New Orleans (La.) St. Augustine defensive tackle D'Andre Christmas-Giles is an inquisitive guy. When interacting with Texas Longhorns head coach Charlie Strong throughout the recruiting process, he always had questions. Questions upon questions upon questions.
"Coach, what is this?"
"What position is this?"
"What number can I have?"
In the end, the answers all came up burnt orange. When asked about his decision on National Signing Day, hours after his commitment to the Longhorns on local television in New Orleans, Christmas-Giles said it was all about opportunity and relationships. The coaching acumen of Strong and the ability of defensive line coach Brick Haley to put players in the NFL. The rapport that he built with both after Texas offered in late September, when he was still committed to Tennessee.
More than that, Christmas-Giles #Believes.
"Oh yeah, I wouldn't be going to Texas if I didn't feel like that," Christmas-Giles said when asked about a bright future in Austin on National Signing Day. "This recruiting class that we have this year and the recruiting class from last year... We've got something great going on."
Haley's connections in Louisiana were an important part of the process of inculcating belief in Christmas-Giles.
"Well, it's all about ties, and Brick [Haley] has some ties there in New Orleans. It was good, and he did a really good job with [D'Andre] Christmas-Giles," Strong said on National Signing Day.
"I told Brick, I think we flew in there to Slidell early and we went to this restaurant to eat, I think it was Ky's, where they had these old bicycles. And I told him that it was a burger that helped him get Christmas, because Christmas ended up telling us that night that he was coming. But Brick knows that whole area coming out of Baton Rouge, and that's why it's easier for him to get around and know everyone."
The recruiting process wasn't easy for Christmas-Giles, though -- after spending his sophomore year at Salmen High School in Slidell, the big defensive tackle had to sit out his junior year as a result of transfer rules after he made the move to St. Augustin, the Louisiana prep powerhouse.
Judging by his senior film, the time away from football just made him more hungry, as he responded with 49 tackles, including 35 solo stops, five sacks and three tackles for loss in his final prep season.
The Volunteers didn't even need to see that senior film before extending an offer to Christmas-Giles and he responded with a commitment at the end of August, when his best offers were from Colorado State, Kansas, San Diego State, and Southern Miss. By the end of November, schools like Nebraska, North Carolina, Texas, Texas A&M, Mississippi State, TCU, Oklahoma State, Miami, Arkansas, and Ole Miss had all joined his recruitment, with many of those schools jumping into the race by October.
So by the time that home-state LSU offered the day before his official visit to Texas in December, the Tigers had lost ground. When Christmas-Giles decommitted from Tennessee in the immediate aftermath of his official visit to Austin just before the dead period, it wasn't clear whether it was a result of the LSU offer or the visit to Texas.
In the end, Texas won out, in part because of the greater opportunity to play early and the fact that LSU filled up at defensive tackle before National Signing Day.
And those relationships -- as much as the trajectory of Christmas-Giles and his recruitment by the Tigers helped the Longhorns, Strong and Haley deserve even more credit for closing on that evening in Slidell, even though Christmas-Giles didn't announce until minutes before National Signing Day.
Now the Texas coaching staff will have another big body in the trenches to augment a depth chart that was disturbingly thin less than two months ago when star Hassan Ridgeway declared for the 2016 NFL Draft.
In playing half a man and shooting gaps, Christmas-Giles shows high-level first-step quickness to penetrate into opposing backfields. There are questions about his athleticism when he has to change directions, but getting the penetration is often the most important factor since there are so few players who can do that consistently and effectively. There's the upside for him.
At 6'2 and 292 pounds, Christmas-Giles is the second-lightest signee for the Longhorns among the five at his position in 2016, so his best projection is as a four-technique defensive end or three-technique defensive tackle. Since he is a little bit high cut and missed a year of development, his pad level will need some refinement, as well as his hand usage.
Both of those factors could contribute to a redshirt season or limited contributions as a freshmen due to the prevalence of in-class competition for him. Once it all comes together, though, Christmas-Giles is still a prospect who had to battle his way up the rankings late to finish as a consensus four-star prospect, the No. 334 player overall, the No. 34 defensive tackle, and No. 21 player in the state of Louisiana, according to the 247Sports Composite rankings. For that, he deserves respect and a long-term lofty projection as a Longhorn.