DESOTO, Texas -- Mesquite (Texas) Poteet linebacker Malik Jefferson is one of the top prospects in the entire country and took the opportunity to attend the Dallas Nike Football Training Camp last Saturday in hopes of earning an invite to The Opening.
In part because of his impressive testing numbers -- Jefferson finished with the No. 5 SPARQ rating in the entire camp despite the testing favoring skill position players -- the consensus five-star product earned his invitation to The Opening, the prestigious Nike event held every summer in Oregon that features 150 of the top prospects in the country.
One of the savviest recruits around when it comes to the recruiting process, the hard-hitting linebacker has been careful with his choice of words for quite some time now. For a highly-coveted prospect like Jefferson, someone almost needs to read them their Miranda Rights early in the process -- everything that they say can and will be held against him in the court of recruitniks' opinions.
It's a fact that Jefferson understands well, though he is respectful and at times even candid in interviews.
But don't expect the nation's top outside linebacker to release a top five or any type of list any time soon, though that isn't necessarily because he doesn't want to do so.
"If I can honestly make that decision, I will, but right now I don't have any type of plans to release anything," Jefferson told SB Nation Recruiting last Saturday.
One school that has been widely seen as the favorite for some time is the Texas A&M Aggies, the runaway leader in his 247Sports Crystal Ball predictions. In fact, there was only been one prediction for the Texas Longhorns since last July, with several notable switches to the Aggies.
Jefferson was forthcoming about where A&M sat with him recently.
"They are still on my list of course," he said. "Honestly I can say that they were my leading school, but there is no more leading school because something hit me one day and I realized that I needed to take a step back and evaluate everybody else."
One of the reasons that the Poteet star is widely seen as an A&M lean is because of his friendship with the so-called Fab Five, a group of mostly East Texas athletes who currently includes three Aggie commits -- defensive tackle Daylon Mack and safeties Larry Pryor and Justin Dunning. The other member, running back JaMycal Hasty, recently committed to Baylor, officially breaking up the group.
Still, Mack and Pryor and Dunning have been in Jefferson's ear about heading to College Station with them, but walk a fine line in doing so.
"Oh, they try to get me there, but at the same time they respect everything that I do and they're like, 'We were in the same shoes that you are and we have to learn how to respect what you want.'"
Of course, the A&M commits aren't the only ones selling the school to which they are committed, as Texas defensive end commit Charles Omenihu has been an active recruiter for the Longhorns and one of his targets is Jefferson.
"Yeah, he's hitting me hard with Texas," said the 6'2, 225-pounder. "He's trying to get me at Texas. Every day."
When Omenihu was asked what he told Jefferson, he said he wasn't willing to put anything out there and Jefferson said the same with a laugh when asked what he tells the Longhorns commit.
The new Texas staff was able to get Jefferson on campus recently for a spring practice and he came away impressed with what he saw.
"I loved it," he said of practice. "It was really intense and you're looking for intensity and you know that those kids can be really good this year. I just looked at it as, 'Can you develop there?' And I can see myself developing at Texas."
There were some notable changes to practice under new head coach Charlie Strong compared with the previous regime. Jefferson was stark in his assessment.
"Harder hitting. More intense. Better coaching."
All of that stems from Strong.
"He brings a strong sense of 'I'm the boss' and 'Listen to me.' I like that because he knows what he's talking about 100 percent of the time."
Now on a third defensive coordinator in a matter of months, the new Texas staff is seeking to build a relationship with Jefferson, the foundation upon which his recruitment by the Longhorns will be built. Jefferson sees the potential to do so.
"You can establish a relationship with anyone and build it up to be strong. It's not hard because coach Bedford and coach Jean-Mary are good coaches."
Official visits will be a part of the process in the fall and Jefferson is going to take that opportunity to visit two schools he has not yet had a chance to see -- Ohio State and Stanford.
"The education at Ohio State is really good, just like Stanford, and of course they have always been good. I really like the way that they run their defense."
At this time, those are the only two official visits that are locked in for Jefferson.
For more perspective on Jefferson's recruitment, check out his interview with 247Sports from the Dallas NFTC.