Texas mascot "Bevo" is introduced before an NCAA college football game between Texas and Kansas in Austin, Texas, Saturday, Oct. 19, 2019. (AP Photo/Chuck Burton)

Football

Commitment 101: Outside linebacker Morice Blackwell is a tackling machine

Posted May 10th, 2020

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Texas’ ninth commitment of the 2021 recruiting class came Sunday in the form of Morice Blackwell, a three-star outside linebacker from Arlington Martin High School. He is the second linebacker to pledge to Texas in the current cycle, joining four-star outside linebacker Derrick Harris Jr. The Longhorns’ 2021 recruiting class now ranks 12th in the nation and first in the Big 12. 

Blackwell is a 6-1, 196-pound tackling machine. He was the District 4-6A Defensive Sophomore of the Year in 2018, and he backed that up with the District 4-6A Overall MVP as a junior. He’s recorded at least 112 tackles in both of his varsity seasons, adding six forced fumbles and three interceptions. He’s also recorded two sacks in each of the past two years. 

Texas’ focus at linebacker now shifts squarely to four-star targets Clayton Smith and Terrence Cooks

Skill set: Blackwell is outside the 2021 Fabulous 55 and is considered the 32nd-best outside linebacker in the class. It appears that coaching staffs across the nation differ on their evaluation of Blackwell compared to recruiting sites, and I’d expect a rankings bump for Blackwell by the summer because of his production and offer list. Any linebacker with offers from Alabama and Georgia can play the position. 

Blackwell isn’t hype. The soon-to-be senior recorded more than 112 tackles in each of his first two seasons on varsity, earning all-district accolades. At 196 pounds, weight is the only true question mark for Blackwell, but committing to a college weight and conditioning program should get his body right for the next level. Linebackers are getting smaller and more agile in modern football, and that’s exactly the type of player Texas hopes Blackwell becomes at Texas.  

Immediate impact: There’s not a bigger question mark on Texas’ defense than at linebacker. Blackwell, and any other linebacker commit in 2021, should arrive on campus with the opportunity to earn playing time as a backup or on special teams. Texas lacks proven depth behind expected starters Juwan Mitchell and DeMarvion Overshown. 

Blackwell could work his way onto the two-deep and avoid a redshirt by becoming a special teams star. It’s more likely that he participates in four games and keeps his redshirt unless a rash of injuries force him into early playing time. 

Fitting into the program: The public is still getting to know what new defensive coordinator Chris Ash wants in defensive prospects. The picture is getting clearer at linebacker: Ash craves athleticism and versatility. Blackwell is a modern linebacker with the ability to chase down ball carriers, cover tight ends in space and blitz the quarterback. He’s an overgrown safety playing linebacker, much like Overshown. Texas wants speed at linebacker to counteract the spread formations prominent in the Big 12. 

Recruiting at the position: Texas now holds two commitments at linebacker, but don’t expect Ash to slow down if the Longhorns can close with Smith and Cooks. Ash sees Smith, a four-star outside linebacker from Texas High, as a possible defensive end. That leaves Cooks as the top target at linebacker. He’s an athletic linebacker from Alvin Shadow Creek, which produced 2020 signee Xavion Alford.

PLAYERPOS.HIGH SCHOOLSTARSCOMMITMENT DATE
Jalen MilroeQBKaty Tomkins4July 21 (2019)
Hayden ConnerOTKaty Taylor4July 23 (2019)
Juan DavisWR/TEEverman3July 26 (2019)
Billy BowmanATHDenton Ryan4July 31 (2019)
Derrick Harris Jr.OLBNew Caney4Aug. 3 (2019)
Ja'Tavion SandersATHDenton Ryan5Sept. 8 (2019)
Jordon ThomasDEPort Arthur Memorial4May 2
Morice BlackwellOLBArlington Martin4May 10
Jonathon BrooksRBHallettsville3May 15
Casey CainWRWarren Easton (La.)3May 15

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