Defensive End State of the Union
Despite all the early recruiting by the Longhorns, every year there's a player who falls through the cracks early in the process, only to emerge as one of the top players at their respective position by the end of their senior season. Two years ago, it was a local product, Stony Point's Tevin Mims, who eventually committed to Texas and, unfortunately, has now left the team. Last season it was a GoBR favorite who ended up at Oklahoma, Dallas Parish Episcopal's Eric Humphrey, actually a quite similar player to Sims.
Right now, one of the hottest uncommitted players in the state is 2011 Brenham DE Brandon Alexander and the Longhorns are in need of one. With Sam Acho and Eddie Jones graduating, the Longhorns only have two true defensive ends on scholarship next season -- Jackson Jeffcoat and Reggie Wilson. Dravannti Johnson has spent some time at both linebacker and the Buck position, probably another body to the depth chart as an edge rusher. Greg Daniels redshirted this season and was moved inside by the coaches this fall (but could handle the 3-4 defensive end position), while Alex Okafor made a similar move and spent the entire season at defensive tackle.
2011 DE Cedric Reed will be a true freshman in the fall, but probably isn't ready to contribute and may end up moving inside as well. Meanwhile, also in the 2011 class, Shreveport Evangel DE Jermauria Rasco possesses the only committable Texas offer right now and is the top target remaining on the board with two spots left until the Longhorns reach 25 commitments.
All this is just a long way of saying that the Longhorns desperately need defensive ends right now and might even be willing to take both Rasco and Alexander, if the Texas coaching staff does indeed end up offering the latter. Call that well better than even right now. There hasn't been much news about Rasco recently and he won't be taking an official visit to campus, but the Longhorns have continued recruiting him and it sounds like Florida State, LSU, and Texas are still the three teams in the mix. Recruitocosm thinks that Florida State may be a slight leader at this point based on a conversation with someone close to the Seminole program.
Brandon Alexander Scouting Report
Unlike Mims, who burst onto the scene after growing and putting on a significant amount of weight after his junior season, and Humphreys, who also grew and came from a small school, Alexander's late rise wasn't because of a major growth spurt after his junior season and he played as a senior for Brenham, one of the high school powerhouses in the state of Texas. Rather, Alexander flew under the radar for most of the season because he was a move-in from Opelousas Louisiana Prep, where he played linebacker as a junior.
Now 6-6 and around 230 pounds, Alexander's listed 4.7 40 speed is supported by his film -- he's extremely athletic for his size, so it comes as no surprise that he's a former basketball player and that he played some receiver as a junior. He's also a cousin of former Oklahoma star Rufus Alexander, so there's certainly some athletic talent running through Brandon's family.
As his former position of OLB and height/weight combination suggest, Alexander is still a lean dude. In fact, in body type he looks almost like a taller Tevin Jackson. Alexander doesn't look like a guy who has as much room on his frame as Cedric Reed, so he's most likely going to play in the 250-260 pound range at which most good college pass rushers check in.
Brenham, despite their incredible depth of talent, still needs Alexander to play inside some, so he basically played everywhere on the defensive line except for 0/1 tech, the position occupied of course by Malcolm Brown, the 2012 star defensive tackle.
Perhaps it's no surprise than that Alexander looks more capable of beating opponents by shooting a gap or a bull rush at this point than deploying much of anything resembling pass-rush moves off the edge. In that way, he's like basically every high school defensive end not named Jackson Jeffcoat. Alexander is probably a little behind most and he actually has an excuse, as his junior season was his first playing football. That's makes it even more of a positive that he at times shows some good leverage and solid leg strength coming off the ball when playing inside.
Judging from his highlights, Alexander doesn't waste his time trying to beat his opponent off the edge every time -- though he does have a good first step -- showing an ability to bullrush his opponents and dominate them physically despite not having a ton of physical strength.
Against the run, Alexander shows his lateral quickness and ability to change directions, which are both strong for a player of his size and evidence of his days spent playing basketball. Like most good high school defensive ends, Alexander has the ability to crash down on plays from the backside to punish opposing offenses for leaving him unblocked. As a senior, Alexander showed his playmaking ability by stripping several ballcarriers while making tackles.
As mentioned earlier, Alexander has a long way to go in developing his technique, particularly in shooting his hands and using them to keep offensive linemen out of his body where they will control him in college. However, the upside is that Alexander does some things pretty naturally out there that aren't easy to teach. As a junior, he absolutely lit up some quarterbacks with his combination of size and speed and as a senior he showed some ability to sink his hips and bring his feet as a tackler, then finishing tackles with his strong core.
As a final positive, Alexander has an excellent motor, on one play biting on a screen and ending up near the quarterback before chasing the ball carrier 40 yards downfield and speeding past several of his teammates in the process. Even though Alexander didn't end up making that play, on another he nearly tracked down a running back after similar hustle, bringing him down in the end zone -- just a little bit late.
Combining his size and speed with his motor could result in Alexander becoming a valuable special teams player in college. Remember the block by Eddie Jones on Jordan Shipley's kickoff return for a touchdown that swung the 2008 Cotton Bowl game against Oklahoma? Yeah, that type of impact on special teams.
Brandon Alexander JR SR FB Highlights (via robniceqb2)
An excellent athlete, Alexander provides some significant upside for Texas because he does have the ability and experience to play some tight end. The fact that it was all his quarterback could do to throw the ball up in the air for him to catch it as a junior gave him some serious game reps going up and getting the football. He's also more athletic than Dominique Jones, another guy who was brought in with the ability to play both positions.
Since that junior season was the first year that Alexander played football, his newness to the game probably limits his ability to contribute early (he would be a strong redshirt candidate) and he's definitely going to need time developing his technique, so he's not a short-term solution for the depth problems at defensive end, but he would be down the road and the depth at defensive end in 2012 after Denton Ryan stud Mario Edwards doesn't look particularly promising -- he's probably more talented than the second-best 2012 defensive end on the radar right now.
Alexander is probably a top 30 kid in the state right now (in November Rivals ranked him at 44 in the state), so he's almost worth offering because of that alone. In terms of the overall class size, the only problem is deciding what to do if Alexander jumps on a Texas offer before Rasco makes a decision. Is there enough room to take both? Would it be worth taking the risk on missing out on Rasco by taking a commitment from Alexander or is the risk of losing out on Rasco and severely lacking depth at the position the deciding factor?
Those are the considerations that the Texas staff is weighing while they decide whether or not to extend an offer to the Brenham star.
Unfortunately, securing a commitment from Alexander wouldn't be as easy as it was with a local product like Tevin Mims who grew up watching the Longhorns, as Alexander says that he didn't have any favorite schools growing up ($) and since he's from Louisiana, has no particular connection with the state. With teams in the SEC taking increasing their interest and pursuit from most of the Big 12 (offers from Baylor, Kansas, A&M, Oklahoma State, and Texas Tech), Alexander is certainly going to have some options.
Gimme Factor: Three and a half Gimme's out of five