Where Does Texas's Talent Come From?

Taking a look at where, and when, the Longhorns acquired their starting level talent.

If you've subscribed here for awhile (or even just for a week), you've heard me parrot the three top-three stat, meaning that Texas was the first school ever to have three top-three recruiting classes back-to-back-to-back since Scout.com began keeping its database in 2002.

But I wanted to take things a step further. So, after watching practice for three days to get a general handle on who the likely starters would be, I wanted to determine just how much that flood of talent impacted the current roster. Below, you'll find the list of projected starters for the Longhorns, along with their recruiting class — remember, the three top-three stat reflects the 2010, 2011 and 2012 crops — their star ranking and their positional rank in that class. As I expected, those three classes make up the huge bulk of the Longhorns' starters this year.


OFFENSE

QB: David Ash (2011) — 3*, No. 21 QB

RB: Johnathan Gray (2012) — 5*, No. 2 RB

WR: Mike Davis (2010) — 5*, No. 3 WR

WR: Jaxon Shipley (2011) — 5*, No. 6 WR

WR: Kendall Sanders (2012) — 4*, No. 17 CB

TE: M.J. McFarland (2011) — 3*, No. 21 TE

LT: Donald Hawkins (2012) — 3*, JUCO

LG: Trey Hopkins (2010) — 4*, No. 12 OT

C: Dominic Espinosa (2010) — 4*, No. 6 C

RG: Mason Walters (2009) — 5*, No. 3 OT

RT: Josh Cochran (2011) — 3*, No. 34 OT

DEFENSE

BUCK: Jackson Jeffcoat (2010) — 5*, No. 2 DE

DE: Cedric Reed (2011) — 4*, No. 15 DE

DT: Chris Whaley (2009) — 4*, No. 10 RB

DT: Malcom Brown (2012) — 5*, No. 1 DT

LB: Jordan Hicks (2010) — 5*, No. 2 OLB

LB: Steve Edmond (2011) — 5*, No. 2 MLB

LB: Peter Jinkens (2012) — 4*, No. 12 OLB

CB: Carrington Byndom (2010) — 4*, No. 15 S

CB: Quandre Diggs (2011) — 4*, No. 21 CB

S: Adrian Phillips (2010) — 4*, No. 39 WR

S: Mykkele Thompson (2011) — 4*, No. 32 WR

Now, for a few quick thoughts.

* Twenty of the 22 projected starters** came from those three classes. The only two who didn't were the two holdovers from the 2009 class who redshirted, offensive guard Mason Walters and running back turned defensive tackle Chris Whaley. In fact, even though the 2012 class is just beginning its second year on campus, that class accounts for more than double the 2009 starters with five. Seven of the starters are from 2010, while eight came in as part of the 2011 class. Remember: the 2012 class was the highest-ranked class of the three, with Scout.com/FOXSportsNEXT tapping it as the top class in the country.


** I didn't include Desmond Harrison in this projection because it's hard to say somebody's projected to be a starter when he's been to one practice so far.


* All 11 projected defensive starters were ranked four stars or higher, although three of those players earned four-star rankings at offensive positions, including both safeties. On offense, seven of the 11 players were ranked four stars or higher, though that's somewhat deceptive. How so? First, on offense, tight ends often get lower rankings. And second, junior college prospects are also typically lower rated. The only two three-star players at "more premium" positions were David Ash and Josh Cochran. Ironically, both players played extensively as true freshmen.

* Want a reason to be bullish on the defensive front seven? Four of the projected seven starters, including at least one player at each position — defensive end, defensive tackle, outside linebacker and inside linebacker — were rated as five-star prospects and among the top two players at their positions in the entire country. That's called elite talent.

* The offense also has four former five-star players, with three of those coming at the skill positions in Johnathan Gray and receivers Mike Davis and Jaxon Shipley. The other five-star recruit was Walters.

* Of the 21 high school signees among the 22 projected starters, 15 were ranked in the top 20 nationally at their position. Nearly half (10) were ranked among the top 10 nationally at their positions.


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