Photo via Andrew Lind, Eleven Warriors

Even in the middle of a dead period for recruiting, there is still plenty to talk about as the season never ends, especially in the Lone Star State.

With the state 7 on 7 tournament and The Opening in Oregon in the books, recruits now focus on the upcoming season with their teams while also balancing what is going on in their world of recruiting.

Recruiting analyst Andrew Lind of Eleven Warriors was in Oregon for The Opening which saw some of the very best high school football talent from across the country, including several top Texas prospects.

TexasHSFootball.com spoke with him to get his reactions from The Opening, his analysis of the top Texas recruits and the expectations for Tom Herman for his first year at Texas.

I know your main focus is on covering Ohio State recruiting, but you got to see a number of players from Texas at The Opening. Who were some of those prospects that you had a close eye on?

My job was pretty easy that week given the fact that all eight Ohio State commits and their top targets from the Lone Star State were all on the same team, Vapor Speed.

The Buckeyes are the favorite to land Houston Lamar five-star cornerback Anthony Cook and were among the top schools for his teammate, four-star wide receiver Al’vonte Woodard, and Houston Alief Taylor five-star wideout Brennan Eagles.

Opposing offenses rarely tested Cook in the 7-versus-7 tournament, so he didn’t make any highlight reel plays. Though he’s a bit smaller than I expected, he’s very strong in coverage. Cook got into a little scuffle with California five-star wide receiver Amon-Ra St. Brown during one-on-one drills, but it just showed me he’s not afraid of competition and is up to the task when matched up with bigger or faster wideouts.

Eagles, meanwhile, is a big-bodied wide receiver who reminds me of former Ohio State wideouts Michael Thomas and Noah Brown. He’s not the fastest prospect out there, but he has excellent hands and doesn’t seem afraid of contact when going up for a catch. Vapor Speed’s offense struggled because of subpar quarterback play, but Eagles made the most of every opportunity he had.

Woodard, though listed at the same height, is a completely different prospect, however. His footwork is extremely sound, which allows him to create separation at the line, and it was evident when he was the target on almost every deep ball Vapor Speed threw. He lined up all over the field offensively, but he always seemed to be the first look for the quarterback. If I had to guess which of the two would be more successful at the next level, it would be Woodard.

Ohio State seems to be one of the favorites to land Houston Lamar cornerback Anthony Cook. Do you see him eventually ending up in Columbus?

I do. We had a lengthy conversation at The Opening about his future, including what factors will go into his decision — which he expects to announce sometime close to Halloween. And though he said Clemson, LSU, Norte Dame, Ohio State and Texas all stand out, I’m confident it’ll either be the Buckeyes and Longhorns who land his pledge.

There’s a lot of buzz with Tom Herman now in charge at Texas. How do you see them finishing this season and on the field and how would they factor into Cook’s recruitment?

Texas has a lot going for it on the recruiting trail right now. With three elite safeties already in the fold, the Longhorns look to be building one heck of a secondary. But we have to remember that it’s all the result of a newfound feeling of excitement surrounding the program now that Tom Herman is leading the charge. A bad or average first season could easily have these prospects looking elsewhere. However, I fully expect Herman to reach double-digit wins with one of the most experienced teams in the country, making it harder than ever to recruit in the Lone Star State.

All that said, there’s a difference between hope and on-field results. Cook can find the latter at Ohio State. The Buckeyes are bound to be national championship contenders so long as head coach Urban Meyer is in Columbus, and the staff’s knack for sending defensive backs to the National Football League is unparalleled. Cook might not be able to find immediate playing time at Ohio State, as the Buckeyes just landed a boatload of four- and five-star talent in the secondary earlier this year. But he’s also not afraid of competition, and I doubt having to wait a year or two to get his shot to shine is going to deter him.

In last year’s recruiting class, three of the top prospects from Texas from the Lone Star State all ended up in Columbus. Do you see that kind of movement happening again for this recruiting class? Any other recruits that fans from Texas should keep an eye from out-of-state?

This kind of ties into my expectations for the Texas football program under Herman. The Longhorns’ struggles in keeping the top players in the state home were a direct correlation with their struggles on the field.

While we have yet to see Herman lead the team onto the field, his pedigree — which includes a national championship as Ohio State’s offensive coordinator — has local kids excited with what the future may hold. Of course, as mentioned, only time will tell if the vibes surrounding the program continues with each win or diminishes with each win. But as of right now, they’re buying the future that Herman is selling.

Texas currently holds commitments from three of the Top 10 players, a number which could grow in the coming weeks or months with pledges from Woodard (who announces his college decision on Saturday), Eagles (who was sporting a Nike backpack with the burnt orange Longhorns logo emblazoned on the back at The Opening Finals) and/or Houston four-star cornerback Jalen Green (who was named first-team all-defense at The Opening after picking off several passes and returning one for a touchdown).There’s a lot of talent in the state, and keeping it home is going to be a big priority for Herman.

Ohio State, meanwhile, doesn’t have a great need at defensive back. The only true priority among the Top 10 in Texas is Cook, while Eagles and Woodard have always been viewed as fall back options as the Buckeyes chase higher-rated wideouts (or those best suited for their offense) like St. Louis four-star Kamryn Babb and Ohio four-star L’Christian “Blue” Smith.

 

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