Once again, Charlie Strong and the Texas Longhorns are going to be major players on national signing day.
On the surface, the Horns shouldn't scare anyone. The 2016 class is ranked outside the top 30 with a week to go, with only five of the 13 commits sporting higher than 3-star ratings.
That's all about to change.
In keeping with his previous two years at Texas, Strong and his staff have been working their tails off to end the cycle in epic fashion. The Longhorns are eyeing at least six flips from other programs and are working on 12 other uncommitted targets.
Below are the biggest names on those lists.
1. Any Defensive Tackle
We're cheating here, but Texas isn't about to get picky about which of its six remaining defensive tackle targets decide to join the program. The way the depth chart looks, the Longhorns will take as many as they can get.
Over the last three recruiting cycles, Poona Ford, Chris Nelson and Jake McMillon, all from the 2014 class, are the only tackles the Horns have been able to add to the roster. Even with Paul Boyette and Alex Norman holding over from 2012, that's created a major depth problem now that Hassan Ridgeway has declared for the draft.
With Du'Vonta Lampkin flaking out last season, this 2016 cycle is crucial for replenishing the ranks up front. Luckily, there are plenty of options.
As of now, the Longhorns are in pursuit of Jordan Elliott, D'Andre Christmas-Giles, Chris Daniels, Stephon Taylor, Marcel Southall and Mike Williams. The first three are the most obtainable at this stage, Taylor's 50-50 with Florida State and the other two have Texas as backup plans.
Elliott, a top-125 Michigan commit, projects best to help immediately. He's listening once again, and the feeling now is that the Longhorns are the favorites.
Top 3 schools, no order! TCU🐸 LSU🐯 Texas🤘🏽 #HookEm #TooColdU #GeauxTigers1/26/2016, 2:01:35 AM
The Longhorns are also in a good spot with the rising Christmas-Giles, who Rivals.com considers the sixth-best tackle in the nation. He has a top three of Texas, LSU and TCU, but the Tigers might be done at the position after landing Rashard Lawrence. TCU is more of a fringe contender.
Rounding out the targets, Daniels and Taylor are on the radar thanks to great visits a couple of weeks ago. It was an uphill battle to get into contention with both, but the Longhorns should be able to get at least one. Of the two, Daniels is the safer bet.
Super K @SuperK_TFB
2016 DT Chris Daniels will have an in-home visit today with #Texas. #Oklahoma & #TAMU will do in-home visits with him tomorrow. @Andrew_TFB1/26/2016, 4:55:10 PM
Things seem to be changing here on a daily basis, but Texas should get two or three of these guys.
2. S Brandon Jones
It's easy to see why Texas wants Brandon Jones.
The nation's top safety is fast, instinctive and physical enough to play either safety position. The Longhorns also don't have a commit at the position yet, so an in-state win over Texas A&M and Baylor would be a huge victory.
Texas isn't desperate at safety, but bringing Jones would give it a potentially dominant secondary for the next three years. Last season's commits, Holton Hill, Davante Davis, Kris Boyd, P.J. Locke and DeShon Elliott, another interchangeable safety, have all risen quickly. Adding the Nacogdoches product to the mix gives this group elite potential.
Strong and Jeff Traylor have been all over Jones and should be able to sign him. It's going to be close, though.
3. LB Jeffrey McCulloch
Texas is in really good shape with Jeffrey McCulloch, the freakishly athletic linebacker from Houston, and should be happy when he makes his decision on signing day.
Even with Malik Jefferson and Anthony Wheeler in the fold, McCulloch's a talent the Longhorns can't pass up. The 6'2", 230-pound linebacker posted a Jefferson-esque 138.3 SPARQ score at The Opening, good for fourth-best among all 2015 participants.
But McCulloch's athletic prowess is only part of the equation. The Shark's ability to play sideline-to-sideline and rush the passer makes him a great fit for Strong's hybrid Fox position, as well as playing more of a traditional outside linebacker.
Jeffrey McCulloch: it's hard to draw up a better edge defender. So sudden and violent. Not as fluid as 46 but bigger.1/15/2016, 8:44:38 PM
That said, being able to put an athlete like McCulloch on the field with Jefferson would be an awesome luxury. The Longhorns would be able to mix up their fronts, get more creative with their blitzes and generally torment opposing blockers with these two. The duo would be really fun to watch.
The Shark @jmcculloch17
Hookem 🤘🏾🐂 https://t.co/2Cfa34oJKL1/22/2016, 4:45:53 AM
McCulloch's already considered a "silent commit," according to Rivals.com's Alex Dunlap (h/t Burnt Orange Nation's Wescott Eberts), and Texas is in the driver's seat. That's great news for the program, and what's even better is the possibility that he'll be a package deal with the next target on our list, as McCulloch hinted to Horns Digest's Greg Powers.
4. LB Dontavious Jackson
Texas is targeting the best of the best at linebacker, and Dontavious Jackson's natural fit for the inside puts him squarely on that list.
Jackson looks like a Transformer on the high school field. The 240-pounder possesses elite play recognition, navigates traffic with ease and is a true knock-back tackler. If he gets his body on you, you're done.
This true middle linebacker skill set is what makes Jackson such an important target. Jefferson played well in the role last season, but the Horns don't have another true middle linebacker on the roster. Since Jefferson is so good off the edge, the Horns absolutely want a guy who can fill that role.
Jackson would fill that void, but he's no lock to end up at Texas. Florida State, Michigan, Alabama and Florida are also going after him hard, with the Seminoles being the Longhorns' greatest threat.
The good news is that Jackson is Texas' lone visitor this weekend, and he'll get the red carpet treatment from the coaching staff. Also, don't be surprised to see other Longhorn commits and targets roll in as well to try to make this happen.
5. OT Patrick Hudson
Texas has made Baylor commit Patrick Hudson a top target just to see what can happen. In the final week leading up to signing day, the Longhorns have turned the opportunity into a fighting chance.
Yes, Texas is going after Hudson basically for kicks. The Horns have four solid linemen already committed in this class, Hudson's sister is going to Baylor to run track, as noted by The Football Brainiacs, and he officially visited the Longhorns without his family.
Still, Hudson spent a lot of time in Austin last week and got an in-home visit from Strong on Monday. The personal attention has made this a one-on-one battle between the Horns and the Bears, and the 4-star tackle has yet to rule out a flip.
Super K @SuperK_TFB
Source on whether #BU OL commit, Patrick Hudson will take a return visit to #Texas, "It’s possible but it’s nothing certain at this point"1/26/2016, 5:51:42 PM
Ultimately, stealing Hudson probably won't happen. But if he makes an unofficial visit with his mom over the weekend, then you have to believe Strong will pull it off.
Unless otherwise noted, all recruiting stats and information courtesy of 247Sports.com.
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