A year ago, Ayodele Adeoye was the promising early enrollee linebacker whose Early Signing Day decision to stick with the Texas Longhorns was a huge coup for defensive coordinator Todd Orlando.
A year later, No. 3 inside linebacker De’Gabriel Floyd is already on campus and the buzz around Adeoye has receded into the background.
Such is recruiting, where the newest shiny object receives most of the attention.
With the departure of Mac linebacker Anthony Wheeler, who started 29 of the 50 games in which he appeared with the Longhorns, Orlando needs to find a new starter at the position. During the spring, Ayodele and Floyd will compete for that role in one of the key storylines over the coming weeks and months.
Ayodele is arguably the favorite since he arrived on campus more than a year ago, but the truth is that a knee injury suffered during preseason camp last year resulted in a redshirt season for the 6’1, 250-pounder and slowed his development.
Moreover, Adeoye only played on special teams in 2018, so any projections for his potential impact this year are entirely based on his high school film and his snaps in the Orange-White game last season.
As a recruit, Adeoye was a consensus four-star prospect ranked as the No. 6 inside linebacker and No. 119 recruit overall, according to the 247Sports Composite rankings. Physically mature for his age, Adeoye helped his development by spending his final season at IMG Academy in Florida.
Athletically, Adeoye had a relatively similar profile to Wheeler coming out of high school — an inch shorter than the Dallas Skyline product, Adeoye had a slower 40-yard dash, a faster shuttle, and a better vertical leap (4.98 40-yard dash, 4.52 shuttle, 34.2-inch vertical). Considering that Adeoye weighed 231 pounds when he was tested, those are solid numbers, especially the vertical leap, but he’s not a elite athlete like Floyd.
Much like Wheeler, then, there are questions about Adeoye’s sideline-to-sideline speed, placing a premium on his instincts and his ability to read plays quickly. He’ll also need to consistently take the correct angle to the football at the college level.
What isn’t in question is his physicality, as he’s a big-time striker, much like Floyd, and even shows some ability on film to beat and defeat blocks at the point of attack.
In the Orange-White game, Adeoye made his presence felt quickly, as he came hard downhill through an interior on the first play for the Orange team, but missed the tackle in the backfield. He finished with one tackle in the scrimmage.
Like most young linebackers, his initial upside will largely hinge on whether he can quickly read his keys and make his coverage drops when necessary. Against modern spread offenses that don’t provide easy pre-snap reads from the offensive linemen and confuse post-snap reads with run-pass options, that’s not an easy task.
In all likelihood, Adeoye will struggle in that area early in his career, just as he did in the spring game last year when he took a lot of false steps. Playing well against the pass is not exactly common for middle linebackers — Wheeler was never able to grow into an asset in that area, for instance.
If opponents isolate Adeoye in coverage on swing passes or wheel routes to running backs, he’ll be at a foot speed disadvantage against almost all of them, though that’s also hardly uncommon for a middle linebacker.
Early in the Orange-White game, Adeoye was matched up in man coverage against running back Daniel Young running a flat route behind an inward-breaking route from tight end Andrew Beck after shifting from the Pistol formation. So Adeoye had to navigate some traffic and chase down a player who ran two tenths of a second faster in the 40-yard dash in high school. And Adeoye was able to do exactly that, tackling Young shortly after the catch for an eight-yard gain.
Not a bad play considering that it was designed to make it difficult for the Mac linebacker in man coverage.
Another coverage situation didn’t go as well for Adeoye — he was responsible for Beck leaking out into the flat from the opposite side of the formation on a play-action pass. Not only was Adeoye slow to recognize the run fake, he slipped and wasn’t able to get back in the play before the safety came up to make the play.
Overall, even though Adeoye’s development was slowed by his injury, his experience and understanding of the defense should help him play more quickly and with more decisiveness this spring.
Whether that’s enough to hold off a more athletic, higher-rated player in Floyd remains to be seen. In a worst-case scenario, Texas will at least have a talented backup with some experience in Orlando’s system.