Houston Lamar cornerback Anthony Cook competes at The Opening in Houston Feb. 4. (Mike Craven/American-Statesman)

Football

Defensive end, cornerback top Texas’ biggest defensive needs for 2018

Posted February 7th, 2017

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Story highlights
  • Defensive end is the No. 1 need for Texas in the 2018 class.
  • Cornerback and linebacker are priorities for the Longhorns this cycle.
  • Defensive tackle is in good shape, but Texas wants to add a couple of players.

The 2018 signing class now becomes the focus for the Texas coaching staff. This year’s class finished outside of the top 20 for the first time this century, and Tom Herman’s staff won’t have the built-in excuse of a small window this recruiting cycle.

Expect Texas to sign more than the 18 players from the 2017 class. More available scholarships means more 2018 targets for the Longhorns. In the first edition of the 2018 Wish List, we examine the importance and needs of each position unit for 2018 national signing day.

We continue with defense; here’s Texas’ 2018 wish list for offense.

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1. DEFENSIVE ENDS

2018 needs: 3

2017 roster watch:

SeniorsJuniorsSophomoresFreshmen
Naashon HughesBreckyn HagerMalcolm RoachAndrew Fitzgerald (RS)
Charles OmenihuTaquon Graham
Max Cummins

The Longhorns need edge rushers, and by the time the 2018 class steps on campus players the current sophomores will be entering their senior years.

Generating a pass rush is priority No. 1 for defensive coordinator Todd Orlando. The Longhorns missed out on Galena Park North Shore’s K’Lavon Chaisson for the 2017 cycle. He chose LSU on national signing day, creating a bigger need for Texas to get a pass rusher in 2018. The Longhorns are likely to use three defensive linemen in most sets, but Orlando will find his crop of blitzing linebackers by recruiting defensive ends with versatility.

Defensive end Max Wright lines up at The Opening in Houston Feb. 4. (Mike Craven/American-Statesman)
Defensive end Max Wright lines up at The Opening in Houston Feb. 4. (Mike Craven/American-Statesman)

Katy Taylor’s Max Wright embodies the type of player Orlando is looking for on the line. Ranked No. 3 on the Fab 55, Wright (6-4, 270) can play defensive end in a 4-3 or a 3-4 and has the frame to grow into a defensive tackle. Texas will battle Texas A&M and others for his signature.

The only other in-state defensive lineman with an offer is Fab 55 member Jarrell Cherry out of Dallas Carter. The 6–4, 226-pound four-star is an edge rusher who could play defensive end or move to outside linebacker in the right system.

A pair of out-of-state players — Tyreke Smith (Ohio) and Ronnie Perkins (Mo.) — also hold UT offers. With few can’t-miss prospects at the position inside the state, Texas might be forced to look outside the borders to fill this position in 2018. Wright and Cherry are the only true defensive ends on the Fab 55.

2. CORNERBACKS

2018 needs: 3

2017 roster watch:

SeniorsJuniorsSophomoresFreshmen
Antwuan DavisKris BoydChris Brown (RS)
Davante DavisEric Cuffee (RS)
John BonneyJosh Thompson
Holton HillDonovan Duvernay (RS)
Kobe Boyce

Texas failed to secure a third cornerback in the 2017 cycle despite plenty of effort. The Longhorns did hold onto the commitments of Josh Thompson and Kobe Boyce, giving the class two three-star prospects to groom. It’s clear Texas wants to replenish the ranks at the position and the 2018 class is stacked with blue-chip talent at the position. Texas should come away with two or three elite prospects due to the depth inside the state.

The location of the top cornerbacks in the state should play to Herman’s favor. He knows the Houston area well and it’s home to multiple blue-chip corners who already have Texas offers. Anthony Cook is the state’s best player and plans to visit Texas this spring. His high school teammate, D’Shawn Jamison, also holds a UT offer. Another name to know is Houston Heights cornerback Jalen Green, who impressed as much as anyone at The Opening in Houston over the weekend.

3. LINEBACKERS

2018 needs: 3

2017 roster watch:

Outside linebackers

SeniorsJuniorsSophomoresFreshmen
Malik JeffersonErick Fowler
Anthony WheelerJeffrey McCulloch

Inside linebackers

SeniorsJuniorsSophomoresFreshmen
Gary JohnsonDemarco Boyd (RS)
Edwin FreemanMarqez Bimage

Texas signed two linebackers in the 2017 class, but one of those was JUCO prospect Gary Johnson. He’ll provide immediate support at middle linebacker, but he won’t be around for more than two seasons. Texas is talented at linebacker; by the time the 2018 linebackers reach campus, however, the trio of Malik Jefferson, Anthony Wheeler and Edwin Freeman will be seniors. The Longhorns need to find the next crop of ‘backers.

Linebacker isn’t an easy position to recruit, and the 2018 class in Texas poses a challenge for the staff. There are fewer linebacker prospects these days; the best players tend to catch the ball or rush the passer. Much like the tight end position, it’s tough to find hybrid players capable of being physical and electric. Only three linebackers made this year’s initial Fab 55.

Texas offered one of those players. Rockwall’s Alston Orji is the only state linebacker with a UT offer and one of only two linebackers in the entire 2018 class that’s received an offer from Herman’s staff. Names to watch in-state are Lucas Lovejoy’s Bumper Pool and Fort Bend Ridge Point’s Chad Bailey.

4. SAFETIES

2018 needs: 2

2017 roster watch:

SeniorsJuniorsSophomoresFreshmen
Jason HallP.J. Locke IIIBrandon JonesMontrell Estell
Deshon Elliott

The safety position struggled under the previous regime and the 2018 class offers Herman’s staff a chance to stock up on elite talent. There are several blue-chip safeties in Texas this cycle and the Longhorns should lock up at least two of them. Texas signed Montrell Estell as the lone safety of the 2017 class.

Cypress Springs safety Leon O'Neal goes through drills at The Opening in Houston Feb. 4. (Mike Craven/American-Statesman)
Cypress Springs safety Leon O’Neal goes through drills at The Opening in Houston Feb. 4. (Mike Craven/American-Statesman)

Angelton’s BJ Foster is the best safety in the state, and arguably its best overall prospect. Ranked No. 2 on the Fab 55, the five-star target plays running back along with his time in the secondary. He’s a national top-15 prospect and a rare athlete for his size. Foster is one of nine safeties UT has already offered.

Caden Sterns, ranked No. 4 on the Fab 55, is an LSU commit and presumably off the board. As is Jordan Moore, who’s committed to Texas A&M. That leaves Houston Cypress Spring’s Leon O’Neal, Arp’s DeMarvion Overshown and South Grand Prairie’s Atanza Vongor as UTs remaining in-state offers. Josh Proctor and Patrick Fields, both from Oklahoma, also hold offers. As does four-star safety Myles Sims from Georgia.

5. DEFENSIVE TACKLES

2018 needs: 2

2017 roster watch:

SeniorsJuniorsSophomoresFreshmen
Poona FordChris NelsonJordan ElliottMarcel Southall
Jamari ChisholmGerald WilbonChris Daniels
D'Andre Chritmas

The Longhorns should lose just one tackle — Poona Ford — before the 2018 class arrives on campus. That means the position won’t be the highest priority for the staff, but it doesn’t mean Texas won’t look to add talent for the future.

Five tackles already hold offers, including three in-state prospects. The staff’s best connection might be with Fab 55 member Keondre Coburn of Spring Westfield. Texas assistant coach Corby Meekins was once the head coach of Westfield and Coburn was recruited heavily by Houston when Meekins joined Herman’s staff as his tight ends coach. The 6-1, 326-pound four-star plans to visit on Texas’ junior day.

Arlington Lamar’s Bobby Brown and Dallas Bishop Dunne’s Calvin Avery are the other in-state players with UT offers. Texas has extended out-of-state offers to five-star Taron Vincent of Florida and four-star Trevor Trout of Missouri.

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