What loss of Andrew Billings means for Texas

Cooper Neill

The 'Horns will now sign a 2013 recruiting class without a single defensive lineman.

When the mysterious recruitment of 2013 Waco defensive tackle Andrew Billings finally came to an end on Tuesday afternoon and the 6-1, 315-pounder chose the Bears over the Longhorns and Horned Frogs, it marked an ominous moment for the Texas Longhorns.

When what remains of the Texas recruiting class signs at various points on Wednesday, the 'Horns will at the end find themselves without a true defensive end or defensive tackle.

Now, that won't necessary be a big deal in 2013, though A'Shawn Robinson certainly could have contributed, despite the depth of the defensive tackle rotation. No, the problems will start to surface in 2014 and beyond. The Longhorns will lose Ashton Dorsey and Chris Whaley after the 2013 season and Desmond Jackson after the 2014 season.

That will leave Texas with only the current commits on campus and the 2014 prospects they end up securing -- right now that would be Malcom Brown, Paul Boyette, Alex Norman, and, most likely, Hassan Ridgeway, who will almost have to slide down. It's also possible that if Jake Raulerson doesn't put on the weight to play along the offensive line, he could end up as a three-technique defensive tackle.

In other words, the margin for error just got significantly smaller and the importance of the 2014 defensive tackle class that much more paramount to the overall health of the class and the position moving forward. Fortunately, there are several players who have emerged after their junior seasons who could end up being solid takes. The bad news is that none of those recruits come close to being the difference-makers that Robinson was expected to be, and Billings could become.

Part of the story for Texas recently has been the desire to get more physical in the trenches on both sides of the ball, but even if the offense may not be moving away from an "SEC style" to more of a spread attack, the defense still needs to be physical along the line of scrimmage, most especially at the defensive tackle position.

And few players in the state of Texas are more physical than Billings, who packs an absolutely tremendous punch and may be one of the strongest prospects the state has produced in some time, right up there with Robinson.

Right now, the 'Horns don't have a player on the roster who can take on and potentially beat double teams and keep linebackers clean, something the latter group demonstrated they absolutely needed the defensive tackles to be able to do for them. Paul Boyette could eventually become that player, but he's not nearly as strong as Billings is already.

As for any potential sea changes that may be going on in recruiting, the loss of star wide receiver Robbie Rhodes to Baylor last summer stung significantly, but it made sense on the surface because Rhodes wanted to play in a fast-paced, high-powered offense and Baylor unquestionably offered that.

The Billings situation, though? That was just Texas getting out-recruited by Baylor, something that that hasn't happened often in Mack Brown's tenure in Austin, but that's what losing does -- it levels the playing field for other schools and gives prospects more reason to go to places like Baylor than just to try to resurrect a program, but rather to help it take that final step.

If the Longhorns can't get back on the winning track on fall Saturdays, they may well be in line to lose out on more players like Billings that would have been much easier recruitments several years ago. And that could continue to have major implications for a Texas depth chart that is already taking some hits.

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