July 2, 2012

Sometimes early pledges are best recruiters

Celina (Texas) offensive tackle Jake Raulerson needed no time to process the news.

Once he learned that four-star receiver Ricky Seals-Jones had decommitted from Texas last month, Raulerson took action. Raulerson estimated no more than five minutes passed before he sent a text message to see what the No. 1 wideout in the 2013 class was thinking.

"As soon as I heard, I texted him and asked what was wrong," Raulerson said.

Seals-Jones shouldn't have been surprised.

Bruce Chambers and Darrell Wyatt are the official recruiting co-coordinators on Mack Brown's staff, but Raulerson deserves at least partial credit for the talent Texas has assembled thus far in its 2013 class. Ever since he became the first 2013 prospect to commit to Texas on Feb. 3, Raulerson has taken it upon himself to sell other top prospects on the Longhorns.

JAKE RAULERSON
Position: Offensive tackle
Height: 6-foot-5
Weight: 250
High school: Celina (Texas)
Rating: Four stars (No. 6 offensive tackle and No. 51 overall prospect)
College: Texas
Notable: Raulerson committed to Texas on Feb. 3 to become the first player to join the Longhorns' 2013 recruiting class. Although he is listed as an offensive tackle, he also plays defensive end and worked out at both positions last week in the Rivals100 Five-Star Challenge.
Quotable: "Everybody saw at the Five-Star Challenge how big of a competitor he is. That's his No. 1 asset. I think he lost his first two or three reps, but he still worked more than everybody else. He just wanted to be in there, and that shows up on the field. He's also really versatile. He was recruited as an offensive tackle, but he'll probably start out at defensive end at Texas. At the Army game he's going to play center. He's got seven different positions. He can play anywhere on the [offensive] line and the two end spots. His versatility and passion are his two biggest assets for sure."
-Rivals.com Midlands analyst Brian Perroni
"I'm just trying to get the best guys to come to Texas," Raulerson said. "I'm trying to be that guy, that leader."

Other classes also have players filling these roles.

Warren (Mich.) De La Salle quarterback Shane Morris committed to Michigan in the spring of 2011 and has since played a vital role in helping the Wolverines surge to the top of the 2013 recruiting rankings. During the April press conference announcing his commitment to USC, Sammamich (Wash.) Skyline quarterback Max Browne said he would try to help the Trojans land enough other elite prospects to have the nation's No. 1 recruiting class.

Of course, it's not unusual for a quarterback to make the immediate transition from recruit to recruiter. What makes Texas' situation unique is that five-star quarterback commit Tyrone Swoopes has willingly ceded that role to his future teammate.

"I think that Jake Raulerson has that locked up pretty well," Swoopes said.

These recruits-turned-recruiters have different ways of going about their business.

USC has backed up Browne's press conference prediction by landing verbal commitments from five-star safety Su'a Cravens and seven four-star prospects since his own April 4 decision. Browne said the soft-sell approach has worked for him thus far.

"I've kind of hung back a little bit," Browne said. "I don't text as much just because I know how annoying it can get with various media guys and text messages from friends and family constantly. I kind of shoot a text every once in a while. Once they go on a visit to SC, I have full confidence in the coaching staff and the product that USC has to offer. I don't really need to do too much because it's a lot to offer."

Raulerson has been more active in his pursuit of Texas targets. Raulerson has never hesitated to work at whatever he does. At last week's Rivals100 Five-Star Challenge in Atlanta, the two-way player turned some heads with his willingness to work out at both center and defensive end. Raulerson, the No. 61 overall prospect in his class, could end up playing either offense or defense at the next level.

He has shown a similar tenacity in his approach toward recruiting.

"That's totally his personality," Rivals.com Midlands recruiting analyst Brian Perroni said. "He's been coming to every camp and combine that would have him for three years now. He's always the most talkative one and the most competitive one. It doesn't surprise me at all."

Even a medical setback couldn't slow him down.

After getting his tonsils removed and having surgery on a deviated septum earlier this year, Raulerson was recovering at about the same time Texas stepped up its pursuit of Seals-Jones, the No. 1 receiver in the 2013 class.

Raulerson took the time to make a sign with the message "Hook 'em, RSJ." He then took a picture of himself holding the sign and put it on his Twitter account.

"It just kind of shows how dedicated he is," Seals-Jones said.

Less than three weeks after Raulerson committed to Texas, Seals-Jones followed suit. And when Seals-Jones reopened his recruitment this month, Raulerson wasted no time taking action again.

"I just asked him what was going on, and he said he still liked Texas," Raulerson said. "It's a life decision. It's a big deal. I'm not going to pressure anybody. I was just going to talk to him and tell him we still wanted him here and to encourage him.

"I'm not going to tear anybody down. That's not how you get commitments."

Seals-Jones, who remains uncommitted, isn't the only Texas target to get the Raulerson pitch.

"If you see a recruit, you see Jake - every time," Cypress Woods (Texas) linebacker and Rivals100 prospect Deoundrei Davis said. "He's everywhere. ... If you see somebody Texas is looking to recruit, Jake will be right there, right in their ear."

Davis should know.

He discovered that while visiting Texas for a Junior Day event in mid-February. As soon as Davis arrived on campus, Raulerson introduced himself.

"I didn't even know who he was, and he knew who I was," said Davis, the No. 6 outside linebacker and No. 46 overall prospect in the 2013 class. "He came up to me, and we clicked like that."

"I've always tried to be a leader in everything I do," Raulerson said. "That's just the way I am. I'm a winner. I don't like losing. ... so I'm going to try my best in everything I do."

And he isn't merely focusing on the uncommitted players. Raulerson also keeps tabs with the committed prospects in Texas' class. Even though Bastrop (Texas) cornerback Antwuan Davis committed to Texas last month, he said he still hears from Raulerson quite often. They spent plenty of time together at the Rivals100 Five-Star Challenge last weekend, as Davis noted that Raulerson joked around with him and even got him interested in some television shows he'd never seen before.

"You could say he's like the leader of our class," Antwuan Davis said. "He definitely does the recruiting."

Raulerson's efforts have helped give Texas the nation's eighth-ranked class thus far, but the Longhorns suffered a setback Friday when Lancaster (Texas) High defensive end Daeshon Hall switched his commitment from Texas to Washington.

Hall's flip likely makes room for one more spot in Texas' recruiting class. And that means it may be time for Raulerson to work the phones again.


Steve Megargee is the national college columnist for Rivals.com. He can be reached at smegargee@rivals.com, and you can click here to follow him on Twitter.




 

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