2011 Narrative: For Texas in 2011, recruiting could not have gone better at the position. Steve Edmond and Kendall Thompson are the top two players in the state at the position and extremely impressive both in their prototypical frames and immense success on the field, as the two each are three-time champions in their respective classifications.
The third linebacker is often an afterthought, but Chet Moss was one of the first commitments -- a lifetime Longhorn who was instrumental throughout the early part of the recruiting process in helping sell Texas to other recruits, but has been equally, if not more important, in helping to make sure that all of the commitments stayed solid after the recent coaching changes. Even if he becomes nothing more than a back-up/slash program guy in his career, Dustin Earnest proved just how important those players can be when he ably filled in for an injured Roddrick Muckelroy during the national championship game against Alabama.
Derek David, Rockdale -- Perhaps a better raw athlete than Steve Edmond, now generally considered a top player nationally, David is a long, rangy player at 6-3, 225 and already has the mass to play in college immediately, though his frame still has quite a big of room to fill out. Like Keenan Robinson and Emmanuel Acho, David will be able to play in the 240-pound range in college without losing any of his speed.
A true sideline-to-sideline player and at times a vicious striker, David can rely on his speed a little bit too much, forcing him to take bad angles. At times he uses his hands well to take on blockers at the point of attack, but at other times he loses his leverage and doesn't take advantage of his long arms. His tackling is a similar story, but when he does sink his hips, wrap up, and bring his legs, he can really lay the wood.
Basically, the inconsistencies are relatively minor and his physical tools combined with his ability to back them up with some "wow" plays every time he steps on the field makes him a big-time prospect.
Gimme Factor: Five out of five Gimme's for talent, minus two Gimme's for qualification issues
Peter Jinkens, Skyline -- Now afforded a starting opportunity after playing behind FBS talents like Corey Nelson and Domonique Patterson, Jinkens has the change to step into the spotlight as a junior after contributing in a back-up capability and on special teams last season. Unfortunately for those who wanted to get a long look at him as a linebacker, Jinkens spent most of his snaps this season on the offensive side of the ball playing running back. When he did play the position, who showed off his tackling ability -- he can square his shoulder, sink his hips and really drive opponents backwards. Same with his play on special teams, where he could be a contributor his freshman season.
Gimme factor: Three and a half Gimme's out of five
Tim Cole, Brenham -- Physically, Cole is far from Will Muschamp's prototypical linebacker, as seen from the majority of 2010 and 2011 commitments, more Trevon Randle or Corey Nelson than Tevin Jackson. Maybe Aaron Benson.
Part of the talented young Brenham defense, Cole is disruptive shooting into gaps with his explosiveness and destroying inside zone plays and shows some punch at the point of attack, though his strength and technique could stand to improve -- that's virtually a given for a player his age.
Especially compared with the prototypical frame of a player like David, Cole doesn't jump off the page physically, managing to make himself a prospect due to his striking ability and ranginess. On film, his sure-handed tackling and in-pads physicality stand out, his height is a limiting factor. When he tries to fill gaps at the next level, he's probably going to have some issues keeping much bigger offensive linemen out of his body. Fortunately, he has the quickness that he may be able to simply avoid offensive linemen.
Gimme Factor: Three Gimme's out of five
Jeremiah Tshiminga, Richland -- Perhaps even more of a Buck prospect than either Steve Edmond or Kendall Thompson by skill set, Tshimanga looks like a downhill edge player. Dravannti Johnson could be a good comparison. Physically, there are few more impressive players at any position in his class; the fact that Reggie Wilson is his cousin only reinforces those positives.The problem is that Tshimanga's listed at 210 pounds right now and is already pretty filled out -- it's probably questionable for him to reach 240 pounds or so and 230-235 may be more realistic.
Playing with a cast on his hand during his sophomore season confirmed not only his toughness, but his commitment to the game. Although not a fundamental tacklers, much like Wilson at the same point last year, a challenged, heathy Tshiminga should become a strong striker around the line of scrimmage as a junior. His pure speed will probably keep him from being a scheme versatile linebacker, so he projects as a perfect edge rusher for the hybrid 4-3, 3-4 defenses that are currently the rage in college football.
Gimme Factor: Two and a half Gimme's out of five
Jordan Richmond, Denton Ryan -- A guy who played in the shadow of Alex De La Torre as a sophomore, Richmond had something of a coming out party as a junior. His listed 40 speed of 4.7 is perhaps a tad on the slow side for a linebacker who would likely have to play in a base 4-2 at Texas and both have range and physicality between the tackles in run support.
If his top speed isn't expectional, his short area burst and ability to fill his gap responsibility quickly and decisively helps him make a lot of plays in the backfield, where's a strong hitter who does a nice job of sinking his hips. There isn't much evidence of him shedding blockers on his highlight film, so that could be an area for improvement. In pass coverage, Richmond does a nice job of getting depth and watching the eyes of the quarterback to deflect underneath passes, something a lot of high school linebackers don't do particularly well.
Gimme Factor: Four Gimme's out of five
So far, the narrative is far from in favor of the Longhorns. First of all, Muschamp is obviously gone and he was the man primarily responsible for making early contact with these kids, both as their potential position coach and as the defensive coordinator. With Muschamp gone, Mack Brown may no longer let his staff pursue a kid like David who is already committed to Texas Tech and may have some difficulties qualifying. None of the rest of the linebackers have distinguished themselves particularly to take the tag as the second-best linebacker in the state and one of the main claimants is Cole, generally considered a Texas A&M lean at this point in the process.
Overall, Steve Edmond and Kendall Thompson would rate as at least two of the three top linebackers in this class and the one early out-of-state target -- Alabama's Kwon Alexander -- is now off the board because his connection with Muschamp was the only reason he was considering the Longhorns. Depth at the position is a bit of the problem at the moment and there doens't look to be a ton of early help in this group right now.
The 2012 narrative eventually will be heavily shaped by the new defensive coordinator, who will be even more important to this particular position coach because the new DC will likely coach linebackers as well. Along with the rest of the upheaval in the program, whole 2012 will provide a great deal of insight into how recruits currently view the program and a preliminary look at the amount of success the new assistant coaches have on the recruiting trail.