Many of the major-college programs in the country have offered Tucker, GA linebacker James Vaughters. Texas is not one of those schools, but Vaughters does plan on making a trip to Austin within the next month ($) to explore the campus and perhaps receive an official offer from the Longhorns. Even though he hasn't yet visited Austin, the Longhorns made the cut when Vaughters narrowed his list ($) down to nine schools.
The 6-3, 230-pound Vaughters is a high-profile national target and most likely a favorite of Will Muschamp, who seems to have a prior relationship with the Tucker head coach. The numbers are extremely tight at both defensive end and linebacker, so an offer to a player of Vaughters' caliber isn't the no-brainer it would have been had he visited for a Junior Day, but he could receive a conditional offer similar to Hakeem Flowers -- if he decides to commit to Texas and there is space in the class, Texas would take him.
An articulate young man who reports a 4.0 GPA, Vaughters sounds conflicted between taking his official visits and committing before his senior season, understanding how much schools dislike committed players visiting other schools.
In cutting down his list, Vaughters also cited a desire to allow teams he's not seriously considering to move on and focus their efforts on recruiting other players, a decision that reinforces other evidence of maturity:
For me there were a lot of great schools that were offering me a scholarship, but I wanted to narrow my focus down to the few schools that I felt were the best fit for me, so the schools that weren't on the list could focus on other prospects that might be good for their programs.
Spotlight on James Vaughters #9 2008 Tucker High Vol. 2 (via vaughtjb)
On the football field, Vaughters is all power angles, staying low both coming off the ball and when moving in space. His pad level off the ball allows him to take on blockers at the line of scrimmage, sometimes shedding two on a single play. His power angles, combined with an an advanced ability to hit and separate make him a disruptive force in the backfield as a defensive end his sophomore year and a downhill inside linebacker during his junior season.
There are extensive highlights of Vaughters making plays against teams running the Flexbone/Wishbone, providing evidence of his ability to use his hands to avoid cut blocks and shed defenders -- Vaughters could pack a more consistent punch, but few high school players take on cut blocks or blockers at the point of attack as well as Vaughters. Experienced in moving through traffic, Vaughters has the ability to operate in tight spaces, avoiding blockers when necessary and taking on blockers when the situation dictates.
When he gets to the ballcarrier, he finishes plays uses his strong core and continually charged power angles to form tackle his opponents. When he doesn't manage to wrap them up perfectly, he still uses his strength to vicisiously finish tackles.
Though a bit leaner through the trunk than Steve Edmond, the two have a similar tackling and attacking style and Vaughters may even take on blockers better than the ultra-talented Edmond, who is strong in that area in his own right. It's clear that they are from the same mold of linebacker, and that's the mold from which Will Muschamp prefers his players cast.
Physically, pictures of Vaughters show a kid with some room to add weight to his frame, but whether he does so will depend on his college position. As an inside linebacker, Vaughters has the combination of speed and size to be effective at the 230 or so pounds at which he is currently. However, if college coaches decide they want him to return to a role at the line of scrimmage, he may have to add some weight to approach 240 or 250 pounds.
A stronger candidate for the Buck linebacker position than Edmond, Vaughters may not have the top-end speed to play an outside linebacker position and there is little to no evidence of him dropping back in coverage in high school. To truly assess his ability to play linebacker against spread offenses in a 4-2, Vaughters would have to be able to flip his hips some and get depth on his drops, particularly in zone coverage.
Even if he does play a Buck/3-4 outside linebacker position in college, Vaughters will still be asked to play some zone coverage. As a result, any work that he does in 7-on-7 coverage this summer will be revealing of his ability to play a linebacker position in a 4-2 defense.
The second concern is somewhat related -- for an edge rusher Vaughters has excellent burst and comes downhill with some serious force, but his lack of work in space raises some questions about his top-end speed. He's listed at 4.6 in the 40, but that doesn't appear to have been verified, so he's probably closer to where Sergio Kindle was as a sophomore. However, Vaughters may sacrifice some speed to play at the same weight as Kindle did as a senior at around 250 pounds or more.
It's likely that Vaughters has enough speed to play linebacker for Texas and do it well if he can hold his own in coverage, the factor that will determine whether Vaughter receives a five-star ranking or whether he will sign with his team of choice as a highly-rated four star. Either way, whichever school receives his commitment will get not only an extremely talented football player, but a well-rounded and articulate representative of the program off the field.