The 2014 class in the state of Texas features one of the most ridiculously deep defensive back groups in years, with a number of elite prospects.
Since the idea in recruiting is to replace the players who will be juniors when the class in question arrives, Texas will be looking to fill around three or four slots, with Kevin Vaccaro and Duke Thomas the two players from the 2012 class who burned their redshirts this season.
The problem is, among the six current commits int eh 2014 class, San Antonio Brennan defensive end Derick Roberson is the only defensive prospect -- the Longhorns haven't managed to land a single defensive back yet in the class.
And that despite the fact that several top prospects at the position have already ended their respective recruitments, including Dallas Skyline's Cedric Collins (Texas A&M), Nick Harvey (Texas A&M), and Alief Taylor's Chris Hardeman (LSU). Of those players, Harvey had a Texas offer and Hardeman could well have received one had he not committed before the 'Horns officially extended the 2014 offers.
Keep an eye on Houston Lamar's John Bonney, as well. He doesn't yet have a Texas offer ($), but camped in Austin over the summer and has taken it upon himself to keep up with defensive backs coach Duane Akina. A cornerback in high school who projects favorably as a collegiate safety or nickel back, Bonney certainly fits the profile of the traits that Akina prefers.
With all that being said, here's a breakdown of the prospects who do currently have Texas offers:
Jamal Adams, Lewisville Hebron safety
No decision is expected from Adams for some time, though the case of Harvey clearly illustrates that timelines can often be advanced. Still, Adams seems like a kid who is truly willing to take his time and let the process play out -- he hasn't been particularly interested in naming any favorites over the last several months
As with many of these prospects, the looming specter is that of Texas A&M, as Adams had this to say about the Aggies ($) recently: "I love Texas A&M right now."
The problem is that with all the commitments in the 2013 class, Adams is wondering whether or not he'll have a significant chance of playing early.
Alabama is another school that Adams has been wanting to hear from for some time, but the Crimson Tide have yet not extended an offer in his direction, even though the Hebron product took it upon himself to visit Tuscaloosa over the summer.
As a safety with the ideal scheme versatility that defensive backs coach Duane Akina prefers and the leadership qualities that would make any defensive coach drool, Adams may be the single player that the Longhorns can least afford to lose in this cycle.
Edward Paris, Mansfield Timberview safety
Timberview hasn't been a school that Texas has recruited any prospects from for the last several years, so there are no built-in advantages for the Longhorns in terms of it being a pipeline school or the Texas staff clearly having a great relationship with the coaches there.
The other problem is that Paris is a Louisiana native who was displaced by Hurricane Katrina, so he grew up an LSU fan. He's been adamant publicly that he isn't a Tiger lean, as many have thought, but the Longhorns likely have some ground to make up with him still.
Texas was able to get Paris on campus for the West Virginia game, the most raucous atmosphere in DKR in years, so he was able to see a gameday environment cast in the most positive light possible for the 'Horns, which could have helped make up some ground.
An absolutely nationally elite prospect with a rare blend of size, speed, and striking ability, Paris would be a huge pull for the Longhorns, but there isn't really anything to suggest that Texas is in a favorable position with him.
Brandon Simmons, Mansfield Timberview safety
Since Paris and Simmons play on the same team, it would be easy to think that the two could be a package deal. And while Paris has said that it would be nice to play with guys like Simmons and other friends like Adams and Brown, but this isn't a situation like Demetrius Knox and Daniel Gresham.
With that being said, it's tough to tell where Texas stands with Simmons. He seems like a kid who didn't grew up following the Longhorns especially closely -- this just doesn't feel like a recruitment that will end up with Simmons in burnt orange.
Tony Brown, Beaumont Ozen cornerback
A defender in the mold of Aaron Williams in that he is another prospect with a remarkable size/speed combination at a chiseld 6-0 and 185 pounds, Brown looks like a college cornerback already. Actually, he looks like an NFL cornerback and has all the tools to eventually play in the league as a cornerback or a safety.
Basically, Brown is the prototype.
He also has a sister who will play a major role in his recruitment. Bealoved Brown is a track star in the 2013 class who will be making a decision in the spring about where she still attend college. Texas has offered her, but LSU has been thought to be the leader for some time because they were the first to offer and the fact that longtime Texas women's track coach Bev Kearney is currently on administrative leave as the university investigates her program can't play well for Texas.
If Bealoved ends up in Baton Rouge, the Tigers could be the odds-on favorite to land Tony's services. Texas A&M, Ohio State, and Notre Dame are also schools that will represent significant competition for Texas.
The Longhorns are in decent position with Brown, but it appears that they are merely one of several schools in the mix for the elite cornerback prosepct, a position that head coach Mack Brown never likes to be in.
Edwin Freeman, Arlington Bowie outside linebacker/safety
At around 6-1 and 200 or so pounds, Freeman is a guy with the frame to eventually grow into an outside linebacker in the mold of players like Tony Jefferson, Ahmad Dixon, and Demarco Cobbs. In fact, Freeman played the position for his excellent Bowie team as a junior.
In terms of his recruitment, how things have gone with Freeman are as disappointing as any payer in this group -- he grew up a Longhorns fan, but currently has the Aggies ahead of Texas, with Oklahoma also seriously in contention, despite the fact that he grew up with a strong dislike of the Sooners because of his affinity for the Longhorns.
In other words, Freeman seems like a guy who would have been a candidate to commit upon receiving his offer, but that obviously didn't happen and Texas has been losing ground since. Part of the reason may be that the staff hasn't done a good job of staying in contact with him, a strange move considering that the defensive coaches thought enough of him to extend an early offer.
While not exactly the prototypical Texas defensive back, Freeman clearly has the ability to fill a role for the 'Horns that is needed since the outlook at the linebacker position right now is even less positive than at defensive back, with Hoza Scott and Josh Walker already committed to Texas A&M and Cameron Hampton currently favoring Oklahoma and Texas A&M.
Darrion Johnson, Brenham cornerback
Yet another outstanding prospect, the Longhorns have been lucky with Johnson in that he kept them in his top three with Oklahoma and Oklahoma State, despite the fact that Texas had not offered until recently.
Why the lengthy delay, even though Johnson had a sophomore season that made him worthy of an offer? It's not clear, but it does not appear to have significantly hurt Texas.
His older brother is a Texas fan and longtime presence on Longhorn message boards, so there is someone close to Johnson who has favorable opinions about the program, even in these dark times (most likely).
Brenham is also a school that has sent a handful of prospects to Texas in the past, including Tim Cole and Malcom Brown in the 2012 class, so there are also strong ties between Brenham and Austin.
Of all the prospects on this list, right now it appears that Texas may have the best chance of landing Johnson.