Column: Texas lands cornerstone class

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In mid-December, Texas’ recruiting class didn’t look promising. It had solid players, but nobody stood out. 

That was the case until five-star outside linebacker Malik Jefferson and his high school teammate, four-star wide receiver DeAndre McNeal, verbally committed to the Longhorns on Dec. 19.

“Anytime you’re in a recruiting process, there has to be a marquee player,” head coach Charlie Strong said. “And that is Malik Jefferson.”

Since then, Texas has had momentum on its side. Over the past few weeks, the Longhorns saw a slew of big names visiting campus: defensive tackle Daylon Mack, quarterback Kyler Murray, running back Soso Jamabo and wide receiver Damarkus Lodge. Although Texas didn’t land these four guys, their presence on campus created a positive buzz around a program that concluded its most recent campaign with a losing record.

Although signing day has come and gone, the positive buzz still remains. 

While the recruiting class is highly ranked, Strong and the coaching staff will look to use this class as its cornerstone squad.

The coaching staff will expect a lot from this class. A good portion of the recruited players will see early action. Jefferson, Texas’ highest-ranked recruit, will play at the weakside linebacker position next year and might even start, if he has a productive spring. 

Additionally, Texas may turn to its new linebackers — Anthony Wheeler, Cameron Townsend and Cecil Cherry — for help next season.

The Longhorns also added depth to the defensive backs. Texas signed five defensive backs — three corners and two safeties. All five of the signees will have an opportunity to fight for playing time from the very beginning.

Texas will also get help on its offensive and defensive lines. Four-star JUCO offensive lineman Brandon Hodges, four-star lineman Patrick Vahe and three-star lineman Connor Williams are expected to make immediate impacts on the offensive line, and three-star JUCO defensive end Quincy Vasser will see time on the field next season.

The biggest concern for Texas is the quarterback position, and the Longhorns managed to get at least one prospect by flipping four-star quarterback Kai Locksley from Florida State.

Finally, each skill position player could see playing time in 2015. As Texas attempts to open up the offense, expect wide receivers McNeal, John Burt, Ryan Newsome and Gilbert Johnson to showcase their skills. Running back Chris Warren will be the most likely freshman to get plays in 2015, but don’t underestimate the other running backs as change-of-pace backs.

Despite Texas’ awful finish to the 2014 season, the 2015 recruiting class is just the boost Texas needed. The foundation has already been lain, the cornerstone was added Wednesday, and now the Longhorns need to finish building the house in 2015.