There was quite the uproar over the weekend when Cy Falls linebacker Otaro Alaka made it to Austin for the second Junior Day on Saturday, but left without an offer.
The 6-3, 200-pound consensus four-star prospect who played last fall with 2013 Texas signee Jacorey Warrick, the wide receiver and The Opening alum, Alaka has seen his recruitment take off in 2013, earning offers from the likes of LSU and Colorado on Monday, joining previous invitations to play at schools like Arkansas, Baylor, California, Michigan, Nebraska, and Oklahoma State.
The Texas staff opted to extend an offer to Alaka on Monday as well, apparently after needing a post-Junior Day staff meeting to make the decision. One would think that the days leading up to the Junior Day would be the time for that, but the staff has also de-emphasized early commitments, so that could have played into the decision-making process.
An odd thing about it? The staff said they were taking things slowly with Alaka's evaluation on Saturday, then decided to offer two days later, according to Hookem.com. Okay.
In a need position at linebacker, which currently includes a committed prospect in Dallas Carter's Cameron Hampton, the Longhorns are looking to add two more recruits. Locking up a player like Alaka, who has some physical upside left at his 200 skinny pounds, but can move as well or better than Deoundrei Davis in coverage, would be a big step towards securing the future at the position. Or at least towards providing the program some margin of error.
Alaka told Hookem.com that his initial timeframe was to decide some time in May, but that may accelerate depending on how a conversation goes with his father on Saturday, who is currently in Nigeria on business. The Longhorns are at the top of his list and should be considered heavy favorites to land his services, whether he makes a decision this weekend or waits several months.
The guess here is that it doesn't end up being a long or drawn-out process -- if players are willing to declare a strong leader so early without having any other schools serious in the mix, despite having a significant number of options, they probably know in their heart where it is they want to be.
For Alaka, that school appears to be Texas.
Besides physical upside and a strong affinity for the 'Horns, what does Alaka bring to the table?
OTARO ALAKA #42 OLB JUNIOR HIGHLIGHTS (via West Made)
First of all, he's a true spread linebacker in the sense that he plays outside linebacker for Cy Falls, where he has significant responsibilities against the run and the pass. Lined up to the field side, Alaka has the spatial awareness and quickness that allows him to make plays on the football. On one play, Alaka was defending the inside receiver, who stemmed outside, picking up instead the outside receiver who had stemmed inside, the type of savvy play that few high school linebackers can make. Alaka finished it with a leaping interception.
Against the run, Alaka is explosive in getting into the backfield and causing havoc. On several looks at Alaka as a big-play threat on offense, his overall quickness is exceptional and it is of the easy, fluid, low-effort variety.
Solid as a tackler, Alaka doesn't deliver the heaviest hits around -- he doesn't strike as well as Davis, for instance. However, he does appear to do a good job in the open field of hitting low, wrapping up, and bringing down opponents, separating from the football a number of times, without appearing to take risks to do so. Improvement as a tackler will come from gains in overall strength rather than needed refinement of technique.
As an edge player, there's not a ton of film of Alaka showing the ability to hit and separate from offensive linemen, as he mostly takes on tight ends and H-backs. It's not clear what type of things game tape would show in that regard, but the blocking efforts that Alaka manages to defeat aren't particularly strong.
There is more evidence that Alaka knows how to use his hands to deal with blockers at his feet, but again, many of those efforts are not particularly strong from his opponents.
The guess is that it's an area of his game that he will have to continue to improve upon to be effective in college, though his overall size and speed indicate that he could end up playing in a similar position if he chooses Texas -- as a spread linebacker to the field side who plays on the edge of the box and can handle major run-pass responsibilities.
The athleticism is there and it's not exactly fair to call Alaka raw, but he may need some time to develop physically at the college level.
If the choice ends up being Texas, Alaka would be a major addition to the class.