Moving Forward: DTs

With a new coaching staff headed to Austin, looks at the position-by-position talent on campus. Up now, the defensive tackles.

As damaging as Cedric Reed's early entry could be for the 2014 defensive end crop, that's also as devastating as Malcom Brown's potential early entry could be heading into the 2015 season.

Texas entered 2013 fall camp with an embarrassment of riches at defensive tackle in Brown (a potential first-round NFL Draft talent), Chris Whaley, Desmond Jackson and Ashton Dorsey, with redshirt freshman Hassan Ridgeway developing in the wings.

But Dorsey left Texas (or was encouraged to leave), Whaley has graduated and Jackson is on tap to graduate following the 2014 season. That means that if Brown does elect to make the jump, the Longhorns will have lost their top four defensive tackles just from the start of this year's fall camp.

Ridgeway will likely play a bigger role in 2014 than he has this year, and his development is key to making sure that Texas isn't in a bad spot when Jackson, and maybe Brown, leave. Paul Boyette played a bit this year, though neither he, nor Alex Norman, are proven quantities at this point, and either could find themselves behind the incoming freshmen in the class.

Getting Zaycoven Henderson from Longview really, really helps. Henderson was arguably the top defensive tackle in the 2014 in-state class. And he's also somebody who adds some scheme versatility in that he could play a nose tackle in a 3-4. That makes him a nice fit next to soft commitment Trey Lealaimatafao, who is more a traditional one-gap penetrating tackle.

The other two takes in the class are immediate-help type guys. Courtney Garnett may be a long-shot to qualify, while Jake McMillon is currently a strong-side end kid from a size standpoint, needing to add 20-40 pounds to become a defensive tackle.

How did Texas get to this spot? The Longhorns whiffed on a stacked defensive tackle class in 2013, with guys like Isaiah Golden and Justin Manning picking Texas A&M, Alabama winning one-time Texas commitment A'Shawn Robinson, and Baylor snagging Waco High's Andrew Billings, another Longhorn offer. All but Manning played major roles for their teams this year.

Unless the new coach brings a defensive tackle with him, that cuts things a bit thin heading into the 2015 recruiting class, where the Longhorns already have a pledge from DeSoto's Bryce English. English may be the most fascinating player in that crop: he's undersized from a height standpoint, but carries more than 310 pounds, and he moves extremely well for such a short, squat player. He measured 5-10.5 and 315 pounds at the Dallas NFTC, and then went out and ran a 4.62 shuttle. If he gets to 6-foot or 6-1, the height thing is absolutely moot. But even if not, he's somebody who could really surprise.

English was important in that he's probably one of the state's top two defensive tackles so far in 2015, along with A&M commitment Daylon Mack. The battle that will be exciting to watch will come in 2016, when Kendell Jones and Ed Oliver, two players who already have Texas offers, will be at the top of the class.

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