When Texas coach Charlie Strong met with the media on National Signing Day, he said that a recruiting class should unfold in a 10-10-5 manner. The first 10 scholarships should go to the 10 best players Texas can get. The next 10 would go to players who fill roster needs, and the final five would be developmental guys or late bloomers.
So who would be the top 10 players at the top of the Texas board, the ones to earn scholarships regardless of need? Here's who I'd pick.
1) Malik Jefferson, LB, Mesquite Poteet
Simply put: Jefferson is the best player on the Texas board. Period. He's a linebacker who has clocked sub-4.5 40-yard dashes despite standing 6-foot-3 and weighing 220 pounds, but he also has the instincts and pursuit skills to chase and the physical nature to lower the boom once he gets to the ball. Toss him at outside linebacker and have an absolute terror off the edge. Or throw him in the middle and watch as offenses aren't able to run away from him as he pursues sideline to sideline. Great prospect.
2) Kendall Sheffield, CB, Fort Bend Marshall
In a number of other years, Sheffield would be No. 1. A big-time cornerback with smooth athleticism, cover skills and a 4.3-second 40-yard dash on a 6-foot frame, Sheffield is more polished than Tony Brown — named Scout.com's No. 1 player in the state for 2014 — was coming out a year ago. Texas needs some top-end talent in the secondary, and it doesn't get more top-end than Sheffield this season.
3) DaMarkus Lodge, WR, Cedar Hill
The Longhorns inked a five-man receiving class in 2014, but the dirty little secret there is that while the 'Horns landed a versatile crop of players, I don't know that any one of them is a true No. 1 at the next level. Lodge is that guy. Remember when Cayleb Jones came out in 2012 and was the nation's No. 3 receiver and a five-star prospect? Lodge brings what Jones had from a size/body control/jump-ball standpoint, but is significantly faster and more explosive. Lodge is currently Scout.com's No. 2 wide receiver.
4) Out-of-state DE No. 1
It might be cheating a bit to not name a specific player here, but Texas has extended offers to CeCe Jefferson, Keisean Lucier-South and Natrez Patrick, all out-of-state defensive ends that rank among the nation's top 10 ends per Scout.com. This isn't a great in-state class for ends, at least not yet, and it remains to be seen what level of interest those players have in visiting Texas, or making Texas a serious option in their recruitment. Lucier-South would seem to be the best bet, but most of his contact came through the former staff. Until then, Texas will have to fight hard to get at least one of these guys (if not another talented out-of-stater at this position) to ink with the Longhorns.
5) Daylon Mack, DT, Gladewater
The only person on this top-10 list who is committed elsewhere, Mack finds himself here because 1) he's expressed an interest in hearing what Strong has to say and 2) he would seem to be an outstanding scheme fit for Strong with his mobility and athleticism. Mack is committed to Texas A&M, and he seems to love the Aggies. But his recruitment doesn't necessarily have the feeling of a done deal just yet. Also of interest: Mack seems to be the ringleader of a group of Texas recruits who have picked the Aggies. Should Mack flip to Texas, could somebody else come along as well?
6) Ronald Jones, RB, McKinney North
In my mind, the best back in the state. The main question here is: why in the world doesn't he have an offer yet? Granted, that situation should be remedied sooner rather than later, as Strong and Co. have invited Jones down to the first Junior Day, where Jones is expected to attend. Watching his film will remind you a lot of former Longhorn and current Kansas City Chiefs star Jamaal Charles, and he would supply much, much needed home-run-hitting ability out of an every-down back.
7) Chris Warren, RB, Rockwall
If somebody wanted to put Sotonye Jamabo here, I wouldn't argue. I'm just not sure that Jamabo has the system fit with the Longhorns that Warren does. If Texas organizes its run game anything like what Oklahoma State did when Joe Wickline was there, the bigger-bodied Warren would be an outstanding scheme fit as an every-down back who can also supply a willing blocker for other running backs and for the quarterback. Warren is a bruiser with the speed to take it the distance, and his running back skills are underrated.
8) Jarrett Stidham, QB, Stephenville
I'm tempted to list Kyler Murray here, and if we were just listing the top 10 players in a vacuum, Murray would probably take this spot. But this is the top 10 players Texas can realistically get, and while it's unrealistic that Texas will get all 10 of these players, they at least have a shot there. Murray is headed to Texas A&M, the worst-kept secret in the Lone Star State right now, leaving Stidham, who didn't list the Longhorns among his top 10 schools. But I'm told that he's open to the new staff's pitch, and that once a relationship is established, Texas should be back firmly in the mix.
9) Kris Boyd, DB, Gilmer
Boyd has prototypical size and the ability to play any spot in the secondary. Need a cover safety who can run? Boyd fits the bill. Need a jumbo corner? That's what Boyd does. He's a big-bodied playmaker who stands over 6-1, has long arms and ran a 4.5-flat at the Texas camp last summer. With Sheffield serving as the best field corner on Texas's board, perhaps pairing him with a natural boundary corner like Boyd could help the Longhorns get back to DBU type status.
10) James Lockhart, DE, Ennis
Lockhart is the top defensive end in the in-state 2015 class, and he represents a different kind of player than those the Longhorns are seeking out-of-state. At 6-4 255, Lockhart already has the build and frame of a strong-side end, but he has the athleticism and ability to get to the quarterback like a weak-side end. Pairing Lockhart with a pure pass-rusher would be a great way for the Longhorns to build an outstanding defensive end group.