Texas currently has three linebacker commitments for 2014 in Dallas Carter's Cameron Hampton, Tampa (Fla.) Plant's Andrew Beck and Cypress Falls's Otaro Alaka. But the Longhorns missed out of the state's two elite linebacker talents in Hoza Scott (who might not qualify) and Zach Whitley, both of whom had linebacker offers. Texas can make that up somewhat should the Longhorns pull in Arlington Martin star Edwin Freeman, and Hampton, Beck and Alaka are hardly chopped liver. But neither are they the kinds of talent that are available at the top of the 2015 class, where arguably three of the Longhorns' four offers project as better prospects.
It all starts with Mesquite Poteet's Malik Jefferson. The prototype for what people want out of an outside linebacker, Jefferson is 6-foot-3 and 215 pounds, and he ran sub-4.5 seconds in the 40-yard dash at last summer's North Texas camp. He's only going to get bigger and (unbelievably so) faster, but most importantly, he applied that speed on the football field. Jefferson had 25 tackles for loss while being deployed largely as an edge-rusher, and he has the athleticism to excel in all three phases of the game for a linebacker — run support, pass-rushing and coverage.
After Jefferson, there's a bit of a drop off, for various reasons. Cameron Townsend (6-1.5 196) lacks Jefferson's size and timed speed, but his comparable in terms of his playing speed and football ability. Townsend is a monster on the football field, combining the ability to play in space with the tenacious hitting ability of someone much bigger. Townsend doesn't run a great 40 — he was timed at 4.86 electronically in the 40 at the Dallas NFTC — but that's not a big deal when you run an absurd 4.03 shuttle. The latter number shows his ability to stop, start and accelerate, which shows in the way he makes plays in space.
Anthony Wheeler might be the most intriguing linebacker because while he's far from a finished product on the field, Wheeler has an excellent combination of size and speed. He measured 6-2 230 at the Texas camp, then ran a 40 in the 4.5s. But even more than that, he flashed the ability to be an all-around player, making a couple of plays in coverage 20-30 yards downfield and showing the ability to get to the quarterback when working at defensive end in the afternoon portion of the camp. He's still figuring things out a bit, but oh, are the physical tools ever there.
The other offer went out to Dallas Skyline's Malik Jemison. He's an interesting prospect because at 6-2 220, he might grow into a defensive end, which is the position he plays at Skyline. As for right now, he doesn't have the same explosion on tape that the other players have, but he's still a big body who can run. He also plays some tight end for Skyline as well.
The good news? While none of the above players are close to deciding, all of them have been pretty bullish on the Longhorns. Texas can expect to be in the final few teams for Jefferson, Townsend and Wheeler, and if the Longhorns can bring all three in, it would represent an outstanding class to piggyback off an underrated 2014 group.