With the first Junior Day looming Sunday, it's time to take a look at the needs and numbers Texas will be looking at on the defensive side of the ball in 2013 (the offensive appraisal is here). It's going to be a relatively small class -- somewhere in the range of 18 to 22 or so depending on what type of attrition takes place over the spring and summer months, so the coaching staff will be even more selective in extending offers than they were last season. Here's the position-by-position look:
Defensive end: 2
The targets: Celina's Jake Raulerson (committed) Lawton (OK)'s DJ Ward (undecided), Fort Bend Marshall's Deon Hollins, Jr. (JD2)
The skinny: It's an extremely weak year in-state for pure defensive ends, as there aren't any currently on the radar past the already-committed Raulerson (who could easily be listed as an athlete), meaning that the staff will continue to evaluate the position and could look to another out-of-state prospect other than Ward, with Arizona's Marcus Farria the name that gets thrown around the most.
Hollins is an edge rusher at 6-2, 220 pounds and may project better as a 3-4 OLB. Right now, it seems that he may not even visit, as his JD1 visit has already been pushed back to JD2. If the staff informs the family that Deon isn't on the verge of an offer, it wouldn't be surprising to see him nix the trip entirely.
Fortunately for Texas, the four-man defensive end haul in 2012 seriously reduces the need in 2013, so the staff will be selective and it may not be until the fall that a serious in-state offer candidate emerges. Sharpstown's Reggie Chevis is drawing interest from Alabama as an OLB and is a guy that the staff could seriously evaluate, as well as Lancaster's Daeshon Hall, a lean basketball player who is raw, but possesses excellent athleticism for a 6-7 kid.
Defensive tackle: 1 or 2
The targets: Dallas Kimball's Justin Manning (JD1), Elysian Fields' Isaiah Golden (committed to Texas A&M), SA Madison's Vincent Taylor (JD1), Dallas Skyline's Kerrick Huggins (JD2), Shreveport Woodlawn's Christopher Robinson (JD2)
The skinny: Given the numbers listed above (and two could even be a high number for this position), it will be interesting to watch how things shake out at defensive tackle after landing four prospects there in 2012, though Brandon Moore only has two years of eligibility left.
The only obvious offer here is Manning, the younger brother of DeMarcus Granger who has essentially been told that Texas will extend an offer this weekend. As the best athlete in the state at defensive tackle, Texas will probably show some patience with Manning, as he has maintained that he's open despite the connections to Oklahoma.
It appears that Taylor could be the back-up plan, but it's questionable if he can put on the weight to even play a three technique in college -- he's a far better fit at the current moment as a 3-4 DE. As for the others, unless Manning tells the staff that he isn't interested or the coaches are intent on getting an early commitment to provide the depth, Huggins and Robinson will probably leave campus without offers.
The targets: Harker Heights' Naashon Hughes (JD1), Kennedale's Brett Wade (JD2), Plano Prestonwood Christian's Mike Mitchell (JD2)
The skinny: Like the other two positions already discussed, the Texas coaches may take things slowly at the linebacker position to evaluate what isn't a particularly strong class in state, but does have some talent at the top. Well, to clarify -- the staff will probably takes things slowly after landing a commitment from Naashon Hughes, the younger brother of 2012 early enrollee Camrhon Hughes and teammate of top interior target Darius James. Expect that commitment on Sunday.
After Hughes, defensive coordinator Manny Diaz showed some interest in Wade last fall, but the JD2 invite and late switch by Dalton Santos aren't good signs for the Kennedale 'backer receiving a late February offer.
Though Wade hits like a ton of bricks, he doesn't have the size or top-end speed of Mitchell, an intriguing prospect because he has the frame to eventually spin down to defensive end if necessary, but can run like a safety once he gets going. A violent, relentless player, Mitchell doesn't break down particularly well in space, which hurts his tackling radius greatly. He also doesn't sink his hips well and bring his feet as a tackler, though he does have the core strength to finish tackles with evil intentions. It's possible that improving his lower body flexibility would help in those areas, but if kids aren't already flexible in their legs, it's hard to make significant improvements there -- you're either stiff or you're not.
Defensive back: 2 or 3
The targets: Groveland (FL)'s Marcell Harris (will not attend, has been offered), West Mesquite's Kameron Miles (JD2), Sugarland Dulles' Maurice Smith (JD2), Mansfield's George Baltimore (JD2)
The skinny: If there's a developing trend in these previews, it's obviously that numbers are tight across the board, so this is another position where the coaches will likely continue to evaluate, at least through the spring.
With this group, it's notable that all of the names above probably project best to safety, with Smith the only player who could probably play corner as well. The corner evaluations continue, especially with Bastrop's Antwuan Davis, who looked like a lock for an offer before a back injury that is now healed slowed down his junior season.
Miles and Harris are both big safeties who could eventually end up playing a similar role at linebacker as Demarco Cobbs and Peter Jinkens, which could leave Baltimore on the outside looking in, despite the fact he's a slightly-less talented version of Adrian Phillips. First in line for an offer in this group is probably Miles, who received a JD1 invite, but opted to re-schedule to come down with his teammate, Eldridge Massington.
Athlete: 1 or 2
The targets: Sealy's Ricky Seals-Jones (JD1), Houston Cy Falls' Jacorey Warrick (JD2)
The skinny: Seals-Jones is one of the top targets in the entire class and his relationship with Tyrone Swoopes could help land the Whitewright staf if RSJ opts to pledge early to Texas, a distinct possibility with LSU looming as seemingly the only other significant threat.
Warrick would probably receive his offer as a defensive back and fits in the mold of previous takes who excelled on the offensive side of the ball, but have the tools to make the transition to defense. The odds favor the staff continuing to evaluate the position and holding off on offering Warrick at JD2, unless the staff has him at the top of their cornerback board.