Five to watch: Top recruiting targets

May, 9, 2014
May 9
10:00
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AUSTIN, Texas -- We wrap up our five to watch series this week with a breakdown of five prospects in the 2015 class whose recruitment Texas fans should be watching closely. These aren't the five highest-rated recruits, but rather five who will tell us a lot about Charlie Strong's first full class with the Longhorns.

1. LB Malik Jefferson

This is a big deal, plain and simple. The Mesquite (Texas) Poteet linebacker is one of the best in the state and the nation, and there's a lot of time to win over the ESPN 300 prospect, as he won't decide until winter.

Last year, Texas got itself in good shape for three huge in-state recruits -- cornerback Tony Brown, safety Jamal Adams and defensive end Solomon Thomas -- and hoped to leverage a successful 2013 season into a gigantic finish with that trio. That plan was a bust. It wouldn't be surprising if Texas finds itself in a similar position with Jefferson by the end of the summer.

If everything stays status quo during the 2014 season, Jefferson probably ends up choosing Texas A&M. He had great relationships with former Texas defensive coordinators Manny Diaz and Greg Robinson, but both are gone now and the new staff is catching up. They'll need to make a big impression this fall if they hope to sway him.

Whomever lands Jefferson gets one gigantic recruiting victory. He's the real deal and Texas will go all-in on him.

2. QB Zach Gentry

If Gentry does end up choosing Texas, it'll tell you an awful lot about what Shawn Watson can do for this program as a recruiter.

The nation's No. 72 prospect is a big deal -- and we mean that literally, as he's nearly 6-foot-7 -- and has offers from the likes of Alabama, Penn State, Oklahoma State, Baylor and Tennessee. The Albuquerque (N.M.) Eldorado standout took an unofficial visit to Austin the week of the spring game and seemed to come away impressed. A decision could come later this month.

Watson got on Gentry early on while at Louisville and has extended him offers at both schools. The in-state crop of quarterbacks is solid, and there could be room to take another like Quinten Dormady in this class, but Gentry would be a home run and a clear statement that Watson and the offensive staff won't be afraid to pursue elite passers outside the usually loaded Lone Star State.

3. CB Holton Hill

Texas is already in excellent shape to land Hill, an ESPN 300 defensive back from Houston Lamar with more than a dozen big-time offers. Now the Horns have to hold on and seal the deal.

Hill has visited Austin multiple times this spring and was high school teammates with 2014 Texas signee John Bonney. Hill is not a lock by any means, not with Texas A&M right up there with Texas in his early top two. This could turn into quite the battle, akin to the one for Otaro Alaka last year that the Aggies eventually won.

But Texas is in a promising position with Hill and also Gilmer (Texas) defensive back Kris Boyd. How well Vance Bedford and Chris Vaughn sell them on the future of "DBU" following Duane Akina's departure might make the difference.

4. WR John Burt

Texas has sent out offers to dozens and dozens of elite out-of-state prospects, the kind of guys who can choose from any SEC school they want. Their hope, quite simply, is trying to get those guys on campus for a visit. That's not a problem in the recruitment of Burt, who has gone out of his way to visit Austin multiple times in the past 12 months.

The ESPN 300 wideout from Tallahassee (Fla.) Lincoln will likely end up choosing between Texas and Florida State. What a win that would be for Strong and his staff if they can beat out the defending national champion for a talented local kid.

Burt visited Texas last season for a home game and again this spring for a junior day week. The staff change did little to dampen his love for the program. When an out-of-state kid makes it this obvious he's interested, you've got to lock him up.

5. DT Daylon Mack

Calm down, Aggies, we're not saying or predicting Mack will end up in burnt orange. It's more about what landing Mack or another elite committed player would mean for the momentum of this class.

The five-star defensive tackle from Gladewater (Texas) has been an A&M pledge for nearly seven months, and a strong one for most of that time. He's a leader-of-the-class type, the kind who other kids want to follow and play with. But Texas (and the rest of the SEC) will not give up any time soon.

There are several other committed prospects -- running back Ronald Jones II (Oklahoma State), safety Deionte Thompson (Alabama), tight end Jordan Davis (Texas A&M) -- Texas will also keep pursuing until signing day. Landing even one of them would make a statement about Texas' revamped recruiting.

Max Olson | email

Big 12 reporter

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