Texas is just 13 days away from its biggest postseason appearance in nearly a decade, but head coach Tom Herman and his staff were fixated on the long term Wednesday as 21 future Longhorn players put pen to paper, signing their National Letters of Intent.
The early signing class ranks as the number two group in the Big 12 and ninth in the nation, according to 247Sports’ composite rankings. Twelve in the class are pinned as four-star recruits, with four of them ranked in the top 100, while the remaining nine are three-stars.
The early signing period continues through Friday, but Herman was quick to express his excitement after securing the bulk of his incoming group in the opening hours of Wednesday morning.
"There’s not a head coach in America that stands up on signing day and says, ‘You know, we’re really disappointed,’ but it’s nice that I can tell you how excited we are and have it really resonate,” Herman said. “We signed 21 guys that are, without question, culture fits in our program with great support systems, great families and guys that are tremendous players.”
Among the top recruits in the class is Oak Ridge offensive tackle Tyler Johnson, one of 10 members from the state of Texas. Johnson, the highest graded player in Texas’ early signing period, joins a group of offensive linemen likely to see a shift in the offseason with the departure of three big contributors in Patrick Vahe, Elijah Rodriguez and Calvin Anderson.
“Tyler Johnson — a super nice kid off the field, but tremendous amount of nastiness when you turn the film on,” Herman said. “I think he's a lot bigger than maybe some of the other offensive linemen that we've signed in the past in terms of coming out of high school. He'll be here in January, so we're hoping that he's got an opportunity to play early. He's very versatile, too. Could probably play all three positions: tackle, guard or center.”
Joining Tyler Johnson are wide receivers Jordan Whittington of Cuero and Jake Smith of Notre Dame Preparatory, both of whom are also ranked among the top 100 players nationally. Whittington and Smith headline the list of Texas’ four incoming receivers in the 2019 class.
Some dreams just don’t change https://t.co/dix0Uk7AJ8— Jordan Whittington (@J_Whitt3) December 19, 2018
With wide receivers Collin Johnson and Lil’Jordan Humphrey still considering jumps to the NFL this spring, Whittington, Smith and fellow wideouts Marcus Washington of Trinity Catholic and Kennedy Lewis of Melissa could be in line for plenty of reps in practice during the offseason.
“Jake Smith, the numbers speak for themselves,” Herman said. “He's a Gatorade National Offensive Player of the Year. He can do everything: run it, catch it, return it, play DB. I'm sure he could drive the bus to the away games if you needed him to.”
“Jordan Whittington is still playing for a state championship,” Herman said. “Extremely versatile. Plays wide receiver, safety, kick returner, wildcat quarterback. The possibilities are endless when it comes to him and his usage on our football team.”
In addition to the wide receivers on the way, Herman’s staff also signed four defensive linemen and four linebackers, giving the Longhorns a total of 12 new players across the three positions that Herman called his biggest focuses.
After Texas finalizes its season at the Sugar Bowl, it will have plenty of holes to fill along the front seven, with all three starters on the defensive line having graduated in December and two starting linebackers having used their final year of eligibility this season.
Herman’s new crop of linebackers consists of three incoming freshmen led by Westlake Village’s De’Gabriel Floyd — the third-ranked inside linebacker in the country — and Caleb Johnson, the third-ranked JUCO product at outside linebacker, both of whom will have an opportunity to make an immediate impact this spring after deciding to enroll early.
“Gabe (Floyd), he's everything you want in a linebacker,” Herman said. “He's readymade as a high school kid. He can run, hit. He was actually a punt returner for his team, as well. Remarkable, big athlete.”
“When you look at this class of linebackers, and linebackers was obviously a position of need for us, they can all really run and Caleb is very similar to Gary Johnson in my opinion, a guy that is going to come in and compete in January for early playing time,” Herman said.
Floyd and Caleb Johnson are among nine players electing to enroll early, meaning they’ll begin classes at the start of the upcoming semester which gives them additional time to practice with the team before the start of the 2019 season.
On top of the 21 players who joined the Longhorns on Wednesday, the program could potentially sign one or two more players before the end of the early signing period, Herman said. The second-year head coach indicated that up to five or six more players in all could be signed between now and the end of the regular signing period which runs from Feb. 6 to April 1.
“We’re not done yet. We still probably have about five or six scholarships that we’ll probably sign,” Herman said. “We’re not going to sign guys just to sign guys, but if the right guys are available then we’ll certainly do that.”
For more on the full list from Wednesday’s signing class, visit The Daily Texan’s coverage of all 21 incoming Longhorns.