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Texas Longhorns offer S Jamile Johnson, JUCO OTs Brandon Hodge, Martinas Rankin
Charlie Strong extends new offers in hopes of expanding 2015 recruiting class.
Taking advantage of a bye week before playing the Kansas Jayhawks, the Texas Longhorns extended three known 2015 offers on Tuesday.
One went out to former Oklahoma commit Jamile Johnson, a consensus three-star safety out of South Oak Cliff. The teammate of Texas running back pledge Jordan Stevenson committed to North Carolina on August 19, two weeks after decommitting from Oklahoma.
The offensive tackle offers both went out to prospects currently playing in Mississippi. Martinas Rankin plays at Mississippi Gulf Coast CC and is considered a consensus three-star prospect, while unranked Brandon Hodge plays for East Mississippi CC.
Texas already has two safety commits in the 2015 class in Converse Judson's Keivon Ramsey and Rockwall-Heath's DeShon Elliott, but Elliott has been talking about taking official visits to other schools and could grow into a linebacker. And the dismissal of redshirt freshman safety Chevoski Collins before the season has also increased need there, which also helps explain the offer to Johnson.
Ranked as the No. 23 safety nationally and the No. 52 player in the state of Texas by 247Sports, Johnson is a 6'0, 188-pounder with the build of a true safety. His strength development is further along than most players of his age, so his size and frame are both impressive.
Like current Texas freshman Jason Hall, Johnson isn't known for his pure speed and opted not to go through testing at the Dallas NFTC this year. However, 247Sports believes that his closing speed is his best attribute, along with his tackling ability and ball skills.
To be sure, Johnson can hit with a great deal of force, aided by his mass and an ability to sink and explode through his hips. Since he also spends some time at cornerback for South Oak Cliff, he has some of the versatility that Hall showed in high school as well.
Playing mostly in off coverage, Johnson consistently makes opponents pay for attempting to completely short passes in front of him. The guess here is that opposing receivers quickly lose the desire to even have those balls thrown in their direction.
Like Elliott, however, Johnson could potentially grow into a linebacker or hybrid defender, though a good playing weight in college for him is probably the 210-pound range. He's also listed at 6'1 and 194 pounds on his 247Sports page, but he measured 6'0 and 188 pounds at the Dallas NFTC, so he's a bit on the short side for a linebacker.
Will Johnson seriously consider the Horns? The proximity to home could weigh in his favor and North Carolina is hardly a recruiting powerhouse, so Strong and his staff should at least have an opportunity to make their pitch to Johnson and the speed with which he schedules a potential visit will provide some indication of his interest level.
Of the two junior-college tackles, Rankin is obviously the more well-known since he's actually rated by the services at this point. A 6'5, 300-pounder, Rankin is the No. 10 junior college offensive tackle nationally and the No. 45 overall junior college recruit, according to the 247Sports Composite rankings.
He currently holds offers from Kentucky, Louisville, Mississippi State, Missouri, Ohio State, Oklahoma, and Ole Miss, among others. The Sooners and Bulldogs are currently thought to be the leaders according to his 247Sports profile, though the Rebels hold all three of his Crystal Ball predictions. He recently took a visit to Norman.
The 6'5, 295-pound Hodges is still seeing his recruitment take off, as his only offers at this time are Georgia State, Texas State, and Western Kentucky, making him the more likely of the two prospects to end up in burnt orange.
The eligibility status of both will be important, too, as enrolling in the spring is much more preferable to a summer enrollment.
It's not exactly a secret that the Horns are struggling to find tackles to contribute and even though there are already several prep high school offensive tackles committed, these offers indicate that offensive line coach Joe Wickline is on the prowl for instant-impact tackles.
Without any film on Hodges and only limited film on Rankin, it's difficult to say if the latter would indeed be a much bigger coup than Hodges or whether Rankin is significantly further ahead in his development. Suffice it to say that landing either would be a significant development for the short-term outlook at the position.
The play on the field hasn't done Texas any favors through three games, so this week provides a major opportunity for the staff to get out, build relationships, and sell the prospect of potential early playing time.
Hopefully the offensive tackles are ready to buy what the staff is selling, an area in which Wickline has already had a tremendous amount of success in a short period of time.
Inside the Numbers: Texas vs. UCLA
The Horns show improvement following the last week's debacle against the Cougars, but it's not enough to take down a Brett Hundley-less Bruins in Jerry World.
4.2 vs. 2.3: Texas offense yards per carry against UCLA vs. against BYU
0 vs. 4: Texas offensive and special teams turnovers against UCLA vs. against BYU
Following a gut wrenching loss like that (seriously, I'm still bummed about it), it's tough to draw clear conclusions about program direction and progress. But the Horns offense, following the disastrous performance against BYU, rebounded in a couple of key areas, notably the running game and turnover department.
On the ground, the Texas offense bumbled to 2.3 yards per carry against the grown BYU front that presented favorable numbers. Against a smaller and quicker UCLA front, offensive coordinator Shawn Watson made a couple of key adjustments (or additions, depending on what stage of installation you'd guess we're at), including attacking the edge with shuttle passes to WRs and swing passes to RBs, and getting the offensive moving quicker with tempo. The results allowed for more rushing lanes for Malcolm Brown (14 carries - 69 yards) and Johnathan Gray (7-49).
And Texas ball carriers kept their defense out of bad spots by holding onto the ball and not committing any turnovers on the night, against the 4 turnovers a week ago. Progress, y'all.
5 - 14: Texas offense third down conversions - attempts
120: Texas' national third down conversion rate, out of 128 teams
One of the largest areas for improvement remains Texas's offense on third down. After last week's 3 of 15 performance, the Horns converted 5 of 14 opportunities. Through 3 games, the Horns' 27% conversion percentage is 120th out of 128 teams nationally.
Often you can pin a poor third down conversion rate on an offense that can't stay ahead of the chains and a QB that can't convert long 3rd conversions consistently, and that's what is happening with the Texas offense. Of the 14 third down opportunities, 9 qualified as third and long, 2 as third and medium, and 3 as third and short. Asking a young QB, regardless of his progress, to convert numerous third and longs to sustain drives isn't a recipe for success.
As the season goes, the Texas offensive line will need to make substantial improvement in consistently creating rushing lanes for early downs, and Shawn Watson will have to find what works for Tyrone moving the chains.
24-34, 196 (5.8), 2-0: Tyrone Swoopes passing completions-attempts, passing yards (yards per attempt), passing TDs-INTs
Another solid performance and upward trending data point for the sophomore QB, this time with a clean record on the turnover stat-line and an additional passing TD. And this week, he showcased a little playmaking ability, extending plays with his legs and making quality intermediate throws. The deep passing game remains absent and will stay that way until the Texas offensive line can pass block for longer than 1 Mississippi. When that happens, then it will be reasonable to expect his sub-6.0 yards per attempt number to improve.
With the bye week approaching, Shawn Watson will continue to add more to Swoopes's plate. The post/bubble screen combo added this week worked on several occasions, and was the Horns best option at stressing the UCLA defense vertically.
The biggest thing I'd like to see from Swoopes is him realizing he's 6'4" and 245 lbs. In the pocket as a passer, he doesn't need to take deep drops to find passing lanes. As a runner, remembering that he's no longer 220 lbs and quicker than everyone else on the field. He often finds himself scrambling because his drops take him directly in the path of pass rushers that have blown past Texas's offensive tackles. And when on the run, he gives the defense time to recover by needlessly breaking down to try and juke tacklers. As he gets more comfortable on the field, I expect to see him stand tall in the pocket, move up to avoid pressure, and be more decisive in plugging forward to gain a few yards.
9 - 65 - 0: Jaxon Shipley receptions - receiving yards - receiving TDs
4 - 60 - 1: John Harris receptions - receiving yards - receiving TDs
Jaxon Shipley joined John Harris on the same page as Tyrone Swoopes this week, snagging 9 passes and moving to 5th all time on the Texas receptions list. Harris posted another strong night, including the leaping 4th down grab in the first half to set up the first Texas TD and the go-ahead TD late in the game. And again, Harris had a notable miscue, dropping a ball straight to his chest as the Horns tried to mount a final comeback. This offense needs every break it can get, and the two senior WRs need to take advantage of every opportunity afforded them.
11 - 2: Jordan Hicks tackles - tackles for loss
10: Duke Thomas tackles
7 - 3 - 1: Malcom Brown tackles - tackles for loss - sacks
While the Texas defense as a whole didn't capitalize on the Brett Hundley injury by clamping down on the UCLA offense (81 plays for 443 yards, 5.5 yards per play), several Horns posted notable performances. Jordan Hicks redeemed a whiffed tackle that led to the UCLA TD to kick off the second half, but was all over the field otherwise, leading the team with 11 tackles and 2 for a loss (the official box score shows him having 18 total tackles, which sounds too absurd to be true).
Duke Thomas had a strong outting in coverage and in run support, posting 10 tackles of his own, put will best be known for getting beat deep on the game winning UCLA TD off a double move. Duke is shades of Chykie Brown in that regard.
And Malcom Brown continued to stomp along in his All American campaign, racking up 3 TFLs and a sack, and completely dominating the game for stretches. This is your weekly reminder to enjoy him now, because he'll be playing on Sundays next season.
50.5: Will Russ yards per punt
If there was a bright spot for the dreadful Texas special teams, it was Will Russ's leg. The punter boomed kicks of 58 yards, 58 yards, and 62 yards on the night, including 3 inside the 20. We'll take any good performances from the specialists, though ask him not to outkick a generally porous coverage unit with the game on the line.