Texas football adds key pass rush depth by flipping 3-Star Billy Walton

Jeff Choate, Texas Football (Photo by Tim Warner/Getty Images)
Jeff Choate, Texas Football (Photo by Tim Warner/Getty Images) /

The commitments keep on rolling in for second-year head coach Steve Sarkisian and his staff in the 2023 Texas football recruiting class this week. The latest addition for Texas came thanks to a key flip of the former Oklahoma State Cowboys three-star South Oak Cliff edge rusher commit Billy Walton.

In a move that didn’t surprise many this week, Walton de-committed from Oklahoma State roughly two months after originally giving his pledge to head coach Mike Gundy and the Pokes. Texas was figured to be the favorite to land Walton after he de-committed from Oklahoma State on June 27.

But Walton waited a day before officially announcing where he would be committing to after backing off his pledge from Oklahoma State. Walton officially announced on his Twitter timeline on the afternoon of June 28 that he would be committing to Texas after de-committing from Oklahoma State less than 24 hours prior.

Adding Walton to the 2023 class brings the Longhorns up to a whopping nine commits since June 23. And that now makes it seven commitments since the afternoon of June 26. That is absolutely wild that Texas essentially landed seven commits in the span of 48 hours in one recruiting class during the summer.

But that is the type of stretch that Sark and the Longhorns staff are having on the recruiting trail in the last week or so.

Moreover, this is big for Texas to start adding more numbers among edge rushers and linebackers. Those are two of the biggest positions of need in the 2023 class. And Texas has now landed two key depth pieces in the 2023 class since June 25 in Walton and four-star Kahuku (HI) linebacker Liona Lefau.

What Texas is getting out of Walton, in particular, is one of the more cross-functional edge rushers that you’ll find among high school prospects that are natural pass rushers. Texas is really getting a true hybrid pass rusher that can thrive in a number of different scheme looks in this defensive front if he’s developed correctly in the next few years.

Texas football adds an incredibly versatile hybrid edge rusher in 3-Star Billy Walton

There are some underrated aspects to Walton’s game that could make him a really versatile fit for this defensive front. The 6-foot-3 and 215-pound edge rusher is an above-average athlete with solid flat-out speed in the open field, good bend, and decent length.

Walton’s physical tools aren’t going to blow anyone away on film right now, but he certainly has a level of proven positional versatility that is unmatched by most other edge rushers in this class. He’s got experience as a weak-side defensive end, stand-up defensive end/pass rusher/outside linebacker, three-technique defensive end, and even a linebacker that can play off the ball.

What Longhorns fans will notice about Walton’s film is his overall effort and effectiveness in closing down on the ball carrier. Walton is a high-motor player that constantly plays with high energy through the whistle. Texas won’t get that from all edge rushers (as basic as it might sound), especially defending the run.

You can see just how effective Walton was in defending the run for South Oak Cliff last season. He registered an impressive 21 tackles for loss during his junior season, a career-best.

What will also help Walton stand out from the rest of the crowd at the Power Five level is that non-stop drive in rushing the passer and defending the run combined with constantly-improving closing speed. An underrated aspect of Walton’s game is the patience he has started to display in the last two seasons when reading plays off the line of scrimmage.

He continues to waste less and less movement when changing directions, which helps to make up for the lack of lateral speed he brings to the table right now. But there is good news in that Walton is also visibly improving his lateral agility in the last few years.

In terms of rushing the passer, Texas has a lot of different ways that Walton can be utilized. The most natural fit for Walton will likely be at the buck linebacker position. But if Walton is able to add more size and power in the next few years, jack linebacker could be a fit for him too.

Another key area of improvement, beyond adding some size to his frame, will be for Walton to improve his speed and coverage skills when he’s called upon to cover a running back or tight end. He will be dropping into coverage often enough in this Texas defense if he does get reps at buck.

All in all, there are a lot of reasons to be excited about what Texas is getting in Walton. If he develops well at the next level, Texas will be getting a versatile blue-chip caliber pass rusher out of Walton. And given the rate of improvement from Walton already at South Oak Cliff in the last few years, he’s likely going to be a very productive player for the Texas defensive front potentially three years into his collegiate career.

Texas is also now in an interesting spot after landing a commitment from Walton with two other key targets of the 2023 class. Walton is cousins and teammates with four-star South Oak Cliff cornerback Malik Muhammad, who Texas is finding traction with this summer. And it’s also worth noting that Walton is close with five-star DeSoto wideout Johntay Cook.

While it doesn’t look like landing a commitment from Walton will automatically land Texas pledges from Muhammad and Cook, it will only help their cause in these recruitments.

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After landing this commitment from Walton, the Longhorns are now up to 16 recruits in the 2023 class. This class has now more than doubled in the span of less than one week. A pledge from Walton has also solidified Texas as one of the top three ranked classes in the country at the moment.