Tom Herman’s first recruiting full class in Austin has been praised for a variety of reasons.
The Texas Longhorns finished the 2018 cycle with the nation’s No. 3 class and the top-ranked class in the Big 12. An elite, six-man defensive backs haul often has been the most-praised positional group headed for the Forty Acres, and Texas finished as the only program to sign three of the nation’s top 20 wide receiver prospects, per the 247Sports composite.
However, during a cycle in which Texas was in dire need of talent in the defensive trenches, Texas also inked one of the nation’s most impressive defensive line classes on National Signing Day, as five prospects chose the Longhorns.
Elite Houston Westfield defensive tackle Keondre Coburn is the headliner of the bunch, and quite arguably the most significant addition in Texas’ 2018 class.
After pledging to Texas in August, Coburn elected to bypass the early signing period and entertained interest from Texas A&M and Miami. However, in the end, Coburn stuck with the Longhorns, and in doing so brings the kind of talent to Texas that Herman feels can compete for a starting job as a freshman, as he detailed to Alex Loeb of the Longhorn Network.
“We needed a guy like Poona [Ford] that can be as disruptive in our defense — you’ve got to have great nose guard play,” Herman said. “We feel like Keondre was — is — the best nose guard in the state of Texas and probably in the country. I haven’t watched ’em all, but I would argue that he is, and so he’s going to be counted on to come in and produce for us quite early.”
Herman had similar sentiments for Joseph Ossai, a 4-star weakside defensive end from Conroe (Texas) Oak Ridge.
Long considered a Texas A&M lean, Texas capitalized when the Aggies fired coach Kevin Sumlin. Ossai announced his commitment to Texas on Signing Day, giving the Horns what Herman dubbed as arguably the top edge rusher in the nation after Ossai totaled 25 tackles for loss and 16 1/2 sacks in his last two high school seasons.
“The best pass rusher, probably, in the class. He’s got tremendous length and tremendous explosion — he’s a really, really good athlete,” Herman said of Ossai. “He’s gonna start out at outside linebacker for us.
“You know, he’s a bit thin to play end in our scheme, but we’ll see how he continues to grow. When you see him rush the passer and you see the length and the twitch, as we call it, his explosiveness off the ball, you can see why he was one of the top 100 or 200 players in the country.”
Daniel Carson, however, was not among the top 100 or 200 players in the country, nor was he even among the top 500. A 3-star strongside defensive end at Independence (Mo.) William Chrisman, Carson is ranked as the nation’s No. 537 player and the No. 24 strong-side defensive end, but Herman raved about the 6-foot-5, 260-pound prospect’s frame and upside.
“Really, really big guy. Got a great frame,” Herman said. “He plays big, too, and he’s played on both sides of the football. He’s played at tight end and offensive line, he’s played defense. This is a kid that the sky is the limit because God has blessed him with a tremendous frame, a tremendous amount of athletic ability, and it’s going to be up to him to how he puts it to use and how he gets developed.”
Speaking of development, Baton Rouge (La.) Dunham School athlete Michael Williams has the makings of a special talent once his niche is discovered and he’s properly developed. Often referred to as a “jumbo athlete,” Williams is a 6-2, 260-pound prospect who played quarterback in high school.
In Austin, Williams projects as a defensive end, and Herman said Williams could prove to be an absolute steal.
“I think he’s got a chance to be the sleeper in the class,” Herman said of Williams. “When you watch him, he’s doing things on the field that someone 6-foot-3 and 260 pounds shouldn’t be doing. It’s gonna be exciting to watch his development.”
Much of the same could be said for Moro Ojomo, the fast-rising defensive tackle from Katy, Texas.
Ojomo, just 16, found his stride as a senior to the tune of District 19-6A Defensive MVP honors and an abundance of high-major offers.
“This guy has had the best improvement from junior to senior year I’ve ever seen in recruiting,” Herman said. “He was not a bad player as a junior. He was a good player. As a senior? He was a great player. I mean great player. He was the district MVP on defense, he was a finalist for the Touchdown Club Defensive Player of the Year award. Just the tenacity that he played with and the strength.”
Ojomo doesn’t turn 17 until spring, and if his upward trajectory continues at this pace it’s possible he’ll become the youngest contributor on Texas’ roster in 2018.
Herman’s full Longhorn Network interview with Loeb can be seen below.