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Texas LB signee Jeffrey McCulloch and Malik Jefferson are two of a kind

On and off the field, the Longhorns linebackers share a number of attributes.

Thomas B. Shea-USA TODAY Sports

The Shark and the Predator. On the surface, Texas Longhorns signee Jeffrey McCulloch and sophomore linebacker Malik Jefferson both have phenomenal nicknames. Both are edge-rushing terrors most comfortable coming downhill and getting after quarterbacks and ball carriers.

Dig a little bit deeper, however, and more parallels become apparent -- both are highly intelligent, extremely mature, and focused on academics.

The quality of a Texas education appealed strongly to Jefferson's parents when he made his decision in December of 2014 and he currently participates in the Texas Center for Sports Leadership and Innovation as he considers a post-football career in entrepreneurship.

With McCulloch, the academic bona fides are perhaps even more impressive, as he ranks fifth among 756 students at Aldine Davis with a 3.95 grade-point average. He plans on majoring in business at Texas and also considered Notre Dame and Stanford during the recruiting process, for reasons that his academic success in high school should make apparent.

Playing a position that requires fast processing speed to identify and diagnose plays, especially in deciphering between running plays that require downhill effort and passing plays that require coverages drops, McCulloch's intelligence benefits him on the football field. And his consistent effort level is reflective of his studiousness in the classroom.

Another important parallel between McCulloch and Jefferson? They both believe in head coach Charlie Strong. Jefferson believed at a time when it wasn't particularly fashionable among his peers. So he made it fashionable.

McCulloch made his decision in in an announcement televised by ESPNU on National Signing Day, one of seven pledges on that day. Now he's entrusting his future to Strong because he thinks the Texas head coach will make him a better man.

Like Jefferson, McCulloch also seriously considered Texas A&M during the recruiting process, traveling to College Station numerous times during the fall. As a result, from September to November, the Aggies trended heavily in his 247Sports Crystal Ball, nearly overtaking what had been a commanding lead by the Longhorns in those predictions.

But when the transfers of former five-star quarterbacks Kyle Allen and Kyler Murray and the departure of offensive coordinator Jake Spavital rocked the program in December, suddenly McCulloch had the same questions about A&M as he did about Texas. How much job security does the head coach have? What's up with the quarterback situation?

So he took official visits to both schools during January. First Texas, then Texas A&M. Both coaching staffs had a chance to provide McCulloch the answers he sought and sell him on the future. But by the time that McCulloch made his way to College Station less than two weeks before National Signing Day, Longhorns momentum had coalesced to the extent there were rumors he was recruiting for Strong during his time in Aggieland.

At Davis, McCulloch had plenty of opportunities to flash his trademark hand sign -- thumb pressed against his forehead with his other four fingers extended upwards in the shape of a shark fin -- as he collected 19 sacks as a senior and 9.5 sacks as a junior, with 18.5 tackles for loss in 2014 added in for good measure, not to mention four forced fumbles. As a result, ESPN ranked him as the No. 24 prospect in the country.

Listed at 6'2 and 234 pounds, McCulloch has a projectable frame and good reach that should be able to continue to add muscle mass as he gets into the Texas strength and conditioning program -- it's not unlikely that he'll check in at 250 pounds or more in short order.

And, in fact, he's going to need to get stronger if the Longhorns want to play him at the hybrid Fox end position that would take advantage of his ability off the edge, but also require him to hold up against offensive linemen and tight ends at the point of attack in the run game at times. Otherwise, much like Jefferson, he'll have to get used to playing as a traditional linebacker.

In either role, the Shark has the necessary athleticism -- his 4.76 40-yard dash at The Opening Finals isn't mind-blowing, but he did run a 4.2 shuttle and posted a 35-inch vertical leap, highly impressive results for a player of his size. And the good news is that he already understands how to use his hands and possesses more than adequate functional strength. As this testing numbers suggest, he's flexible, which affords him to tackling ability to drive opponents backwards after initial contact, much like Jefferson.

The specifics of how Jefferson and McCulloch fit together as players won't come into focus until some point during fall camp, at the earliest, but the combined talent and learning ability of the Predator and the Shark should ultimately ensure that the two are complementary and extremely effective pieces for the Longhorns.