National Signing Day: Ranking the recruiting classes in Texas

DCTF managing editor Greg Tepper ranks the recruiting classes for the 12 FBS teams in the Lone Star State.

The dust has settled on National Signing Day — recruiting’s biggest day of the year — and fans across the state of Texas are relishing in their favorite team’s haul.

But who fared the best in the 2017 signing class? Dave Campbell’s Texas Football managing editor Greg Tepper offers his thoughts on the recruiting classes for the 12 FBS teams in Texas.

No. 12: UTEP
Star of the Class: RB Joshua Fields (El Paso Americas)
Sleeper of the Class: DT Trace Mascorro (Refugio)
Sean Kugler’s commitment to recruiting locally in the Sun City showed in this class, signing four El Paso kids headlined by Fields, one of the area’s most talented offensive weapons. The Miners pretty clearly targeted players who were prolific in high school that may not have received the recruiting attention their numbers would usually dictate — guys like Austin Vandegrift QB Alex Fernandes, who sparkled for the Vipers; or Refugio LB Kobie Herring, the son of RHS coach Jason Herring that helped bring the Bobcats a title this year. Overall, this class won’t move the needle nationally, but they have a couple of signees that could blossom into bona fide stars.

No. 11: Rice
Star of the Class: CB George Nyakwol (Aldine Eisenhower)
Sleeper of the Class: TE Jaeger Bull (CC Flour Bluff)
It bears mentioning every year: Rice’s strict academic standards make recruiting especially difficult for the Owls every year. Still, this is a promising class that’s heavy in the secondary — Eisenhower’s Nyakwol is a local steal, and Cy Ridge’s Tyrae Thornton and Richmond Foster’s Isaiah Richardson have high ceilings. It’s a very local class as well, with David Bailiff opting to stay close to the Houston area. The exception is Plano East’s Miklo Smalls, who played quarterback for the Panthers but is athletic enough to play receiver, running back or even defense. Rice fans should be pleased with this haul.

No. 10: Texas State
Star of the Class: ATH Jaylin Nelson (Duncanville)
Sleeper of the Class: CB Caleb Twyford (Farmersville)
Everett Withers’ first full recruiting cycle has a special emphasis on versatility. Nelson, a former DeSoto QB who transferred to Duncanville, could stick at QB, or not. Same with Corsicana’s Kishawn Kelley and Lufkin’s Kordell Rodgers — high school quarterbacks with tremendous football IQs that could play almost anywhere on the field. There’s some top-end talent in the defensive ranks heading to San Marcos, led by Galena Park North Shore CB Kieston Roach. Watch out for DT Gjemar Daniels out of Kennedale; he was overshadowed by blue chipper Baron Browning all year on his own team, but he’s a steal for the Bobcats.

No. 9: North Texas
Star of the Class: WR Jalen Guyton (Trinity Valley CC)
Sleeper of the Class: DT Dion Novil (Abilene Wylie)
This was Seth Littrell’s first chance to put his stamp on the style of play he wants in Denton, and it’s evident here: big on wide receivers, and big on defensive speed. The star of the receiver-heavy class is Guyton, the former Allen standout who washed out at Notre Dame before reestablishing his career in the junior college ranks; he immediately becomes the best receiver on UNT’s campus. Littrell stayed local to nam Denton Ryan’s Tyreke Davis, a 1,000-yard rusher for the Raiders last year who could move around the field. The defense has some burners, including Houston Heights CB Cameron Johnson and Tyler Lee safety Makyle Sanders, but make no mistake: this class is about Littrell’s offense getting some new toys.

No. 8: SMU
Star of the Class: OL Alan Ali (Keller Timber Creek)
Sleeper of the Class: S Ar’mani Johnson (Fort Bend Ridge Point)
Make it 63 in a row — SMU has signed 63 high school players in three classes under former Texas high school football coach Chad Morris, and all 63 are TXHSFB products. This time around, the Ponies went to metro areas for beef — Ali from the DFW area, OL Matthew Huhn from San Antonio Jay, center Hayden Howerton from Houston area power Katy, DL Turner Coxe from down the street in Highland Park — and went East for speed — massively underrated WR Judah Bell from Tyler TK Gorman and playmaking ATH Kayce Medlock from Arp, not to mention Terrell ATH Elijah McQueen. Watch out for Friendswood’s Tyler Page — we don’t know where he’ll play, but he’s too dynamic to keep on the sidelines for long.

No. 7: UTSA
Star of the Class: CB Tay’lor Perry (Crosby)
Sleeper of the Class: ATH Dadrian Taylor (Shiner)
Frank Wilson was brought in from LSU based largely on his reputation as a recruiting ace, and that showed in his first full class, undoubtedly the best class in UTSA’s young history. The Roadrunners pounded the local pavement, signing some of San Antonio and south Texas’ brightest stars, including Schertz Clemens star QB Frank Harris and Shiner’s Taylor, who was brilliant for the Comanches for four full seasons. The defense got an upgrade here, led by a pair of corners in Samuel Barnes from Richmond George Ranch and Crosby’s Perry. Also of note: the Roadrunners signed three tight ends, including Victoria East’s Chance McLeod. Needless to say, the first year under Frank Wilson — from the program’s first bowl berth to this class — has been a rousing success.

No. 6: Houston
Star of the Class: LB Amaud Willis-Dalton (Cy Ranch)
Sleeper of the Class: TE Parker Eichenberger (Katy)
When Tom Herman bolted Houston to take over at Texas, new coach Major Applewhite was charged with holding together a strong core of commitments. On the whole, he succeeded. The defense is what stands out in this class, led by sensational LB Willis-Dalton, who could be the next in a long line of breakout Coog linebackers. It’s also heavy on edge rushers, with DE Noah Jones from Lancaster and Louisianan Bryan Jones poised to join a loaded defensive front. How history views this offensive crop will largely hinge on John Tyler QB Bryson Smith, but if he’s anything like the last John Tyler quarterback to go to Houston — that would be Greg Ward Jr. — he’ll do just fine. It may be a transitional class, but there’s plenty for Coog fans to be excited about.

No. 5: Texas Tech
Star of the Class: OL Jack Anderson (Frisco)
Sleeper of the Class: LB Dakota Allen (East Mississippi CC)
There were two clear goals for the Red Raiders in this class: get bigger and get older. They accomplished both. First, the size — this may be the state’s best offensive line crop, featuring a pair of Frisco standouts in Anderson and center Dawson Deaton (who will need to adjust from running the Flexbone offense at FHS to Tech’s Air Raid) and Fort Bend Travis guard Will Farrar. Then, the age — Tech signed nine junior college players in this class. All eyes will be on QB McLane Carter, who guided Gilmer to a title in 2014, but watch out for the linebacker Allen out of East Mississippi Community College (of Last Chance U fame); he was a dynamo for Humble Summer Creek in 2014 and could make an immediate impact on the defense. The future of the program may rest with QB Xavier Martin, a dual-threat game-breaker who guided Cibolo Steele to a title game.

No. 4: Baylor
Star of the Class: OL Xavier Newman (DeSoto)
Sleeper of the Class: RB Abram Smith (Abilene)
When Matt Rhule arrived at Baylor eight weeks before National Signing Day, the Bears had one commitment (Stafford safety Jalen Pitre). Eight weeks later, BU signed a full class of 27. Grading on a curve, that’s the most impressive recruiting job in the nation, bar none. And while college football is not graded on a curve, and this class represents a noticeable half-step back from the halcyon recruiting days of Art Briles, this is still a good-to-very good class. Playmakers abound for the Bears, led by Justin Northwest WR Gavin Holmes and Henderson ATH Trestan Ebner, both of whom possess game-breaking speed. Cy Ranch WR RJ Sneed may be the name that splashes earliest, since he’s probably the class’ most polished prospect. The defense is largely buoyed by out-of-state players like LB DeMarco Artis out of Florida, but a pair of central Texans — College Station CB Timarcus Davis and Round Rock DT James Lynch — give the defense a Texas flair. Two inexplicably under-recruited skill players in Lake Travis QB Charlie Brewer and Abilene’s star runner Smith round out a successful first class for Rhule and the Bears.

No. 3: TCU
Star of the Class: WR Jalen Reagor (Waxahachie)
Sleeper of the Class: ATH Lakendrick Van Zandt (Henderson)
While smaller than last year’s, this may be Gary Patterson’s most splash-worthy class since he arrived in Fort Worth…and that’s saying something. It starts with undeniably the best crop of wide receivers in the state, with Waxahachie duo Reagor and Kenedy Snell and Lancaster’s Omar Manning — that’s arguably three of the five best receivers in Texas in the Class of 2017. A lot of the class’ perception will depend on QB Shawn Robinson, who overcame a lackluster junior year at (and transfer from) Denton Guyer to guide DeSoto to its first state championship. Robinson is a bit of a recruiting lightning rod, but if he reaches his potential, he could push this class into the stratosphere. Defensively, Katy DT Corey Bethley’s late addition gave the Frogs some star power, and Clear Creek CB Noah Daniels could see the field early. Watch out for Henderson’s Van Zandt — this guy is a home run hitter wherever he is positioned on the field.

No. 2: Texas
Star of the Class: QB Sam Ehlinger (Austin Westlake)
Sleeper of the Class: TE Cade Brewer (Lake Travis)
As far as “transitional classes” are concerned, it’s hard to do much better than Texas did. Largely recruited by Charlie Strong, Tom Herman held it all together and added a few late pieces to put together one of the state’s strongest classes. As it always seems to be, the focus in Austin is on the QB — this time Ehlinger, who battled through an injury-plagued senior season to round out what was a remarkable high school career. He’s arguably the state’s best signal-caller. But the more exciting part of this class is the running backs — Langham Creek’s Toneil Carter is a touchdown waiting to happen, and Spring Westfield’s Daniel Young is bafflingly underrated after a great high school career. The defense loads up with monstrous edge-rusher Taquon Graham out of Temple and late-riser Josh Thompson out of Nacogdoches at cornerback. The name to remember here is Montrell Estell — Hooks has a history of putting out superstars (Billy Sims, Jeremiah Trotter), and Estell could be the next in line.

No. 1: Texas A&M
Star of the Class: LB Anthony Hines (Plano East)
Sleeper of the Class: CB Devin Morris (Caldwell)
It’s an embarrassment of riches for the Aggies in the 2017 class, with seemingly no weak points at any position. Defensive front seven? The Aggies nabbed Plano East’s Hines, one of the most highly recruited defenders in state history, and Houston Bellaire DT Jayden Peevy, a bruiser in the middle. Secondary? A&M got Manvel safety Derrick Tucker — at worst the second-best in the state — and sleeper CB Morris from the small-school ranks. Quarterback? Former San Antonio Reagan star Kellen Mond is heading to College Station, as is towering Pearland signal-caller Connor Blumrick. Weapons? Ex-Houston St. Thomas sensation Jhamon Ausbon is in the mix, as is Stafford’s Hezekiah Jones, as is Mr. Texas Football himself Roshauud Paul, fresh off a 47-0 starting quarterback career at Bremond. Offensive line? There’s mammoth Cy Creek tackle Grayson Reed and underrated Beaumont West Brook guard Dan Moore. For no less than the fourth time in his six classes at Texas A&M, Kevin Sumlin brought to College Station the state’s most loaded class. Now, can he turn his dominance on the recruiting trail into dominance on the field?

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