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Why the Texas Longhorns can't afford to lose WR commit John Burt

A huge jump as a senior has made the top-rated pledge in the class even more valuable.

John Burt coming down with a tough catch at The Opening
John Burt coming down with a tough catch at The Opening
Student Sports

Ever since Texas Longhorns wide receiver commit John Burt took two visits to see the Auburn Tigers in October and early November, it's seemed like only a matter of time until his flip.

The seeming inevitability of that decision and some limited film as a wide receiver as a junior were numbing agents in the perception of the potential consequences of that choice.

But several facts loom large -- Burt's senior film is incredible, he was already the highest-rated commit in the entire class before the sensational end to his high school career, and his family connections to Austin should have always made his recruitment easy for the Longhorns.

While Auburn is much closer geographically to Tallahassee than Austin, the Burt family hasn't had many problems taking unofficial visits to Texas, including one for the Iowa State game. Ultimately, distance likely won't be the deciding factor in his final decision.

The official visit to Austin is supposed happen in late January, tentatively, just before Signing Day and a potential decision from the consensus four-star prospect who should be rising in the rankings would have to come shortly thereafter.

Sitting in the middle of December, the Longhorns don't have another wide receiver commit in a class that needs bodies at the position after the dismissals of Kendall Sanders and Montrel Meander, especially at the X or inside position that senior John Harris has occupied so unexpectedly well in 2014.

Interestingly enough, Burt's development has mirrored that of Harris, except that Burt is just as physical with less mass and has better quickness than Harris did in high school. So he's basically a better athlete who is starting to develop impressive skills as a route runner, while maintaining the physicality as a blocker and interest in doing the small things to succeed.

Coming out of high school, he's starting to get to the same point it took Harris years out of high school to reach.

In one play on his senior highlight reel, Burt makes a block, gets downfield for another, falls in the process, then gets up anyway and hustles in the hopes of making another before his teammate scores. That's a defining play and it defines Burt in all the right ways.

I got a little teary-eyed watching it.

But where as a junior he was mostly great on those hustle plays and on special teams, he's now showing a deeper understanding of being a wide receiver, perhaps aided by his time at The Opening last summer -- it's like a light flashed on for him at some point in the last several months.

The result is a big, physical receiver who can run comeback routes, break the first tackle, and then outrun the safety to the end zone, go up strong over the middle for catches in traffic made possible by attacking the football with his hands, and beat opponents with his route-running ability coming out of his breaks or simply run by defensive backs who don't completely respect his pure, vertical speed.

Right now, Burt is on the margin of being a top-100 prospect at No. 129 nationally and No. 11 among wide receivers. His senior film looks like that of a top-100 prospect and top-10 wide receiver.

All the other big receiver options have always been less appealing than Burt and with the odds of flipping South Oak Cliff wide receiver JF Thomas decreasing after every TCU win, the stakes of keeping the Lincoln product in the fold have increased.

Georgia Prep wide receiver Gilbert Johnson is the other top option, but he may be a back-up plan at this time.

In months, Burt has come from being a raw prospect to looking like a true wide receiver, while keeping all the hustle and toughness attributes that made him so appealing even when his pure skills as a pass-catcher looked more limited on film.

And that combination makes him one of the most important recruits in the 2015 class for Texas closing in on Signing Day -- it's clear there's no replacing him now and early contributions are much more likely at this point with his development.

The consensus within the industry is that Auburn is the team to beat right now, even though Texas still holds his pledge.

What has become increasingly clear is that Burt is a player the Longhorns can't afford to lose.