One of the major problems with relying so much on an in-state class, as Texas does, or as the Florida schools do, is that when the in-state class has an off year at a particular position, it can really put a school behind the eight ball.
That happened with the Longhorns and the in-state defensive end crop of 2013. Texas offered just two Lone Star State defensive ends — Daeshon Hall and Torrodney Prevot — and while the Longhorns had a commitment from Hall, the Lancaster end backed out during the summer. Texas went the class without getting a defensive end signee.
Luckily that 2013 class followed a strong 2012 one that saw Texas grab four in-state defensive ends in Shiro Davis, Caleb Bluiett, Bryce Cottrell and Hassan Ridgeway, though Ridgeway was bumped inside after showing up on campus at 280 pounds. Still, that group meant that missing on ends in 2013 wasn't catastrophic.
But 2013's crop meant Texas entered the 2014 recruiting cycle looking to put together a boffo defensive end recruiting class, with Texas likely trying to get four defensive ends. There were four ends who truly stood out as the best of the best: Solomon Thomas, Myles Garrett, Derick Roberson and Jarrett Johnson, and all stood out as immediate Texas targets … they were the Longhorns' first four in-state offers to defensive ends.
Texas did well early to secure a commitment from Roberson, a fluid pass-rusher who flashes the ability to be a dominant pass-rusher at the next level. But Thomas, who many once considered a Texas lean, is looking like he's going to take all of his visits, and though Texas is most certainly in the mix, Thomas is far from a done deal for the Longhorns.
Things are worse-looking for Garrett, the arguably the best-looking physical specimen in the state, at any position. At 6-4 245, Garrett is layered with lean muscle and looks exactly the way a college defensive end should look. He also has the speed and quickness to match, and though he's not a finished product, he may have the most potential in the state. But despite attending Texas's underclassman camp a year ago — and showing out in the process — Garrett hasn't seemed especially serious about the Longhorns' spot on his radar.
And even Johnson, who once said of his Texas visit: "I thought it was amazing" and "the school offered exactly what I wanted," took a sharp turn recently toward the Aggies. Johnson hasn't committed yet, and he said he's still choosing between the two in-state schools, but after reading what he said in the Dallas Morning News, it's hard to see the Longhorns winning this battle.
"I'd have to say the success that they've had recently [gives the Aggies the edge]," Johnson said. "UT has been successful in the past, but the past isn't the future. The past can repeat itself but it doesn't look like they're about to repeat their [past success] anytime soon. A&M, they're on a roll as it is and I want to try to join that train before it shuts down. I want to keep it rolling and get started with them."
The Longhorns did add in-state target No. 5, Jake McMillon of Abilene to the fold. The opposite of Roberson, who is a pure pass-rusher, McMillon already has nice size at 255 pounds, and he succeeds largely through physical play and a non-stop motor.
Still, it would help the Longhorns significantly if they could sway Thomas to join the fold. He and Garrett are considered the consensus top-two defensive ends in the state, with most feeling like both are top-10 in-state players. And the Longhorns would be well-served to grab at least one of the duo.
That's not to say that Texas is limited to those five. The Longhorns have an additional in-state offer out to Keller product Sione Teuhema, who has pass-rushing potential, and recently extended an interesting offer to Miami (Fla.) Northwestern's Michael Smith. Texas has several other offers out to out-of-staters like Deondre Clark, Lorenzo Carter, Denzel Ware and Gerald Willis, but Smith, an end/linebacker hybrid, feels like less of a long shot, especially if Texas could get him to visit. Smith did tell LonghornDigest.com that he's willing to leave the state of Florida.
Texas has six defensive ends on roster for 2014 — including both 2014 commitments — but with Cedric Reed slated to be a senior and Shiro Davis headed into his junior year that season, it's imperative that Texas beefs up a bit on the edge. And so far in 2014, the Texas staff has worked hard to try and fill those spots.