The number one recruit in the state of Texas and the best linebacking recruit in the country will decide early Friday between Texas, Texas A&M and an unknown 3rd option (UCLA, LSU, Baylor) and his announcement could bolster or derail a strong finish for a 2015 Texas recruiting class that needs to add a half dozen potential difference makers to some good infrastructure and developmental pieces that are already in the fold.
I've already offered my opinion on Jefferson. He's the real deal in a recruiting world that tends to go heavy on hyperbole and groupthink. Though no one recruit will make or break any program or even a recruiting class, this is an important proving ground for this staff to demonstrate that it can impose its will on the state's recruiting landscape.
It's starting to look like a Texas vs. Texas A&M battle.
Texas has a lot to be confident about. Jefferson is a good guy from a good home, he understands the technical proficiency of Strong and his staff in developing defensive players and preparing them for the NFL, the Longhorn linebacking depth chart is wide open for competition and his family favors Texas. In normal years, this post would now be over. A slam dunk. Texas. If you haven't noticed, things aren't normal.
Texas A&M has a lot to be confident about. The Aggies can sell a league that dominates college football mindshare and NFL scouting attention, a more highly ranked recruiting class, glittering new facilities and a charismatic coach that has been nurturing a relationship with Jefferson since he was a sophomore. And the Aggies can all but promise Jefferson a starting job in 2015 based on the horror of their 2014 defense and their proven willingness to play multiple true freshmen.
Both schools have negatives.
Texas is down, Strong isn't well-established and Louisville bona fides are a better sell out-of-state, we have deep structural issues left over from the previous regime that can't be fixed in one year and an old school staff that may not always be in sync with needy Millennial show me love demands. We also play in a league with the national appeal of a Norwegian birding expo. That's irrelevant when Texas is Texas, but Texas isn't us right now. Wait, what?
The Aggies didn't exactly kill it this season however they wish to mask it behind SEC jingoism (5 SEC losses is like 1 loss in another league!), Sumlin's historical commitment to defense is a dubious and they haven't hired a defensive coordinator yet - which seems to suggest that the established names concur. It's fairly incredible that A&M is even in the running given that Jefferson has no idea how he'll be used or if the hire will be competent. In the bigger picture Sumlin is trying to buy time in the transition between maximizing with the riches he inherited from Sherman and the recruiting classes that he secured based on that momentum. Mack Brown did the same thing here.
That leaves the 3rd option - the compromise school. An option that is palatable to all parties (including both head coaches you don't want to disappoint - at least it's not the rival), doesn't cause conflict and takes advantage of the poisoned well created by Texas and Texas A&M selling and counter-selling their virtues and faults. This does happen. I know of a NFL OL who attended his 3rd choice, a compromise school, because his Aggie stepfather forbade him from going to Texas and was willing to wreck the family over it. Jefferson doesn't have that family dynamic at work, but the compromise can happen in a lot of different ways - sometimes you just want to go to the place that has no expectations or backlash and UCLA or LSU isn't exactly a bad place to spend your college years.
I felt fairly confident about our chances until recently. Now, I'm not particularly confident. I have no inside information, but my reading of the general vibe isn't positive. There are a number of big picture issues, but in the end I'm not sure we have that staff rainmaker who can talk a vulture off of a meat wagon or secure the vital commitment after lining up all of the evidence. I had the same feeling about Myles Turner and was proven very happily wrong. Here's hoping I'm very wrong again.
What do you think?