3 Reasons 5-Star Malik Jefferson Could Sign with Texas

Taylor Gaspar@Taylor_GasparFeatured ColumnistJune 4, 2014

Football recruiting is heating up.

Whether you are following state 7-on-7 tournaments, the Rivals Five Star Challenge, the Nike Opening or who is attending various school's camps, late spring and summer are times when football recruiting coverage kicks into overdrive. 

The Texas Longhorns have undergone a massive makeover in the football program, with first-year head coach Charlie Strong and his new staff leading the charge. According to the Mike Giglio, the director of player personnel for football, the Texas coaches finished the first spring evaluation period by visiting 944 schools. 

One of the schools was Mesquite (Texas) Poteet high school, the home of consensus five-star prospect Malik Jefferson.

The 6'2", 220-pound linebacker was first offered by the Longhorns in March 2013. At the time, Texas was one of three schools that extended scholarship offers, but that number quickly expanded.

Now, more than 25 schools want him.

Texas initially appeared to be near the top of Jefferson's list. The slow start to the 2013 season and the firing of then defensive coordinator and linebacker coach Manny Diaz opened the door for other schools, including in-state rival Texas A&M. One could speculate the Longhorns lost even more ground—which consequently was picked up by the Aggies—after Texas replaced almost the entire staff following the 2013 season.

But Strong and his assistants have made up for lost time since arriving in Austin in January.

How much ground is yet to be determined but here are three reasons why the Longhorns could land Jefferson to the 2015 recruiting class.


1. Longhorns Need of Linebackers

To say the Texas linebackers have struggled over the last few seasons would be a massive understatement. The current group was partially responsible for Texas' worst statistical defense in school history in 2012 and is on its third position coach in less than a year. 

However, Texas linebacker coach Brian Jean-Mary has a track record of developing athletes into future NFL players. Two of the four Louisville football players drafted in 2014 were linebackers, including first-round selection Marcus Smith.

The Longhorns will lose five current roster linebackers to graduation following the 2014 season and will have a group of fairly inexperienced players fighting for starting roles in 2015. The idea of potentially nabbing one of the starting roles as a freshman may be something that could be a deciding factor for Jefferson.


2. New Staff, Changing Culture and Developing Talent

Jefferson's relationship with the former staff made an impact on his willingness to head to Austin. So it was not a surprise that when the former staff was let go, Jefferson's intrigue with Texas may have dwindled.

Strong's staff has made it a priority to make up ground on Jefferson's recruitment, and he has taken notice.

"They're recruiting me pretty hard. They seem like they're going to be a good staff, a strong staff," Jefferson told Orangebloods.com. "Now you have to see what's going to happen, but I have faith that they're going to do something great this year and it's not going to be like last year."

Texas was able to get Jefferson to attend a spring practice in March, which appeared to have helped get Texas back in the mix. The new staff showed a lot of intensity and a change of culture was apparent during his visit.

"The intensity at practice was through the roof," Jefferson told Orangebloods.com. "I was really impressed."

A lot of his remarks were directly related to the change in culture under Strong. Jefferson told SB Nation the notable changes were, "Harder hitting. More intense. Better coaching."

Many people piled on Texas football after the Longhorns did not have a single player drafted in the 2014 NFL Draft. But the draft absence did not seem to impact Jefferson.

"Some people are taking it over the top," Jefferson said to ESPN. "Those weren't Charlie's people; he didn't develop any of those kids. Why would people want to change their minds off going to a great school like Texas because of something they couldn't control?"

One question he asks himself is if he can develop at a program. Following his visit, Jefferson told SB Nation that he can see himself developing at Texas, which is an important factor in his recruitment.


3. Close to Home and Friends

Many people believe Jefferson's recruitment is an in-state battle between Texas and Texas A&M. Jefferson is from Mesquite, Texas, which is roughly a three hour drive to Austin and College Station.

A recent development could help the Longhorns in landing the five-star prospect.

Texas extended a scholarship offer to Jefferson's friend and teammate DeAndre McNeal last Wednesday, following Poteet's spring game.

The two have previously stated they would like to play for the same team in college. Once Texas offered McNeal, he told Orangebloods.com that it helps the Longhorns' chances of landing the duo.

The decision will ultimately be made by each individual, but the fact that Texas has offered both players does not hurt the Longhorns' chances. 

It would not be wise to definitively say Jefferson will go to Texas, Texas A&M or any other school at this point. He has repeatedly said he plans to make his decision in December or January and that not one school is his leader. 

If Texas shows progress on the field in 2014, there is a good chance the Longhorns could land the five-star for the 2015 recruiting class.


Unless otherwise noted, all quotes were obtained firsthand.

Taylor Gaspar is Bleacher Report's featured columnist covering the Texas Longhorns. Follow Taylor on Twitter: @Taylor_Gaspar.


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