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What the commitment of No. 1 edge Colin Simmons means for Texas

In the short term, the Longhorns gain valuable recruiting momentum. In the long term, Simmons has the potential to be a game-changing pass rusher.

via Colin Simmons

On Thursday, Duncanville edge Colin Simmons pulled off one of the most rare feats in modern high-profile recruitments — keeping a decision he said he made in the hours before his announcement from becoming public knowledge until he committed to the Texas Longhorns during a ceremony at his high school.

The nation’s No. 1 edge immediately becomes the highest-rated recruit in the 2024 recruiting class for the Longhorns and the highest-rated commit at his position for the program since Jackson Jeffcoat in 2010.

On the recruiting trail immediately and eventually on the field, Simmons has the juice to make a fast and significant impact convincing his peers to join him on the Forty Acres before his expected emergence as a high-level, game-changing pass rusher.

On the recruiting trail

Quarterbacks typically lead the way recruiting other prospects in a class because of the leadership required of their position on and off the field and because they tend to commit early to secure spots and to impact their class.

After signing the nation’s No. 1 recruit in 2023 in Arch Manning, Texas opted to take a developmental prospect in Trey Owens to fill the quarterback spot in 2024. Owens has unquestionably committed himself to making an impact on the class, but as a top-10 national recruit in the 247Sports Composite rankings, Simmons is the type of prospect who can truly help get other top prospects into the fold.

And he’s already on record about being aggressive in doing so.

There are some intriguing prospects as potential flip candidates — Clemson wide receiver commit Bryant Wesco, Georgia offensive tackle commit Michael Uini, Georgia linebacker commit Justin Williams, and Clemson safety commit Corian Gipson.

However, Simmons will likely focus most of his efforts on and find the most success with key uncommitted targets. While getting Texas squarely back into the mix with wide receiver Micah Hudson looms as a difficult task, Simmons should make an impact with prospects like Missouri wide receiver Ryan Wingo, California offensive tackles Brandon Baker and DeAndre Carter, Louisiana defensive lineman Dominick McKinley, Waco Connally cornerback Kobe Black, Louisiana cornerback Wardell Mack, and athlete Terry Bussey.

The bottom line in recruiting is that the commitment of Simmons give Texas a chance to land a top-five class in 2024, an opportunity that otherwise wouldn’t really exist without his presence in it.

Coming from a high school that regularly produces talent, having Simmons wearing burnt orange and white could also be the difference in a recruitment or two over the next several years — having a tie like that to a school like Duncanville matters.

As a prospect

Coming from Duncanville, Simmons has been well coached by Texas high school football legend Reginald Samples and his staff in addition to competing at the highest levels in the state and producing at an extraordinary level with 79 tackles, 33 tackles, and 22.5 tackles for loss in 2022 as a junior on the way to the 6A Division I state championship.

As a 6’3, 225-pounder, the only minor criticisms of Simmons from a frame standpoint are his lack of truly elite height and mass, but he more than compensates with his tremendous athleticism, awareness, and promising technique.

In a two-point stance, Simmons possesses an elite first step that often allows him to beat opposing offensive linemen before they can get out of their stance. Against more capable opponents, Simmons has the hip flexibility to bend the arc in order to get to the quarterback. And he’s also more advanced than most prospects of his age in understanding how to use his hands and when to use some secondary pass-rushing moves to complement his devastating speed rush.

The pass-rushing ability of Simmons often forces opponents to use the quick passing game and try to cut him to keep him from making plays in the backfield, but Simmons shows a strong ability to read those plays and get his hands into passing lanes, breaking up passes consistently.

In pursuit, Simmons closes quickly and possesses the sideline-to-sideline range of a second-level linebacker.

As a college, the biggest learning curves for Simmons project as playing the run with strength and physicality at the point of attack and developing his ability to drop into coverage to take advantage of his athleticism in the open field.

When assessing the entire skill set and upside of Simmons, he’s a better athlete than Jeffcoat and has the most upside of anyone Texas has recruited the position since Sergio Kindle, perhaps his best comparison across the last 20 years of Longhorns.

On the depth chart

After leading the nation in pressures last season but struggling to convert those opportunities into sacks, the Longhorns are desperate to create a bigger impact on quarterbacks in search of drive-killing plays.

The best hope for a double-digit sack season rests on the broad shoulders of junior Jack end Barryn Sorrell following a breakout sophomore campaign.

On the other side of the line of scrimmage, Texas has plenty of raw talent, but no proven contributors. While sophomore Ethan Burke is long with raw athleticism, he also needs to add strength and lacks a deep bank of football reps. Redshirt sophomore J’mond Tapp is similarly talented and almost equally as raw with a smaller frame. Teammates have given the nickname “Baby Bosa” to freshman Colton Vasek, a moniker that carries with it high expectations that would be difficult to any prospect to match and, at this point, merely reflects the development potential of Vasek’s frame. Fellow freshman Billy Walton was highly productive in high school at state power South Oak Cliff, but profiles as a longer-term developmental prospect than Vasek.

Simmons immediately raises the floor and ceiling for the group as Texas prepares to head to the SEC and the level of physicality ramps up in the trenches. As a true freshman, he could make an impact similar to LSU’s Harold Perkins because of his pure athleticism and ability to come downhill with a potential role at strong-side linebacker one way the Texas defensive staff can take advantage of his strengths and allow him to minimize his potential weaknesses.

To summarize it succinctly — the commitment of Simmons is one of the most important recruiting developments of not only the Steve Sarkisian era, but the last decade-plus of Texas football.