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2016 Texas Longhorns Football Recruiting Class Evaluation: Defensive Back

Defensive Back (3)

Despite a promising 2015 haul, there's still a talent, experience and depth deficit in the Longhorn secondary.  In 2016, Texas signed the best defensive back in the state and complemented him with a pair of versatile athletes that will help to fill any holes from the 2015 rebuild.

Brandon Jones- 6-0, 190

There's really no weakness in Brandon's game. He just needs to grow commensurate to the step up in competition. He appears to have the complete package.  Lateral range, the ability to change levels, good tackling, coverage skills, and the ability to make something happen with the ball in his hands (he'd be a four star recruit as an offensive player). He's also purported to be fairly cerebral in his approach to the game and should be capable of lining up teammates and making calls.  This is the do-everything safety that Charlie Strong and Vance Bedford have been waiting on.

One of my favorite aspects of Brandon's game is that he has the quickness and instincts to provide meaningful run support from passing game depth and the lateral ability to get outside the hash in a hurry.  He also has the recovery ability to show an extra man in the box, force a play call change and then drop back off.  These are concessions that we're having to make by alignment with our current safeties.  Similarly, in run support, Jones has real knack for taking an efficient path and reading the hole in reverse. His potential is enticing not just for the eventual individual position upgrade he might provide, but in how he might facilitate the upgrade of an entire schematic approach.

Eric Cuffee- 5-11, 185

Cuffee's most unique characteristics are his combination of quickness, size, flippy hips and a real knack for playing press man coverage.  He's good at mirroring and I like how he sets himself up to make a play from the trail position. His 40 time isn't going to heat up any stopwatches, but his ability to move fluidly and change directions is more important.  Cuffee seems less comfortable in zone.  Possibly because he hasn't really been taught how to approach it or perhaps he just prefers getting his hands on people.  Ideally, he's a cornerback or nickel, but for the latter, I'll need to see a little more physicality in the run setting the edge and doing some dirty work.  Physicality isn't just putting a shoulder into a receiver and yelling,"Yeah, like that."

Cuffee drew praise in Under Armour practices for his competitiveness and aggression.  He has some flexibility in where he projects and it's not unreasonable to think he'll carry safety size, but the more I watch him, the more I just want to see him doing what he does best.  Get him up to 195, refine the toolkit, offer him a little safety help over the top and let him mug some some wide receivers.

Chris Brown- 5-11, 185

Chris Brown is multifaceted and capable of filling a lot of depth holes, but he distinguishes himself most by his work ethic and by having a major chip on his shoulder. Half of his highlights are an attempt to not just make the play but actively antagonize the other team or fire up his own.  That's a good thing.  Brown is a good hitter who plays the game with anticipation and passion.  He's very opportunistic and heady - this is the dude that picks up a short punt and runs it back, makes a strip of a ballcarrier while he's stood up, tips a ball to a teammate for the INT, cleanly fields a blocked PAT and runs it back 99 yards.  He's that guy.

That written, Brown's pure athletic profile is unremarkable - he's just solid across the board.  He has average speed, quickness and size for a major FBS safety candidate.  I have no question about his willingness to maximize, but he may have a limited ceiling.

While I think Brown could certainly play cornerback or nickel in a zone heavy defense, I think his strengths guide him to safety at Texas.  At minimum, Brown is going to be a special teams contributor and an athlete that will push his teammates to reach their potential.