Summer recruiting is about to heat up for the nation's top football prospects. And if you're a Texas fan, every development with players like Kendall Sheffield and James Lockhart is a crucial one that must be followed.
Currently ranked 13th in the country, the Longhorns' class of nine commitments is incomplete until further notice. Charlie Strong and his staff have glaring needs in the secondary and along the defensive line, where impending graduations and failed recruiting endeavors have left the team dangerously thin.
Those needs make chasing the talents of Sheffield, Lockhart and Du'Vonta Lampkin no-brainers for the Longhorns. On the other hand, trying to snatch up similar elites like 5-star Damarkus Lodge and Malik Jefferson is almost a matter of principle.
No matter the motivation, these are the seven players whom the Longhorns will pursue because of their potential to be immediate difference-makers. If you have yet to start following their every move, now is the time.
1. CB Kendall Sheffield
As much of a long shot as he is a game-changer, 5-star cornerback Kendall Sheffield should be a household name by now.
One of the top players in the country, he plays at a completely different speed from his competition. In coverage, he lives in the receiver's back pocket and possesses the athleticism to attack the ball as if he were the intended target. And he is every bit as lethal with it in his hands.
With Quandre Diggs entering his senior year, Sheffield is as must-have as it gets for Texas. The Longhorns will have just three cornerbacks on scholarship in 2015, which would offer immediate playing time for this electric prospect.
Sheffield's crystal ball points heavily in favor of Texas A&M, but Strong and his staff get a great chance to make up some ground when he visits over the weekend.
Per SB Nation's Wescott Eberts, Sheffield will not make his decision until the Under Armor All-America Game in January, so Texas has plenty of time to lock up its biggest commitment of the cycle.
2. DE James Lockhart (@James_Lockart9)
Cedric Reed will move onto the NFL draft after the 2014 season, and the Longhorns already missed on possible replacement Solomon Thomas. That, and the scarcity at the position, makes James Lockhart one of the summer's most interesting prospects.
If that visit doesn't prove fruitful, the Longhorns will have to explore an out-of-state option or pull an impact player from the JUCO ranks.
3. OG Patrick Vahe (@PatrickVahe)
Not only does Patrick Vahe's family make him an interesting story, but the 4-star offensive guard is emerging as one of the best players in the state.
After earning MVP honors at the Nike Football Training Camp, Vahe is on his way to The Opening to continue his torrid offseason. Once considered a flight risk after his cousins, Sione and Maea Teuhema, flipped to LSU, he says that he is still "110 percent" committed to the 'Horns, per Horns247.
For as long as that remains true, the Longhorns are going to be glad they got a head start on this surging recruit.
4. LB Malik Jefferson (@Official_MalikJ)
Malik Jefferson is considered the nation's top outside linebacker by 247Sports and is one of the state's can't-miss prospects.
Also earning MVP honors at the Dallas NFTC, Jefferson looks ready to step on a collegiate field. The 6'2", 225-pound athlete earned the fifth-best rating at the Nike SPARQ combine, according to Eberts, and Rivals.com lists some testing results that shouldn't belong to a 17-year-old.
Like many of the state's top prospects, he has admitted that the Aggies were leaders for his services. He has since backed off that inclination and told Eberts he was impressed when he visited a Charlie Strong practice this spring. "Harder hitting. More intense. Better coaching," Jefferson said of what he saw.
Similar to Sheffield, the 5-star linebacker is taking a very level-headed approach to his recruitment. That should work in Texas' favor and give the coaching staff time to climb his list of favorites.
5. DT Du'Vonta Lampkin (@DeeChilllin)
Daylon Mack, the state's top defensive tackle, has committed to Texas A&M. That eliminates Texas for all intents and purposes and shifts the program's focus to recent Oklahoma decommit Du'Vonta Lampkin.
At 6'3" and 291 pounds, Lampkin would fill a dire need for Texas at tackle. Desmond Jackson is entering his senior year, while Malcom Brown could elect to go pro as well, which means Lampkin would get every opportunity to break into the two-deep rotation as a freshman.
He released his top three earlier this week, including the Sooners even though he decommitted from them last month. Unless he makes the surprise decision to recommit, the Longhorns are in good standing with the 4-star prospect.
6. RB Soso Jamabo (@Soso_Jamabo3)
With Jordan Stevenson expected to join Johnathan Gray and incoming freshman Donald Catalon, Texas will have plenty of speed in its backfield for years to come. What it needs next is a pile-pusher like Soso Jamabo.
Bruisers Malcolm Brown and Joe Bergeron graduate after the 2014 season, which will cost Texas two of the most reliable power backs in the Big 12. Jamabo has some weight to add first, but his 6'3" frame lends itself to such a role, while his nifty feet give him the potential to be an every-down back later in his career.
7. WR Damarkus Lodge (@DaMarkusLodge18)
Busting out with 1,255 yards and 22 touchdowns as a junior, per 247Sports, he has shot up to the top of the state's receiver rankings. The 6'2" athlete is a fluid runner with strong hands and the ability to high-point the football with the best of them. Once he fills out, the Alshon Jeffery comparisons will start pouring in.
He won't make or break this class, but Lodge would give Texas a true No. 1 wideout with the ability to get deep as well as finish off drives in the red zone. Though his crystal ball is trending downward, he remains a priority target until signing day.
Note: Star rankings and recruiting information courtesy of 247Sports.