It's the most wonderful time of the year—especially for Texas football coach Steve Sarkisian, who helped his team to the fifth-best recruiting class in the nation as the Longhorns signed more than two dozen players for National Signing Day on Wednesday.
Sark will finally have the ball in his court for the first time after a not-so-great 2021 season, which saw the first-year coach grapple with a six-game losing streak in 2021.
Eager to redeem the team's reputation, Longhorn recruiters successfully flipped three high-profile athletes from other schools on Signing Day and stacked the roster with five- and four- star recruits. Two recruits, Conner Robertson and Ethan Burke, are Austin natives from suburb Westlake High School.
Here's a look at the players who signed for '22:
The Longhorns may have fumbled former five-star quarterback Quinn Ewers after head coach Tom Herman was fired last season, but the former No. 1 QB of the class of 2022 is now safely back in Texas.
Ewers originally committed to the Longhorns but flipped for Ohio State, spending a season there before becoming the first Texas signee announced early Wednesday morning.
Kelvin Banks Jr.
Arguably even more crucial—and hard-fought—than Ewers, Banks was the No. 2 offensive tackle prospect and No. 15 overall prospect in the country this year. The Humble, Texas, native visited Oregon, LSU, and Texas A&M and even committed to Oklahoma State University before choosing to stay in his home state. He rebuffed 24 other offers in choosing the Longhorns.
Austin native Connor Robertson, a Westlake High student, will likely play center for the Longhorns—after he helps his current team to a hopeful state championship this Saturday.
Another product of Westlake High, Burke will compete in the state championships with teammate Robertson before switching to burnt orange as an edge rusher for the Longhorns. Originally a Maryland and Michigan commit, Burke swapped both schools and sports: he was once looking to play college lacrosse.
Coming in alongside Ewers is quarterback Maalik Murphy, the No. 11 QB prospect in California and No. 11 quarterback in the country who just wrapped up a state championship win with his high school last weekend.
Murphy chose Texas after a long relationship with the school and Sarkisian himself. He chose the Longhorns over 30 other schools.
It's been a year since Bledsoe played a game per UIL rules after his transfer from 2A Texas school Bremond, but the defensive lineman managed to impress enough his junior year with over 100 tackles and 1,000+ rushing yards.
He's the 21st DL pick in the country and a four-star recruit overall.
The former Texas 5A Defensive Newcomer of the Year, safety BJ Allen was described as a "potential early-round NFL Draft pick" for his ease in the center of the field. He was the 10th safety prospect in the nation and a four-star recruit.
Defensive lineman Derrick Brown turned down 27 offers, including Baylor, when he committed to the Longhorns in late July. The Texarkana High School player racked up 88 tackles, including 12 sacks, in 2021.
Louisiana native J'Mond Tapp chose Texas even over nearby finalist LSU, saying he was looking forward to a new environment and change of scenery. The defensive lineman will be an edge rusher alongside Bledsoe.
The sole running back chosen by Sarkisian and co., Jaydon Blue has been committed to Texas for nearly a year after giving an early offer to the four-star recruit.
Blue impressed without playing his senior season after deciding to give his body a rest. And his prior seasons alone were enough—he amassed nearly 3,800 rushing yards and 46 touchdowns in 2019 and 2020.
Austin Jordan, a cornerback-turned-safety from Denton Ryan, helped his school to a state title in 2020 and is now a four-star recruit committed to Texas.
Three-star linebacker Travel Johnson has been committed to Texas since February and was called a potential replacement for Longhorns standout Demarion Overshown by Burnt Orange Nation's Cody Daniel. Although he missed his senior season, the Arlington Martin High School athlete accumulated 208 tackles and five sacks in his prior seasons.
Formerly a wrestler, Alabama native Justice Finkley brings that to the field and was named to the MaxPreps Alabama all-state team. Finkley chose Texas for its football program as well as its academics—he hopes to be a neurosurgeon in the future.
Four-star recruit Bremen Thompson is one of just two wide receivers picked up by Texas, a standout from past years when the Longhorns would sign at least four to five each season.
Thompson chose the Longhorns over 35 other offers and despite a slightly smaller size, is the No. 12 wide receiver in the nation.
Mississippi native Aaron Bryant is one of the state's top picks. He racked up 68 tackles, 12 for loss, six sacks and four forced fumbles in his junior season and chose Texas over rivals A&M and Alabama.
Like Ewers, Guilbeau formerly committed to Texas but flipped to TCU after Herman's firing. The defensive back then flip-flopped back again on Thanksgiving following the firing of TCU Head Coach Gary Patterson after choosing between 24 different offers.
Left tackle Neto Umeozulu was one of the most desired in the class of 2022 when he chose Texas over 33 other schools. While a junior at Allen High School, Umeozulu earned the District 5-6A Offensive Lineman of the Year and went on to become the No. 7 interior offensive linemen in his class.
Burly lineman Cole Hutson is the 16th-rated guard in the country and was Steve Sarkisian's first OL signee.
Texas swiped versatile player X'Avion Brice from rival Oklahoma upon his signing this morning. The three-star recruit chose the Longhorns after a last-minute visit and will likely be looked at as a receiver for the team.
Zach Swanson is a top-five Arizona prospect who played defensive end in high school, but he'll look to swap to defensive tackle with the Longhorns.
Lance St. Louis
Texas snagged the best long snapper in the country when it signed St. Louis on Wednesday, following in his father's footsteps—his old man was a long snapper in the NFL.
Three-star offensive tackle Cameron Williams made a late change from Oregon to Texas on Sunday. He's the No. 38 tackle in the country and 63rd in the state.
A little lower than other Texas recruits in ranking, Savion Red is Texas' third receiver signed. Despite his three-star status, Red had over 3,000 all-purpose yards and 39 touchdowns while in high school at Grand Prairie.
Red was a former SMU commit before swapping for Texas after a trip last weekend.
Four-star offensive lineman Malik Agbo chose Texas over Auburn, Miami, Oklahoma, LSU, and Florida on Wednesday's signing day. The OL is ranked 22nd in his class and position and rounds out Texas' wave of linemen recruits.
"Stone cold" kicker Will Stone is the lone kicker among Sarkisian's signing class so far. Ranked as a five-star recruit by Kohl's Professional Camps and No. 9 nationwide, Stone will attempt to seamlessly replace talented kicker Cameron Dicker next season alongside walk-on Bert Auburn.
A theory that’s been swirling around lately is that the web as we know it is on its way out and something called Web3 will take over.
It’s hard to know what Web3 is without first understanding the original versions. The first web is the 90s Internet where people had their own random websites that didn’t link together, making it decentralized. In Web2, we saw the rise of Google, Facebook and other major players who configured standard ways for people to share and receive information.
Ethereum co-founder Gavin Wood and other blockchain developers say a decentralized version of the Internet, Web3, is on the way. Web3 can be thought of as synonymous with cryptocurrency, meaning it is based on the blockchain. Platforms and apps built on Web3 won’t be owned by a central gatekeeper, but rather by users. Those in the Austin crypto community believe to see a growing presence of Web3 in Austin.
Pujaa Rajan, an engineer at financial software company Stripe and adviser for startups, describes herself as a “digital nomad.” She has traveled all over from Hawaii to New York and San Francisco, looking for the crypto community in each place.
Having been in Austin for the past month, Rajan organized a Web3 meetup this week at Cosmic Coffee + Beer Garden in South Austin open to folks working in crypto or the crypto-curious. About 30 people showed up. "Compared to a lot of other cities that I went to, it is a lot more open and community-oriented here, which is what Web3 is all about,” she said.
Pujaa Rajan, an engineer at financial software company Stripe, organized a Web3 meetup in Austin during a visit. (Andrea Guzman/Austonia)
ATX DAO member Roberto Talamas, who stopped by the event, talked about the crypto group’s expansion. Web3, in Talamas’ view, expands on the previous versions which allowed people to read, then read and write. Now, he says, people can read, write and own. To Talamas, blockchain technology has powered that ownership aspect, and it can be utilized through groups like a DAO, a group that pools together capital and goes on to make investments or take on blockchain-based projects.
“The ecosystem of work with (Web3) companies here in Austin is still relatively small,” Talamas said. “And that’s one of those things that we’re trying to deal with at ATX DAO is to do all the advocacy work needed to make Austin the best Web3 city.”
Part of that community, however, has gotten a bad rep for being “crypto bros.” Rajan acknowledged that Web3 involves both finance and technology, which are fields women have historically been excluded from. But, she says the decentralization aspect creates a clean slate and a new means to form groups. “I feel like we can kind of take back the power or create a world for ourselves,” Rajan said.
The meetup at Cosmic brought together crypto users to talk about the prospects of Web3. (Andrea Guzmán/Austonia)
Meetup attendee Jonathan Hillis also talked about the idea that Web3 creates an opportunity to start over and how this could be something that grows in Austin. Born and raised in the capital city, Hills has left his Bay Area Web2 Instacart job behind to live in a cabin outside Dripping Springs last year. He and his wife, along with a group of internet friends formed a DAO called Cabin, and he's now writing on the Web3 version of Medium, known as Mirror.
When it comes to the state of Web3, four cities stand out. “The dam broke in Covid,” Hillis said. “Everybody no longer had to live in the Bay Area for tech.”
San Francisco is still rooted in Web2 traits with Big Tech and software as a service venture. New York is financial technology. Miami is another major player. But with Austin, Hillis sees a lot of potential.
“Austin is great at being a place for independent online creators of many types—musicians, but also artists,” Hillis said. “What excites me about Web3 is the opportunities for putting creators at more of the center of the value capture.”
- Elon Musk's Grimes makes millions from crypto-art - austonia ›
- Austin country singer Parker McCollum creates a fan club NFT ... ›
- Austin leads in Texas crypto job market - austonia ›
- Austin crypto, nfts, bitcoin billboards set to reach worldwide - austonia ›
- Local investors create ATX DAO, where crypto meets community ... ›
- Crypto-curious? Here's Austonia's mini-guide to getting started in ... ›
- Meet the people behind Austin's emerging NFT scene - austonia ›
- In 2021, Austin became a hub for tech, pickleball, poker, crypto ... ›
Once a bargain-hunter's paradise, Austin's reputation as a cheaper California seems to be dissipating. But does money have more value in Austin when compared to other U.S. metros?
For Carson Stanch, who moved to Austin from Brooklyn, New York, to be near family, Austin's lower cost of living was just an added bonus. According to the latest data from the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis, a $100 bill is worth $98.20 in Austin when compared to the national average in 2020, while it's worth just $84.53 in New York.
Houston native Carson Stanch moved from Brooklyn, New York to Austin just before the pandemic. (Carson Stanch)
Stanch soon realized she was a trendsetter—or perhaps a fortune teller—as the pandemic hit a few months after her move. No longer willing to spend extra money on their more expensive apartments, Stanch said many of her friends and other New Yorkers left the city amid COVID lockdowns.
"It's so expensive to live there (and) all of the reasons why you live in New York, you couldn't really do anymore," Stanch said.
Garrett Watson, a senior policy analyst with the Tax Foundation who wrote a 2018 report on the value of $100 in U.S. metros, told Austonia the report factors in the costs of goods and services with residents' incomes and compares them to the national average. The result is price parity, a number that varies drastically across the country—for instance, a $100 bill won't get you near as far in Austin as it would in more rural parts of the Hill Country.
While a Ben Franklin note was worth $4 more in New York in 2020 when compared to 2018, a $100 bill decreased by $1.60 in value in Austin. Austin's cost of living also saw the 12th-highest increase among U.S. metros from the 2010 to 2020 census.
And as the pandemic's nationwide housing boom gained extra momentum in Austin, peaking at a median home price of $575,000 in June 2021, Watson said the value of $100 could have dropped even further.
"There's just been a chronic hunger for building houses on the coasts and in certain cities in the heartland," Watson said. "Especially this year, we're seeing more and more discussion about that in Austin, and so that is a big, big factor."
Price parity bleeds into other factors as well—in San Francisco, where the value of $100 sits at $82.63, residents are nearly 18% poorer than their higher incomes suggest. But with higher incomes than the U.S. average, they may find themselves more flush with cash when moving to a cheaper city like Austin.
Many out-of-towners have used that extra change to make housing offers much higher than the asking price, Redfin chief economist Daryl Fairweather told Fox7 Austin.
"All those migrants are bringing with them high-paying jobs who are used to much more expensive housing and they’re willing to pull out all the stops to win these homes and move to Austin," Fairweather said.
But Austin is catching up to those traditional hotspots: the area was predicted to be the most expensive metro outside of the Golden State by the end of 2021.
In just two years, Stanch said she's seen some signs.
"I feel like I look around certain areas of Austin (and) they do feel more similar to downtown Brooklyn," Stanch said. "Some businesses I see might tend to cater to folks who have a little more income."
I cannot believe there’s a Hermès (an Hermès?) store opening around the corner from where I live. Oy vey. The scrappy, cheap, charmingly dusty locals-only South Congress of yore is receding into the past so very quickly. 😭 pic.twitter.com/sUHxI4pX8F
— Cari Marshall (@CariMarshallTX) August 3, 2021
So why not move to, say, Florence, Alabama, where money is almost 20% more valuable?
Watson said the difference comes down to the value of amenities—something the study can't track.
"Part of the value in New York City is all the amenities that you're near, the value of Broadway, the value of being able to get food delivered to your door," Watson said. "So that may be reflected in people's willingness to pay higher prices... there's a lot of really great reasons why people may want to be in Austin from an identity perspective that you can't get in other parts of Texas."
In Austin, tech salaries rose 5% from 2020-2021 as big-name corporations like Oracle and Tesla—alongside Tesla's billionaire owner Elon Musk—flocked to the nation's new "boomtown." With an ever-increasing job market, eclectic culture and reputation as one of the world's best cities for move-ins, Austin's appeal might still offset its price.
But for Stanch and many others, there may still come a time when price wins over location.
"If I was to the point where homebuying was more important than being near friends and family, then I would move to get the home," Stanch said. "I think that's kind of part of my plan."