Texas fans won’t believe this, but there was a time under Tom Herman that the Longhorns won recruiting battles against rivals. The 2021 cycle hasn’t been a great one for Herman and the Longhorns. The class ranks 18th in the nation, which would be the lowest ranked class signed by Texas in a year without a coaching change since before Mack Brown.
Still, it is Thanksgiving, a day to be thankful, so we take a look at five players currently on the roster that fans should be thankful for.
Derek Kerstetter, offensive lineman, San Antonio Reagan (2017)
FYI: 6-4, 299; three stars; No. 30-ranked guard in 2017
The competition: Oklahoma State
Sam Ehlinger and Samuel Cosmi are the two best players Herman signed in the 2017 class, but neither was in danger of not winding up in Austin when Herman was hired; Ehlinger was already committed as a life-long Longhorns fan from Austin. Cosmi had pledged to Herman’s class at Houston before following his future coach to Austin.
Kerstetter, however, was not a name Texas recruiting fans were familiar with before the Longhorns flipped him from Oklahoma State the day after Christmas in 2016. Kerstetter was a two-time all-district selection in high school. He played in the 2017 U.S. Army All-American Bowl. He has overachieved since arriving at Texas, starting at right tackle as a freshman. He’s currently starting at center as a senior.
Joseph Ossai, defensive end, Conroe Oak Ridge (2018)
FYI: 6-4, 220; four stars; No. 11-ranked defensive end in 2018
The competition: Texas A&M, Oregon
Texas dominated the 2018 cycle. So much so that Ossai, who was a national top-200 prospect, was only the 14th-rated prospect to sign with the Longhorns. For reference, only three members of Texas’ 2021 class are rated higher than where Ossai did as a prospect. He was 16th on the 2018 Fabulous 55.
Ossai never committed to another school, but Texas A&M and Oregon were real players in his recruitment. Jimbo Fisher was in his home in December of that cycle and Ossai took an official visit to Oregon days before national signing day.
Ossai played out of position at linebacker under the previous defensive staff. He’s moved to a more natural defensive end position as a junior and he’s excelling to the point that he’s likely to be the first Longhorn taken in the upcoming NFL Draft. He’s been Texas’ best player in 2020.
Caden Sterns, safety, Cibolo Steele (2018)
FYI: 6-1, 192; five stars; No. 1-ranked safety in 2018
The competition: LSU
Sterns was Herman’s first major flip. The five-star safety backed away from his LSU pledge in May 2017, opening the door for Texas to sign its highest-ranked defensive recruit of the Herman area. Sterns was the second-ranked player on the 2018 Fab 55, which was dominated by the Longhorns. The list included Texas signees Sterns, B.J. Foster and DeMarvion Overshown.
The junior entered the 2020 season with 21 starts under his belt. He became the first Longhorns freshman defensive back to start his first 13 career games since Blake Gideon. He led the team with four interceptions and was named the Big 12’s defensive freshman of the year and a first-team all-Big 12 selection. He only played in nine games as a sophomore because of injury.
Chris Adimora, safety, Mayfair, Calif. (2019)
FYI: 6-1, 192; four stars; No. 17-ranked safety in 2019
The competition: Boise State
Adimora didn’t commit to Texas in the summer of 2018 with much fanfare, but he might currently be the best out-of-state commitment under Herman. Bru McCoy and De’Gabriel Floyd, both also from California, never played snaps for Texas. Jake Smith has struggled with consistency because of nagging injuries. Bijan Robinson is only in his first year. Adimora, however, has managed to become the unquestioned starter at nickel back in front of former five-star recruit Anthony Cook. Adimora committed to Texas two weeks after taking an official visit to Boise State.
Bijan Robinson, running back, Salpointe Catholic, Ariz. (2020)
FYI: 6-0, 222; five stars; No. 1-ranked running back in 2020
The competition: Ohio State
Texas can’t fend off Ohio State for in-state products, but the Longhorns managed to keep the Buckeyes away from Robinson thanks to the strong relationship between the five-star recruit and Texas running back coach Stan Drayton. Robinson was the top-ranked back in the 2020 cycle and the highest-rated signee in the Herman era since McCoy transferred from USC before transferring back after his first spring.
Robinson looks like the future of the Texas offense. He’s started the last couple of games and became the first Longhorns running back to eclipse 100 yards rushing when he did it in the win over West Virginia. With Ehlinger destined to leave after this season, Robinson should be the focal point of the 2021 and 2022 offenses.