Despite the superlative reputation of Texas Longhorns head coach Charlie Strong, the Horns are currently struggling to land defensive prospects, missing out on Cibolo Steele defensive end Mark Jackson on Saturday when the consensus four-star prospect committed to the Texas A&M Aggies on an unofficial visit.
Texas only has one defensive pledge in the 2016 class -- Gilmer's Demarco Boyd, who could end up playing fullback -- and has recently lost out on top targets at defensive tackle in addition to the head-to-head defeat by A&M over the weekend.
Though the Horns waited to offer Humble Summer Creek tight end Zarrian Holcombe until after he committed to the Aggies, five of the eight A&M pledges currently hold offers from Texas. So Strong and company haven't been able to reverse the head-to-head trends established in the 2014 recruiting class when the Aggies secured a 14-to-6 advantage.
And Jackson isn't a kid from current Texas A&M strongholds like East Texas or Houston -- similar to Hays offensive tackle Connor Lanfear last year, Jackson hails from the Central Texas area.
Why is Jackson headed to College Station instead of Austin?
Jackson said he liked A&M's emphasis on quick, speed-rushing defense ends in the Aggies' 4-3 defensive scheme. Jackson said star end Myles Garrett, which led the Aggies with sacks last season, plays similarly to him and helped Jackson feel like he could fit in well with the system.
The hire of new defensive coordinator John Chavis is undoubtedly helping with recruits, but combined with the commitments of the state's top defensive tackles Ed Oliver, Jordan Elliott, and Kendell Jones to other schools, it's a bit surprising that Strong's career success and more recent accomplishments putting Louisville players into the NFL aren't having a bigger impact on the recruiting trail.
Beyond the overall recruiting themes, losing Jackson to A&M reduces the number of uncommitted Texas targets at the Fox position by one. Byron Nelson Trophy Club's Brandon Bowen is still a key target because of his athleticism, but his recruitment seems like a bit of a wild card and he didn't even mention Texas during a recent Scout interview. That leaves Manor's Erick Fowler and Fort Lauderdale (Fla.) American Heritage's Brian Burns as the only other prospective Fox ends who currently hold offers.
Hailing from just outside of Austin, Fowler would represent a tough loss for Texas since his Crystal Ball is currently unanimous for the Longhorns. However, Fowler visited LSU over the weekend, which could allow the Tigers to emerge as a serious contender for his services. Right now, he looks like the potential Fox End the Horns can't afford to lose.
Recruiting at the position is currently in better shape than defensive tackle, but it's critical for Strong's defense, making landing an elite Fox end a significant priority for 2016 and a task that could benefit from a player currently on the roster emerging as a big-time contributor.