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Texas still searching for impact DL in 2019 class

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When the Horns missed on DeMarvin Leal to the Aggies, it severely reduced the odds of landing an elite defensive lineman for #fUTure19.

DeMarvin Leal in College Station
via @boimarv9

All of a sudden, things took a bad turn for the Texas Longhorns.

In early days of April, Converse Judson defensive lineman DeMarvin Leal was trending towards Texas. And then Leal took an official visit to College Station and promptly shut down his recruitment in favor of Texas A&M.

In early May, the Horns managed to get Leal back to the Forty Acres for an official visit, but since then there haven’t been any indications that the 6’4, 280-pounder is wavering in the least with his longtime pledge.

Frankly, it would be a surprise if head coach Tom Herman and his staff even manage to get Leal on campus again before he signs.

With the defensive line struggling not to get blown off the ball in the last several weeks and only two pledges in the 2019 recruiting class — arguably only one, since Peter Mpagi will start at B-backer — there’s been plenty of discussion about what Texas is going to do at that position.

The most concise answer is to say that the staff will continue to recruit and continue to evaluate other options at the position.

Will defensive line coach Oscar Giles manage to land an impact player in the class? While it won’t be possible to know that conclusively until several years from now, it is possible to say that it seems unlikely that Texas will be able to land a top prospect.

So the class will come down to either pulling off a late miracle like flipping Leal or finding and then developing lesser-regarded prospects.

It’s also worth pointing out that Giles finished strong in the 2018 recruiting class, landing three of four defensive line signees late in the cycle.

Especially important was the Longhorns holding on to the commitment of Under Armour All-American Keondre Coburn, one of the best players at his position to emerge in recent years. Coburn elected not to sign during the early period, planned on taking several visits in January, and hosted Texas A&M at his home late in the process, but ultimately sided with Texas after a surprise visit just before National Signing Day.

Moro Ojomo, who emerged as a target last December as his recruitment added national programs in pursuit of his services, is still only 17 years old after making his debut in burnt orange and white last Saturday. His future remains bright.

As a result of that excellent finish in the last cycle, there is some definite young talent on campus, but as fans have focused on the current issues on the field and in recruiting, they haven’t been paying enough attention to players like Coburn and Ojomo. Both of them will have a greater impact on the short-term future of the Longhorns defensive line than any of the eventual 2019 signees.

Still, there isn’t a lot of experienced depth on campus right now because of misses and attrition in previous classes — it’s not acceptable to have a class smaller than necessary.

With the early signing period approaching, Texas holds a commitment from Huntsville strong-side defensive end T’Vondre Sweat, a consensus high three-star prospect who held offers from Alabama, Oklahoma, and Texas A&M, among others. He looks like an excellent addition to the class, even though there hasn’t been much buzz about him.

Looking ahead, here are the two operative questions. Besides missing on Leal, how did Texas get here? And how can it close the class?

The Longhorns have extended 23 offers to defensive lineman in the 2019 recruiting (including Mpagi and several other potential B-backers). Only four have gone out to defensive tackles, indicating that the staff is being extremely picky at that position.

As Texas struggled to gain any national footing with defensive ends, the biggest misses came in state. Houston Mayde Creek defensive end Marcus Stripling has never seriously considered Texas, but Fort Worth Nolan Catholic defensive end NaNa Osafo-Mensah came down to the Horns and Fighting Irish. Unfortunately, his Catholic upbringing was too much to overcome, even though Texas seemed like the leader at one point.

Junior college defensive ends Jermaine Johnson and Jacoby Jones opted for Georgia and Oklahoma, respectively, despite pursuit from Texas.

Safety Jalen Catalon’s teammate Taurean Carter recently committed to Arkansas.

One of the few defensive tackle targets, Texas native Rodas Johnson, who now plays his high school football in Ohio, committed to Wisconsin on Tuesday.

Hawaiian Faatui Tuitele visited campus during the spring and included the Horns in his top five, but he’s been trending towards Washington for months and would need to take an official visit to Austin for Texas to have a chance with him.

As a result, unless things change with Leal or Stripling, the only major target at this time is Warren (La.) defensive end Myron Warren, a former TCU pledge who will visit Austin for the Iowa State game. If home-state LSU doesn’t offer, Texas should have a strong shot of landing him. And Warren would be an excellent addition to the class.

There are a number of defensive ends on the radar right now, ranging from junior college prospects like Dodge City CC defensive end Sekou Diaby to high school prospects like Kentwood (La.) strong-side defensive end Kendall Wilkerson. The most likely defensive end to receive an offer is Iowa Western’s Malcolm Lee, the No. 4 weak-side defensive end in the junior college ranks and a prospect who holds offers from Iowa, Iowa State, and Louisville, among others.

However, there aren’t any defensive tackles who are clearly on the radar, but it’s definitely possible that another prospect like Ojomo could emerge and become a coveted player nationally between the early signing period and National Signing Day.

Because of how things went in defensive line recruiting during the last cycle, it’s easier to have some optimism that Giles and Director of Recruiting Bryan Carrington will be able to pull out a couple late coups to round out this class.