Every Friday, HornsNation recruiting writers William Wilkerson and Max Olson will answer a question about the Longhorns.
This week's question: Which banquet visitor this weekend is the most important and why?
William Wilkerson: The answer to this question, for me at least, isn’t really cut and dry. I think you could pick any number of recruits here.
The Longhorns are expecting at least four targets to come to Austin this weekend for Texas’ banquet weekend, annually one of its biggest recruiting weekends as most of its 2013 commitments will take their official visits.
Among the targets expected are offensive tackle Desmond Harrison (Contra Costa College), defensive end Za'Darius Smith (East Mississippi Community College), linebacker De'Vondre Campbell (Hutchinson C.C.) and offensive lineman Andrew Billings (Waco, Texas/Waco).
If I had to choose one of those, though, I’m going with Campbell, the Tennessee commitment with speed to burn and three years of eligibility left.
Texas’ linebackers unit went through some real growing pains this season when Jordan Hicks, its top linebacker and one of the leaders of the defense, suffered a season-ending injury against Ole Miss.
In his absence the Longhorns relied heavily on sophomore Steve Edmond to take control of the unit and he did an admirable job finishing second on the team in tackles.
Texas also started to see glimpses of what freshman Peter Jinkens could do after Demarco Cobbs suffered a season-ending injury against TCU. Jinkens was very active against Kansas State and will factor into the rotation in 2013.
Then there is special teams headhunter, and fellow freshman Dalton Santos, who saw limited action at linebacker, but who should see more time on defense next season.
All told, the Longhorns will have Hicks, Edmond, Cobbs, Jinkens, Santos, Tevin Jackson, Kendall Thompson, Aaron Benson and Tim Cole returning. They’ll also have Deoundrei Davis and Naashon Hughes coming in. So there are plenty of bodies to work with, and Texas could make due without Campbell.
But adding his athleticism and three years of eligibility to the mix can only help. Campbell was the Blue Dragons’ second-leading tackler this fall as a redshirt freshman with 62 tackles, five tackles for loss, three sacks and an interception.
He ran a 22.03 in the 200-meter dash at the Florida state track meet to finish seventh. That’s a 6-foot-5, 224-pound linebacker folks.
Add that to the outside with what Texas already has in the mix and I’m banking that Texas doesn’t finish last in the Big 12 in rush defense like it did this season.
Max Olson:Let’s be honest: Texas could start four or five new offensive linemen next season and nobody would be upset.
The Longhorns return all five starting offensive linemen next season, but that’s not always a good thing. There’s a good guard in Trey Hopkins and another, Mason Walters, who’s solid with considerable potential. On the rest, the jury is still out.
I wouldn’t blame Stacy Searels one bit if he wanted to start fresh next season, with linemen whom he recruited. He knows next season’s freshmen and sophomores can do what he asks of his offensive linemen.
That’s what makes Desmond Harrison the most important visitor at this weekend’s Longhorn banquet.
The 6-8, 310-pound offensive tackle can play right away in 2013. He’s certainly big and mean enough. The Contra Costa (Calif.) College lineman is a guy Searels and the rest of the UT staff covets, and they’ll prove it this weekend.
Harrison grew up near Houston and still has lots of ties to the state of Texas. He’s enjoyed official visits to Oklahoma and Arizona State -- his other top two schools -- but people close to him say they wouldn’t be surprised if Texas blows Harrison away this weekend.
The addition of Harrison to a class that already includes No. 1 ranked center Darius James, No. 3 tackle Jake Raulerson and No. 6 tackle Kent Perkins – and potentially four-star guards Andrew Billings and/or Caleb Benenoch -- would cement Texas’ status as having the top offensive line class of 2013.
Plus, having an instant-starter caliber tackle like Harrison on campus would benefit starters Donald Hawkins and Josh Cochran. Say, for example, Searles has to pick two tackles next fall from the group of Hawkins, Cochran, Harrison, Perkins and Kennedy Estelle.
That’s a good problem to have. That’s real offensive line depth, and Texas has gone far too long without any.