This morning, Texas gained commitments from two excellent prospects and that's injected a new level of vigor and enthusiasm into a 2015 Texas Football Recruiting Class looking to close with as many as a half dozen more coveted athletes.
Let's break down what these commitments mean:
Assuming you haven't been under a rock, Malik Jefferson is the #1 LB prospect in the nation, a consensus five star recruit and the #1 recruit in the state of Texas. Jefferson ran a sub 4.4 40 at Nike camp and combined that with a blistering 4.19 short shuttle and a nearly 40 inch vertical leap. Those numbers are impressive for a 180 pound NFL cornerback, much less a 215 pound high school linebacker. Add in legitimate instincts, a good family and intelligence and he's a model prospect. Also, a January enrollee.
I thought Texas would get Jefferson until a week ago. Then I started having my doubts based on a number of different data points. Late yesterday afternoon, I had a conversation with IT's Eric Nahlin. Nahlin has been uniquely dialed into Malik's recruitment since Jefferson's sophomore year and was able to put my doubts to rest after swearing me to secrecy. No reason to spoil someone's big day. So if you were wondering what that cryptic sunrise cutting through the clouds was about...that's the best I could do.
That was junior film.
It's a shame McNeal is the lesser heralded of the duo because he's a phenomenal athlete in his own right. McNeal is a consensus 4 star prospect who excelled for Poteet at wide receiver, H-back, as a Wildcat QB, as a ballcarrier, playing LB and selling popcorn at halftime. McNeal has elite quickness and body control for his size and he's great with the ball in his hands. He also has plenty of aggression and love for contact, so defense isn't out of the question if he decides his talents are best suited to OLB. It doesn't matter. The staff will figure it out.
My best guess is that McNeal to grow out of a WR role into TE fairly quickly unless he decides he wants to actively battle Mother Nature and keep his weight sub 220 and audition for the John Harris role. He's already 6-2, 220+ (he's bigger than his teammate Jefferson) and his skill level makes him an excellent TE prospect in the David Thomas mold.
While Jefferson was the focus of so much attention, McNeal is a stud in his own right.
In the big picture, no single recruit makes or breaks a program unless you're using hindsight and discussing Andrew Luck or Vince Young. Any individual commitment - no matter how coveted - is always a bit overblown. However, the numbers are pretty compelling - five star recruits with good development regimes that don't succumb to injury or stupidity end up playing in the NFL. A hugely inordinate number of them go in the first and second rounds. Four stars follow a similar path, though the math is more like 4:1. The idea is to get several of them, coach them up and combine them with three star development projects or steady reliables to create a strong two deep. Texas has the chance to do that in this 2015 class.
Perceptually, it's gigantic. It proves that Strong and his staff are capable of making up ground in a 2015 class where half of its elite members were already committed when Strong was hired, selling a positive vision of the future and proves that a culture of discipline, responsibility and character is as much a positive selling point as an obstacle.
Current 2015 recruits have already taken notice. Jefferson is a bit of a pied piper with strong ties to other in-state defensive prospects. It seems likely that coveted Aggie commitment DT Daylon Mack will reopen his recruitment and landing elite cornerback Kris Boyd is now probable. The state's other elite uncommitted cornerback, Holton Hill, may also join the party though we may still have work to do. Momentum likely also seals RB Chris Warren (already favoring Texas) and could have ripple effects on national recruits who tend to take notice who the late movers are. In short, this is a perceptual validation that actually creates real effects. Which then triggers more perceptual validation and so on.
How Does Texas Close 2015?
The Longhorns now have a legitimate shot at a Top 10 class. That will require a half dozen key closes in and out of state over the next six weeks, but the Longhorn staff has to feel validated. The key is keeping up that momentum during the dead period that ends in mid-January 2015 and allows only electronic communications.