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February 6, 2013

Horns class small in numbers, big on talent

The Texas Longhorns' 2013 recruiting class is in the books. It's not a class that's big on numbers, but it is a class that will bring in some top talent at key positions. If things go well, Longhorn fans are hopeful it will be reminiscent of the last time Texas brought in a small class.

The Longhorns signed 15 prospects on Wednesday in a class that ranks No. 23 on the Rivals.com team recruiting ranks. The average star ranking of the Texas signees is an impressive 3.6, which ranks ninth nationally overall.

The Texas class is headlined by an offensive line group that should stack up among the best in all of college football. Texas signed four pure offensive linemen and a fifth player, Jake Raulerson, who is expected to start his career as an interior offensive linemen as well.

The Horns' highest rated signee comes from offensive tackle Kent Perkins. An Army All-American, Perkins is the nation's No. 3-ranked offensive tackle and No. 41-ranked player overall. The Dallas Lake Highlands product is a four-star prospect. Perkins is joined on the Rivals100 by Harker Heights interior offensive line prospect Darius James, an Under Armour All American. Both players committed to the Longhorns very early in the process and neither wavered on his decision despite constant recruiting pressures from other programs in the region.

The Texas offensive line class is filled out by top talents in Desmond Harrison, Jake Raulerson and Rami Hammad. Harrison, out of Contra Costa Community College, makes the second straight year the Longhorns have signed a junior college offensive tackle after signing Donald Hawkins in 2012. Harrison is expected to come in and compete for the starting left tackle job from day one, which was manned by Hawkins last season. Raulerson, an Army All-American, was Texas' first commitment of the 2013 class and was an active recruiter on UT's behalf throughout the process. A Rivals250 member, Raulerson enrolled at Texas in January and will take part in spring football practices when they begin later this month. Currently, he's slated to begin his career at center but he could also help out at defensive end. Hammad was the Longhorns' last commitment along the line, giving Texas his pledge on January 23 after having previously committed to Baylor and Oklahoma State before that.

All of the Longhorns' offensive line signees were highly sought-after. Harrison chose Texas over Oklahoma, USC, Arizona State and Alabama. Perkins and James were heavily recruited by the likes of Oklahoma, LSU and Texas A&M prior to committing to Texas. Raulerson had offers from top programs across the country, including Florida, Ohio State, Texas A&M, Notre Dame and Stanford. Hammad's stock shot through the roof after a strong performance at the Semper Fi game in January, with schools like Oklahoma, LSU and Texas jumping into the mix. He committed to the Longhorns following a visit to Texas on January 18.

The other position of strength in the 2013 class, and an area in which Texas ended with some positive momentum, is at wide receiver. The Longhorns secured early commitments from Jake Oliver and Jacorey Warrick before adding a pledge from Montrel Meander two days before National Signing Day.

In Oliver, a Dallas Jesuit product, Texas collects that talents of a receiver who set the Texas high school career receiving mark in 2012. The Army All-American is a four-star prospect and Rivals250 member. He finished his high school career with a state record 308 receptions, breaking former Longhorn Jordan Shipley's mark. Warrick, out of Houston Cy Falls, committed to Texas in February of 2012 following a junior day visit. An electric playmaker with the ball in his hands, Warrick missed the majority of his senior season after suffering a knee injury but he was recently cleared to resume full workouts.

In Meander, Texas gained the pledge of a receiver who can stretch the field bring some versatility to the Longhorns' new up-tempo offense. Meander had previously committed to Washington State to play defensive back, but a late visit to Amarillo Palo Duro high school by Texas wide receivers coach Darrell Wyatt prompted Meander to take a visit to UT on the weekend before signing day. Roughly 24 hours after returning home, Meander changed his commitment to Texas.

The early highlight of the Longhorns' recruiting haul came when quarterback Tyrone Swoopes gave Texas a pledge in February of 2012. One of the nation's hottest quarterback prospects at the time of his pledge, Swoopes held offers from just about every top major program before giving a commitment to Texas. A dual-threat signal caller and Army All-American, Swoopes battled through some injuries during his senior year and didn't turn in the type of season he was hoping for as his team struggled, but Swoopes' raw physical talents rival those of any quarterback prospect in the 2013 class. Swoopes enrolled in January and will take part in spring football practices.

One of the bigger surprise commitments for the Longhorns happened in June, when JUCO tight end Geoff Swaim was brought in for a summer official visit and committed on the spot. Swaim was an under the radar prospect at the time of his commitment, known mostly for his blocking acumen. A player who can help at tight end or in an H-back role, Swaim is another early enrollee for the Longhorns.

Texas' defensive class is light, with the Longhorns signing two pure defensive backs and two linebackers. Texas did not sign a single defensive linemen, although guys like Raulerson or even Darius James could help on that side of the ball if necessary.

At defensive back, the headliner of this year's class is Army All-American cornerback Antwaun Davis. A speedster out of Bastrop, Davis is one of the state's top overall prospects who brings a blend of physicality and speed to the cornerback position. The Longhorns also signed Cibolo Steele safety Erik Huhn, an ultra-productive safety from one of the state's top football programs. Huhn suffered a knee injury in Steele's first game of the 2012 season, but he's on progress for a full recovery.

At linebacker, the Horns' two-man class consists of Deoundrei Davis and Naashon Hughes. Davis is a Rivals100 member out of Cypress Woods who committed to Texas after a junior day visit last February. An Army All-American and terrific athlete who thrives at making plays in space, Davis is believed to be the type of linebacker that can help the Texas defense against the up-tempo offenses in the Big 12. Davis suffered a knee injury as a senior, forcing him to miss most of the 2012 season. Hughes is the younger brother of Texas 2012 signee Camrhon Hughes. A high school teammate of Darius James', Hughes accepted a full scholarship offer from Texas during his official visit in December.

Several of UT's signees do bring a lot of versatility to the table, with the possibility that they could play on either side of the football. Included in that group is Livingston athlete Chevoski Collins. As of Wednesday morning, the new Longhorn signee said he's still not sure if he'll start his UT career as a defensive back or a wide receiver.

While there are plenty of positives to point out, it wasn't always positive news for the Longhorns along the recruiting trail. Texas suffered several key decommitments that left voids along the defensive line and at running back, and the Horns' missed on a couple key targets late in the process. Five-star defensive tackle A'Shawn Robinson switched his commitment from Texas to Alabama just days before signing day. Former Longhorn pledges Durham Smythe (Notre Dame), Ricky Seals-Jones (Texas A&M), Kyle Hicks (TCU) and Daeshon Hall (Texas A&M) all left voids that Texas was unable to fill. Top target Andrew Billings chose Baylor over Texas and TCU on the eve of signing day.

The 2013 class, on paper, closely resembles the Longhorns' 2005 class, and the Texas coaches are hopeful that it will match that group in terms of overall talent as well. Both groups ranked similarly nationally (No. 20 in 2005, No. 23 in 2013) and both signed 15 players. It remains to be seen how the 2013 group will fare on the field, but the 2005 class produced such key names as Jamal Charles, Quan Cosby, Jermichael Finley, Colt McCoy, Henry Melton, Roy Miller and Roddrick Muckelroy.

If this year's haul is anywhere close to that of the 2005 class, Texas fans will look back at the 2013 group with glowing reviews.


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