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Texas LB Malik Jefferson earns Tim Tebow comparison

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The monster finish to the 2015 Texas class eclipsed Florida's close in 2006 by some measurements.

Jonathan Dyer-USA TODAY Sports

It didn't take long for the expectations to start to pile on Texas Longhorns linebacker Malik Jefferson after his monumental December 19 pledge to the Horns -- just more than a week later, head coach Charlie Strong compared his potential impact to the 2015 class to the impact former Florida Gators quarterback Tim Tebow had on the 2006 Gators class.

"Really big for our program right now," Strong said days after Jefferson committed. "I told him when I was at the University of Florida, we signed Tim Tebow. I said this signing is just as big as that one is because now all of a sudden, you get someone who gives us momentum. There's still a lot of players sitting out there waiting to go make a decision."

And with all the additions to the Texas class since Jefferson committed, the Mesquite Poteet product earned the lofty comparison from his new coach.

"I made the statement earlier in December, I said that anytime you're in a recruiting process, there's got to be a player, there's got to be a marquee player -- that was Malik Jefferson for us," Strong said on National Signing Day. "When he got on board, it got us started."

Enrolling early provided a major benefit for the Horns, as Jefferson was on campus in January for key official visits with a number of prospects.

"With him getting the program jumpstarted, he was able to sell the program," Strong said. "There were recruits that were kind of sitting on the fence, and then when they saw Malik jump on board, some of them jumped on board. Then the ones that were not trying to make a decision on where they wanted to go, he was able to sell the program."

Glimer cornerback Kris Boyd and Houston Lamar cornerback Holton Hill were two players who fit that description. They both took their official visits to Austin in the middle of January and then committed together on the Friday before National Signing Day.

Aledo wide receiver Ryan Newsome also had a relationship with Jefferson after taking his official to Austin with the state's top player back in December. After committing to UCLA on January 23, Newsome changed his mind and sent in his National Letter of Intent last Wednesday.

For prospects like Boyd and Hill and Newsome, Jefferson's reputation and charisma made him approachable when they were trying to make their respective decisions.

"They were able to call him because so many players respected him and knew exactly who he was," Strong said.

So how did the finish to the 2015 Texas recruiting class compare to what Florida did after Tebow added his name to the class? Let's take a look:

Texas

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Florida

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Position/name Date Rivals rating Position/name Date Rivals rating
LB Anthony Wheeler 1/2/15 **** (5.9) WR Percy Harvin 12/19/05 ***** (6.1)
WR John Burt 1/26/15 **** (5.9) LB Brandon Spikes 1/7/06 ***** (6.1)
DB Kris Boyd 1/30/15 **** (5.9) DE Jermaine Cunningham 12/15/05 **** (5.9)
DB Holton Hill 1/30/15 **** (5.9) ATH Riley Cooper 12/17/05 **** (5.9)
RB Chris Warren 2/4/15 **** (5.9) RB Mon Williams 2/1/06 **** (5.9)
DB Davante Davis 1/1/15 **** (5.8) OL Marcus Gilbert 12/31/05 **** (5.8)
TE Devonaire Clarington 1/3/15 **** (5.8) LB AJ Jones 1/8/06 **** (5.8)
QB Kai Locksley 2/2/15 **** (5.8) ATH Derrick Robinson 12/18/05 *** (5.5)
WR Gilbert Johnson 1/4/15 *** (5.7) DB Wondy Pierre-Louis 1/29/06 ** (5.0)
WR Ryan Newsome 2/4/15 *** (5.7)
DB James Locke 1/4/15 *** (5.6)

All told, Texas added 11 pledges since Jefferson's commitment, including eight Rivals four-star prospects, exactly the type of ratio that helps programs compete at a high level. By comparison, Florida only had nine additions after picking up Tebow, but two of them were five-star prospects in Harvin and Spikes and five were four-star prospects.

So the average rating for the Texas was 5.81, which translates to the lowest four-star ranking given by Rivals, while Florida came out with an average rating of 5.78. The late addition of Pierre-Louis was especially damaging to that average, however, as the other eight recruits had an average rating of 5.88.

In other words, the group of Longhorns doesn't quite match the Gators in terms of star power after missing on five-star prospects Daylon Mack and Soso Jamabo, but it is deeper and more consistent in quality.

Now Texas just has to hope that this foundation class for Charlie Strong, and especially the 11 recruits who joined the class after Jefferson, can have the same type of impact on the field that players like Harvin, Spikes, and Cooper had at Florida. With less depth right now than Florida featured heading into the national championship runs of 2006 and 2008, Texas can't afford to have many misses.

But the good news is that Jefferson is already living up to some of the monster expectations that accompanied him to campus. And that wasn't an easy task.