In a little more than a month, the future of the Texas Longhorns football program could take a sharp turn when Mesquite Poteet linebacker Malik Jefferson makes his decision with teammate DeAndre McNeal on December 19.
Land both, and the Longhorns could close the class with a bang, using the momentum generated by the commitment of Jefferson to possibly finish with other in-state targets like defensive backs Kris Boyd and Holton Hill.
Lose both, especially to a recruiting rival like Texas A&M, and it will stand as another in a long line of recent high-profile, head-to-head wins for the Aggies over the Longhorns.
The stakes are high here.
The wild card is McNeal because he seems more willing to go out of state, but the prevailing thought with Jefferson is that he'll stay in state unless LSU surges late as it did with Jamal Adams in the last recruiting cycle or he picks Baylor in an upset.
McNeal was in Austin for the West Virginia game and was able to see the big win and, most likely, the post-game locker room celebration with head coach Charlie Strong. As were Boyd and Hill. Getting a strong read on his recruitment has been rather difficult, however, as five schools have predictions in his 247Sports Crystal Ball, with Alabama in the lead.
After tripping to LSU and heading to College Station this weekend for the game against Missouri, Jefferson is trying to schedule visits to Texas and UCLA, he told 247Sports. Noting that he's been to Austin more often than College Station, Jefferson said that Longhorns fans shouldn't worry about the fact that he hasn't yet gotten that trip scheduled.
The target date may be the first weekend that is setting up as one of the most important visit weekends for Texas in recent years, with a host of prospects expected to be on hand.
One of the major tasks for the Longhorns once the new staff arrived was to build a relationship with Jefferson, who has now been recruited by three different Texas defensive coordinators and two head coaches, so it's fair to wonder how those efforts have been progressing for Strong.
Jefferson told 247Sports that he spoke with the Texas head coach on Thursday before his playoff game against Woodrow Wilson and appreciated the advice:
"He just gave me motivation for today and he wanted me to focus on today," Jefferson said. "That's why I like Coach Strong - he's an in-the-moment guy. He cares about what's happening right now and not what might happen in the future."
It sounds like another instance of the sincerity of Strong coming through, just as it does during his press conferences and as proven by how much his players clearly like to play for him.
With Texas A&M defensive coordinator Mark Snyder perhaps less embattled after the Auburn win than he was after the demolition by Alabama, the Aggies have been trending up slightly over the last several weeks, but the play of the Texas defense over the last two weeks has been much more impressive.
Unless Baylor or an out-of-state school, no small part of Jefferson's decision will involve his calculus around playing for a noted defensive head coach in Charlie Strong who has clearly made a difference or a defensive coordinator who may not last the entirety of his career in College Station.
There will no doubt be a number of other major factors, but that has to be a big one.
Which team has the advantage right now? The Horns have been trending in his Crystal Ball for months -- only one prediction has been made for the Aggies since April:
Texas hasn't landed a linebacker of Jefferson's quality since Jordan Hicks in 2010. The expectation is that he could step in and contribute immediately wherever he goes. With his talent and ideal mental make up, he seems like a can't-miss prospect.
Did I mention that the stakes are high here?