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College | Recruiting | 11/21/2019

Texas Building on Tradition

Blake Dowson        
Photo: Jared Jones (Perfect Game)

Recruiting Rankings
| 2020 High School Player Rankings | Recruiting Database

Head of Class: Texas Longhorns

The Texas Longhorns are trying to build something in Austin. Or rather, trying to make some updates to what has already been built.

See, the structure is solid. A record 36 trips to the College World Series and an impressive six national titles makes a strong foundation.

Head coach David Pierce is just the fifth owner of the home since 1911. Augie Garrido, the previous owner, made many renovations that led to two national titles. Call it general upkeep if you want, considering Cliff Gustafson also won two national titles among his 17 trips to the College World Series during his time in Austin.

It’s Pierce’s turn now, and one of his first moves was to build an addition. It came in the form of a new 21,500-square-foot baseball facility, with a pavilion named after Gustafson. The player development center features a new weight room, nutrition center, batting cages, bullpen, an alumni locker room, and office space.

It was a hit among the 2020 Texas recruiting class, which ranks No. 9 in the Perfect Game 2020 class rankings.

“Everything is new there,” Jared Jones, the No. 6 righthanded pitcher in the 2020 class and Perfect Game All-American, said of the Texas facilities. “They just got a new facility that is insane. I think they just started putting the finishing touches on it when I got there [for my visit]. I was speechless when I got in there.”

Jones is a Whittier, Calif. native. He is one of three 2020 Longhorn recruits from California, a new honey hole for Pierce and his staff. Jones is joined by his travel ball teammate Petey Halpin, the No. 13 ranked outfielder in the 2020 class, and former Perfect Game Select Festival participant. They are joined by Lucas Gordon, the No. 33 lefthanded pitcher in the class.

Jones is the gem of that group, though Halpin and Gordon are both good gets for the Longhorns. Jones was up to 96 mph at Perfect Game National this year, while clocking in at 100 mph from the outfield at the same event. He was named to the Top Prospect List at PG National for his efforts.

Halpin, a teammate of Jones’ with BPA over the summer, knocked four hits and five RBI in Jupiter this fall and was named to the Top Prospect Team at the 2019 17u PG World Series after hitting .438 with five runs and seven stolen bases in five games. His athletic ability is extremely obvious on the field.

“I’ve known those guys for a pretty long time,” Jones said of his fellow Californians in the Texas class. “Petey Halpin is on my travel ball team. Having those guys there with me, it’ll be easier to break the ice, easier to get to know the other guys.”

The other guys from Texas, mainly, who highlight much of the class.

That’s Jared Kelley at the top, the No. 4 overall player in the class and No. 1 righthanded pitcher, out of Refugio, Texas. Kelley is big and physical (he’s a former high school quarterback) and pumps his fastball in at 99 mph. He’s everything Pierce wants out of a class gem.

There’s Tanner Witt as well, who will become a fourth-generation Longhorn when he steps on campus to play middle infield for the Longhorns.

Witt has burnt orange in his blood.

The No. 13 shortstop in the 2020 class, Witt paid attention to the class Pierce was building this year. He wanted in, and he wanted to help.

When he travelled to tournaments, he talked to guys about what the Longhorns were building.

“I would mention something here and there,” Witt said. “I wouldn’t say I was heavy on the recruiting, but I definitely gave a little push for the Longhorns. My bias showed a little…I just let them know that I was really happy with my decision and if they chose to come to Texas, it was going to be a lot of fun.”

And then names started falling into place.

“It was unreal seeing those names [committing],” Witt continued. “I’ve been fortunate enough to play against these guys over the summer and at these high-profile events, and watching their names fall under the Longhorn class was special. This group we’ve formed is going to be special and I’m really excited about it.”

And beyond the new California connection and tried-and-true Texas pipeline, an Arizona native helped to tie it all together.

Carson Tucker, a shortstop at Mountain Pointe High School in Phoenix, did just as much recruiting as Witt.

In fact, he was a bit more bold than his fellow middle infielder.

He went as far as to give Jones an ultimatum about checking the Longhorns out during his recruitment process.

“At the PDP event I was at, my roommate was Carson Tucker,” Jones said. “He was kind of telling me like, ‘Hey dude go visit Texas or we won’t be friends anymore.’ So he persuaded me to go visit, and once I got there I fell in love.”

With that, the class was signed, sealed, and delivered to the top-10 in the country. The top-end talent the Longhorns have brought in competes with every other class in the country. The difference is in depth, as Pierce signed 13 players in the class while the other nine programs who landed top-10 classes averaged just shy of 17 prospects.

It’s clear the Longhorns are building things the right way.

“I just love the atmosphere there,” Witt said. “Going in there, you kind of feel the excitement at games. You can see the bond the team has, as well as the coaches. I just wanted to be a part of it.”

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