Difference In Purpose
Under former Texas coach Mack Brown, Junior Days were an elite event, one that only the absolute cream of the crop prospects were invited to. And while new coach Charlie Strong has certainly pursued those top players in trying to get them to Junior Day (with less success, more on this in a minute), he also hasn't been as exclusive about extending invitations.
That approach has its own positives. Texas has a chance to identify and see a number of Plan B and Plan C kids in person, to establish those relationships for later in the process and to get a chance to filter some of those guys out earlier. One of the strengths of the 2015 class is its pure depth, and Strong and Co. have done an amazing job of getting a number of guys into Austin who might not normally have been in town so early.
Some Stars Still Expected
Of course, not all is rosy in the land of the Longhorn. Many top in-state prospects skipped out on the event, with Malik Jefferson not likely to show on Saturday and players like Jarrett Stidham, Sotonye Jamabo, Chris Warren, Daylon Mack and Kendall Sheffield also holding back. The good news is that some of those players, like Warren, will visit Texas outside of the Junior Day schedule this spring.
But perhaps the better news is that some of those players are headed into Austin this weekend. J.W. Ketchum, DaMarkus Lodge and James Lockhart are all top-20 players in these state, and all are scheduled to make Saturday's festivities. That's especially big for Lockhart, who just received an Alabama offer, and Lodge, who hasn't yet connected with the new staff. Both were close to committing before the staff changes, and both would be major lands if Texas could pull it off.
And the Texas staff did a nice job with out-of-staters and 2016s. Derrius Guice is a top-10 national running back, rated ahead of every Texas back except Jamabo. He's expected to hit Austin a week after Xavier Lewis, a big-time out-of-state corner from Louisiana. John Burt, a Florida wideout with a ton of offers also made it in last weekend.
So while the list hasn't been quite as strong at the top as in recent years, it's probably a bit overkill to say that none of the top players showed up.
Any More Offers Going Out?
Strong put out a bevy of offers at the first Junior Day, flipping Ronnie Major from Baylor, landing Charles Omenihu less than 24 hours later and getting in with Newsome, four-star Rockwall-Heath safety DeShon Elliott, Fort Bend Ridge Point's Jordan Tolbert, Houston Lamar's Holton Hill and 2016 tight end Kaden Smith of Manvel.
Since then, he's made some other offers, including to Newton's Roney Elam. Who on the current Junior Day list is set to get an offer? Conner Dyer would seem to be a likely candidate, especially on the heels of Connor Lanfear's switch to Texas A&M Friday night. Based on that same information, could Tyler Higby receive an offer? The Longhorns have needs on the defensive line and in the defensive backfield, so there could be an offer or two extended there as well. As far as 2016s go, expect Greg Little of Allen to walk out with an offer. He had one from the previous staff, and he's projected to be the state's top offensive tackle for 2016, and likely among the country's best at the position.