Texas making a late roundup of high school stars

Posted Monday, Jan. 30, 2012  comments  Print Reprints

Johnathan Gray, RB, Aledo: Broke nearly every Texas high school rushing record and helped Aledo to three straight state titles.

Malcolm Brown, DT, Brenham: During a game this season, the 6-foot-2, 280 pound four-year starter posted three sacks, forced and recovered a fumble, blocked a PAT and had a 50-yard TD reception.

Cayleb Jones, WR, Austin High: Finished fifth in state history in career receptions and 20th all-time in career receiving yards.

Kennedy Estelle, OL, Pearland Dawson: The 6-foot-7, 300-pound tackle was named an Under Armour All-American and Texas Sports Writers Association Class 5A All-State.

Connor Brewer, QB, Scottsdale, Ariz.: Passed for 7,600 yards and 100 touchdowns in three varsity seasons.

Which area school has earned Signing Day bragging rights?

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You've got to give it to Mack Brown.

The man from Tennessee who made a name for himself on Tobacco Road is one heck of a recruiter.

He knows when to sell his program and knows when to let it sell itself.

But during this recruiting cycle, Texas' coach has taken somewhat of a different approach to locking up the nation's top players.

The Longhorns have a commitment from Scottsdale, Ariz., quarterback Connor Brewer, which marks the first time since signing Chris Simms (New Jersey) in 1999 they've looked out of state for a quarterback.

They inked two junior college players in the December signing period, which they haven't done since the 2001 signing class.

And in the last two months, Texas has picked up commitments from six players, the latest it has secured so many pledges during the Mack Brown era.

"If you are Mack Brown, who is making $5 million a year, you've got to get back to that 10 wins per year bar that was set four or five years ago," ESPN HornsNation.com recruiting analyst William Wilkerson said.

"I don't think Texas has had the kind of talent [recently that] they had over that span."

Brown and his staff certainly stocked up on talent in the 2012 class.

Texas went three-for-three on late commitments in the last three days as Van linebacker Dalton Santos, the nation's No. 1 inside linebacker, switched from Tennessee and Pflugerville Hendrickson athlete Daje Johnson, the state's top-rated all-purpose back, switched from TCU.

On Monday, Plano West linebacker Bryce Cotrell, who joined Santos and Johnson as the Longhorns' three official visitors over the weekend, switched from Oregon to Texas.

Texas has filled a class that includes two five-star and 14 four-star recruits, according to Rivals.com.

"The advantage to that is sometimes after your season you can evaluate what positions you need or what guys won't be back," said Mike Farrell, a Rivals national recruiting analyst.

"If your class is already done by May, you don't have room to do that."

Rivals recruiting analyst Brian Perroni said Texas has done a better job of fully evaluating players before extending an offer.

"They did have their two junior days in February [2011] where they filled up with quite a few kids but I think they purposefully left some scholarships open and that probably has a lot to do with the new staff and coordinators asking for that.

"In the past, Texas has done these things so early and filled up that they wouldn't have room for these late-bloomers."

The Longhorns have commitments from eight of the state's top 15 recruits and 11 of ESPNU's Top 150 prospects.

The rest of the 2012 Big 12 members have 11 ESPNU 150 members combined.

Rivals and ESPNU rate Texas' class as No. 2 overall behind Alabama.

The Longhorns also cleaned up with their early commitments.

There's Aledo running back Johnathan Gray, who etched his name into Texas high school football lore with a record-breaking career.

There's also Malcolm Brown, a defensive tackle from Brenham, and Cayleb Jones, a receiver from Austin High, both of whom turned down overtures from Alabama, Oklahoma and USC.

Throw in Mansfield defensive end Hassan Ridgeway, who showed out at the U.S. Army All-American Game, as well as the state's top offensive linemen in Pearland Dawson's Kennedy Estelle and DeSoto's Curtis Riser, both of whom could compete for playing time next season, and Texas might have locked up its best group of players since the 2002 class, when they nabbed Vince Young and five other five-star players.

Matthew Reagan


Twitter: @reaganmatthew

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