The first defensive commit of the Charlie Strong era for the Texas Longhorns was an important one for a defense that needs difference makers, as Arlington (Texas) Bowie safety/outside linebacker Edwin Freemen tweeted out his commitment on Thursday:
Finally got it out the way UT commit #hook'em— Edwin Freeman (@Free_Me_Hoe) January 16, 2014
It was Freeman's first tweet from that account in 567 days.
Edwin Freeman finally committed pic.twitter.com/wgOpfxRf8U— Coach D (@CoachD_44) January 16, 2014
The consensus four-star prospect and Under Armour All-American chose the Horns over the Texas A&M Aggies. Both schools had jockeyed for the position atop Freeman's list for well over a year.
He had also considered the TCU Horned Frogs and had long planned a trip to see the LSU Tigers that never happened. Other schools to offer included Baylor, Houston, Nebraska, Notre Dame, Ohio State, Oklahoma, Texas Tech, USC, and West Virginia.
Likely to play outside linebacker at Texas after playing that position for the last two seasons at Bowie, Freeman is rated as the No. 14 player nationally at that position and the No. 21 player in Texas, as well as the No. 177 player nationally, according to the 247Sports Composite rankings.
Here's the SB Nation scouting report on the 6'1, 212-pounder:
As mentioned above, the primary question surrounding Freeman is what position he will end up at in college. To some extent, that may be determined by the league in which he ends up playing in -- if he ends up in the SEC, he could play strong safety in a league that doesn't value coverage versatility to the same extent as the Big 12, in which Freeman fits the mold of hybrid players like Oklahoma's Tony Jefferson or Baylor's Ahmad Dixon.
A major reason why there is so much discussion about where he projects is because he clearly has the frame to add at least 20 pounds in college -- out of pads, Freeman is hardly an imposing player in terms of his physical appearance.
In some ways, Freeman is like a small-school prospect like current Texas linebacker Steve Edmond in that the perception of his athleticism changes significantly once he puts on pads. While some recruits are workout warriors who earn consideration and even offers because of their measurables, Freeman is every bit worthy of the tired clichéof simply being called a football player.
There don't seem to be any listed 40 times for him and the Bowie product seems like the type of player who wouldn't wow in that type of setting.
What he does possess is game speed -- early on his junior highlights he anticipates a pass to the flat, runs the alley, intercepts the pass, and motors quickly into the endzone. On that play, Freeman is every bit fast enough to stay at safety in college, even if he beefs up into the 220-pound range.
Other than projections based on physical development, the impetus for classifying Freeman as an outside linebacker is the fact that he essentially played that position as a junior, operating as an edge capable of being inside out against the run and defeating blocks at the point of attack to make plays in the backfield.
On one play, Freeman is the force player against a speed sweep and shows exceptional explosiveness out of his stance to drive the ballcarrier backwards. Then he does essentially the same thing later, except on the second play he demonstrates his lateral quickness and ability to open up and run to make the play in space.
Note to future opponents -- don't run jet sweeps at Edwin Freeman.
Moreover, Freeman is clearly comfortable playing in traffic and sorting through the chaos near the line of scrimmage, keeping his motor running hot and his hands active to keep himself alive on plays.
Since there isn't a lot of video of him playing in coverage or making space tackles down the field, it may be easier to project Freeman as an outside linebacker, but there's enough evidence of his ability as a strong safety from his sophomore year that his ultimate destination may depend on the preference of the team that takes him.
It certainly wouldn't make sense for any team recruiting Freeman to tell him that they don't see him as a safety, but his instincts close to the football are top-notch and exactly what Big 12 teams are looking for in a spread linebacker.
Indeed, while Freeman perhaps lacks a bit of size to be the ideal spread linebacker in the Big 12, his instincts and ability to quickly find the football should make up for that at the college level.
As a result, his commitment is an important one for the Longhorns, who have struggled at the linebacker position since losing Keenan Robinson and Emmanuel Acho to the NFL after the 2012 season. And made more important by the pending visits of current Texas commit Otaro Alaka, a linebacker from Houston (Texas) Cypress Falls who is set to take trips to Texas A&M and LSU before National Signing Day.
The head-to-head win for the Longhorns over the Aggies was also an important one for Texas as A&M has taken over as No. 1 program in the state in the hearts and minds of many recruits since the arrival of Kevin Sumlin. In fact, the last defensive commit for Texas prior to Freeman's pledge, Longview (Texas) defensive tackle Zaycoven Henderson, unexpectedly flipped to Texas A&M days before he was set to enroll in Austin.
The fourth linebacker commit in the 2014 class for the Longhorns, joining Alaka, Dallas (Texas) Carter's Cameron Hampton and Tampa (Fla.) Plant's Andrew Beck, Freeman gives Texas 21 pledges in the current cycle, good enough to rank No. 12 nationally and No. 1 in the Big 12, according to the 247Sports Composite team rankings.