- The Longhorns owned the battle for 2018’s top Lone Star State prospects, catching their stiffest in-state rival in transition. Now it's a matter of how soon Tom Herman's recruiting victories will translate to the field.
When wide receiver Joshua Moore announced in a message posted to his Twitter account on Sunday that he had verbally committed to Texas, it marked the culmination of a dominant cycle of in-state recruiting. Moore, who chose the Longhorns over Oregon after rescinding a previous pledge to Nebraska in December, is the 11th player in the state of Texas’s top 15 for the class of 2018, according to the 247Sports Composite, who either has signed or is committed to play college football on the Forty Acres.
That is a staggering accumulation of talent from one of the nation’s most fertile recruiting grounds. There’s only one other program with any of the top 15 Texas players from the 2018 recruiting class: Texas A&M, which signed four-star Cypress Ranch High offensive lineman Colten Blanton, holds verbal commitments from Cypress Springs high safety Leon O’Neal Jr. and Manvel High wide receiver Jalen Preston and is in the running for blue-chip Episcopal High wide receiver Jaylen Waddle. (The Aggies had also already signed Moore’s twin brother, Jordan, a safety ranked 28th overall in the state, when Joshua picked Texas.)
Getting O’Neal, a former Texas A&M commit, back in the fold on Monday was big, and the Aggies may well grab Waddle on National Signing Day, but there’s no debating who won the state in this cycle.
It’s worth noting that Texas’s in-state tally is not official yet. Two players ranked in the Lone Star State’s top 15, Westfield High defensive tackle Keondre Coburn (13th) and Carthage High running back Keaontay Ingram (15th), elected not to put pen to paper during the early period after committing to the Longhorns earlier in 2017. An 11th-hour flip can’t be totally ruled out for either prospect. Still, there’s a lot of burnt orange in that chart.
The strongest part of Texas’s 2018 in-state haul is its defensive backs, which should assuage concerns with the back end of the defense following the departures of cornerback Holton Hill and safety DeShon Elliott for the NFL draft. Texas has signed three of the top six safeties in the class of 2018 (Steele High’s Caden Sterns, Angleton High’s B.J. Foster and Arp High’s DeMarvion Overshown) and two of the class’s top 10 cornerbacks (Heights High’s Jalen Green and Lamar High’s Anthony Cook).
Another position Texas replenished by mining the abundance of talent within state lines is wide receiver. In addition to Moore making the call for Texas on Sunday, both Alief Taylor High’s Brennan Eagles and Lamar High’s Al’Vonte Woodard inked NLIs with the Longhorns in December. Those three pass catchers are ranked 10th (Eagles), 19th (Moore) and 20th (Woodard) in the class of 2018. No other program’s class includes as many wide receivers ranked in the top 20 in the country.
In-state players are the foundation of Texas’s 2018 class, but the Longhorns notched a handful of big out-of-state wins, including four-star IMG Academy (Fla.) linebacker Ayodele Adeoye, four-star East (Utah) High offensive tackle Junior Angilau, four-star Newbury Park (Calif.) High quarterback Cameron Rising and four-star Newcastle (Okla.) High quarterback Casey Thompson. Texas also went into Australia to snag the No. 1 punter in the class, Ryan Bujcveski, the cousin of NFL-bound Ray Guy Award winner Michael Dickson.
The Longhorns will enter signing day with the No. 3 class in the country, behind only Ohio State and Georgia, in that order. The last time they signed one of the 247Sports Composite’s top three classes in the nation was 2012, when they finished second. Texas seems unlikely to add anyone as highly regarded as Moore on Wednesday, but it could move closer to the No. 2 spot in the team rankings by reeling in four-star Oak Ridge (Tex.) High defensive end Joseph Ossai and three-star Katy (Tex.) High defensive tackle Moro Ojomo, among other recruits.
Head coach Tom Herman’s first season in Austin brought only a two-win improvement from the two 5–7 seasons that led to the firing of Charlie Strong, and Texas may not make a huge leap on the field in 2018, but it is filling its depth chart with the caliber of player needed to rise into contention for College Football Playoff berths in short order.