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6 early enrollees sign with the Texas Longhorns

There was no drama surrounding the prospects already on campus, but hey, Malik Jefferson is now officially officially a Longhorn.

Jonathan Dyer-USA TODAY Sports

Signed, sealed, and delivered, once and for all.

The six early enrollees for the Texas Longhorns, including the state's top prospect and the country's No. 1 outside linebacker, Malik Jefferson, all signed their respective National Letters of Intent on Wednesday morning in a ceremony on campus.

Texas needs help at multiple positions entering the 2015 season, so having those prospects on campus will help acclimate those players to the offensive and defensive systems run by head coach Charlie Strong and his assistants.

Classes start on January 20, but many of the players will begin trickling in this week. Navarro College defensive end Quincy Vasser, for instance, arrived on Monday afternoon, with his former teammate Tristan Nickelson, the massive offensive tackle, following him on Wednesday.

Here's a look at each one and the respective expectations facing each of them.

Mesquite Poteet linebacker Malik Jefferson

6'3 | 215 pounds | ***** | No. 10 player nationally | No. 1 outside linebacker | No. 1 player in Texas

The best linebacker prospect the Longhorns have landed since Jordan Hicks in 2010, Jefferson is also the first No. 1 prospect in the state to head to Texas since Jackson Jeffcoat in that same cycle.

His pick of the Longhorns over the Aggies on December 19 was a bit surprising given the strong position Texas A&M had held for some time and helped set off some significant recruiting momentum for the Longhorns, though the program still needs to close with several in-state prospects for Jefferson's pledge to have truly made a difference in that regard.

A game-changing rush linebacker for Poteet, Jefferson will almost certainly transition to the weak-side position vacated by Hicks' departure. If there's an adjustment period for Jefferson, it shouldn't last longer than the spring because of his football intelligence. And with his athleticism physicality, giving him a chance to play downhill as a blitzer at times wouldn't be a bad idea.

The hope is that Jefferson will be ready to start by the 2015 opener against Notre Dame and emerge as a potential All-American in his time at Texas.

Coppell offensive lineman Connor Williams

6'5 | 275 pounds | *** | No. 473 player nationally | No. 54 offensive tackle | No. 63 player in Texas

Williams saw his stock take off during the spring and picked up an offer from the Longhorns, eventually committing in early September. As a consensus mid three-star prospect, his rankings aren't nearly as impressive as his significant offer list.

There's some thought that Williams could end up playing center, but the bigger need for Texas is at tackle and Williams is the most likely prep member of the class to be able to remain outside. Enrolling early will be important for Williams since he needs to add both strength and mass to his lean frame. He has quite a bit of work to do as a run blocker, both in developing his punch and being able to create displacement, so he looks like a long-term project who would benefit from a redshirt season.

Many (La.) offensive lineman Garrett Thomas

6'6 | 306 pounds | *** | No. 564 player nationally | No. 35 offensive guard | No. 30 player in Louisiana

The pledge of Thomas in July broke a nearly two-month dry streak on the recruiting trail for the Longhorns when he picked Texas over Michigan, Oklahoma, Ole Miss, and South Carolina.

Though he's considered a guard by the recruiting services, Thomas has the size to play outside in college, but the question is whether or not he has the feet and overall body quickness. Offensive coordinator/offensive line coach Joe Wickline seems to think so, as he's told Thomas that he thinks the Louisiana product is capable of playing right tackle.

As a result, Thomas will be one of the players thrown into the mix at the need position and could contribute early if he develops quickly this spring.

Navarro College defensive end Quincy Vasser

6'4 | 260 pounds | *** | No. 56 junior college prospect | No. 6 strongside defensive end | No. 6 player in Texas

The first of the early enrollees to arrive on campus, Vasser was a longtime Georgia commit before taking a visit to Austin in late November, then flipping his pledge to Texas.

Vasser is also one of the most important prospects in the class and one of the most important early enrollees because he's physically mature now three years out of high school and has a skill set that is extremely similar to departing defensive end Cedric Reed. Physical at the point of attack, Vasser should be able to step into Reed's role without much of an adjustment period once the fall rolls around.

East Mississippi CC offensive tackle Brandon Hodges

6'5 | 295 pounds | *** | No. 66 junior college prospect | No. 13 offensive tackle | No. 24 player in Mississippi

A relative unknown when the Longhorn started recruiting him, Hodges saw his recruitment take off during the fall and eventually earned a fourth star from Scout after sitting as a consensus two-star prospect for some time.

Despite a late offer from Mississippi State, Texas was able to win out in his recruitment after Hodges visited for the TCU game.

He doesn't have much experience taking deep pass sets and it's tough to get much of a read on his run blocking from his film, but he is considered the most ready to play of all the early enrollees along the offensive line and could compete for the starting left tackle position next fall.

Navarro College offensive tackle Tristan Nickelson

6'8.5 | 319 pounds | ** | No. 217 junior college prospect | No. 28 offensive tackle | No. 25 player in Texas

Briefly committed to Iowa State, Nickelson's visit to Austin for the West Virginia game produced an offer and a quick commitment. Fully qualified out of high school, Nickelson didn't receive much interest, so he went to prep school and then on to Navarro, which leaves him four years to play three seasons.

The massive prospect is also considered a massive project, so he'll redshirt and hope to contribute down the line. Wickline stuck himself out there a little bit by taking Nickelson -- there's that extra year of risk of NIckelson ending up occupying a scholarship for four years, but the size is definitely and he's a decent athlete given that size.


2015 juco signees

Texas athletics