Texas Football: Ranking the Longhorns' Top 10 Recruiting Targets for 2015

Zach Shelton@@zachisagingerFeatured ColumnistMarch 12, 2014

Texas Football: Ranking the Longhorns' Top 10 Recruiting Targets for 2015

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    Charlie Strong has catching up to do with the top targets for his 2015 class.
    Charlie Strong has catching up to do with the top targets for his 2015 class.Eric Gay/Associated Press

    With both junior days in the books, Texas' 2015 class is beginning to take shape with seven commits. That said, there are plenty of big names left in the Longhorns' sights.

    After losing yet another commit to the Aggies, Charlie Strong's slow start on the recruiting trail continues at Texas. And with many of the state's top players currently pledged to A&M, the reality is that Strong will have to get the Longhorns winning again before his no-nonsense approach begins to bring top-tier talent back to Austin.

    Based on need and national-level talent, these are the players Strong and his staff will go after the hardest once they produce that on-field success.

No. 1: CB Kendall Sheffield

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    Even before striking out on top-tier talents Tony Brown and Arrion Springs in 2014, adding Kendall Sheffield to their 2015 class was a top priority for the Longhorns. At this point, he is simply a must-have.

    No matter how you slice it, Sheffield is a truly impressive athlete. The top prospect in Texas ran the 110-meter hurdles in 13.85 seconds as a sophomore, which gives legitimacy to his reported 4.40 time in the 40-yard dash. With a 41-inch vertical at the Nike Houston Combine, there is no doubt that Sheffield possesses special explosion.

    On tape, Sheffield shows off great ball skills on both defense and offense. Though Texas would prefer him to step in as Quandre Diggs' replacement in 2015, there is every reason to believe he could play receiver if he chooses.

    The 247Sports Crystal Ball has Sheffield going to the Aggies, but the Texas staff is going to do everything it can to reel in this gifted prospect.

No. 2: DT Daylon Mack

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    Texas has been unable to land an elite defensive tackle since Malcom Brown in 2012, who can declare for the NFL draft after next season. That, and his elite talent, makes Daylon Mack a top target for the 2015 class.

    Mack is a grown man at 6'2" and 310 pounds. Despite that considerable size, Mack possesses alarming quickness and speed that he showed off even on the offensive side of the ball, running away from the competition in the open field. At the high school level, he is every bit a dominant physical specimen with the ability to grow into an elite college player.

    Unfortunately for Texas, the 5-star prospect is also a steadfast Aggie commit. However, that could change depending on how the Longhorns begin the Charlie Strong era.

    According to Orangebloods.com, Mack likes the Strong hire and has also stated that the Longhorns were a favorite of his growing up. It's a long shot, but a big 2014 season could put Texas back in the running for Mack's services. Otherwise, Darrion Daniels and Du'Vonta Lampkin become names to watch over the summer.

No. 3: DE James Lockhart

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    Based on need and scarcity more so than talent, the Longhorns are among the numerous programs that will push hard for James Lockhart's commitment.

    As the only 4-star defensive end in the state, Lockhart will get his pick of the litter in his recruiting process. Texas will be among those programs leading the charge for his services due to the impending departure of Cedric Reed and because the 'Horns have taken only two defensive ends total in their 2013 and 2014 classes.

    Texas already has 6'5" weakside prospect Charles Omenihu's pledge, so bringing on Lockhart would give the program the best defensive end class in the state.

No. 4: WR Damarkus Lodge

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    Come 2015, Jaxon Shipley will have graduated while probable starters Kendall Sanders and Marcus Johnson will be rising seniors. Having a player like Damarkus Lodge on board will give the 'Horns a No. 1 receiver waiting in the wings.

    An unknown until last season, Lodge exploded onto the scene with 1,255 receiving yards and 22 touchdowns. A long, fluid athlete at 6'2", Lodge flashes the ability to high-point the ball and is surprisingly shifty in the open field. 

    Like many of Texas' top targets for this class, adding Lodge to the class will be a project. His Crystal Ball predictions have him joining Baylor's explosive passing game, which Texas cannot begin to compare itself to at the moment. 

    Whoever the quarterback is in 2014, he will have to excel in Shawn Watson's passing game in order for the 'Horns to re-enter the discussion for Lodge.

No. 5: LB Malik Jefferson

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    Though they are considered leaders for both Cameron Townsend and Anthony Wheeler, 5-star linebacker Malik Jefferson is still among the Longhorns' top targets for 2015 as the nation's top-rated linebacker.

    SB Nation's Wescott Eberts points out some concerns about Jefferson's frame and ability to cover in the Big 12, but this is a violent player with a lot of athletic potential. Not to mention that securing his commitment could help flip Daylon Mack from the Aggies.

    Even if the 'Horns should fall short with Jefferson, their standing with Townsend and Wheeler keeps them ahead at the position. Going after a player as talented as Jefferson is simply a matter of principle.

No. 6: CB Kris Boyd

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    Kendall Sheffield's incredible blend of talent and athleticism make him a can't-miss prospect, but don't sleep on the similar talent of Kris Boyd.

    ESPN Recruiting (subscription required) calls Boyd a "Tall, rangy prospect with a lot of versatility and athleticism." Though not to the same degree as Sheffield, this 6'1" prospect brings the length and athleticism to the cornerback position that Texas could really use in the Big 12.

    The 'Horns were once at the top of Boyd's list (subscription required), so this is a gettable recruit for a program in desperate need of an impact corner. Should Texas lose out on him or Sheffield, recent offer Holton Hill will become a top priority at this position.

No. 7: OT Connor Lanfear

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    Even after losing both of their commitments in the past month, the Longhorns are going to keep after both Maea Teuhema and Connor Lanfear as their tackles of the future. 

    Teuhema is a lost cause after his brother, Sione, signed with LSU on national signing day. That leaves Lanfear, who is fast on the rise after landing four offers since late January and just recently flipped to Texas A&M.

    It is a grim outlook for the Longhorns, but there are two things working in their favor. The first is Joe Wickline, an elite offensive line coach that can grab Lanfear by working his magic with the current Longhorn front. Second is Lanfear's hometown, Buda, is just outside Austin and makes a future visit likely.

    The Longhorns will push forward with recent flip Ronnie Major while trying to land either Toby Weathersby or Keaton Sutherland, but Lanfear is their prize.

No. 8: RB Soso Jamabo

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    With both Malcolm Brown and Joe Bergeron set to depart after the 2014 season, Soso Jamabo has a straight path to a big role in Texas' offense as a freshman. But even with that selling point, getting a commitment from the 4-star back has been a process.

    At 6'3" and 215 pounds, Jamabo is a house with 4.55 speed. His frame can add another 20-30 pounds, which is why he has been classified as an athlete that could be headed to the defensive side of the ball. But if Alabama's Derrick Henry has taught us anything, it's that a big guy can carry the rock as long as he has enough speed, which Jamabo does.

    Johnathan Gray will be Texas' starting tailback until the day he graduates, but he's at his best when combined with a powerful bruiser that softens the middle. Jamabo can immediately fill this role, though the Longhorns have other options if he doesn't pan out. 

No. 9: OG Patrick Vahe

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    Though he is still committed, the Longhorns must pay close attention to Patrick Vahe.
    Though he is still committed, the Longhorns must pay close attention to Patrick Vahe.Courtesy of 247Sports.com

    With redshirt freshmen like Darius James and Rami Hammad set to man the inside for the foreseeable future, Texas can afford to get choosy with its offensive guards. Right now, their top choice is Patrick Vahe.

    A highly mobile interior lineman, Vahe's value to the class extends beyond what he brings to the field. A cousin of LSU commit Maea Teuhema, he is the Longhorns' last remaining connection to the 5-star tackle that broke their hearts on signing day. It also makes Vahe a flight risk, which is why he is still considered a target.

    Vahe has stated that he is "110%" committed to Texas but remains worth keeping an eye on. If he sticks, he will be one of maybe two recruits at the position.

No. 10: QB J.W. Ketchum

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    Texas has plenty under center with David Ash, Tyrone Swoopes and incoming freshman Jerrod Heard. And it could get downright crowded with Miles Onyegbule working under center and the possible addition of either Max Wittek or Bram Kohlhausen.

    However, that should not keep Texas from staying after 4-star dual-threat J.W. Ketchum. Though he lacks polish as a passer, Ketchum has great feet with the size at 6'0" and 4.5 speed to switch positions if he is asked to do so. 

    At worst, Ketchum is an emergency quarterback that contributes elsewhere on offense or in the defensive backfield. There is plenty of room in this class for an athlete with that level of versatility.

    Unless otherwise noted, all recruiting information courtesy of 247Sports.com.