Cornerback Verone McKinley dominated The Opening in Dallas March 5. (Mike Craven)

Football

Texas pursuing some of the top defensive performers at The Opening in Dallas

Posted March 8th, 2017

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Story highlights
  • Lewisville Hebron conrerback Verone McKinley III made an impression at The Opening in Dallas over the weekend.
  • A pair of linebackers with Texas offers make list of top defensive performers from The Opening regional in Dallas.
  • Safety Patrick Fields committed to Oklahoma after The Opening after listing the Longhorns in his final three.

There are more top-end defensive prospects in the state for the 2018 recruiting cycle than offensive ones. This gap in talent depth was on display this past Sunday at The Opening in Dallas. Players from Texas and surrounding states converged on The Star in Frisco to run through a mini-combine in the morning and then position drills, including 1-on-1 competition, in the afternoon.

Numerous defensive players stood out, and two safeties — Cibolo Steele’s Caden Sterns and South Grand Prairie’s Atanza Vongor — earned invitations to The Opening Final this summer in Oregon.

Sterns has already committed to LSU. Vongor lists Texas among his top three, along with Baylor and TCU. The Horned Frogs are considered the strong favorites; Vongor is set to make his announcement on March 11.

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Outside of Sterns and Vongor, here were five of the top defensive performers with Texas interest from Sunday’s regional. We’ve already looked at five offensive prospects for UT.

Cornerback Verone McKinley holds offers from top programs around the country. (Mike Craven)

1. Verone McKinley III, cornerback, Lewisville Hebron

FYI: 5-10/170; 4-stars

Texas offer: No

Top offers: Alabama, LSU, Clemson, Texas A&M, Texas Tech

College: Undecided

These camps aren’t everything in the scouting process. Football is played in pads, not in shorts and a T-shirt. Personalities are reveled behind 40-yard dash times and cone drills. Some players shy away from the moments; others rise to the occasion and assert themselves as leaders among elite athletes. McKinley was a leader on Sunday. He spent half of his time dominating any challengers and the other half barking playful jabs at fellow participants. His play as a cornerback led him to offers from some of the top programs around the country. He doesn’t hold a Texas offer, but has solidified himself as a top cornerback in a state full of blue-chip prospects at the position.

2. Byron Hobbs, outside linebacker, Fort Worth Eastern Hills

FYI: 6-3/208; 4-stars

Texas offer: Yes

Top offers: Oklahoma, TCU, Arkansas, Ole Miss

College: Undecided

Hobbs was an unknown to most coming out of his junior year. Eastern Hills isn’t known for football success and it isn’t a school many recruiters spend much time scouting during the season. Hobbs will change that. The linebacker/defensive end hybrid is shooting up recruiting boards and bringing in offers from top programs, including a recent offer from Texas. He holds 11 offers, all of them were extended in 2017. That’s a pretty incredible recruiting rise. He showed the tools required for that attention Sunday. He worked at linebacker and played well in space. He’s raw and lacks a true natural position, but he looks the part and has plenty of athleticism to go with a big frame. Texas defensive coordinator Todd Orlando loves these type of players, so expect Hobbs to become a top priority for UT moving forward.

3. Gemon Green, cornerbacks, DeSoto

FYI: 6-2/170; 3-stars

Texas offer: No

Top offers: Michigan, Oregon, TCU, Oklahoma

College: Undecided

Desoto’s Green brothers are quickly becoming camp all-stars. Gemon and German Green also are twins, so it stands to reason they’d be similar players. Both check in at similar size and possess the same type of skills. Gemon had a slightly better day Sunday, so he gets the nod on this list. Both are three-star cornerbacks with Big 12 interest. Their long frames suggest a move to safety might be necessary at the college level, but each showed the hip flexibility and quickness needed to stay at cornerback. The two are likely headed to the same school. TCU currently leads.

Linebacker Alston Orji holds a Texas offer. (Mike Craven)

4. Alston Orji, inside linebacker, Rockwall

FYI: 6-2/214; 4-stars

Texas offer: Yes

Top offers: Oklahoma, LSU, Michigan, Nebraska

College: Undecided

Only two in-state linebackers hold offers from Texas. One is Hobbs, the other is Orji, who also turned in a solid performance for a linebacker at The Opening. The camp isn’t made for linebackers. It forces them to play in space, isolated without pads against quick running backs and receivers. It allows an opportunity to see imposing linebackers adjust to speed, which is a big part of becoming a starter in college. Orji adjusted well to the speed around him. He’s a middle linebacker prospect with the opportunity to play an outside linebacker position in certain schemes.

5. Patrick Fields, safety, Union (Okla.)

FYI: 6-0/190; 3-stars

Texas offer: Yes

Top offers: Oklahoma, Arkansas, Notre Dame, TCU

College: Committed to Oklahoma

Fields committed to Oklahoma after the conclusion of The Opening. He had great things to say about Texas before the camp and it wouldn’t be shocking to watch him look around at programs one more time before national signing day. It wouldn’t be the first or last time a recruit did that. Fields enjoyed his visit to UT’s junior day and likes the staff. If the Longhorns have a big season, and say beat Oklahoma, expect players like Fields to re-emerge as Texas targets for 2018.

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