On Wednesday, the Texas Longhorns signed one of the best pass-catching tight ends in the country when Chandler (Az.) product Brayden Liebrock followed through on his longtime pledge and faxed his National Letter of Intent to head coach Tom Herman and his staff.
Welcome to the family Brayden Liebrock. #fUTure19 #ThisIsTexas #HookEm pic.twitter.com/Q5JLA6e0ML— Texas Football (@TexasFootball) December 19, 2018
The 6’5, 220-pounder picked up his offer from the Longhorns back in February when he was one of the fastest-rising prospects in the Southwest. Between that offer and the time of his commitment in early May, Liebrock added more than 10 offers — he had a chance to play at programs like Alabama, Louisville, LSU, Michigan, Missouri, Nebraska, Notre Dame, Ohio State, Ole Miss, Oregon, and USC.
During the spring, Liebrock did his due diligence, taking visits to Colorado, Ole Miss, Ohio State, Notre Dame, and Nebraska. Arizona State also hosted him for an official visit and loomed as a legitimate contender, along with Ohio State.
The Longhorns were in an excellent position with the high three-star prospect after getting him on campus for an unofficial visit during spring practice in March and sealed the with deal with an official visit in early May. That is to say, the timing of Liebrock’s decision gave plenty of cause for confidence, as a flood of 247Sports Crystal Ball picks came in for Texas following that visit and in the hours before Liebrock announced his decision.
The aforementioned offer list tells a better tale of Liebrock’s value to top programs around the country than his rankings at the time of his pledge, as he was a high three-star prospect considered the No. 382 player nationally, the No. 13 tight end, and the No. 6 player in Arizona, according to the 247Sports Composite rankings.
By Early Signing Day, Liebrock’s rankings accurately reflected his talent and his offer list — a consensus four-star prospect, the Chandler product is now ranked as the No. 182 prospect nationally, the No. 5 tight end, and the No. 4 player in Arizona, according to the 247Sports Composite rankings.
Liebrock is a big addition for the Longhorns as the tight end with the most prototypical build Herman has landed since arriving in Austin — Reese Leitao is close, but doesn’t have the pure height and length of Liebrock. At 6’5 and capable of eventually carrying at least 240 pounds, Liebrock projects as a capable in-line blocker in college. He wouldn’t have earned an offer from Michigan if he didn’t.
On his junior film, Liebrock is at his best working at the second level, where his reactive quickness and willingness to keep his feet moving after contact make him an effective blocker. Executing blocks at the line of scrimmage will most likely take some time to develop, as he needs to add strength in his upper and lower body to anchor against college defensive ends.
Right now, Liebrock’s best attribute is his ability as a pass catcher, as he recorded 39 catches for 600 yards and five touchdowns as a junior, good for 15.4 yards per catch. As much as Herman wants his tight ends to be able to execute in-line blocks, he also wants athletes who are capable of lining up in the slot and beating linebackers with their speed or boxing out safeties with their height.
In high school, Liebrock has plenty of experience working from the slot, as he’s too quick for linebackers, capable of threatening the seam with his speed, and able to go up and high point the football in traffic like a basketball player going up for a rebound. On another play, he shows his ability to get out of his break on a hitch to create separation, then snags a football thrown low at his feet as soon as he turns.
In route-running ability, Liebrock compares favorably to a smaller player currently on the roster in Cade Brewer, but may be an even better athlete — his Hudl page lists a 4.6 40-yard dash and it wouldn’t be surprising based on the film if Liebrock could run a verified time in that range. It’s rare for a 6’5, 220-pounder to look as fast and fluid on film as Liebrock does consistently. The fact that he’s doesn’t rely on his height and maximum stride length to cover ground is extremely helpful in that regard.
Because of his height and natural feel for finding holes in coverage, he could become an excellent security blanket for his quarterback in college. In the last decade, Liebrock is one of the few tight ends Texas has landed who could be as devastating on plays like the stick route that Vince Young loved to throw to David Thomas.
Once the sixth commitment in the 2019 recruiting class, Liebrock is one of two tight ends to sign on Wednesday, along with Temple’s Jard Wiley.