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Recapping the #trUTh21 Signees on NSD1

Tristan Larsen

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Photo: Greg Hammer for HornSports

The Texas Longhorns are once again a top-20 overall class in the nation as they entered today with the 17th ranked class via 247Sports. The Longhorns lost some commitments along the way, most notably five-star athlete Billy Bowman, but they gained some elite players recently as well.

Headed into the day, Texas had 18 hard commits for the class of 2021. They had a couple of welcome surprises today, as they added a graduate transfer and another player that was previously uncommitted.  Below is a recap of the 19 athletes who signed with the Longhorns on National Signing Day 1.


Charles Wright – Austin High – Three-star – Quinn Ewers, the best player in the class of 2022, committed to Texas a few months back. That resulted in 2021 Texas commit Jalen Milroe to flip to Alabama. Ewers later de-committed, leaving a gaping hole at quarterback for the future classes of Texas. Charles Wright a native Austinite, has filled that hole.

Wright is a three-star quarterback, via the 247Sports composite Wright is the 33rd ranked pro-style quarterback in the 2021 class. The 6’1 quarterback has improved his play in each and every season. In his senior year, he posted career highs in yards per game (306.6) touchdowns (32), and quarterback rating (108.1.)

Wright plans to enroll in January and learn behind Hudson Card and Casey Thompson.

Running Back

Jonathan Brooks – Hallettsville – Three-star – If you thought Wright was having a great senior year, then take a look at Hallettsville’s Jonathon Brooks. The 24th ranked running back in the class of 2021 is having a record-setting senior season.

In the Class 3A D1 regional semifinals matchup against Lorena, Brooks ran for a school-record 501 yards and nine touchdowns in the 61-48 victory. Hallettsville due to Brooks’ abilities now finds themselves in the 3A D1 state championship game at AT&T Stadium.

Brooks, in the state semifinals, ran for 304 yards, six touchdowns, and also had two interceptions. He is now over the 3,000-yard mark this season with still one game to go. Brooks has all the momentum in the world and will now be running toward Austin to play on the 40 Acres. 

Wide Receiver

Jaden Alexis – Monarch (Florida) – Four-star – One of five out-of-state commits for Texas’s class of 2021 is four-star wideout, Jaden Alexis. Alexis hails from Pompano Beach, Florida, and is a 5’11 185-pound speedster. He is projected to be the next great slot receiver on the team.

Alexis is the son of a former NFL running back, Rich Alexis, who played for Jacksonville, Seattle, and St. Louis. In 2019, Alexis hauled in 49 receptions for 894 yards with eight touchdowns as he was a first-team all-district selection.

The speedy wide receiver is expected to enroll early in January. He’ll likely sit behind Jake Smith and Jordan Whittington his first season. But when it’s his time to shine, expect some big-play magic.

Casey Cain – Warren Easton (Louisiana) – Three-star – Texas was one of only three power-five programs to throw an offer at Casey Cain. The 6’2 wide receiver is ranked as the 151st wide receiver in the class of 2021 but don’t sleep on his potential and talent.

Cain and Warren Easton will meet Edna Karr in the Class 4A State Championship game this season for the third year in a row. The first two meetings went to Edna Karr, but Cain looks to end his Warren Easton career on top with a state title to his name.

Cain joins Barryn Sorrell as one of two Louisiana prospects to commit to Texas’s 2021 class. Expect him to make an impact outside the numbers when his time finally comes.

Tight End

Gunnar Helm – Cherry Creek (Colorado) – Three-star – Juan Davis is committed to the 2021 class and is expected to transition to a tight end, yet, the only true tight end in this year’s Texas class is Gunnar Helm of Cherry Creek High School in Englewood, Colorado.

Helm is a 6’5 225-pound three-star tight end. He ranks as the 33rd best tight end in the class of 2021 via the 247Sports Composite and is overall the fifth-ranked player in the state of Colorado.

Helm will also fill the hole of Landen King who originally committed to Texas back in April but a month later de-committed in favor of Auburn. Helm as a junior last season, en route to winning a state championship, hauled in 25 receptions for 370 yards and eight touchdowns.

He has experience lining up outside as a wide receiver yet is also an outstanding run-blocker. He’s a guy who can completely change the Texas offense for years to come if he continues to develop a diverse route tree. Helm will be an early enrollee and will face stiff competition to see the field immediately but will make an impact once his time arrives.

Offensive Line

Hayden Conner – Katy Taylor – Three-star – One of the original 2021 commits, Hayden Conner has officially signed with Texas. Conner committed back in July of 2019 and has stayed true to his commitment for the duration.

The three-star tackle is also expected to be an early enrollee to Texas’s aerospace engineering program this coming January. The 6’6 320-pound tackle was a four-year starter at Katy Taylor and one of the best offensive lineman in the state of Texas. He’s ranked as the 30th best tackle in the country for the class of 2021.

Conner is talented enough to receive playing time as a true freshman. While it’s expected that Christian Jones and Andrej Karic will be the starters next season, Conner, with a full spring practice could fight his way up the depth chart.

With Samuel Cosmi deciding to enter the NFL draft, it opens up a need for depth at the tackle position. A position that Conner can fill with ease.

Max Merril – Strake Jesuit – Three-star – The only other offensive lineman Texas received a commitment from was Strake Jesuit’s, Max Merril. The 6’4 left tackle committed near the end of September.

Merril is seen as the 95th ranked offensive tackle in the entire 2021 class via the 247Sports Composite. He started at left tackle as a junior and helped Jesuit reach a 10-3 record. This season, Jesuit struggled as they went 4-6, yet Merril was still as dominant as ever at the left tackle position.

Like Conner, Merril will provide great depth at the tackle position moving forward with the loss of Cosmi and potentially Derek Kerstetter.


Ja’Tavion Sanders – Denton Ryan – Five-star- Like Bijan Robinson a year ago, Sanders is the top prize of the year’s class. Despite his Denton Ryan teammate Billy Bowman de-committing and signing with Oklahoma instead, Sanders is staying with Texas.

The lone five-star talent in this year’s class for Texas is the 21st ranked player overall in the nation and the number one ranked athlete in the nation via the 247Sports Composite. What can you say about Sanders other than he can literally do it all?

He splits time at powerhouse Ryan playing defensive end and wide receiver. In 2020 he’s having his best wide receiver year as he’s caught 35 passes for 658 yards and a career-high 11 touchdowns. Coming into 2020 Sanders had totaled 20.5 sacks, 43 tackles for a loss, nine passes defended, and a pair of forced fumbles as well.

As a sophomore, he was the Defensive Newcomer of the Year for his district. He parlayed that into a first-team all-district selection last year. Sanders was recently announced as the cover boy to the 2020 edition of Dave Campbell’s Texas Football Rising Magazine. He and Ryan are the favorites to win the 5A D1 state championship after falling short in the title game one year ago.

Juan Davis – Everman – Three-star – Like Sanders for Ryan, Juan Davis does everything for Everman. Davis has taken snaps at wide receiver, running back, and quarterback over the years for Everman. In 2018 he was a first-team all-district selection as a wide-out before making the transition to quarterback in 2019. He’s expected to develop into a tight end at Texas.

In 2020, Everman is having it’s greatest season since Davis has been there. The team is 6-5 and currently in the area round of the 5A D2 playoffs where they have a date with undefeated Lovejoy.

Davis in his Everman career has eclipsed the 500-yard mark in passing, rushing, and receiving. A true triple-threat. When I talked to him back in the summer he had the perfect quote to summarize what Texas fans can expect from him. 

“When Juan Davis hits the field, it’s showtime!”

Defensive Line

Derrick Harris Jr. – New Caney – Four-star – Another early enrollee in the class of 2021 is Derrick Harris Jr. out of New Caney. Unfortunately, Harris missed his entire senior season due to a leg injury and still won’t be fully healthy in time for spring practice.

Harris has experience at outside linebacker and defensive end in high school. He’s a bit on the slender side and will have to make up the weight once he’s fully rehabbed but he lives in the opposition’s backfield.

Harris is ranked as the 19th weak-side defensive end in the nation for the class of 2021 via the 247Sports Composite. In his New Caney career, he racked up eight and a half sacks, 13 passes defended, 38.5 tackles for a loss, three interceptions, and a forced fumble.

Jordan Thomas – Port Arthur Memorial – Four-star – Jordan Thomas is yet another four-star commit that Texas will have on its defensive line in the future. In 2018, Thomas was a second-team all-district selection as a sophomore recording seven tackles for a loss and five sacks. He missed his entire junior season due to injury, but came back in 2020 and has led Port Arthur Memorial to an undefeated regular season.

Unfortunately, Memorial went one-and-done in the 5A D1 playoffs, a seven-point loss to Fort Bend Hightower. Nonetheless, Thomas’s play on the field, and at camps has taken the recruiting world by storm.

He’s the 21st ranked weak-side defensive end in the class of 2021 via the 247Sports Composite and is a player that Texas fans will fall in love with soon enough.

Byron Murphy II – DeSoto – Three-star – Murphy was originally committed to Baylor. That was until the three-star defensive tackle flipped the switch and committed to Texas in mid-November. The 6’1 290-pound defensive tackle along with a five-star prospect, Shemar Turner, has turned DeSoto into one of the better defensive units in the state of Texas.

Last year, Murphy was a unanimous first-team all-district selection as well as a Class 6A all-state selection. Murphy though is having a career year in 2020. He entered this season with six and a half career sacks, this year alone he has 10 in just nine games. Murphy also has 13 tackles for a loss with a forced fumble on his 2020 resume as well. 

DeSoto now has to face red hot Rockwall in the area round of the 6A D1 playoffs. A game that has all of DFW on notice. Murphy is a bonafide stud.

Barryn Sorrell – Holy Cross (Louisiana) – Three-star – One of the newest signees to this class is Barryn Sorrell out of Holy Cross high school in Louisiana.

Sorrel is a 6’3 edge rusher who has experience playing that along with defensive tackle. He also has experience inside of a 3-4 base scheme as well as a 4-3 scheme. This three-star commit is now also the second Louisiana commit in this class joining wide receiver Casey Cain.

Sorrell, an original Northwestern commit, was between six schools today. Arizona State, Louisville, Northwestern, Texas, Vanderbilt, and Virginia Tech were all fighting for his services. Lucky for Texas, he will be playing on gamedays in Austin.

One of the many surprises of the 2019 National Signing Day, Sorrell ranks as the 54th best strong-side defensive end in the class of 2021 via the 247Sports Composite. Whether it’s as an edge-rusher or a nose tackle, expect Sorrell to make a difference once he gets playing time.


Terrence Cooks – Shadow Creek – Four-star – Another recent commitment is from one of two four-star linebackers in this class for Texas in Terrence Cooks out of Shadow Creek.

Cooks is the 18th ranked outside linebacker via the 247Sports Composite. He transferred to the powerhouse program prior to his junior season and ended up being a second-team all-district selection on his way to a 16-0 season and a 5A D1 state championship for himself and the Sharks.

This season, the Sharks made the jump to 6A and so far are 5-3 and in the area round of the 6A D1 playoffs. Cooks in seven games is credited with 55 tackles, four for a loss, two sacks, and a forced fumble. The Sharks and Cooks now have a date with 8-3 King on Friday.

Cooks is an exceptional talent. He’s a tackling machine who can also get pressure on the quarterback. He’s approaching 150 total tackles in his two year Shadow Creek career.

Morice Blackwell – Arlington Martin – Four-star – The other four-star linebacker headed to Texas is Morice Blackwell out of Arlington Martin. Whereas Cooks ranked number 18 in the nation at his position, Blackwell comes in at number 24.

If Cooks is a tackling machine then tackling is what Blackwell does for a living. As a sophomore, he racked up 112 total tackles en route to being named districts Sophomore of the Year. As a junior, he was the unanimous district MVP as he racked up another 128 tackles with 13 for a loss, four forced fumbles, and two interceptions. In 2020, it’s more of the same for Blackwell. He’s credited with 78 tackles, eight for a loss, four passes defended, and even a passing touchdown in eight games. 

Arlington Martin currently sits at 9-1 with their lone loss being to Ja’Tavion Sanders and Denton Ryan in week one of the season. Blackwell looks to come in and have an immediate impact at Texas.

Defensive Back

JD Coffey – Kennedale – Four-star – Coffey, a  four-star safety is the seventh-ranked safety overall for 2021 and the 26th best player in the state of Texas.

The Kennedale star has been lighting up the box score and opposing wide receivers since he was a freshman. In 2017, he was a Class 4A first-team all-state selection with 88 tackles and six interceptions. One year later and he was a first-team all-district selection with another six interceptions. Last season, he was named the Defensive MVP for his district with 71 tackles, six for a loss, two sacks, and two interceptions.

After a 10-win season, Kennedale kissed their season goodbye in a 43-17 loss to Melissa in the area round of the 4A D1 playoffs. Coffey will also be an early enrollee and is expected to compete with Jerrin Thompson for the gaping hole that will be left when Caden Sterns departs.

Coffey is an amazing safety, a true center-fielder who can prevent any offense from beating him deep. The Longhorns lose Caden Sterns to the NFL Draft, but with Coffey, Texas is in great hands.

Jamier Johnson – John Muir (California) – Four-star – Another early enrollee this year will be Jamier Johnson out of John Muir High School in Pasadena, California. Texas clearly showed an interest in the secondary as Ishmael Ibraheem (has not signed yet), Coffey, and Johnson, are the second, third, and fourth best commits in this class respectively via the 247Sports Composite.

Johnson is ranked as the 20th best cornerback in the country for 2021 and the 22nd ranked player for the state of California overall. Johnson, like Ibraheem, is a tall, lanky, yet fast cornerback who will be able to handle the elite wide receiver threats in the Big-12.

Unfortunately, Johnson wasn’t able to play his senior season due to California canceling their season. He will now get to shake off some rust during spring practice. As a junior, he helped John Muir reach an 11-3 record. He recorded 32 tackles, four interceptions, and a forced fumble on defense. On offense, Johnson eclipsed 100 yards on the ground and 200 yards receiving.

With Texas returning their starting corners from this season, don’t expect Johnson to play immediately.

Darion Dunn – McNeese State – Grad Transfer – No recruiting class is complete without a graduate transfer. Texas benefitted by playing two this season in wide receivers Brenden Schooler and Tarik Black. Now, they await the arrival of cornerback, Darion Dunn.

Dunn previously played at McNeese State where most recently as a Junior he racked up 42 tackles and five interceptions. Dunn’s play warranted him a first-team All-Southland Conference selection.

The 6’1 190-pound cornerback originally decided to transfer to North Carolina State due to McNeese State pushing back their season to the spring. Dunn also made this move to hopefully fly up the draft boards with an increase in exposure and competition. Instead he will be playing for the Longhorns in 2021 and not the Wolfpack.

Special Teams

Isaac Pearson – ProKick Australia – Three-star – Following in first-team All-Pro Michael Dickson’s footsteps is Isaac Pearson of ProKick Australia.

Texas has amassed some incredible special teams’ talent over the years including the aforementioned Dickson, as well as maybe the best kicker in recent memory in Baltimore’s Justin Tucker.

The 6’2 punter looks to add his name to that incredible list as he’s a three-star commit who ranks as the fourth-best in the nation at his position for 2021.

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Yep - decent class but not what Texas wanted.  They did well on defense IMO and have some guys that could really turn out to be beasts.  Cooks, Murphy, Coffey...  really high on those guys and their potential.  Sanders is a stud but interested to see how the coaching staff uses him.  I know Herman said he will play both sides of the ball but not sure that's a good idea.  If I'm Sanders I'm picking a position and sticking with it.  He won't play both sides at the next level and with his size and skillset he should hone his craft at that position and move onward and upward.

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