Rockwall (Texas) Rockwall-Heath safety/outside linebacker DeShon Elliott announced his commitment to the Texas Longhorns on Twitter Tuesday:
The versatile defender had posted plenty of activity on his Twitter page that indicated a commitment was coming Tuesday, but during the afternoon it appeared that he had put off the decision in advance of a visit to Austin set for this weekend.
Elliott is the first player among the eight 2015 pledges for head coach Charlie Strong to select Texas over Texas A&M, while the Aggies currently hold commitments from eight players with offers from the Horns, including top Texas targets at a handful of positions.
The 6'1, 200-pounder burst onto the recruiting scene during a junior season in which he made 70 tackles, including seven for loss, with three interceptions and three forced fumbles. Ranked as the No. 19 safety nationally and the No. 45 player in the state of Texas, Elliott is a near four-star prospect.
Elliott's recruitment took off at the start of 2014 following his breakout season. At the time of his commitment, he held offers from Arkansas, Baylor, Colorado, Iowa, Nebraska, Ole Miss, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, TCU and Texas Tech.
Elliott had declared Baylor his leader on Feb. 10, five days after receiving his offer from the Bears, but Texas vaulted into the lead following a Junior Day visit on Feb. 22. The teammate of A&M offensive tackle commit Trevor Elbert and the former teammate of two other Aggie football players visited College Station on Feb. 28, four days after declaring Texas his leader, but it wasn't enough to move the Aggies past the Horns on his list.
Sporting the nickname "the Kraken," Elliott backs up the lofty implications of the moniker with his play on the field. A pure, natural striker who has the short-area quickness to possess a wide tackling radius and the ability to consistently square up opponents, Elliott brings his feet with the sink-and-explode coiling and uncoiling possessed by all the true top enforcers, whether safeties or linebackers. It's no surprise watching Elliott tackle that he reports a 425-pound squat.
And Elliott can deliver some huge, launched shots with his shoulder, too. He just does it along the sideline where he knows that the momentum of his hit will keep the ball carrier from picking up extra yardage. When he's a partially-guided missile, he's doing so with little risk.
Not the most rangy safety in the state, Elliott nonetheless shows that he can take good angles in coverage and transition to make plays on the football. In college, however, it's unlikely that he plays the role of single deep safety on a consistent basis, in part because that role doesn't take advantage of his versatile skillset.
Some project Elliott as a linebacker in college. He has experience at the linebacker position, much like 2014 Texas signee Edwin Freeman spent his last two years playing linebacker at Arlington Bowie. The 2015 prospect probably has a little bit more range than Freeman from the safety position, however, with his reported 4.58 40-yard dash, 4.32 shuttle and 36-inch vertical. Elliott had a wider role for Rockwall-Heath during his junior season than Freeman did during his third year at Arlington Bowie.
Freeman perhaps has a bit better nose to avoid blockers to get to the football, but what's impressive about Elliott is his ability to consistently beat blockers, whether running backs in pass protection, tight ends on the perimeter or even offensive linemen. His tackling force translates to quick hands aided by his lower-body explosiveness, but he also understands the proper hand placement to control and shed, too.
There's no question that his skill set will lend well to a hybrid position that allows Elliott to spend some time in coverage and also work off the edge. Asking Elliott to handle the nickel back role with zone drops, blocker-beating play against the run and some blitzing from the edge represents his possible collegiate upside. He shows evidence on film of being projectable to those tasks.
In sum, Elliott has the versatility to do the things that are in a pure safety's repertoire, but his elite tackling ability and overall physicality getting to the football around the line of scrimmage suggests that his role will likely be from the box to the sideline like a linebacker, possibly with some zone concepts to allow Elliott to undercut routes and make plays.
Elliott's commitment pushes Texas into the No. 9 ranking nationally in the 247Sports Composite rankings, and the No. 2 spot in the Big 12 behind surprising West Virginia.