A week after signing day, the composition of Big 12 rosters is starting to come into focus for 2016.
Some programs used the Class of 2016 to address needs, while questions about other positions are poised to linger into the spring and beyond. Now is the perfect time to take a closer look at each program in the Big 12, including strengths and weaknesses post-signing day.
We continue the series with Texas:
Biggest need heading into signing day: Defensive tackle
We’ve circled this need for Texas over and over again during the offseason, because it’s that important. The Longhorns knew they were going to lose fifth-year senior Desmond Jackson, a team leader and valuable lineman. But the departure of Hassan Ridgeway, who elected to go pro after a solid junior season, forced Texas to scramble a bit in recruiting.
The Longhorns bring back Poona Ford and Paul Boyette Jr., and they showed growth in 2015. But their backups, Chris Nelson and Jake McMillon, don’t have much playing experience. Considering Ford and Boyette weren’t full-time starters last season, the lack of depth behind them is a real concern.
How it was addressed: Charlie Strong and his staff had to wait this one out a while, but couldn’t have asked for much better results on signing day.
Their patience piece off with ESPN 300 defensive tackle Jordan Elliott, who flipped from Baylor to Houston to Michigan before finally settling on Texas. The Horns persuaded ESPN 300 DT Chris Daniels to back out of his commitment to Oklahoma and signed another ESPN 300 talent, Marcel Southall, who was thought to be heavily leaning toward the Sooners.
Throw in four-star DT D'Andre Christmas-Giles and three-star Gerald Wilbon and there’s not much room for complaining. The Longhorns were in on so many defensive tackles in the final week of recruiting that one who was planning to sign, ESPN 300 DT Stephon Taylor, sensed the numbers crunch was coming and went with South Carolina instead.
Two or three of those freshmen will have to play major minutes for this group, and you don’t know what you’ve got there until they join the program in the summer. But the expectations for this big boys will be high entering their rookie seasons.
Position of strength: Linebacker
Texas linebackers coach Brian Jean-Mary might have an embarrassment of riches this season and going forward after another strong signing-day haul.
Big 12 Defensive Freshman of the Year Malik Jefferson can team up with a bunch of different talented LBs this fall, including Edwin Freeman, Anthony Wheeler, Breckyn Hager, Timothy Cole and potentially Dalton Santos. Throw ESPN 300 signees Jeffrey McCulloch and Erick Fowler into that mix and you’ve got a lot of young, exciting options.
Biggest remaining weakness: Wide receiver
John Burt has a bright future and caught 28 passes as a true freshman, but no other returning Texas receiver had more than 11 catches in 2015. It’s hard to know what to expect from the veterans Armanti Foreman, Jacorey Warrick and Lorenzo Joe.
Don’t be surprised if a few members of Texas’ incoming freshman class -- led by early enrollee Collin Johnson -- get on the field early. Texas needs this group to flourish as new offensive coordinator Sterlin Gilbert expands the passing attack, and Burt can’t catch ‘em all.