2011 Narrative: In a class that saw the Longhorns gain commitments from the majority of offered players once again, the defensive back position provides a look at something that could continue to be a problem for the Longhorns in terms of the way that they offer and receive commitments from prospects.
And this isn't even meant to question any of the defensive back takes last year, but merely to point out that three of the eventual top cornerbacks in the state -- David Jenkins,, and Tevin Mitchel -- weren't on the recruiting radar at the time of the Texas Junior Days in February. The Longhorns flirted with the first two and sorta-kinda-maybe offered Jenkins and took a long look at Jackson and didn't really have room for either, especially after Josh Turner made his commitment.
Still, the Longhorns got all the players that they really wanted at the positions, offering Sheroid Evans, Mykkele Thompson, Quandre Diggs, Leroy Scott, and Josh Turner and gaining commitments from all of them by early March with the exception of Turner. It's an extremely talented group and despite the concerns about not havin the numbers to take any of the other top defensive backs, it's really hard to be anything but optimistic of the future of the Texas defensive backfield given the potential of this group.
Bralon Addison, Fort Bend Hightower ATH: It's simply with Addison -- if you want to talk about the best athletes in the entire state, the conversation is incomplete without including the superlative talent who manned the quarterback position last season for his high school team. Short-area quickness, great feet, top-end speed, Addison has it all.
In college, the only question is whether he's a wide receiver or a cornerback and the likelihood is that Texas would look at him as a cornerback and that's the preference here as as well. The odd thing is that Addison hasn't heard much yet from the Longhorns. What the heck are they waiting for?
2012 Fort Bend Hightower Ath - Bralon Addison Highlight (via TexasPreps)
Gimme Factor: Four and a half Gimme's out of five
LaDarrell McNeil, A. Maceo Smith S: Like most of the guys who make the Wish List, McNeil is about a two or three highlight guy. After you see his explosiveness and ability to blow up ballcarriers, you don't really need to see much more to tell that he's one of the top players in the state -- good enough, in fact, to land at no. 10 on the first edition of the GoBR 2012 Top 10.
And if you happen to respect the opinion of an intoxicated wanderer, McNeil is on the short list of players in contention for first Junior Day invites and offers. The Gypsie also believes that McNeil has the hips to play nickelback at Texas, the type of versatility that Duane Akina used to love and that Jerry Gray most likely has an appreciation for as well.
Ladarell McNeil Highlights (via 247SportsStudio)
Gimme Factor: Four Gimme's out of five
Kendall Sanders, Athens CB: One of the fastest players in East Texas, Sanders self-reports running a 40 time under 4.4. He plays a lot on offense for Athens, where you can see his burst and his ball skills, both of which would translate well to the cornerback position. And at 6-0, his ideal height for the position as well as all the other apparent physical tools. Basically, until watching his highlights, he was on the Watch List, but a couple plays were enough to facilitate a move on up to the Wish List. However, it would be nice to see more of him as a tackler.
Kendall Sanders Highlights (via 247SportsStudio)
Gimme Factor: Four Gimme's out of five
Edward Pope, Carthage S: Pope is a guy who missed most of his junior season with a knee injury, so there isn't much recent film upon which to evaluate him. However, from his sophomore film it's apparent that he's a big presence at the safety position at 6-3 and he can not only lay wood, but also finish plays, helped like many kids at his level by his experience playing wide receiver.
Two things about Pope though: 1) he's on the tall side to likely have much utility in coverage, which puts him a bit behind McNeil and lessens his versatility, and 2) he's skinny as hell and will need to put on a significant amount of strength before he can contribute seriously in college. Think of him as a head-hunting version of Bryant Jackson, then.
Edward Pope Highlights (via 247SportsStudio)
Gimme Factor: Three Gimme's out of five
Kenneth Marshall, South Houston CB: Has the rare combination of size and speed that college coaches (and NFL scouts, for that matter) love in cornerbacks because it is such a rarity. Unfortunately for Texas, Marshall is a vocal Oklahoma fan and will probably end up becoming a Sooner.
Gimme Factor: N/A
Other names to watch: Corey Coleman (Richardson Pearce ATH),(Fort Bend Elkins ATH), Bryson Echols (DeSoto CB), Jalen Overstreet (Tatum ATH).
So far, the narrative is favorable in that McNeil likes Texas, though it isn't clear whether or not he's likely to commit on the first Junior Day. Addison looks like he may be off the table for whatever reason and Marshall is as well due to his love of the Sooners. With the rest, it isn't too clear and the amongst the potential top targets there aren't perceived locks to commit like Leroy Scott, Quandre Diggs, and Mykkele Thompson were last year. That's a lot of uncertainty.
Overall, it might be a bit of a struggle for Texas to evaluate, taret, and receive commitments from the top defensive backs and athletes in this class, so it's going to take a lot of strong recruiting, good evaluations, and agreement amongst the new members of the staff about what the Longhorns are looking for in the defensive back, something that is no longer well defined as it was with Will Muschamp and Duane Akina. And there isn't much for Jerry Gray and Manny Diaz to get on the same page, either, as the first Junior Day is scheduled for mid-February.