Thursday, July 25, 2024

Texas’ 2025 recruiting efforts a bust so far, but experts are wary of counting out Steve Sarkisian’s Longhorns

There were fireworks on the University of Texas campus to begin the month. They just weren’t when Texas fans would have liked.

The Longhorns kicked off their SEC era with a Pitbull concert and a firework show. But they were unable to put on a similarly flashy display on the recruiting trail during Fourth of July weekend, which is one of the most important commitment windows on the recruiting calendar.

Five-star in-state receiver Dakorien Moore, a purported long-time Texas lean? He picked Oregon, which fans saw as a major dagger (Moore would have been UT’s highest-rated wide receiver signee ever). 

Top 100 in-state linebacker target Riley Pettijohn? He landed with Ohio State.

Priority in-state DT target Zion Williams? He’s headed to LSU.

This is not to say there haven’t been wins by Texas, including a July 6 pickup of four-star cornerback Kade Phillips. But those high-profile losses are confusing considering Steve Sarkisian’s Longhorns signed elite classes the last three years, are coming off a season in which it made the College Football Playoff, enjoyed a historic 2024 NFL Draft, plays an SEC schedule this fall and has its quarterback of the future already on campus in Arch Manning. Why is Texas, at No. 22 nationally in the 2025 team rankings and 10th in the SEC, not recruiting better? 

We caught up with Horns247 expert Hank South for the skinny on Texas’ underwhelming recruiting efforts.

Texas is losing NIL battles 

That’s a weird sentence to write, because Texas is arguably the program that benefits the most from NIL in the entire country. The Longhorns have an active collective and have outspent almost everyone the last few seasons in key head-to-head battles.

However, per South, the Longhorns are being more selective in picking their fights from an NIL perspective.

Yes, Moore was a key target. But Texas seemed unwilling to meet the price Oregon paid. That’s not the first time that’s happened this year. Oregon beat out Texas during the transfer portal cycle for Houston DT Jamaree Caldwell, who had been considered a Texas lean at one time. 

In the case of Lockett — and fellow Texan Dorian Brew, who also recently committed to Oregon — South said the Longhorns were being careful with how they allotted their money.

“I don’t want to use NIL as an excuse, because there shouldn’t be any excuse for Texas not to compete in the NIL world,” South said. “But I think a lot of it in terms of the big names they missed on is they weren’t willing to reach numbers these players were trying to get when there are proven players on the roster that aren’t making the same kind of money.”

DT recruiting is an issue

Texas was delt a blow in January when LSU hired defensive line coach Bo Davis away from Austin. The Longhorns hired a fast riser in Kenny Baker to replace him, but Texas’ DT recruiting has been underwhelming — and was before Davis left, too. 

The Longhorns produced a pair of top 40 picks in the 2024 NFL Draft. But they didn’t capitalize on that momentum last cycle, signing only a pair of three-star DTs. The early returns in 2025 have been better with two four-star prospects in the boat, but Texas is still missing out on several top targets during a cycle when they need to load up on big bodies.

The last month has seen five targets (Kevin Wynn, FSU), Myron Charles (FSU), Josiah Sharma (Oregon), Zion Williams (LSU) and Brandon Brown (flipped to LSU) end up elsewhere.

A lack of in-state punch

Sure, Texas is a program capable of recruiting nationally. But the program’s bread and butter on the trail will always be at home. We saw that during the 2024 cycle when Texas signed three of the top 10 players in the state and did the same in 2023.

This year? None of the top 10, of which five are currently committed, are pledged to Texas. Ohio State has two top-10 Texans, Oregon has one, Alabama has one and is the Crystal Ball favorite for another top-10 player, and SMU has one. All 10 players rank among the top-60 nationally. It’s an extremely good year in the state. 

Reason for optimism

It would still be surprising if Texas didn’t end up with a top 10ish class in the 2025 cycle.

At 13 commits, there are many Texas targets on the board to pursue. Three of the top uncommitted players in the state — wide receivers Kaliq Lockett and Michael Terry and offensive tackle Michael Fasusi — are Longhorn leans at the moment. Texas is in the mix for five-star linebacker Jonah Williams, though the Crystal Ball favors Texas A&M and then Oklahoma. The Longhorns could even get good news in the coming days with the nation’s No. 108 player Nick Townsend, a tight end, expected to announce and Texas favored in the 247Sports Crystal Ball.

Worried about Texas missing out on Moore? Lockett is a five-star receiver who could still pick Texas. So could five-star Jacksonville, Florida, wide receiver Jaime Ffrench. Some of that money Texas didn’t spend on Moore can now be allotted to those two.

Texas is also perfectly capable of a flip. Sarkisian is on record as enjoying come-from-behind recruitments. 

“Last July wasn’t great,” South said. “Then once you got to the fall, they got five-star edge Collin Simmons right before the season. They got five-star offensive tackle Brandon Baker. They got five-star wide receiver Ryan Wingo. They started to pick up some momentum with a successful season. They flipped several kids late … so it’s never over till it’s over.

“With every miss they’re shoring up more NIL resources they can go after elsewhere. When it truly comes down to some of these kids making final decisions, I feel like Texas will have a say.” 

It wasn’t the start to July Texas football fans wanted, but there’s still plenty to be optimistic about when it comes to Texas football’s 2025 recruiting efforts. In this subscriber-only article, Horns247 resets the big board after some key misses on the recruiting trail in recent weeks. Horns247 is offering a limited-time special where you can get your first month of access for only $1; additionally, new members and current monthly subscribers who upgrade to an annual subscription get 50% off their first year as a VIP Texas insider

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