The Longhorns 2012 recruiting class swelled to 27 members with the verbal commitments of three more athletes this week. Texas picked up two defensive players in linebacker Dalton Santos and defensive end Bryce Cottrell as well as local athlete/flex back Daje Johnson. Each of the trio had previously been committed to other schools, but decided to switch their pledges to Texas after careful consideration before National Signing Day on Feb. 1.
We’ll start with Daje Johnson, a product of Pflugerville’s Hendrickson High School. While Johnson is diminutive in size at 5-foot-9, 180 pounds he runs a 4.3 40-yard dash and has been likened to a bullet train in the open field. Johnson affords Texas the option of either converting him to an able cornerback, or keeping him in the D.J. Monroe role as a running back/receiver hybrid. For Johnson’s sake, let’s hope he doesn’t fade in and out of obscurity like Monroe has the past few seasons.
Johnson had initially committed to play under head coach Gary Patterson at TCU, but once Texas offered the Austin native, he was sold on playing as a Longhorn. Johnson is a playmaker that does have the ability to make a defender or two miss, but he doesn’t have the durability to be an every down back. Texas knows this, that’s why it has a stable of stud running backs at its disposal. Johnson could be in line for more receptions than carries with the likes of Malcolm Brown, Joe Bergeron and Jonathan Gray in the backfield. With the loss of Skyline’s Thomas Johnson to A&M, Daje Johnson fills the Longhorn’s need at receiver and running back perfectly. In his senior season at Hendrickson, Johnson accumulated over 25 rushing touchdowns as well as six receiving scores. He also returned a punt for a score, showing his versatility. Johnson could very well make his way on to the field in some gadget-type plays next season. He’ll be a fun guy to keep an eye on throughout his Longhorn career.
Santos is rated as the No. 1 inside linebacker in the nation by ESPN and is a jack-of-all-trades in his own right. He had committed to Tennessee but switched after deciding Texas was a better fit for him and his family. At 6-foot-2, 250 pounds he can stop the run all the way down the line and has a great feel for the game. Santos is a very instinctual player that makes the right decision more times than not. He will vie for playing time immediately against Steve Edmond at the inside backer spot. Edmond will probably have a leg up given his time with the program, but don’t count Santos out all together. Santos could be the biggest hitter Texas has had since Nathan Vasher, who was known to lay some vicious hits on opponents as a Longhorn. The competition between Edmond and Santos this offseason will be one filled with heavy hits. Either is a solid option to anchor an improved Texas defense.
Cottrell, a former Oregon commit, comes in from Plano West. The 6-foot-3, 230 pound defensive end played on the edge in high school, but could project as an outside linebacker in college. Wherever he plays, you can rest assured he’s going to come off the line at full-speed looking to inflict pain on whoever has the ball. His pursuit off the edge is top of the line and he has the frame to add much more muscle to his already powerful physique. Cottrell has shown that he can either line up in a two or 3-point stance, or drop back into coverage if need be. He uses his lengthy arms effectively in getting around linemen and to the point of attack. Cottrell garnered interest from several schools, including a couple of SEC squads but decided to stay in-state and become a Longhorn. He’ll fit well in Manny Diaz’s scheme-filled defense and could push for playing time in the next year. Under the guidance of the Texas coaches, Cottrell could blossom into another NFL-caliber Longhorn.