Gerald Wilbon, 3*, Destrehan (LA) High
The Longhorns' current defensive depth chart reveals a screaming need for an interior space-eater or two in 2017 and beyond, and Wilbon was targeted to fill that bill. When he stays low he's got the strength and leverage to occasionally split double teams and shows the beginnings of a decent rip move as a pass rusher. It's still possible that his highest and best use is at offensive guard, and his positional future could be impacted as much by how this year's DT haul shakes out as by his own individual growth curve. Wilbon also gets bonus points for taking it to Bourgeois High in one of his HUDL vids - Robespierre, IMO.
Jordan Elliott, 4*, Houston Westside (Currently committed to Michigan/building pillow forts with Jim Harbaugh)
Landing Elliott would be a fantastic salve for the loss of Hassan Ridgeway. As a freshman Elliott won't bring the heartbreak that Ridge could have visited on opposing OL as a senior, but he's got a similar ceiling as a versatile force capable of stack-and-shed two-gap work against offensive tackles or interior disruption against over-matched guards.
Elliott's story has been lively to say the least, as he's been something of a weathervane and doesn't exactly hate the process of being recruited. Things looked bad for the good guys after he took a trip up Michigan way and was plied with talk of Gore-Tex jackets and this delightful birthday cake:
This is what Miss Teen South Carolina was trying to warn us about - a dystopian future where too many U.S. Americans don't have maps, causing efforts at rendering a facsimile of the nation's most recognizable state to look like they were carved by a palsied jigsaw operator during the last moments of the Andrea Gail.
Elliott was undeterred by this culinary cock-up and verbaled to Michigan, but there's a decent chance that teh Harbz won't get to have his cake and eat it, too. As of now Elliott is set to give Texas an official visit this weekend, and the Longhorns' late-breaking momentum (particularly with a few of Elliott's Houston compatriots) could be enough to help Charlie seal the deal.
D'Andre Christmas-Giles, 4*, New Orleans St. Augustine
A cat-quick disruptor who could out-poonatrate Poona himself, Christmas-Giles was born to wreck opposing guards as a classic 3-technique. He'd look really nice under the tree for a defense that spent too much time in 2015 with would-be rushers stymied by one-on-one blocks. His ability to knife into gaps or beat a guard across his face would also give Strong and Bedford a lot of versatility in how they can attack opposing ground games.
You never discount LSU for a Louisiana guy (despite the likelihood of them simply filling up on the DL with what's shaping up to be a historic haul) and TCU is making a strong push as well, but Texas seems to be solidly in the mix here.
Stephon Taylor, 4*, New Orleans McDonogh
Taylor has terrific length (he's every bit of 6'6") and while he's not as quick-twitch as DCG he could serve as an above-average disruptor from a 4i/5-technique alignment while also possessing the heft to play further in. His motor seems to rev higher when he's getting after a QB than when he's asked to stand strong against the double team, but when he's dialed in he can certainly manage both. The same LSU/Louisiana dude caveats apply, but Taylor has been high on Texas for some time while the Tigers have slow-played him.
Chris Daniels, 4*, Euless Trinity
Daniels isn't as bulky as some of the other DT prospects on Texas' radar, but he's got tremendous upper body strength and an advanced understanding of how to use his arms to control, stack and shed opposing OL. You'd like him to be a little bigger as an ideal NT, but you can play him head up over a center or guard and ask him to control either gap or at least lean hard on a double team. Texas offered late and his commitment to OU caused plenty of consternation, but his recent decommit and pronounced interest in the Longhorns make this feel like another classic late close from Strong.
Michael Williams, 4*, Ft. Worth All Saints (Currently committed to Stanford)
Even though you have to apply a discount factor to highlights amassed against 225-pound guards named Bryce, it's clear that Williams has the kind of get-off that you want to see from an interior guy. He lacks Daniels' pure heft against the run but could thrive as a cocked nose that can bother a center one-on-one or force attention from a double team to keep him from ripping into the A gap. Williams is a sharp kid who's currently committed to the Cardinal, but he could be flippable if he's high enough on Texas' internal priority list.
Marcel Southall, 3*, Duncanville
A solid prospect with good size and a reasonable all-around skill set, Southall would make for a solid addition but at the moment feels more like a fallback option if things take a (at this point unexpected) turn for the worse with multiple guys on this list.
Defensive End (Strong Side)
Andrew Fitzgerald, 4*, Flower Mound Marcus
I was kind of disappointed that HUDL didn't go old school and set his highlights to "The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald," but it's still pretty fun to watch him wreck offenses' plans of the edge with his relentless motor and underrated athleticism. Well, it was underrated by everyone but Charlie until 247 came around and rocketed Fitzgerald up the charts into their national Top 100. With great stack-and-shed ability and the makings of a classic strongside end counter move as a pass rusher, Fitzgerald could ultimately profile like Stanford run-wrecker and Colts 3rd-rounder Henry Anderson.
Malcolm Roach, 3*, Baton Rouge Madison
Roach played plenty of stand-up linebacker (and even some TE/H-back) for Madison, but he'll likely have his hand on the ground at Texas and could even end up over the guard depending on how he ultimately fills out. His lack of a totally clean positional projection is probably depressing his overall ranking a bit, but if you're fast enough to take a quick slant 50+ yards to the house then you make for a very intriguing developmental prospect.
Mabaduke Babadook Bababooey Marmaduke Madubuike, 4*, McKinney North (Currently committed to A&M)
Hard to pronounce, easy to like - Madubuike is a fantastic strongside prospect with an ideal power/speed skill set. He pulled the trigger early for A&M and despite a ton of effort from current and prospective Longhorns in the 2016 class it looks like he's committed to honoring his commitment. Getting 2017 strongside stud Lagaryonn Carson on board eases the sting here, but you hate to see a guy this good consign himself to Stumblin Sumlin's College Station clown fire.
Kelvin Lucky, 3*, Elmore (AL) Edgewood
A native Nigerian who recently moved to the U.S. and has only been playing organized football for a year, Lucky is the kind of tremendously raw but mouth-wateringly athletic prospect who ends up having feel-good pieces about his background run before bowl games - or NFL playoff games, for that matter. It's not clear exactly where the Longhorns stand with Lucky, but he'd represent some outstanding late-bloomer potential if he ends up as a late addition.
Weakside Defensive End/Fox
Erick Fowler, 4*, Manor (Currently committed to LSU)
Fowler brings a terrific package of violent power, good leverage, impressive straight-line speed and nifty change of direction skills as an edge rusher. He's got the versatility to play with his hand on the ground as a weakside end, stand up and do the classic Charlie Fox-trot or even back the line as an attacking Sam backer. LSU may be slow-playing a couple of the Longhorns' preferred Louisiana DT targets but they want this Texas kid baaaaad. Charlie and Lester both get in-home visits before it's all said and done and this one should carry drama straight through to signing day.
Mark Jackson, 4*, Cibolo Steele (Currently committed to A&M)
Jackson's HUDL video is private, but his growing disenchantment with Texas A&M has become very public. While he's still committed to the Ags as of now, both Texas and OU have their hats firmly in the ring. Jackson may not have the bend of a truly elite edge rusher, but he's got a terrific build and the requisite athleticism to bring heat off the corner or drop back into a short zone.
Technically DeMarco Boyd, but he's probably a fullback when it's all said and done.
Jeffrey "Shark" McCulloch, 4*, Houston Davis
They call him The Shark because he never moves backwards, which is a nifty echo of Will Muschamp's "thoroughbreds don't back up" line about Sergio Kindle in the halcyon days of the Longhorn D. While McCulloch doesn't have Kindle's superfreak size/speed combo he's still a ferocious blitzer with the wheels to run out and wreck the quick game in the flat. Following a Thursday in-home with Charlie that went swimmingly (rim shot) it feels like Texas is in great shape to close this one out.
Dontavious Jackson, 4*, Houston Alief Elsik
A classic Mike linebacker from the days of yore, Jackson is the kind of between-the-tackles thumper that's rarely seen in the Big XII but who could come in mighty handy as more teams cotton to the benefits of the Power Spread. He's a mite shorter and less athletic than Steve Edmond, but as he'd get at least two more years of legitimate linebacker training at Texas it should all come out in the wash. Texas, FSU and Bama look like the final three here.
Obi Eboh, 3*, Southlake Carroll
Eboh is a fine outside corner prospect with the length that Charlie covets, but despite his current commitment the Longhorns' prospects have taken a recent nosedive as canceled this weekend's official visit and looks like a lock for Stanford. He's a guy you absolutely would have loved to have, but the Longhorns' elite cornerback class in 2015 and a bevy of lockdown prospects in 2017 make this bitter pill a bit easier to swallow.
Brandon Jones, 4*, Nacogdoches
The state's top safety prospect, Jones has the speed and versatility to range from centerfield, play a half in Cover Two or drop down and handle business as an extra box defender. Mixing and matching his skill set alongside Deshon Elliott would give Strong and Bedford the late-breaking disguise options to really befoul pre-snap reads for opposing QBs. Jones is the subject of a documentary produced by none other than Texags - which is pretty rich considering the hue and cry from Aggieland over the potential recruiting benefits of airing high school games on the Longhorn Network - but it's likely to amount to so much celluloid schadenfreude as Texas is looking very good here.
Deontay Anderson, 4*, Manvel
Anderson has great range and plenty of pop to dishearten unwary wideouts. There have been some rumblings that Texas has started to pique Anderson's interest late in the game, but this one probably breaks for Ole Miss.
Parrish Cobb, 4*, Waco La Vega (Currently committed to OU)
While Cobb's cover skills are a bit raw, he's got a solid frame and speed to burn along with a feisty attitude. He was slated to OV to Texas this weekend, but last night's in-home with Bob Stoops has convinced him to put the kibosh on those plans. He'll be a pain in the ass to play against if he sticks with the Sooners, though with Eboh off the board we may pursue him all the way up to signing day.
Eric Cuffee, 4*, Waco High
Cuffee is a nice developmental dude at corner who's got the hip-flip ability to easily turn and run on deep throws from press looks and can also click and close on quick throws from off coverage. Baylor's been after him for some time and he'll OV to Arkansas this weekend, but it sounds like he'd already be a Longhorn if he'd gotten a slot to make his announcement at the Under Armour game.
Chris Brown, 3*, Houston Alief Elsik
Brown is a physical dude who likes to mix it up and could ultimately have a home at nickel or strong safety. He and Dontavious Jackson are teammates who have made plenty of noise about wanting to play together in college, and they're also part of the H-Town Critical Mass Factor that's helping to sway Jordan Elliott from Jim Harbaugh's cakes n' khakis.
The Bottom Line
A defensive class that was low on numbers and high on anxiety in early November could close out in truly impressive fashion if Charlie & Company keep the pedal to the metal for the last two weeks. There are only a couple of sure things - or as close as you can get to sure things in recruiting, anyway - among the currently uncommitted, but Texas is in strong enough shape with enough top prospects to give 2016 a program/foundational class floor with a difference-making ceiling. The next two weeks won't be for the faint of heart, but they should be all kinds of fun.