The Texas Longhorns continued to bolster the No. 3 class in the country, adding highly-coveted and versatile defender Jelani McDonald to the fold with his commitment at the All-American Bowl in San Antonio on Saturday.
Jelani McDonald commits to Texas over TCU and Oklahoma State. Longhorns land one of the best athletes in the country in McDonald. pic.twitter.com/lwFHfr1mOp— Daniel Seahorn (@DanielSeahorn) January 7, 2023
Getting McDonald into the fold was a journey for the Longhorns after his recruitment began to heat up during his senior year.
McDonald initially committed to Oklahoma State after a summer visit, but late interest from Texas seemingly changed his commitment. Two weeks after receiving his initial offer from the Texas coaching staff, he reopened his recruitment but maintained that the Cowboys were his top choice. McDonald also drew interest from the TCU, visiting their campus twice and receiving an offer from the Horned Frogs prior to making it to Austin for his official visit.
While it appeared the momentum was pushing him to Fort Worth, a late visit to the Forty Acres ahead of the Early Signing Day dead period and the continued efforts of Jeff Choate were enough to secure his signature.
As a prospect, McDonald’s athleticism cannot be denied even if he has a longer initial development cycle due to playing both ways and multiple positions for Waco Connally during his varsity career. During All-American Bowl practices, McDonald was spotted playing in the defensive backfield, using his athleticism to excel in coverage — where he likely projects to at Texas, at least early in his career. His size and frame compare to DeMarvion Overshown, who came to Texas as a five-star safety but eventually found his way to the linebacker position.
Choate serving as his primary recruiter may give an indication to where the Longhorns see his positional future, but whether at defensive back or linebacker McDonald provides incredible athletic upside and potential.
McDonald sits at No. 103 overall in the 247Sports Composite rankings, but may be a bit underrated in the composite due to the wide discrepancy in his rank and evaluation between the four major recruiting services. He is commitment No. 23 for Texas, and regardless of whether he lands in the secondary or at linebacker, likely ends the recruiting on the defensive side of the ball for the 2023 class.
Analysis (by Daniel Seahorn):
McDonald does a little bit of everything for Waco Connally on tape and he also possesses one of the most intriguing athletic profiles in the 2023 recruiting class. I raved about Derion Gullette’s athleticism last summer and I think McDonald is right up there with him. McDonald is a three-sport athlete (football, basketball, track) and he absolutely excels in all three of them. On the gridiron, McDonald was named the offensive MVP of his district as a senior after he moonlighted as a quarterback and accounted for 22 touchdowns. When he was moving the offense down the field offensively, he was on defense as a hybrid defender where he tallied 10 TFLs, four sacks, and one interception. McDonald is one of the centerpieces on the Connally basketball team that went to Texas state semifinals a year ago, and during that postseason run he averaged 20.5 points per game. Want some more athleticism? McDonald is also the defending Texas UIL 4A triple jump champion after jumping 48-2 as a junior last spring and he also went to regionals in the long jump.
When you take all of that data into consideration, you’ve yourself one hell of an athlete. Reports are out there that McDonald was put at corner for the All-American bowl practices and he has coming away with rave reviews. McDonald isn’t a guy that necessarily has a clean fit right now, but he is also a guy you take all day long and figure it out once you get him on campus and see what direction his body goes. At 6’2, 200 pounds he could potentially being a hybrid safety/linebacker similar to what Isiah Simmons was for Clemson a few years ago, but it’s too early to say if he will end up being that kind of freak. Tweeners can be a bit of a gamble, but I am always willing to gamble on traits and McDonald has plenty of those to work with at this stage in his development. Get him on campus and into the incubator and let’s see where things go in the year or two.