparatory
City & State: Scottsdale, AZ
Height: 6’1 (Unverified)
Weight: 189 (Unverified)
40-yard: 4.37 (Unverified)
Vertical: 34 (Unverified)
2017: 118 Rushing attempts, 1135 yards, 11 TDs, 33 receptions, 1055 yards, 15 TDs
- Possesses solid size for the position. Listed at 6’1, 189 pounds.
- Has great speed, acceleration, and short area quickness. The competition he faces struggles just to stay in front of him and he is able to frequently get separation.
- Possesses very good long speed. You don’t see him getting caught from behind much and he even outruns some defenders who have angles on him.
- Shows good body control and coordination as he tracks balls in the air.
- Has good hands and shows the ability to maintain concentration for the difficult catches.
- His versatility really shows up on tape. Rushed for over 1,000 yards at RB and netted over 1,000 yards receiving. Also proved to be a legitimate threat as a return man. Coaches will be able to get creative with him.
- Incredibly elusive once he hits the second and third levels of the defense. He will get his fair share of YAC if the first defender doesn’t get him on the ground.
- Shows good patience, vision, and burst as a ball carrier. Shows a knack for allowing the play to develop and bursting through the hole and to the next level.
- Love his competitive toughness. How many wide receivers do you see willing to line up at running back and slam in between the tackles?
- Has a nose for the end zone. He’s a big play machine and he finds pay dirt often.
- While his listed measurables are solid, I am willing to bet he comes in a little under both in the height and weight category.
- Him being fast isn’t a question, but the 4.37 may be on the generous side.
- Want to see more of the route tree from him on tape. He’s a problem on vertical and deep routes, but he will be asked to do much more in the slot.
- The competition he plays against isn’t great. Thankfully he shows consistently that he can dominate it and doesn’t play down to it.
- Being on the smaller side, I wonder how he will respond against quality corners that will be able to get physical with him when pressed up.
Jake Smith is a two (soon to be three) year varsity starter of Notre Dame Prep out of Scottsdale, AZ. Smith is a bit of a Swiss army knife for Notre Dame’s offense, as he splits time at both wide receiver and running back and excelled at both in 2017. Smith is listed at 6’1, 189 pounds, but my eyes tell me he is probably slightly smaller than what he is listed at, but a true eyeball test is required to confirm those suspicions. Smith rolled up over 1,000 yards as a running back and as a wide receiver, and was the first Arizona high school player to accomplish that feat since Christian Kirk back in 2013. The main thing that jumps off the tape at you about Smith’s game is his speed and elusiveness in the open field. Smith is able to accelerate and get up to top speed quickly and is able to make cuts and make defenders miss without having to slow down much. On top of that, Smith possesses great long speed as you don’t see him getting caught from behind much once he breaks away from the defense. As a pass catcher, Smith shows he has good, reliable hands and shows that he can make the concentration catches like over the shoulder deep balls and or when his vision is obstructed by defenders. As a route runner, Smith’s combination of quickness and straight line speed allow him to frequently get separation from defenders. At this stage in his development, Smith is featured on a lot of vertical routes in the passing game, so he will need to become more comfortable with more parts of the route tree. This holds especially true if Smith is going to be counted on to log heavy snaps in the slot, as he will be asked to work the middle of the field on short and immediate routes and will be asked to find the holes and soft spots in zones rather than just trying to run past guys on vertical routes. I am bullish on him on becoming a more well-rounded route runner though, as he has the movements, agility, and footwork to potentially become a real problem in his aspect of his game. One of my favorite traits about Smith would definitely be his competitive toughness. While he split time at both positions in 2017, in 2016 he was used more as a running back and even though he is on the smaller side you don’t see him shying away from contact as a ball carrier. Smith shows on tape that he is not afraid to pound the rock up in between the tackles and he isn’t a guy that is going to look to bounce it outside and try to rely on his speed every time he touches it. Seeing this on tape makes me feel good about his chances of being a guy who will eventually develop into a reliable chain mover on money downs, as I think he won’t shy away from going over the middle and making tough catches when he knows he will take a lick from a defender. Overall I didn’t find any glaring weaknesses when watching Smith on tape, but something I will note in closing is that the competition he faces doesn’t seem to be very strong, but as I listed above he doesn’t seem to ever play down to the competition and he put up great numbers in 2017. I also think there could be a bit of an adjustment period for him when he makes the transition to college, as he will face bigger, longer defensive backs who will be able to get physical with him and not give him as many clean releases as he is getting right now.
This is a fantastic pickup for Texas and it takes the sting out of losing Garrett Wilson to Ohio State earlier this spring. While some may never get over that loss, this is a heck of a consolation prize and I’m not sure you can even put Smith in that category given the caliber of player that he is.
We are talking about a legit blue chip, Top 100 nationally ranked player with 30+ offers from some of the best programs in the country. And given that Texas lacks a player that could truly be dynamic out of the slot, that makes landing Smith an even bigger victory in my book. Smith has the skillset that will allow him to see the field sooner rather than later due to the versatility that he brings to the table and his ability to contribute to special teams.
Barring injuries, I think Smith truly has a chance to be a heck of a player at Texas and think he could evolve into a player that earns All Big-12 accolades and I think his floor is a solid multi-year starting contributor at the next level. All and all this was a great job recruiting by Tom Herman and his staff, and a great pickup for the Longhorns.
Commitment Spotlight: Tyler Johnson
The overall talent along the offensive line was down in-state during the previous cycle, but it is leaps and bounds better for the 2019 cycle. If there was ever a time to take a big group of hog mollies then this is the cycle to do it if you are an in-state or regional power because there are some great players with serious upside in the Lone Star State.
Among that talented group is Conroe Oak Ridge offensive tackle Tyler Johnson, who has been a sought after commodity for some time now and has long held an offer from the Longhorns. Johnson was offered by Texas early last spring and has since been a high priority for the staff as they continue to build up the depth at tackle on campus.
Texas has been a constant in Johnson’s recruitment ever since they entered the picture over a year ago, but the Longhorns landing his teammate Joseph Ossai last cycle definitely didn’t hurt their chances. Offensive tackles like Johnson are viewed as the cornerstones of offensive lines and he is now the cornerstone of Texas’ offensive line class as he has announced his commitment to the Longhorns.
Name: Tyler Johnson
High School: Conroe Oak Ridge
City & State: Conroe, TX
Height: 6’5 (Unverified)
Weight: 308 (Unverified)
40-yard: 5.44 (Unverified)
- Possesses solid tackle measurables at 6’5, 308 pounds, which places him above the threshold you look for at the position.
- Also possesses the desired length for the position. His size and length will make him tough to get around on the edge.
- Possesses good feet and good athleticism that should translate well to other facets of his game.
- Good drive blocker in the run game and shows the functional strength to move defenders off the LOS in the run game.
- Brings his feet and hips on contact with defenders.
- Athleticism shows through as a puller and in space in the screen game. Moves well, shows good balance and is able to locate and execute his assignment.
- Always looking to finish off defenders once engaged.
- A lot of untapped potential in his game and has the tools to be a really good player at the next level.
- Can be a bit grabby at times, which could make him a target for holding calls if not worked on.
- Majority of his snaps on tape are as a run blocker, so he will no doubt have a bit of a learning curve as a pass blocker.
- Needs to work on playing with better leverage when engaged with defenders.
- Hands are outside the frame too frequently at this stage, but that can be ironed out with time.Will likely need a redshirt year to iron out some technique deficiencies. Won’t be a guy you plug in the two deep from day one
Tyler Johnson out of Conroe Oak Ridge is a thick, bodied kid who already has the offensive tackle starter kit at 6’5, 308 pounds. His athleticism is evident with how he moves laterally and in space on film and he shows the ability to bring his feet and snap his hips on contact with defenders. In the run game, he shows the ability to drive defenders off the LOS and get movement at the POA as a solo blocker and also shows the ability to get movement when he has to get hip to hip with the guard on double teams. As a puller, Johnson’s athleticism shows through as he doesn’t get off balance, he is able to locate his assignment and follow through with execution of the assignment. Likewise in the screen game, Johnson moves very well and shows the ability to get his hat on smaller defenders in space that often prove to be very elusive and difficult for offensive linemen to get the their hands on. Johnson does need to continue to improve on consistently playing with good leverage when engaged with defenders in the run game and his hand usage needs to improve as he has a tendency to play outside the frame, which can lead to penalties if not corrected. At this stage in his development, the tape on Johnson as a pass blocker is very limited due to the style of offense he plays in. He shows that he can mirror defenders on the edge and proves that he can be very tough to get around due to his size and length. Due to the lack of tape and film at this point, Johnson is likely to be very raw as a pass protector and will likely require a redshirt year so he can learn the nuances of pass protection. The skill set to be a quality pass blocker is already there for Johnson, but he needs to show on tape that he can excel on at it as a senior or at least show he is working towards it. There is a lot of untapped potential to Johnson’s game just due to the fact that much isn’t asked of him as a pass blocker at this point.
Landing Johnson is a great way to kick off what has a chance to be a very good offensive line haul for Texas. As I said before , guys like Johnson are viewed as the cornerstone of an offensive line, and if you an pair him with a guy like Javonne Shepherd down the line, then the future in the trenches for the Longhorns is very bright.
Johnson has the ability to be plugged in at either left or right tackle when he arrives on campus and I think he is the definition of a high ceiling/ high floor player. If he studs out I think he ends up being a multi-year starter at tackle with legit NFL pay day potential and at minimum he ends up kicking inside and being a solid guard who will have plus athleticism for the position.
Landing Johnson early gives Texas a solid foundation to build upon and the staff will continue to work hard guys like Shepherd, Branson Bragg, and Kenyon Green as they try to put together an elite haul along the offensive line to go along with the elite skill position haul they put together last cycle.
Commitment Profile: Brayden Liebrock
The tight end position was once a position of strength at Texas under Mack Brown, but under Brown we also witnessed the beginning a very long drought of having solid production from the position. The days of players like David Thomas, Bo Scaife, Jermichael Finley, and even Blaine Irby are well in the rearview mirror and Texas fans have been yearning for when players of that caliber were on the roster.
While the tight end position room is still a good ways off from being back to what it used to be, Tom Herman and his staff are already hard at work trying to remedy the issue. Since arriving in Austin, Herman has already signed three tight ends in Cade Brewer, Reese Leitao, and Malcolm Epps, with Brewer already logging snaps and showing promise as a true freshman in 2017.
After only taking Epps last cycle, the staff is likely taking two at the position this time around and they’ve been looking nationally to continue adding talent and depth to the position. Brayden Liebrock was offered earlier this spring and made a trip to Austin in March during his unofficial visit tour that included some of the top programs in the country. Needless to say, the competition was going to be stout, but Liebrock made his way back to Austin this past weekend for an official visit and things couldn’t have gone better.
Landing elite out of state talent is never easy to do, but that’s just what Herman and his staff did with Liebrock, as they were able to secure a commitment from one of the nation’s top talents at the position over the likes of Alabama, Arizona State, Michigan, Notre Dame, and Ohio State.
Name: Brayden Liebrock
High School: Chandler
City & State: Chandler, AZ
Height: 6’5 (Verified)
Weight: 214 (Verified)
40-yard: 4.6 (Unverified)
2016: Stats Unavailable
2017: 39 catches, 600 yards (15.4 YPC), 6 TDs
- Being a converted wide receiver shows up in his movements and route running. Shows good savvy and the ability to get separation.
- Big frame to work with at 6’5 and should be able to add good mass over time once he arrives on campus.
- Has developed a good habit of being a hands catcher rather than be a body catcher.
- Tracks the ball well in the air and shows the ability to adjust accordingly. Has pretty good body control, which again can be attributed to his time at receiver.
- Attacks the ball at the high point, which will potentially make him a nightmare to cover due to his size and length.
- Moves well in the open field with the ball in his hands, and shows the ability to get YAC.
- Shows a variety of routes already in his arsenal and consistently gets separation. He will be a weapon as a receiver early in his career.
- Shows the willingness to be a blocker, which is always a key factor when making the switch from receiver to tight end.
- Might have to put a couple bricks in his pockets once he arrives on campus since he is a little light in the britches at 214. Will likely need a redshirt year to bulk up.
- Converted wide receivers are always a gamble when it comes to teaching them to be blockers. Typically a long development curve in that aspect.
- While he spent some time as an in-line tight end this past year, he had spent most of time split out wide prior to that. Will take some time getting him accustomed to that role.
- Long speed is a bit of question mark after seeing him get caught from behind a couple times on tape.
- Can he retain his current body movements once he adds 20-30 pounds? Will be something to watch once he hits a college weight room.
Bradyen Liebrock is a four star tight end prospect out of Chandler HS in Arizona, who is making the transition from wide receiver to tight end. Liebrock possesses good height (6’5) and length for the position with long arms, but is a little light in the weight department currently (214) and will have to add some good weight over time. Liebrock is one of the best tight end recruits I’ve watched tape on this cycle, as he shows good athletic traits on tape and the potential to be a great asset as a receiver already at this stage in development. Thought he seemed to benefit from often getting clean releases from the LOS, he consistently showed the ability to run good routes and consistently get separation from defenders once in them. Not only is Liebrock a savvy route runner, he already shows he ability to run a variety of routes in the route tree. It is clear that Liebrock has benefited from his time at wide receiver in this aspect of his game and it has carried over as he has moved closer to the ball. Liebrock has already developed a good habit of being a hands catcher and doesn’t frequently the let the ball get into his body. He also shows good balls skills when it comes to timing his leaps to high point the ball and also shows he can track the ball in the air and adjust accordingly with good body control. Liebrock doesn’t have the best straight line speed, but his body movements in the open field so that he is far from a diesel tanker in that regard. I am curious to if he will be able to retain his athleticism as he adds mass to his frame, but I’m not overly concerned with that. My biggest concern for Liebrock is the same with any converted wide receiver and that is his blocking ability. At this point in his development, Liebrock shows the willingness to compete as a blocker at this stage in his development, but he has a long way to go from a technical aspect as far as hand placement, play strength, proper angles, and finishing. None of this changes my opinion of Liebrock as a player overall, but it is something he will have to really focus on given how Texas uses their tight ends in their current offensive scheme.
This is a home run pick for the Texas staff and they once again inject a talented player into the pipeline where the program has lacked talented depth for years. When Texas offered Liebrock and I was able to take in his tape for the first time, I was very impressed and called him one of the best tight end prospects I had watched this cycle and I am still saying that now.
Liebrock’s offer list is an indictment of his ability as a player and that list is littered with elite programs that have put out NFL talent at the tight end position. That just goes to show you that not only is Liebrock underrated as a prospect, but Texas had to fight off some elite programs for the stud tight end from Arizona. It was never going to be easy landing him, but the staff once again did a great job in this recruitment and blew him away on his official this past weekend.
When Liebrock arrives on campus, he will immediately become one of the best if not the best receiving threats in that meeting room and he projects to be a matchup nightmare as he continues to grow and fill out his 6’5 frame. If you can pair Liebrock with a Temple tight end Jared Wiley, then you have a very athletic tight end duo that will be able to give defenses problems down the line.
Overall, I am very bullish on this pickup for Texas and think it could help down line with another prospect that hails from Arizona in Jake Smith.
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