The Shark is ready to patrol the waters of the Big 12 Conference, as standout Aldine Davis linebacker Jeffrey McCulloch committed to the Texas Longhorns over the Texas A&M Aggies, Stanford Cardinal, and Notre Dame Fighting Irish in a National Signing Day announcement on ESPNU.
#LetsRide!!!!!!— Texas Football (@TexasFB) February 3, 2016
As with several other recruitments during the cycle, it wasn't how the Longhorns fared during the middle part of the process, it was how they finished. For a long stretch during the fall, McCulloch looked like a Texas A&M lean, but the instability in College Station helped start to push him back towards his initial favorite -- Texas. By early January, the Longhorns were the leader by a large margin.
Then, when the 6'3, 230-pounder made his way to Austin for an official visit on January 15, he likely became a silent commitment to head coach Charlie Strong. There was even some talk that McCulloch isn't a subsequent official visit to College Station to recruit for Texas. By the time his announcement rolled along, the industry was absolutely unanimous that he would end up in burnt orange.
Connections strengthened at the 2016 Under Armour All-American game no doubt helped the home-state school, as McCulloch had the chance to interact with offensive tackle pledge Jean Delance, who committed during the game, and cornerback Eric Cuffee, who had planned on doing so, but had to put off his announcement until the end of the month.
McCulloch is a consensus four-star prospect ranked as the No. 59 prospect overall, the No. 4 outside linebacker, and the No. 11 player in the state of Texas, according to the 247Sports Composite rankings. During his recruitment, he collected more than 40 offers from some of the top programs in the nation.
Here's the ESPN evaluation ($) of McCulloch:
Possesses great size measurables. Has length that should allow him to continue to physically develop and add even more good bulk. Runs well for his size showing good range and closing ability in the short-area. Functionally very strong and powerful with explosive jolt-back strength.
Instincts/Take On Skills
Powerful stack and shed skills and is disruptive up-field presence. Strong hands to shed through blockers and disengage. Deployed as a rush linebacker off the edge where he is not required to diagnose as frequently. Displays a nose for the ball when on pursuit.
Knock back tackler who drives through from the hips with explosion. This guy does not let up leaky yardage or forward progress. Does lunge at times in space and lacks ideal balance breaking down one-on-one
3rd Down Capabilities
More effective as a pass rusher than a coverage backer at this point. Utilized more as a standup rusher and is very productive. Shows good edge quickness for his size and closing burst once he gets the corner and locks in on the QB. Does show some tightness in the hips when trying to bend the edge. Will overcompensate with a strong rip and hand usage to stay clean.
McCulloch is a disruptive up-field presence and possesses some ideal standup linebacker qualities when projecting for the next level. He has some space and coverage limitations but in a straight-line this guy is very productive.
As a quick and physical edge rusher with natural football instincts -- hence the nickname -- McCulloch looks like the perfect complement to Malik Jefferson, who has a little bit more athleticism and quickness, but less mass. Whether McCulloch transitions to a more typical role at the second level or becomes a Fox end will likely depend on part on his physical development and how a crowded linebacker depth chart shakes out over the next year or so.
In any case, McCulloch looks like the type of guy who should be able to contribute on special teams right away and could earn a limited package as a specialist.
Now the 223nd commit for the Longhorns in the 2016 class, the Longhorns are now flirting with a top-10 ranking in the 247Sports Composite team rankings and are holding down the No. 1 spot in the Big 12. The Shark is now the sixth commitment on National Signing Day for Strong and company, equaling the previous total in the Internet era of recruiting.