Dallas Colleges: Chris Nelson

Incoming impact countdown: Nos. 14-18

February, 18, 2014
Feb 18
9:00
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Now that they’ve signed their letters of intent, Texas’ incoming recruits can officially toss their stars in the trash. They don’t matter now.

While such ratings and rankings are helpful throughout the recruiting process, they mean nothing once a kid sets foot on campus and joins the program.

Gold starts won’t decide who gets to play as a freshman. Preparation, fit, need, raw talent, confidence, some good fortune -- a whole lot of real stuff matters now. Which members of Texas’ 2014 class have a chance to help out the Longhorns from day one?

This week we’re breaking down the Texas signees by their ability to make an early impact during their time on the 40 Acres, counting down from No. 23 to No. 1. Part one ran on Monday.

18. DT Chris Nelson
Lakeland (Fla.) Victory Christian | 6-foot-3, 280 pounds


2013: 100 tackles, 9.5 tackles for loss, 2.5 sacks, 2 forced fumbles, 3 fumble recoveries

Before he chose the Longhorns, Nelson told local papers he could bring his “Florida swag” to Texas. How quickly he can do so will depend on what kind of shape he shows up in, and how hungry he is to get into the two-deep.

He was a much-needed final addition for this class, especially with the DT decommittments Texas suffered, and he knows there is plenty of opportunity awaiting him in his first season if he works hard to take it. Nelson brings plenty of confidence. Let’s see what he can do if the Longhorns need him early on.

Terrell Cuney
William Wilkerson/ESPNTerrell Cuney is already a mauler at center, but an established two-deep will likely allow him the ability to redshirt and get even stronger.
17. ATH Roderick Bernard
Houston Sharpstown | 5-10, 175


2013: 60 rushes, 594 rushing yards, 4 rushing TDs; 25 receptions, 364 receiving yards, 2 TDs, 2 kick return TDs

The obvious and probably lazy comparison Bernard will get in his first year is Daje Johnson considering his size, speed and versatility. His film suggests he’s a bit more like D.J. Monroe. You want this kid returning kicks and taking handoffs on sweeps, that’s for sure. Had he been able to enroll early as planned, we’d have a lot better sense of where he fits best.

Mack Brown always coveted home-run threats such as Bernard in recruiting, but how will the new staff put his talents to use? He’ll need to get stronger, but if he can prove to Les Koenning and the offensive coaches that he’s a weapon with the ball in his hands, he could see the field in 2014.

16. C Terrell Cuney
Jasper (Texas) | 6-3, 260


2013: 92% grade, 24 pancake blocks, 2 sacks allowed

The only reason Cuney, a four-star prospect and one of the nation’s best at his position, is this low on the list is simply because Texas is already two deep at center this season. Dominic Espinosa is a three-year starter and redshirt freshman Jake Raulerson appears to be the obvious choice to back him up.

If that means a redshirt for Cuney, that's not a bad thing at all. He’s capable of putting on more weight and developing into a long-term contributor as an interior lineman, and putting in that year to prepare for the college game will help. Still, Cuney is a mauler in the run game and he’s going to fight his way into the mix when he arrives in Austin.

15. OG Alex Anderson
New Orleans O. Perry Walker | 6-5, 310

2013: 80 pancake blocks

Enrolling early was the best possible thing Anderson could do for his development, even if it might not mean playing time this fall. Anderson was a Joe Wickline find in January, and it’ll be interesting to see where the new offensive line coach starts him off this spring after Anderson mostly played tackle as a senior.

If he does indeed work with the guards, he’ll get to challenge an inexperienced group led by Sedrick Flowers. It wouldn’t be surprising to see Anderson right in the mix with Rami Hammad, Darius James and the rest of the second-year guards if he plays his cards right this spring.

14. WR Dorian Leonard
Longview (Texas) | 6-4, 200

2013: 40 receptions, 763 receiving yards, 11 receiving TDs

Though there are questions about his speed, but Leonard’s combination of raw talent, size and tools make him a guy who I think can surprise folks in the next few years. He can go up and get it on jump balls, and the former basketball player is only going to get stronger as he grows into his frame. There’s plenty he has to refine, but don’t sleep on Leonard.

The problem is, Texas is stacked at receiver going forward, with five signees coming in and only one senior graduating. There could be position changes and departures, but it wouldn’t be surprising if Leonard takes a redshirt considering how many wideouts will be ahead of him when he arrives on campus.

Texas position groups to improve: No. 4

February, 11, 2014
Feb 11
8:00
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Texas is getting off to a later-than-usual start to its spring practices this year, with Charlie Strong set to lead the Longhorns onto the practice field for the first time on March 18.

Until then, we’re counting down everything you need to know entering next season and the next era of Texas football. This week, we’re breaking down the five position groups with the most room to improve in 2014. We broke down the UT tight ends on Monday. Here’s No. 4 on the list:

[+] EnlargeMalcom Brown
John Albright/Icon SMIMalcom Brown is arguably the Big 12's best returning defensive tackle, but depth behind him is a concern for the Longhorns.
4. Defensive Tackles

The players: Malcom Brown, Desmond Jackson, Hassan Ridgeway, Alex Norman, Paul Boyette Jr., Poona Ford, Chris Nelson

Last year: As expected, Brown emerged as one of the best young defensive tackles in the Big 12, recording 68 tackles and finishing third on the team in TFLs (12), pass breakups (five) and QB pressures (six). Jackson recorded 39 tackles, five TFLs and two sacks. Ridgeway recorded 13 tackles and five QB pressures in his redshirt freshman year. Norman and Boyette Jr. combined for three tackles in limited action.

What’s missing: Chris Whaley was the leader of this group and enjoying a breakthrough senior season before suffering a torn ACL. When he went down, the Longhorns’ lack of depth up the middle was exposed, to the point that former DC Greg Robinson relied on lines with three defensive ends playing at once at times.

Texas knows what it has in Brown and “Tank” Jackson, but there was no experienced talent waiting behind them. Add in the fact Texas signed zero defensive tackles in last year’s class and you have to be somewhat concerned about this group entering 2014.

Moving forward: Brown, a former top 15 recruit, played up to his immense potential and can become an All-Big 12 caliber talent in 2014. He’ll anchor this group, while Jackson brings senior leadership but has room to improve. They need help. Ridgeway needs to emerge as a trusted rotational guy.

Norman and Boyette Jr. are entering year three in the program and have been disappointing. It’s time to step up or step aside, because Texas coaches love what they’re getting in Ford, an ESPN 300 signee who could play right away. Where Nelson fits into this group could depend on whether some backups transfer, but he’s bringing lots of confidence to Austin. These freshmen know they can get on the field early if the backups don’t rise up.

Signing day: Big 12 wrapup

February, 5, 2014
Feb 5
9:52
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As hectic of a day as it was, national signing day was a success for all Big 12 programs. Coaches were up early manning their fax machines and showing excitement with every national letter of intent submitted via fax.

Nearly 250 football players signed letters of intent to play Big 12 football on Wednesday. Here are five of the biggest storylines -- and a bonus storyline that could have an ending Thursday -- from the conference.

Oklahoma takes over top spot in Big 12

In the past 48 hours, everything seemed to go Oklahoma’s way.

[+] EnlargeMichiah Quick
Courtesy of Nike ESPN 300 ATH Michiah Quick was a big part of Oklahoma's final rush, a rush that gave the Sooners the top class in the Big 12.
After getting a Tuesday commitment from ESPN 300 safety Steven Parker II (Jenks, Okla./Jenks), the Sooners got Wednesday pledges from ESPN 300 athlete Michiah Quick (Fresno, Calif./Central East) and high three-star offensive tackles Kenyon Frison (West Valley City, Utah/Granger) and Orlando Brown Jr. (Duluth, Ga./Peachtree Ridge).

All four players were a part of Oklahoma’s signing class of 26 on Wednesday -- helping the Sooners take over the top spot in the Big 12 class rankings. Oklahoma’s class is No. 13 nationally, three spots better than previous top dog Texas.

Oklahoma in previous years has been very good at finishing strong in recruiting. It managed to sign Frison, who committed to Utah last February before decommitting last month, as well as Brown, who had been committed to Tennessee since May before making an 11th-hour change.

Strong, Longhorns get their DTs

New Texas coach Charlie Strong wanted two players he recruited to play at Louisville, and by Wednesday afternoon, he had them.

ESPN 300 defensive tackle Poona Ford (Hilton Head, S.C./Hilton Head) and three-star defensive tackle Chris Nelson (Lakeland, Fla./Victory Christian Academy) signed with the Longhorns and were two of 23 to submit national letters of intent. They also helped erase the sting of the Longhorns losing three four-star defensive tackle commitments in LSU signee Trey Lealaimatafao (San Antonio/Warren), Oklahoma signee Courtney Garnett (New Orleans/St. Augustine) and Texas A&M signee Zaycoven Henderson (Longview, Texas/Longview) last month.

Collectively, Ford and Nelson recorded 235 tackles, 9.5 sacks, 35 quarterback pressures and four forced fumbles. The duo also had 37.5 tackles for loss.

Receivers ‘No. 1’ to Baylor coach

Baylor coach Art Briles made a bold statement about his new wide receivers -- one that might be challenged by some but co-signed by others.

“The thing that we feel really good about,” Briles said, “is that we've signed the No. 1 receiving class in America -- I don't think that's up for debate.”

Briles has an argument with four ESPN 300 receivers in K.D. Cannon (Mount Pleasant, Texas/Mount Pleasant), Davion Hall (Texarkana, Texas/Liberty-Eylau), Ishmael Zamora (Houston/Alief Elsik) and Chris Platt (Willis, Texas/Willis). The quartet helped to give Baylor a top-25 national recruiting class.

Rhoads fired up about lone in-state signee

To say Paul Rhoads is excited about his top-ranked signee, ESPN 300 wide receiver Allen Lazard (Urbandale, Iowa/Urbandale) is an understatement.

While Rhoads is pumped about the entire class, there’s something special about Lazard, as he is this year’s only in-state signee. Lazard, No. 148 in the ESPN 300, had opportunities to sign with other programs, but he chose to honor his original commitment and also follow the footsteps of his father Kevin Lazard, who played in the secondary for the Cyclones in the early 1990s.

“This is a young man who has gotten phenomenal national attention and was recruited by the traditional historical programs in college football and kept on turning them away to stay true to his word to be an Iowa State Cyclone,” Rhoads said in a statement of Lazard, the No. 2 prospect out of the state of Iowa behind Alabama offensive lineman signee Ross Pierschbacher (Cedar Falls, Iowa/Cedar Falls).

West Virginia adds depth in class

Adding depth was the objective for West Virginia coach Dana Holgorsen, as he signed 22 players on Wednesday. Holgorsen was fortunate to add depth from coast to coast.

Of the 22 commits, only one -- three-star offensive tackle Amanii Brown (Morgantown, W.Va./Morgantown) -- is an in-state signee. The Mountaineers hit points all over the Lower 48, from California to Texas to Florida, to get players who can be contributors early and help the program return to star status.

West Virginia’s class is led by five ESPN 300 players. Running back Donte Thomas-Williams (Durham, N.C./Hillside), the class’ top-ranked player, was the last to commit early Wednesday afternoon. He joins defensive back Dravon Henry (Aliquippa, Pa./Aliquippa), linebacker Davonte James (Springfield, Ohio/Springfield) and receivers Lamar Parker (Miami/Booker T. Washington) and Jake McCrary (Miami/Coral Reef) in the class.

Bonus: Could the Sooners add one more?

LSU signed 22 players on Wednesday. The Tigers were hoping to sign 23.

Deondre Clark (Oklahoma City/Douglass) has been verbally committed to LSU since July, but the ESPN 300 defensive end also has high interest in Oklahoma. There were conflicting reports on Wednesday regarding whether Clark actually signed and submitted his letter of intent to LSU.

ESPN’s David Ching said an LSU spokesperson confirmed the letter of intent was at LSU and cleared compliance. Outside reports, however, say Clark did not submit the letter of intent, and a tweet from Clark's Twitter account said that “nothing is final.” His mother Dorshell also told The Oklahoman that her son “has not signed with LSU.”

Oklahoma City schools were closed on Wednesday because of bad weather, so Clark didn’t fax anything by way of Douglass High School. He is expected to announce his final decision on Thursday.

If it's true that Clark has not signed with LSU, look for Oklahoma to be a key player in his final decision. Ranked No. 273 in the ESPN 300, Clark has built a great relationship with the Sooners' coaching staff, particularly defensive line coach Jerry Montgomery.

Key recruiting visits -- Big 12 

January, 24, 2014
Jan 24
9:00
AM CT

With less than two weeks remaining until national signing day, every official visit is huge -- for the athlete and for the program. Some schools are in need of elite athletes more than others.

Here are 10 names to keep an eye on as they take their official visits to Big 12 schools:

1. ATH Lorenzo Joe (Abilene, Texas/Cooper)
Visiting: TCU


A two-hour trek eastbound to Fort Worth is making some Longhorns fans wonder -- and, perhaps, worry. Joe, an ESPN 300 athlete, has been committed to Texas since August 2012, but with the coaching transition from Mack Brown to Charlie Strong, Joe has checked out other options just to make sure Texas is the place for him. Look for TCU to roll the red -- or purple -- carpet out for him.

Key recruiting visits -- Big 12 

January, 17, 2014
Jan 17
9:00
AM CT
The dead period is over, and official visits are set. The next three weekends will be huge for players as they look to finalize their college plans.

Here are 10 names to watch as they take their official visits to Big 12 schools. The names are in alphabetical order.


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Texas coaches back on the road recruiting 

January, 16, 2014
Jan 16
1:00
PM CT
The dead period is over and it’s time to hit the road. Charlie Strong has his new coaching staff in place and is ready to get back to work on closing out Texas’ recruiting class.

The Longhorns currently have 21 committed prospects, though several are looking to take official visits elsewhere this month. There are big-time recruits still available. And don’t forget the new names who are sure to pop up on Texas’ radar in the next few weeks.

Here’s a rundown of where things stand and what names you should know entering the end of the dead period.

Solid commitments


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Texas offers Louisville commit Nelson 

January, 8, 2014
Jan 8
8:02
PM CT
Texas Longhorns head coach Charlie Strong is already hitting the recruiting trail with a vengeance while he also works to complete his coaching staff. Strong reached out on Wednesday evening to defensive tackle Chris Nelson, who happens to be currently committed to Louisville.

“Yes, coach Strong offered me within the last hour or so,” Nelson said. “He was just asking me if I would be interested in following him to Texas and that he wants me.”

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