Gems Of The Class
* Kent Perkins — Perkins might be the top high school tackle the Longhorns have inked in the last several years. He has the length and the feet to be a left tackle, but the nasty disposition and the raw power to open up holes like a right tackle.
* Darius James — James is the nation's top center prospect, and some would argue the top center prospect in recent years. Few can match his combination of elite size (6-5 320), strength and short-area quickness. He could play any position on the line but left tackle, if needed.
* Deoundrei Davis — As the Texas defense certainly found out this year, the Big 12 games are played in space. And in Davis, Texas landed an athletic space defender and a tremendous tackler. If the linebacker played his whole senior year, he might have seen even more of a bump in the rankings.
* Tyrone Swoopes — Yep, I'm going there. Perhaps no recruit in this class is as polarizing as Swoopes, but here are the facts: Swoopes is big and athletic with the arm to make every throw. He's raw as a passer, but as he showed on Thursday of US Army week, maybe not as raw as everybody insinuates.
This one's easy. Just go with Texas's most recent commitment, Montrel Meander. Meander flew largely under the recruiting radar, only to see the Longhorns come in late to swipe his commitment from Washington State. Athletes who are 6-foot-3 with 21.55 speed in the 200-meter dash (he ran sub-4.4 seconds at the Texas Tech camp) don't grow on trees, and Meander is a three-sport athlete who hasn't had the chance to focus exclusively on football yet. As late grabs go, you could certainly do worse.
The One That Got Away
I'll go with A'Shawn Robinson here. Robinson was arguably the state's top talent (along with fellow TOTGA nominee Ricky Seals-Jones, though the Longhorns let Seals-Jones go by choice), and was committed to Texas for nearly a year before making a final-week switch to Alabama. While other players, including Maurice Smith and Dontre Wilson, came at bigger positions of need, Robinson's raw talent and increased physicality (certainly a need for the Longhorns), and the fact that he was a member of the Longhorns' class for this long gets him this spot.
Robbie Rhodes wasn't technically ever on the line for the Longhorns — he declined multiple visit invitations and only showed up when he was already on campus for the state track meet — but losing him to Baylor hurt nonetheless. In fact, if Texas could choose one recruit in-state to switch, it might be Rhodes, who had the size and freakish speed to be the fantastic playmaker at 'X' that the Longhorns were looking for.
Position of Need Filled
The offensive line. One of the forgotten narratives in this class, especially with all of the late struggles, is that Texas set out to get more physical up front offensively, and the Longhorns did just that with a stellar offensive haul. Kent Perkins and Darius James are among the nation's best at their positions. Rami Hammad is rated as the No. 10 offensive guard. And Desmond Harrison was among the best JUCO offensive linemen in the nation. He should provide immediate help, potentially as a starter at left tackle. None of that counts two-way lineman Jake Raulerson, who could also find himself among the offensive linemen listed above.
Position of Need Left Unmet
The defensive line. Texas inked a big defensive line class in 2012, and it's a good thing, too, because there isn't a single defensive lineman in the 2013 group. Raulerson might start his career off there, but he's probably more natural on the offensive side. Losing Robinson and Daeshon Hall hurts, and Texas got Justin Manning, Andrew Billings and Frank Herron on campus late, but didn't get any of them.
The class is also short on name skill position talent. Texas offered, but didn't land, running backs Keith Ford (Oklahoma) and Dontre Wilson (Ohio State) and wide receivers Robbie Rhodes (Baylor) and Ricky Seals-Jones (Texas A&M), any of whom would have made for a more exciting group. You could even throw in tight end commitment Durham Smythe for good measure.
Main Need Heading Into 2014
Defensive end. In a terrible year for in-state ends, Texas had a commitment from Daeshon Hall, who decommitted over the summer. The Longhorns didn't offer Matt Dimon, who chose Oklahoma. And they missed on a potential Hail Mary in Frank Herron, an LSU commitment who visited the 40 Acres on the last weekend before National Signing Day. Texas already has one end commitment for the next class in San Antonio Brennan star Derick Roberson, and will be pushing for Solomon Thomas and Myles Garrett, among others.