After long hours of watching film, talking to dozens of HS and college coaches, and watching more film, we deliver the final installment of the Inside Texas Top 100 for 2016. We don’t claim to be experts, but here’s what we’ve got.
25. LB Dontavious Jackson, Alief Elsik (Houston, TX) – FLORIDA STATE: Classic tackle-to-tackle linebacker already at collegiate size (6-foot-2, 240 pounds). For his size, he has quick feet and good straight-line speed. He navigates traffic well to locate the ball carrier. Should project to be good on interior blitzes and stout versus the run. Questions arise with him in space and coverage. Surround Jackson with athletes and keep him in the box as much as possible and he’ll be good, ask him to do too much and he could be exposed.
24. DE Isaiah Chambers, Aldine McArthur (Houston, TX) – TCU: SDE whose 240-pound frame will get to 270 pounds with ease. I think he projects better versus the run than as a pass rusher which is a change from seeing him his junior year. He hasn’t remained quite as flexible as I would have liked to see so the dipping and bending required to beat offensive tackles isn’t there to the degree it once was. Still, Chambers’ length and motor will allow him to cause his share of trouble.
23. CB Jared Mayden, Sachse (Sachse, TX): OKLAHOMA: Dangerous enough athlete as a punt returner to keep teammate Devin Duvernay from doing it. Mayden has plus+ size and is fluid enough to remain at corner in college, though he may better projected to safety depending on what conference he ends up in. Solid quickness and change of direction, though not elite in either regard. Not a true island corner but a good cover prospect.
22. OL Chris Owens, Lamar (Arlington, TX) – ALABAMA: Absolute mauler in the tradition of Alabama offensive linemen. Owens combines man strength and mobility to complete the ideal OG composite. Essentially he’s athletic like a tackle, but built like an immovable guard. He’ll be strong in the phone booth yet agile on the move while pulling or out in space in the screen game.
21. QB Jalen Hurts, Channelview (Channelview, TX) – ALABAMA: Just what the world needs, Alabama with a dynamic playmaker at quarterback. Hurts will remind you of high school Jerrod Heard with his duality. He’s a well above-average runner with speed and lateral quicks who can punish even the most disciplined defenses with his legs. As a passer he can be erratic at times, but he has more than enough arm to make necessary throws and utilize Alabama’s vast offensive resources. If he gets the cerebral components down, we’ll all circle back and chuckle at this ranking. His ceiling is probably the highest of all the in-state quarterbacks in the state.
20. CB Parrish Cobb, La Vega (Waco, TX) – OKLAHOMA: One of the most explosive players in the country, and pound-for-pound, maybe the best high school player in the state because of his three-phase ability. Cobb has the type of athleticism that will allow him to mirror the quickest of receivers and the mindset to battle with bigger, tougher matchups. Cobb was underrated for much of the cycle but has the playmaking ability that could make him a household name in due time. He needs to get bigger and stronger but that will come with S&C. I expect him to play the bulk of his snaps at corner where his athleticism and ball skills will make him a threat to change momentum in the blink of an eye. Cobb’s feet, quickness, and acceleration separate him from most other corner prospects.
19. OT Kellen Diesch, Byron Nelson (Trophy Club, TX) – TEXAS A&M: Landing guys like Diesch is how you restore the 0-line talent left behind by Mike Sherman in Aggieland. Assuming Diesch keeps most of his movement skills as he adds 30 pounds, he has the potential to be special. At 6-foot-7, he’ll have to play much lower and not stand up so straight in pass pro (he’s going to get bull rushed on his ass at some point), but he’ll get that as he learns rather quickly the value of leverage and balance. He shows solid quickness and the ability to reach block and seal the edge as well as the ability to get out in space. He’ll be able to play as soon as he has the size to hold up physically. Daeshon Hall and Myles Garrett will work wonders towards his development.
18. CB Charles Oliver, Fairfield (Fairfield, TX) – TEXAS A&M: Very athletic (return-man ability) with great length and ball skills. He’s the guy you put on another team’s No. 1. As evidenced by him playing running back, he has tons of change of direction skill. He needs to fill out as he’s still too lean. He’s not Curtis Brown as an athlete, but he’s kind of that style and he’ll be bigger. Projects to a guy you can put on one side of the field and erase the other team’s deep threat. Good senior film as well.
17. QB Shane Buechele, Lamar (Arlington, TX) – TEXAS: Buechele has a high floor because of his mental make-up. He can beat with you with his head, arm, or legs, sometimes all on the same play. An underrated athlete, he’ll frustrate his share of defenses with his improvisational skill when the offense is off schedule, though keeping the offense on schedule will be a strength. As one college coach told me, everything Buechele does is quick; processes information, releases the ball, etc. Shane also anticipates well, which is important because his arm is only average. He can force a ball he shouldn’t on occasion. Mentally he’ll be able to play early if he’s needed, but he still needs significant physical development of his 6-foot-0, 180 pound frame.
16. WR Quartney Davis, Langham Creek (Houston, TX) – TEXAS A&M: Silky smooth and explosive receiver who projects to being a complete player. Ball skills, quickness, body control, long stride, catch radius, etc., the kid has it all. At not quite 6-foot-2, Davis has both little receiver and big receiver traits, which is about the highest compliment you can give a receiver. He’s going to be a terror in college.
15. DE Rahssan Thornton, Shoemaker (Killeen, TX) – LSU: Can be anything from a hand-in-the-ground D-end to stand-up outside linebacker. Very active player with significant physical development ahead of him, look for Thornton to hit your TV screens as a 250-pound edge terror. Fluid and flexible, Thornton is an athletic mismatch for offensive lineman, especially with his quickness off the ball. He’ll likely be asked to play in space at LSU, something not asked of him in high school, but he shows the movement skills to do so.
14. OT Jean Delance, North Mesquite (Mesquite, TX) – TEXAS: Delance is the offensive tackle template. Great size at 6-foot-5, 285 pounds, with uncommon athleticism and tons of untapped potential. He made great strides from his junior year where he was just a big athlete blocking people. Now he’s playing with good leverage and keeping his feet moving until his guy is removed from the play. I like his base, and as he gets bigger and stronger, he should be a plus as a drive blocker. Delance has significant untapped potential still, but is showing a steep developmental trend line, meaning he’s going to be ready to play relatively early in his career.
13. TE Kaden Smith, Marcus (Flower Mound, TX) – STANFORD: Projects to being a dual-threat tight end as both a dangerous receiver and reliable in-line blocker as part of Stanford’s offensive line death machine. You won’t find better hands on a wide receiver, and also like a receiver, Smith uses his size to his advantage. He can go up and get the ball in traffic. He runs well but isn’t as twitchy as some of the freakish tight ends roaming around but he’s plenty athletic.
12. LB Erick Fowler, Manor (Manor, TX) – TEXAS: Sudden linebacker, with explosive tackling power you can bring from any angle. Versatile player who projects to all three linebacker spots as well as from an outside rush position. Because he lacks length and has a thick, stocky build, I project Fowler to Will or Mike. It’s not clear how instinctive he’ll be in traditional linebacking roles. Fowler’s initial quickness and overall speed are rare for the position. If he gets the cerebral parts down, he’ll be special because he won’t lack the chase and tackle aspects of the position.
11. WR Tyrie Cleveland, Spring Westfield (Houston, TX) – FLORIDA: One of the most explosive receivers you’ll find. Cleveland explodes into his routes and accelerates past defenders with ease. His acceleration also helps him become a devastating weapon in the screen game as he reaches top speed in minimal steps. Every school is looking for the guy who can blow the top off of a defense. Cleveland is that guy. You better shade a safety. I’ve seen his hands be a bit inconsistent at times, but he can make any catch in the book.
10. DB Eric Monroe, North Shore (Galena Park, TX) – LSU: Exciting prospect because of his absurd range and man coverage capability. As a safety he’s in the upper reaches when it comes to both traits. Coverage is good enough he could play corner in college until he fills out to safety size. He’s an ideal free safety long-term, however because of his range, closing, and striking ability. Picking up vertical threats won’t be a problem to a player use to carrying them in man.
9. DT Jordan Elliott, Westside (Houston, TX) – TEXAS: Prototypical size/build and athleticism that lends itself to versatility. Elliott’s big and powerful enough to anchor versus combo blocks as a nose tackle, but agile enough to be a disruptor as a 3-tech to 5-tech. I like his ability to stack and shed in a two-gap scheme, or his quickness to beat blockers and get up field when tasked to beat his man. Elliott will be ready to play immediately regardless of where he ends up. As a player he has a very high floor. Worst case scenario he’s a pile causing nose tackle, but I believe he’ll be much more than that.
8. S Deontay Anderson, Manvel (Manvel, TX) – OLE MISS: It’s been fun watching Anderson go from freshman with baby fat to sprint champion. The one safety in the nation with more range than Monroe thanks to sub 21-second 200 meter speed, Anderson erases would-be yardage like few others. The lone question on him is how he’ll fair when tasked with 1-on-1 duties. Senior film showed a much more physical player than I ever knew he was capable of being and I love the direct lines he takes to ball carriers.
7. LB Jeffrey McCulloch, Aldine Davis (Houston, TX) – TEXAS: A theme in this cycle is versatility and McCulloch keeps that running. He projects to all linebacker spots as well as stand-up defensive end because of his size and movement skills. I like him best as a Fox end because of the ferocity with which he sets the edge and his ability to get after the quarterback. Not to mention he’s capable of covering the shallow flat in pass coverage. Like Fowler, he’ll have a lot to learn about playing off the LOS but that would just require reps and time. He would almost certainly have to spend time working on zone drops and the like, but he has the hips and ability for that. McCulloch is capable of playing very early in his college career depending on how he’ll be used. I love his size at a wide 6-foot-3, 230 pounds.
6. OT Patrick Hudson, Silsbee (Silsbee, TX) – BAYLOR: I love his pad level for the most part, which is rare praise for a high school player. He fires out low and his drive blocking will translate early in his career, where ultimately he’ll be elite in that regard. He’s also a plus+ athlete as evidenced when on the pull. For being so big (6-foot-5, 325 pounds) he’s light on his feet. I’ve heard some think he ends up as a guard. He may have a layover there if depth requires it but ultimately I think he’ll be a fantastic right tackle.
5. WR Devin Duvernay, Sachse (Sachse, TX) – BAYLOR: What if Quan Cosby didn’t lose his speed while toiling in the minor leagues? We’re about to find out. Duvernay has possession receiver hands with track speed, gymnast balance, and a politician’s ability to alter course. The lone “flaw” is lack of height but really being his height helps him be the player he is. He’ll run through soft contact with ease if he’s not eluding it. I expect him to wreck shop in the screen and return game as a freshman.
4. DL Justin Madubuike, McKinney North (McKinney, TX) – TEXAS A&M: As president of the J-Mad fan club for over two years now I can’t wait to see what he does on the next level. A bit of a tweener if you’re trying to project cleanly, he could play SDE or DT depending on the scheme. At A&M he’ll likely play DT where he’ll need to put on significant weight while staying functional. He’ll do just that but he must be mindful to keep his quickness because his ability off the ball is what makes him so special. I also like his strength and ability to run through the shoulders of blockers. As an interior player he should be in the upper echelon of pass rushers, and as he gets bigger, he’ll be able to hold up against the run when confronted by the Alabamas of the world.
3. S Brandon Jones, Nacogdoches (Nacogdoches, TX) – TEXAS: The highest floor of the talented safety triumvirate, Jones is also the only one who projects to being able to play in the box consistently and may have the best man-cover skills. That creates a nearly can’t miss prospect somewhere in the Jamal Adams neighborhood. After missing much of his junior year to a torn knee, I wanted to see Jones return to the field with his explosiveness, and that’s exactly what he did. Another thing that separates Jones is his natural leadership skills. This is a guy you want calling out assignments in the back end.
2. DT Ed Oliver, Spring Westfield (Houston, TX) – HOUSTON: One of the most entertaining high school players I’ve had the privilege to watch. Oliver plays with the energy of a Jack Russell but packs the bite of another well known Terrier. What makes Oliver special is easy; he’s essentially a 285-pound running back. This makes him quite unstoppable, especially combined with his tenacity and stamina. His quickness and change of direction are both 10’s. He’s a bit on the short side at 6-foot-1, but he combats this with quickness, strength, and a non-stop motor. If you watch one set of highlights this cycle, this is your guy.
1. OT Greg Little, Allen (Allen, TX) – OLE MISS: This is the ‘most likely to succeed’ member of the class. The player with the fewest questions. The previous two winners were Jamal Adams and Malik Jefferson. Both made significant impacts their freshman year of college and I expect the same of Little. What makes him special is he requires very little projection. We’re not wondering if he’ll keep his athleticism as he’s already at target weight (310 pounds). In fact it’s safe to assume he’ll become more athletic with S&C. He’s as athletic, flexible, and well-balanced as they come at the position. The truly great o-line prospects jump off the screen as athletes first. That’s Little.