Following an offer from the Texas Longhorns at the first Texas Junior day on Saturday, Rockwall-Heath safety DeShon Elliott tweeted on Monday that things won't draw out much longer in his recruitment:
My commitment coming soon.— The Kraken. (@DeShonElliott_4) February 25, 2014
The consensus three-star prospect is graded at 89 by 247Sports, which has him as the No. 26 safety nationally and the No. 76 player in the state of Texas. Elliott's recruitment has taken off this spring, starting in early February with offers from Baylor and Texas Tech, with Elliott declaring the Bears his leader at that time. Then he picked up offers from Oklahoma, Ole Miss, and Texas A&M, among others.
Safe to say that things have changed dramatically since Elliott declared the Bears his leader:
Elliott plans to make his decision in mid-spring and told me on Saturday after jr day it would be tough for anyone to beat the Horns.— Blake Munroe (@247Blake) February 25, 2014
So the Horns managed to go from a non-factor, a non-entity in his recruitment to the lead through the Junior Day experience over the weekend, despite the fact that two of his former teammates were freshmen last season at Texas A&M and that current teammate, offensive tackle Trevor Elbert, is pledged to the Aggies after spurning an offer from the Horns.
Apparently Strong and his defensive staff made quite the impression on Elliott.
Fittingly rocking the Twitter name, TheKracken, Elliott more than backs up the lofty implications of that nickname with his play on the field. A pure, natural striker who has the short-area quickness to possess a wide tackling radius and the ability to consistently square up opponents, Elliott brings his feet with the sink-and-explode coiling and uncoiling possessed by all the true top enforcers, whether safeties or linebackers -- the 6'1, 200-pounder doesn't sacrifice making a clean, fundamental tackle in going for a big hit with his shoulder.
So it's no surprise watching Elliott tackle that he reports a 425-pound squat. There's some Kenny Vaccaro in Elliott's game.
And Elliott can deliver some huge, launched shots with his shoulder, too -- he just does it along the sideline where he can ensure that the momentum of his hit will guarantee the ball carrier doesn't pick up extra yardage. When he's a partially-guided missile, he's doing so with little risk.
Not the most rangy safety in the state, Elliott nonetheless shows that he can take good angles in coverage and transition to make plays on the football. In college, however, it's unlikely that he plays the role of single deep safety on a consistent basis, in no small part because that role doesn't take advantage of his rangy skill set.
Some project Elliott as a linebacker in college, in part because he has experience at the linebacker position, much like 2014 signee Edwin Freeman spent his last two years playing linebacker at Arlington Bowie, though the 2015 prospect probably has a little bit more range from the safety position with his reported 4.58 40 time, 4.32 shuttle, and 36-inch vertical and had a wider role for Rockwall-Heath during his junior season than Freeman did during his third year at Arlington Bowie.
Freeman perhaps has a bit better nose to avoid blockers to get to the football, but what's impressive about Elliott is his ability to consistently beat blockers, whether running backs in pass protection, tight ends on the perimeter, or sometimes even offensive linemen. His tackling force translates to some quick hands aided by his lower-body explosiveness, but he also understands the proper hand placement to control and shed, too.
There's no question that his skill set would lend well to a hybrid position that would allow him to spend some time in coverage and also work off the edge. Asking Elliott to handle the nickel back role with zone drops, blocker-beating play against the run and the screen game, and some blitzing from the edge looks represents his possible college upside because he shows either evidence on film of doing exactly those tasks or is projectable at those things because of film that is deeply diverse.
To put it all together, Elliott has the versatility to do some things in the pure safety's repertoire, but his elite tackling ability and overall physicality getting to the football around the line of scrimmage suggest that his role will likely be from the box to the sideline like a linebacker, possibly with some zone concepts letting Elliott undercut some routes and make plays.
If the Horns land Elliott in the coming weeks, the versatile safety/outside linebacker would represent a physical, athletic addition to the 2015 recruiting class and provide Charlie Strong with a nice #letsride victory over the Aggies.
Might even be worth some #NOSIR tweets, no?