May 5, 2010

Longhorn legend tops Top 25 LB list

Over the last couple of months, Orangebloods.com has taken you on a ride down memory lane with a look at the top 25 running backs, defensive tackles and offensive linemen that we've covered over the years in recruiting. Today we take a look at the linebacker position and it the No.1 player on the list likely won't come as a shock to anyone. However, the overall make-up of the list is full of stars, busts and even a few tragedies.

First, before we do anything else, let's take a look at the players that narrowly missed the list and others that I just completely whiffed on when push came to shove:

Just missed the cut: Derrick Pope (Galveston Ball - No.24 in 2000), John Garrett (Mart - No.31 in 2000), Jimmy Wilkerson (No.32 in 2000), Clint Ingram (No.26 in 2001), Lamar Mitchell (Dayton - No.22 in 2003), Roddrick Muckelroy - (No.30 in 2005) and Tom Wort (No.18 in 2009)

Hey Ketch, you're a dummy: Travis Lewis (No.63 in 2006) and Sean Weatherspoon (NR in 2006)

25. Kendall Thompson[/db[ - Carthage (No.15 in 20100)

Thompson's high school film

Comment: The current Texas commit slips into the back end of the list based on his current ranking, but he could be a little undervalued right now and he could make a little bit of a forward move if he can build off of an amazing junior season.

24. [db]D.D. Lewis - Aldine (No.22 in 1997)

Comment: Lewis was a two-way threat coming out of Aldine and began his career as a fullback for the Longhorns, but his best long-term home was always at linebacker and when the Texas coaches made the switch in 1998, he emerged as a four-year starter, a third-team AP All-American as a senior and ended enjoying a nice NFL career.

23. Chris Campbell - Sulphur Springs (No.21 in 1998)

Comment: There are real tragic cases on this list and the car accident that took Campbell's life in the months prior to him being becoming a top NFL pick is one of them. Although he never had the NFL career to cement his legacy, Campbell was a starter and leader on some of the greatest Miami teams of all-time.

22. Christian Rodriguez - North Mesquite (No.16 in 1997)

Comment: It's so rare when Texas A&M beats Texas head to head in recruiting these days, but it was pretty much the rule back in the mid-90's, especially when came to defensive recruits. The ultra-athletic Rodriquez selected A&M over Texas in a much ballyhooed recruitment, but never lived up to the enormous expectations that followed him, although he did emerge as a starter during his senior season.

21. Grant Irons - The Woodlands (No.14 in 1997)

Comment: Irons is exactly the kind of big-time defensive prospect that used to leave the state with regularity before Mack Brown's arrival in Austin. A big, physical, imposing presence on the field, Irons dominated the high school ranks at The Woodlands and before his career was over in South Bend, he became a multi-year starter and captain for the Irish. Irons ended up playing five years in the NFL with Oakland and Buffalo.

20. DeMarrio Pleasant - Lewisville (No.12 in 2003)

Comment: Pleasant was a big, physical interior linebacker prospect that seemed to have all of the physical tools, but they never seemed to come together as a high school player and that extended into his collegiate career at Oklahoma, where he was a solid role player, but never emerged as a true impact player.

19. Michael Morgan - Dallas Skyline (No.12 in 2006)

Morgan's high school film

Comment: Few prospects at the position over the years can match the speed and athleticism of Morgan, but all of the talent has yet to add up to a true impact player at the collegiate level. After starting nine games for USC as a junior last season, Morgan lost his job and is in a dogfight this spring to get it back.

18. Jared Norton - Rowlett (No.9 in 2006)

Norton's high school film

Comment: Norton was a dominating player at Rowlett and was on his way to a stellar collegiate career (eight starts as a junior in 2008), but injuries have stopped him in his tracks and its unsure if he'll ever re-emerge as a starter for the Longhorns.

17. Corey Nelson - Dallas Skyline (No.9 in 2010)

Nelson' high school film

Comment: To give you an idea of how big the commitment of Nelson was for Texas A&M, he's only one of two players on this list from the last decade that have signed with the Aggies. The kid has the all of the tools to be a big-time player.

16. Anthony Wallace - Dallas Skyline (No.9 in 2011)

Wallace' high school film

Comment: Wallace is one of three linebacker prospects from 2010 that show up on this list and he's also one of three players from Dallas Skyline that made the cut. With his combination of size, speed and playmaking skill, he might end up becoming the best of the bunch.

15. Devaughn Darling - Sugar Land Austin (No.12 in 2000)

Comment: Darling had it all - he was big, strong, physical and very athletic. In fact, he was so good that he surged onto the two-deep as a true freshman for Florida State, but he shockingly passed away after participating in off-season workouts. His twin brother Devard was also at Florida State and ended up transferring to Washington State, where he stared as a collegian before carving out a nice NFL career. As talented as Devard Darling was as a football player, Devaughn was even better.

14. Marcus Mosley - South Oak Cliff (No.9 in 1998)

Comment: Man, this kid was just a sensational athlete that could flat out run to the football and make bad things happen once he got there. For all of his athleticism, the concerns of qualifying and remaining eligible were present during his recruitment. Mosley is still the top recruit that SMU has signed since the Death Penalty, but he didn't last a season before having to transfer and he was never really heard from again.

13. Michael Williams - Lindale (No.10 in 2002)

Comment: There have been few players during the Mack Brown era that have possessed as much talent as Williams and never found a way to maximize his ability into an NFL career. Williams was a freaky athlete in high school, who played wide receiver and linebacker, he found his way onto the field for the Longhorns as a raw true freshman and recorded six sacks as a situational pass rusher during his sophomore season. Right when it seemed like he might turn into a star, a combination of academic problems, injuries and just poor decision-making cost him his UT career. He finished his collegiate career by earning all-conference honors at Texas College in 2005.

12. Everick Rawls - Texas City (No.7 in 1998)

Comment: No player surged up the rankings in the fall of 1998 quite like Rawls, who was the top playmaker on an extremely talented Texas City state championship team that featured four players that signed with Texas in Mack Brown's first recruiting class. Although he was undersized, Rawls flashed serious big-time playmaking skills as a prep player, but wasn't an impact player during his three-year stint as a starter for the Longhorns.

11. Devin Davis - Austin McCallum (No.6 in 1999)

Comment: This one is a little bit of a complicated situation because I was fairly close to Davis, who was a star at my old high school five years after I had graduated. As a junior, the 6-3, 225-pound Davis played like a legitimate five-star prospect and there's no question in my mind that he was the best linebacker from Central Texas that I've covered in almost two decades. However, a serious ankle injury that he played through in the playoffs of his junior season greatly limited him during his senior season and I didn't slot him in the rankings where he probably deserved to be ranked (state top 25-35) because of a little homerism. A nationally recruited prospect, Davis eventually signed with Tennessee and transferred to TCU where he turned out to be a solid college player, but never a star.

10. Aaron Harris - North Mesquite (No.8 in 2002)

Comment: Before he was a third-team All-American linebacker for a national championship team, Harris was one of the top high school linebackers from the Metroplex in the last two decades. A true impact player in high school, Harris ranks as one of the top true middle linebacker prospects I've seen over the years.

9. Steve Edmond - Daingerfield (No.5 in 2011)

Edmond's high school film

Comment: Edmond is a borderline five-star prospect heading into his senior season and like the other 2011 prospects on the list, Edmond could still make a move on this list if he's able to take his game up another notch as a senior. The fact that he's in the top ten discussion tells you all you need to know about his talent level.

8. Mike Clay - Aldine Nimitz (No.6 in 1998)

Comment: I remember Clay as one of the original Internet sensations. As a monster 6-4, 230-pound prospect that had the ability to rush the passer and play sideline-to-sideline, Clay committed to several schools, including Florida State after he tore an ACL before his senior season, but he ended up singing with Missouri, who also signed three other players from Nimitz to ensure that they landed Clay's signature on Signing Day. Of course, Clay flamed out at Missouri before becoming a Division II All-American at Texas A&M Kingsville.

7. Justin Warren - Tyler Lee (No.5 in 2003)

Comment: Mack Brown hasn't missed on many of his top targets over the years, but the Aggies stole one away from him in 2003 when they were able to land Warren before the Longhorns could take complete control of East Texas. There was disagreement over Warren's long-term position when he was recruited, but his pass-rush skill and athletic skill made him a must-have. Warren was a four-year starter for the Aggies and enjoyed a nice collegiate career, but he never emerged as an impact player.

6. Marvin Byrdsong - Longview (No.7 in 2002)

Comment: As good of a prospect as Aaron Harris was a middle linebacker prospect in 2002, he was the second-best prospect that year behind this East Texas star, who was bigger, faster and more physical. Only serious academic questions kept Byrdsong from five-star status and after as a true freshman and sophomore at Mississippi State, he left the program and played out his career at Northwestern State.

5. Tevin Jackson - Garland (No.4 in 2010)

Jackson's high school film

Comment: Jackson arrives at Texas this fall with a frame and skill set that gives him no ceiling as a collegiate player. An imposing, physical presence on the field, Jackson has the ability to play sideline-to-sideline, while also possessing elite pass rushing skill.

4. Keenan Robinson - Plano East (No.5 in 2007)

Robinson's high school film

Comment: I gave Robinson a five-star ranking during his senior season at Plano East and although he's flashed some of his playmaking ability and NFL talent as a 14-game starter during his sophomore season on one of the nation's top defenses, there's a feeling from many inside the program that the 2010 season could be his breakout year.

3. Roylin Bradley - La Marque (No.2 in 1997)

Comment: Back when the Wrecking Crew was still really the Wrecking Crew, Bradley was going to be the next great linebacker to follow in the path created by the likes of John Roper, Anthony Wallace and Quentin Coryatt. As a true dominating playmaker at La Marque, Bradley seemed destined for stardom after leading his team to a state championship as a senior. However, he never emerged as a difference maker at A&M, although he was a solid multi-year starter.

2. Sergio Kindle - Woodrow Wilson (No.1 in 2006)

Kindle's high school film

Comment: Kindle is one of the transcendent prospects that I've covered in the years I've been in the business. When I first identified him as a major college prospect, he was just a wildly athletic freshman dominating DISD on both sides of the ball. Had I ranked him as a freshman, he probably would have been ranked in the top three of 2003 recruiting class and I can't say that about anyone else that I've ever covered. Of course, after a bit of a trying start to his college career at Texas, Kindle evolved into a true difference maker for the Longhorns under the tutelage of Will Muschamp and Oscar Giles.

1. Derrick Johnson - Waco High (No.2 in 2001)

Johnson's career highlights on Youtube

Comment: Deep down, there was no question in my mind that Johnson was the best player/prospect in the 2001 recruiting class, but I hesitated at removing Tommie Harris from the top spot because I was concerned about a possible backlash and cry of homerism. Of course, both players ended up being once-a-decade players at the next level, but if you had seen Johnson on the field as a senior when he made 30 tackles against Tyler John Tyler, there wouldn't have been any doubt in your mind who the true No.1 prospect was. Johnson's career at Texas is the stuff as legends, as he became the school's first Butkus Trophy winner in 2004 and was a first round pick by the Kansas City Chiefs in 2005.

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