Recruiting: The final few defensive prospects

The most likely defensive prospects for the seven-to-10 remaining spots in this year's Texas recruiting class:

DT Marco Martin, 6-3, 315, 4.8, Mesquite. Martin is among the group of great D-linemen in the state of Texas this recruiting season. Landing DT depth has been a priority since last February for the UT coaches, and Martin, along with Rodrique Wright, is one of the top two targets. The big DT has already tripped to Tennessee and A&M but the battle for Martin will probably come down to Florida State and Texas. Until recently, Martin consistently called Texas the leader for his services but his tune has changed a bit lately with the Seminoles emerging as serious challengers for his signature. Martin is scheduled to visit Tallahassee on Jan. 11 and will probably make his official visit to UT, originally scheduled for this weekend before Mesquite advanced to face Taft this weekend in the state playoffs, sometime in mid-to-late January.

DT Rodrique Wright, 6-4, 327, 5.1, Alief Hastings. Ditto the first two sentences above in the Martin outlook. Wright, though, is as close as they come to a lock to commit to Texas. The big DT has always listed UT as his No. 1 choice, and despite listing schools like OU, Colorado, Tennessee and A&M, he isn't scheduled to officially visit any of them. His one official visit is this weekend to Austin for UT's Football Banquet. It wouldn't be a surprise at all if the Horns pick up Wright's commitment this weekend.

DE Travis Leitko, 6.5, 245, 4.8, The Woodlands. Leitko is another one of the prospects in this year's recruiting derby that are not only outstanding athletes but great students as well, a combination that typically bodes well for UT's chances. With Leitko, though, it may mean an out-of-state college destination. Stanford, Notre Dame or Michigan probably has a better chance of inking the DE with the near-4.0 GPA and stratospheric SAT score than does UT or A&M. Leitko camped in Austin, College Station and South Bend over the summer, came to Austin on an unofficial visit for the Colorado game in October, and made his official visits to Notre Dame's campus in early November and to A&M's last weekend. He plans to trip to Palo Alto and Ann Arbor in January and will be in Austin this weekend for UT's Football Banquet.

DE Larry Dibbles, 6-2, 281, 4.58, Lancaster. Dibbles, along with Madison QB Vincent Young and Flower Mound Marcus WR Robert Timmons, deserves recognition as the state's top athlete regardless of position. His explosive off-the-edge speed, strength, athleticism and intelligence make the Lancaster senior a top priority for both Texas and Oklahoma, the two schools with the best chance of landing him. Dibbles tripped to OU last weekend and told IT upon his return that he had a "good trip" to Norman but that he was "not ready to commit" and he still favored the same three schools, Texas, Oklahoma and Notre Dame. Dibbles, who made an unofficial stop in Austin for the Kansas game in early November, will be in Austin this weekend for UT's Football Banquet. He has yet to schedule his visit to South Bend. A positive note for Texas: Dibbles, who wants to study engineering, is a strong student and has emphasized his desire to go to a strong academic institution. A negative note for Texas: Dibbles says that OU's Tommie Harris is his favorite college player and he recently told, "Hey, maybe if the fans really want me at OU, maybe Tommie and I playing along side each other can become a reality."

LB Lance Mitchell, 6-3, 245, 4.5, San Francisco City College. Juco MLB Mitchell tripped to Austin last weekend and the Horns apparently made up a lot of ground on the once-leading Sooners, who Mitchell visited in late November. After visiting the Forty Acres, Mitchell told OUInsider, "I really liked Texas. Everybody was real cool, because I was down there Sunday and Monday, and I kind of enjoyed myself without that football atmosphere. I walked around like a normal student, while at the other places I was at a game and everything was moving so fast. The students and players were in finals, but they were very cool with me and still showed me a good time. The players and coaches were real cool. Austin is a cool place." He is scheduled to visit Florida this weekend and make his decision next week. Juco players can begin signing their LOIs on Dec. 19. Looks like another UT-OU battle. Whichever team gets him, he will be in school for the spring semester and go through spring workouts.

LB A.J. Nicholson, 6-2, 230, Winston-Salem (NC) Mount Tabor. Nicholson, who originally committed to North Carolina before deciding to shop around, is considered one of the top linebackers in the country. After his official visit to Austin for the Kansas game in early November, he declared Texas the leader for his signature, telling BorderWars, " I loved everything. Their players all get along and I got a great feeling inside the locker room. I already feel like part of the team. I believe I can play early there." But after an unofficial visit to Florida State in early December, he claimed both UT and FSU as favorites before backing off that statement and saying he would take all of his official visits before leaning one way or another. Nicholson is scheduled to visit Miami the weekend of Jan. 18, North Carolina, where his dad played football, possibly sometime next week, and Tennessee. This saga will probably continue into late January.

LB Rufus Alexander, 6-1, 202, 4.65, Baton Rouge (LA) Christian Life. Like so many others over the last two recruiting seasons, this one is shaping up to be another UT-OU battle. Texas leads for Alexander after the rising Louisiana prospect made an official visit to the Forty Acres for the Kansas game, but the Oklahoma staff has recently made landing Alexander a priority, sending close to half the coaching staff to Christian Life over the last month to woo Alexander and his head coach. The linebacker has trips planned to SEC schools Alabama, Mississippi and LSU but will trip to Norman this weekend, so we'll probably have a better gauge on Alexander early next week.

LB Cameron Vaughn, 6-3, 225, 4.55, Marrero (LA) Archbishop Shaw. This Louisiana middle 'backer, considered by most analysts to be the top LB prospect in the Bayou State, recently narrowed his school choice to UT, LSU and Notre Dame. The Fightin' Irish program is in limbo right now, so it's hard to judge what type of factor it will be for Vaughn, but the home-state Tigers, where he camped last summer, will certainly be a challenge for the Horns to overcome. Vaughn is scheduled to officially visit the Forty Acres the weekend of Jan. 18.

ATH Edorian McCullough, 5-9, 180, 4.35, North Garland. McCullough is one of the top all-around athletes in the state and will compete in both football and track at the college level. The speedster could play on either side of the ball at the college level, and most schools, including Texas are recruiting him as an athlete (that probably ends up in the defensive backfield). McCullough, though, really wants a shot on offense and that could factor into his decision. A&M, which he visited last weekend, has said it will give him a shot on offense. Ditto OU, which he'll visit in January. Miami, which is looking at him as a corner, hosts McCullough this weekend. Texas is on the schedule for Jan. 18. This one is still very much up in the air.

Other longer-shot possibilities

DE Michael Williams, 6-4, 225, 4.55, Lindale. An early commitment to Oklahoma after his mid-October visit, Williams withdrew that verbal pledge to the Sooners and visited Austin for the Kansas game in early November. He's also tripped to Lubbock and College Station, but this one looks like another UT-OU battle. Williams recently called it a "tough choice" between the two. The bet here is that Williams will be on the opposite sideline from the Horns for the next four seasons in the Cotton Bowl in early October.

LB Marvin Byrdsong , 6-3, 235, 4.5, Longview. Byrdsong and current UT commit Aaron Harris are the top two linebackers in the state this season. A current Longhorn player from Byrdsong's area, who saw him play this fall, said the guy is an animal, a player the caliber of Derrick Johnson. And Byrdsong has always liked Texas, even calling UT his leader after he tripped to Norman last weekend. Sounds like a shoe-on to be a Horn, but unfortunately, that's not necessarily the case. Qualification may be an issue with Byrdsong, and that will probably keep him from ever wearing the Orange and White. Oklahoma, Arkansas, where he's scheduled to visit the weekend of Jan. 18 following a scheduled trip to Austin the previous weekend, or Mississippi State, where he visited on Dec. 1 and where his brother Shawn is a cornerback, are the more likely options.

LB Fletcher Session, 6-0, 202, 4.59, Tyler John Tyler. A solid prospect, but one that probably won't wear the Orange and White (despite the fact that he has said he would commit to Texas if offered) unless the Horns miss on the vast majority of their remaining targets.

Here's the current committed prospect breakdown by defensive position (with the number committed at each position plus the number expected to be added at each position in parens) followed in italics by the most likely prospects to fill the remaining spots in this class:

DT (1+2) -- Sonny Davis (who is expected to sign in Dec. 19 as a juco transfer); Rodrique Wright, Marco Martin
DE (4+1) -- Lyle Sendlein, Tully Janszen, Chase Pittman (expected spring enrollee), Brian Pickryl (expected spring enrollee); Larry Dibbles
LB (4+2) -- Brian Robison, Marcus Myers, Garnet Smith, Aaron Harris; Lance Mitchell, Rufus Alexander
DB (1) -- Matthew Melton;
and ATH (1+1) -- Clint Haney; Edorian McCullough

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