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Texas defensive summer enrollees outlook

A rebuilding Longhorns defense will incorporate several high school All-Americans and potential instant-impact contributors.


Throughout the past several days, the final members of Tom Herman’s 2019 class arrived in Austin, with the exception of four-star Burford (Ga.) running back Derrian Brown, who is reportedly expected to join the program as a mid-summer enrollee after suffering a stroke in January. Elsewhere, though, Texas’ 2019 class is on campus in full, which provides the program with several more high school All-Americans and potential instant-impact contributors.

To that end, here’s what each of the Longhorns 2019 defensive enrollees brings to the table:

Tyler Owens — 4-star S: Owens has the versatility to play any position on the back-end of the defense and has the frame to potentially grow into an outside linebacker. He possesses striking speed and has that headhunter mentality when recognizing where the play is going. Something else that stands out about Owens game is that he’s able to move in space exceptionally well while reading the quarterbacks eyes. Quarterbacks at the high school level are intimidated by Owens presence and shy away from throwing the ball his way because of the amount of ground he covers in a hurry.

Kenyatta Watson II — 4-star CB: A rangy 6’2, 187-pound prospect, Watson provides tremendous length for a boundary cornerback and comes equipped with the physical traits to match. At his regional Nike The Opening, Watson recorded a 4.5 40-yard dash, a 4.12 20-yard shuttle, and a 45.2-inch vertical leap, which marked the best effort among all 2018 Nike The Opening participants across the country. When collectively considered, Watson’s SPARQ score if 124.84 finishes as the 11th-best rating in the nation. An exceptionally fluid athlete, Watson often utilizes his length to jam receivers at the line of scrimmage and when they do break off into their route, he’s able to flip his hips well and has the speed to run with virtually any receiver. That, along with his noted length allowed Watson to register one interception and 14 pass deflections as a senior. Furthermore, in addition to his tremendous upside in coverage, Watson has proven especially disciplined in defending the run from the cornerback position, which has been something Texas has seen often make or break its defense throughout the past two seasons.

David Gbenda — 4-star ILB: The natural inside linebacker is a little bit undersized for the position at 6’0, 218 pounds and will need to continue adding weight, but he’s a solid athlete — he posted a 4.36 shuttle and a 32-inch vertical last spring. Between the raw speed he flashes, his willingness to lay the wood on a ball-carrier, or simply the No. 33 Gbenda was wearing, the similarities to former Longhorn Gary Johnson are there. If the tenacity and activity Gbenda displays on film translates to Texas, I wouldn’t expect a redshirt season for the Katy Cinco Ranch product, especially given the lack of depth in the linebacker room.

“Seeing how they’re graduating two linebackers, I see myself getting some playing time,” Gbenda previously told BON. “As a college player, I see myself doing a lot with my time. But if I play early I’ll contribute in any way I can possible. If they want to play me, I’ll be ready.”

Chris Adimora — 4-star S — Adimora’s superior athleticism is the very first aspect of his game that jumps out to you on tape and then you realize that he has a prototypical frame for the safety position. You add that with the top-end speed, ball skills, and physicality as a sure tackler and you can’t help but believe that Adimora has star potential written all over him. After an offseason in UT’s strength and conditioning program and competing in practices, you’ll see a guy like Adimora evolve into a player that the Texas coaching staff will be forced to find ways to get on the field. With Adimora being someone that’s fully capable of playing anywhere along the secondary or any skill position on offense, he’ll create a ton of noise during his time in Austin.

Myron Warren — 4-star SDE: Warrens shows off his ability as a speed rusher from the edge and as a run-stopping force. He displays excellent quickness off the ball and strong overall athleticism, including change-of-direction ability. Capable of overwhelming opponents physically, there’s a nastiness to Warren’s game that is aided by his strong motor — he finishes nearly every tackle with the maximum amount of force. After totaling 30 tackles for loss and 14 sacks as a senior, the question with Warren is how quickly he can translate his game from 2A Louisiana high school football to playing against high-level college athletes.

Juwan Mitchell: 3-star JUCO ILB: Mitchell is an instinctive defender that prides himself on flowing sideline to sideline and rapidly shooting gaps to inflict some devastating blows on opposing ball carriers. Being able to read-and-react towards the direction of the ball and have the speed to close in to secure the tackle is a trait that Mitchell is equipped with. The toughness, willingness to attack, and quick thinking Mitchell possesses is a great sight to see and will be put to use at the next level. The JUCO product is flexible and has some fluidity, which will be a huge bonus for Todd Orlando’s defense, as he’ll be called upon to fly around to make necessary stops in run support and also be a factor in pass coverage. Being able to make plays after shedding off blockers is something you’d like to see more of from Mitchell. He has the wherewithal to become an impactful Mac linebacker for the Longhorns due to his overall stature and impressive athleticism.

T’Vondre Sweat — 3-star DT: A physical presence with tremendous strength and speed, Sweat is slated to be a defensive end for Todd Orlando’s defense. He is gifted with a substantial amount of size and churning feet that he utilizes exceptionally well when disrupting offense’s rhythm. Sweat is the kind of defensive end that makes plays you might not necessarily see on the stat sheet. Over the course of his high school playing years, there were plays where Sweat didn’t give his best effort and there were games where he was unblockable and probably the best player on the field. The Longhorns will need that exact same motor and juice that Sweat played with during his last outing at Huntsville to carry over to the next level. Sweat is fully aware of these things and he’s ready to make a statement when he gets to campus.

“I just have to continue to get faster and a little bigger in the weight room,” Sweat told BON. “Once I get that workout plan, I’m going to take that real serious. I’m trying to come in and play as a true freshman.”

Marques Caldwell — 3-star CB: Coming in at 6’1, 171 pounds, he has the body to match up against bigger defenders, while flashing enough speed to keep up against wide-open offenses. An underrated skill that fans should be excited about is his ability to make sure tackles as a second defender. Caldwell shows great closing speed and is able to bring down a ballcarrier in the open field or deliver a jarring hit. Perhaps one of the most exciting aspects of his game is the ability to create opportunities for turnovers, whether it’s against the run or the pass. Caldwell’s tape shows an opportunistic streak as a defender, with the instincts and closing speed to capitalize on any pass that is even slightly off target. Against ballcarriers, he can separate the ball from an opponent, both in delivering a big hit and knocking the ball loose when making a tackle.