Texas signed 22 players on Dec. 19. Nine of those prospects are set to enroll early, giving each a head start on their individual quest for early playing time. The three highest-ranked recruits in the class, as well as two defenders from the JUCO ranks, should demand early playing time. Enrolling early is the new trend in recruiting. It allows the players to take part in offseason activities, including spring practice and the Orange-White game.
Texas needs a handful of these prospects to contribute in their first year. Here is an early outlook of the expectations for each one.
Tyler Johnson, offensive tackle. Conroe Oak Ridge
FYI: 6-5/308; 4 stars; No. 5 on the 2019 Fabulous 55
Projection: Offensive linemen tend to need a redshirt season before contributing for snaps. Even a guy like Sam Cosmi was afforded that luxury after signing in 2017, and he’s now lapped fellow 2017 signee Derek Kerstetter, who was forced into action early. Johnson might be the exception to the rule. Cosmi is expected to transition to left tackle and take over for the departing Calvin Anderson. Johnson is in the mix to start at right tackle if none of the players currently on the roster take a step forward.
Johnson is the best prospect Herman has signed at tackle in his three years recruiting at Texas. Johnson is a legit bookend tackle with strength, athleticism and a mean streak. Like all teenagers, he’ll need to add strength. That’s where enrolling early and getting an extra six months with Yancy McKnight might be the thing that gets him on the field as a freshman.
Jordan Whittington, wide receiver, Cuero
FYI: 6-foot-1/198; 4 stars; No. 6 on Fab 55
Projection: Whittington’s role likely grew this week when Lil’Jordan Humphrey announced his intentions to enter the NFL draft. Whittington doesn’t possess Humphrey’s height, but he does bring that running back mentality to the wide receiver position that made Humphrey such a weapon after the catch. Whittingon played everywhere for Cuero, scoring six touchdowns and breaking the state championship rushing record in December. He wants to play some at slot. Some at running back. Some at Wildcat. Sound familiar to Humphrey?
De’Gabriel Floyd, inside linebacker, Westlake Village (Calif.)
FYI: 6-2/245; 4 stars; No. 4-ranked inside linebacker in 2019 class
Projection: Texas is set to lose both Gary Johnson and Anthony Wheeler. That leaves a void in the middle of the defense and Floyd is expected to fill one of those spots. He’s a truly elite prospect who’s starting his UT career with similar hype and expectations to Malik Jefferson. The Longhorns need him to make a difference as a freshman and that’s one of the main reasons he left California for Austin.
Roschon Johnson, quarterback, Port Neches-Groves
FYI: 6-foot-1/192; 4 stars; No. 27 on Fab 55
Projection: Johnson won’t be needed in 2019 unless a rash of injuries or transfers take place before next season. That’s a good thing. He can develop behind Sam Ehlinger and be ready to become the future of the program in two years. The dual-threat was the first commitment of the 2019 class. He broke records at Port Neches-Groves and looked good at the Under Armour All-American Game last week in Orlando.
Marcus Tillman Jr., outside linebacker, Orlando Jones
FYI: 6-foot-1/220; 3 stars; No. 22-ranked outside linebacker
Projection: Tillman won’t arrive with the fanfare of Floyd, but he’s just as important with the Longhorns losing both starting linebackers. Tillman needs to provide depth at multiple positions as a freshman and he’ll get his feet wet in the spring. He’s not as big as Floyd, but he can get sideline-to-sideline and defensive coordinator Todd Orlando loves athletic linebackers who can tackle and play in space. Tillman could end up being the unsung hero of the class if he makes a strong impression early.
Jacoby Jones, defensive end, Butler C.C. (Kan.)
FYI: 6-4/250; 3 stars; No. 2-ranked JUCO defensive end
Projection: Jones was an important signee for two reasons. The one-time Oklahoma commit gave the Longhorns a head-to-head win over the Sooners on the recruiting trail and gave Texas an option at defensive end. Texas loses all three of its starters on the defensive line and Jones needs to be in the rotation in 2019. He’s a big-bodied prospect in the mold of Charles Omenihu.
Caleb Johnson, outside linebacker, Fullerton College (Calif.)
FYI: 6-1/215; 3 stars; No. 3-ranked JUCO outside linebacker
Projection: Johnson is another linebacker Texas adds to the mix. He’s listed as an outside linebacker, but he’s strong enough to play Rover in Texas’ system. His year at the JUCO level should help him with the transition, as will enrolling early. Johnson is an elite athlete who can run sideline-to-sideline and could become a real weapon as an edge rusher at the B-Backer position.
Peter Mpagi, defensive end, George Ranch
FYI: 6-4.5/224; 3 stars; No. 50-ranked weak-side defensive end
Projection: No one in the 2019 class wanted to be a Longhorn more than Mpagi. He grew up a massive fan of Texas and attended a summer camp prior to his senior season hoping for an offer. He got it and committed shortly after. He’s a raw athlete who must become more consistent to earn playing snaps as a freshman. His route to playing time is likely similar to Joesph Ossai, who fought his way onto the field on passing downs as the season progressed.
Jared Wiley, tight end, Temple
FYI: 6-6/225; 3 stars; No. 41-ranked tight end
Projection: Texas does lose Andrew Beck to graduation and needs help at tight end. It’s hard to imagine Wiley becoming one of the top two targets as a freshman because of the physical and mental demands it takes at the position. He spent his senior season at quarterback. He’s played tight end in the past and is big enough to become an option as an in-line blocker early in his career.