2010 targets: Defensive end. Texas will probably look to take two defensive ends in the 2010 class and it doesn't take long perusing the list of the top players in the state to come to the top two defensive end prospects -- Plano West's Jackson Jeffcoat and Haltom's Reggie Wilson, ranked two and four by Inside Texas, respectively. Since I've already reviewed some film on Jeffcoat, it's probably not necessary to talk much about him now.
Currently residing in the formidable shadow of Jeffcoat is Reggie Wilson, a native of the Ivory Coast who has a rare combination of size (6-4, 240) and speed (4.7 40). Reminiscent of Alex Okafor, Wilson has the speed to crash down plays from the backside, making opposing offenses pay for leaving him unblocked. A thick frame and advanced physical development for a junior allows Wilson to turn his speed into power, much-discussed as the major pass-rushing prerequisite to see the field under Will Muschamp.
Not just a speed rusher from the edge, Wilson has enough lower body strength, proper pad level, and properly violent hand usage to bull rush opposing defenders deep into the backfield, then separate quickly and easily with a final finishing push. Wilson uses his hands and pad level equally effectively whether he's pass rushing or playing the running game, doing an excellent job of using his hands to keep opposing players from effectively cut blocking him.
It's easy to get caught up in Jeffcoat's talent and pedigree, but Reggie Wilson may be every bit as good and still has another off season of workouts, summer camps and combines, and football season to catch Jeffcoat in the rankings. Don't be surprised if he does.
If the Longhorns can't land one or both of Jeffcoat and Wilson, look for them to pursue Cedar Park's Holmes Onwukaife, a talented player in his own right who looks a lot like Dominique Jones, but may be more highly rated by the end of his senior season. He's a speed guy at 6-3, 220 pounds -- he runs a 4.6 -- putting him on the elite end of the spectrum in terms of pure straight-line speed for a defensive end. Houston Bellaire's Joe Okafor seemed likely to get a look early in the process, but hasn't heard from the Texas coaches about any Junior Day invites, so he seems to have fallen off the radar, which could possibly change if the other options don't work out.
2010 targets: Defensive tackle. Unsurprisingly, the defensive tackle position is relatively thin in 2010, as it's the most difficult position to fill. The Longhorns will probably take two defensive tackles to replace the two graduating -- Lamarr Houston and Ben Alexander. Whether the Longhorns take more than two defensive tackles depends on the possible transitions of Kyle Kriegel and Tevin Mims from defensive end to defensive tackles. The coaches may target two players, then make a decision after spring practice about whether they want to go after another, taking another if Kriegel and Mims develop slowly or staying with two if the two freshmen progress rapidly. The top players on the list for Texas are Aldine Eisenhower's Jay Guy, Denton Guyer's Taylor Bible, and Alief Taylor's DeAires Cotton.
The 6-1, 315-pound Guy already packs a ton of weight and is a space-eater inside, but already carries a significant amount of fat on his frame and has a doughy lower body that makes Thomas Ashcraft look positively skinny. Not sure if those traits concern Texas coaches, but something does, as Guy has not been invited by the February 8th Junior Day, despite serious interest in the Longhorns for a long time. At 6-3, 280 pounds, Bible isn't nearly as big as Guy yet and has a rangy frame that carries his weight well, but has received an invite to the first Junior Day, indicative of serious interest from the Texas coaches. While he's ranked slightly lower than Guy on the early Inside Texas Top 100, he's a remarkable athlete for a defensive tackle, particularly the suddenness with which he plays, looking faster than a lot of defensive ends. Cotton also has a February 8 invite and physically falls somewhere between Bible and Guy, with a thick frame relatively free of excess fat and an upper body lagging behind his lower in development -- he squats nearly 500 pounds, but bench presses only 275.
Beyond the probable top three on the Texas board is an intriguing player in Pflugerville's Tyrus Thompson. Also a member of the Panther offensive line, the 6-5, 285-pound Thompson has some serious size for the position. That size creates a lot of mass and indicates a frame capable of adding more weight, but the problem with larger defensive tackles is that they have trouble developing the knee bend and flexibility to create the leverage necessary to get under the pads of opposing lineman. Thompson doesn't have a Junior Day invite and would probably receive an offer only if the Longhorn coaches decide he has great upside on the defensive side of the ball or fail in attempts to land the more well-regarded players.
2010 targets: Linebacker. The Longhorns will look to load up on linebackers in 2010, probably taking four to replace the three starting linebackers graduating after the 2009 season. Fortunately, finding talented linebackers to fill the class won't be a problem. Of any position on either side of the ball, the talent at linebacker for the 2010 class is the deepest in the state. And it's not even really close, with the wide receiver position coming in second. At the head of the list are two player who also rank in the top 11 of their class -- Dallas Skyline's Corey Nelson and Cedar Hill's Aaron Benson.
Nelson is a national recruit and may be an even better linebacker prospect than Sergio Kindle, making Nelson since 2001. Despite not possessing great size (he's a six footer), Nelson is an excellent punt blocker (he blocked nine his junior season) and uses his combination of speed, range, and quickness to earn that rare distinction for a linebacker -- playmaker.
Benson has the size (6-2) that Nelson doesn't and is also faster than the Skyline product. That speed and size helps Benson play with the range and coverage skills of a safety and the physical nature of a linebacker. The good news for Longhorn fans is that Benson is a fan of the team his cousin Cedric starred for in college, unlike Nelson, who is considered an OU lean and infamously threw his horns down at the Texas/OU basketball game in Norman this year.
The Longhorns are also looking out of state despite the in-state depth, with Jordan Hicks of Ohio coming down for the first Junior Day. Hicks is an elite national prospect and will be a difficult kid to secure a commitment from, even though he's long liked the Longhorns.
After those top three players are guys like Fort Bend Hightower's Shaun Lewis, San Antonio Madison's Kris Caitlin, Round Rock's Kurt Killens, and Celina's Caleb Lavey. Lewis is by far the best, a group to which the coaching staff will turn to add depth to the class. And I say depth because it would be incredibly disappointing not to land Nelson, Benson, or Hicks. Landing more than one is probably an unmitigated success.
2010 targets: Defensive back. With the Browns and Ben Wells graduating in 2010 and Earl Thomas, Blake Gideon, Christian Scott, and Aaron Williams entering their junior seasons, the Longhorns will look to add some numbers at this position, looking to take four or possibly five players. The problem is that the depth, particularly at the cornerback position, just isn't there. The players at the top, however, are excellent, a list that includes Waco Midway's Ahmad Dixon, Desoto's Adrian White, Dunbar's Rashod Favors, Lufkin's Carrington Byndom, and West Orange Stark's James Haynes.
Of those, Dixon, White, and Favors are top 10 players in the state, with only White projecting as a cornerback. Dixon is the top safety prospect, but may have academic issues that preclude an offer from Texas and Favors is 6-1, 215, and may grow out of the safety position, though hybrid safety/linebackers will remain valuable as long as Big 12 teams run the spread. Like Favors, Haynes is listed as an athlete, but projects as a safety more easily than Favors. Both players really like the Longhorns, though Haynes could be swayed by another program offering him a chance to play receiver, which the Longhorns will not.
White is the top cornerback in the state, but has the size at 6-1 to play safety in college, perfectly fitting the mold the Longhorns want for their defensive backs. Size isn't a concern for Byndom either, as he's a even six-footer who played with everyone's favorite Lufkin product and OU commit. On the outside looking in at this point is Toney Hurd, Jr., who hasn't heard much from the Longhorns yet, despite turning in an impressive performance at the Army Junior Combine. The most likely reason is his size, as he stands at only 5-8. Given the size the Longhorns have recruited at the defensive back position the last two years, taking a smaller player like Hurd wouldn't hurt the overall size at that position too much. Offering Hurd may become necessary if the Longhorns fail to land the top prospects.