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Texas C Zach Shackelford has high praise for true freshman OT Isaiah Hookfin

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The Longhorns narrowly outlasted Baylor in a bizarre finish for Isaiah Hookfin’s signature, and in doing so, Texas found a talent who has wasted no time impressing in Austin.

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Twitter: @IsaiahHookfin

Isaiah Hookfin has only been on the Forty Acres for a handful of weeks, but the former Sugar Land Dulles standout is already leaving a positive impression on one of the team’s leaders.

While in Arlington for Big 12 Media Days, Texas Longhorns senior center Zach Shackelford was asked for his thoughts on Hookfin and fellow summer enrollee offensive tackle Javonne Shepherd. Shackelford provided positive praise for each, but he was especially complimentary when it comes to the work Hookfin’s already put forth in Austin.

“They’ve been good. Coming in and working hard,” Shackelford said. “Hookfin has been standing out to me, particularly, just the way he works. He’s done such a good job of doing everything right; just the little things. I really like that kid. I like Javonne, too, but Hookfin just came in right away and has been doing everything right and it’s rare to see that from a high school kid.

“I mean, I didn’t come in and start doing everything right when I first started,” Shackelford added. “It’s just really cool to see.”

Given that Shackelford, who enters 2019 as a Preseason All-Big 12 First Team selection and on the Rimington Trophy Watch List, is a leader in the Longhorns locker room, his sentiments should certainly hold weight. And to that end, there may be no better proof to support Shackelford’s praise than the weight Hookfin has packed on since signing with Texas.

When Hookfin put pen to paper on Dec. 21, which capped a bizarre few days even by recruiting standards, as Hookfin was set to sign with Baylor before a leaked report prior to his public decision reportedly caused him to push said decision back, and thus, provided him with time to re-evaluate a future at Texas, he was listed at only 270 pounds.

Even at that weight, Hookfin was considered to be one of the fastest-rising talents in the nation throughout the fall. But as Burnt Orange Nation’s Joe Hamilton detailed after Hookfin ultimately bypassed Baylor’s botched push and signed with Texas, less than ideal size could be one of the few things that limited him.

Hookfin is a gifted player that is equipped with astonishing qualities that will translate to the college level exceptionally. Hookfin is well-versed within his technique at the offensive tackle position. Hookfin plays with a solid base and active feet while in pass protection, and is able to use his long arms with a combination of his quick hands while run blocking. His towering size, skilled athleticism, and production on the field are just a few indicators of what type of player Hookfin can be during his tenure at Texas. There’s obviously a lot of work to be done, but if Hookfin can continue to pack on a substantial amount weight and strength (particularly to the upper body), continue to evolve his technique, and develop a consistent mean-streak, he could be a player that makes a lot of noise while wearing burnt orange.

How has the 6’5 Hookfin addressed what was arguably his most notable concern entering Power 5 football? By bulking up to his presently-listed weight of 305 pounds — a considerable 35-pound improvement in a matter of just eight months.

Now, in only a couple more weeks when fall camp gets underway on Aug. 2, Hookfin will be able to flash his new-found frame in football pads. Exactly what that will look like remains to be seen. But given that his glaring deficiency on National Signing Day — weight — doesn’t appear to be a deficiency anymore, Hookfin may be able to contribute and provide Herb Hand and the Horns with quality depth sooner than expected.

Not bad for a talent Texas was widely expected to miss out on when the Early Signing Period got underway.