The Steve Sarkisian era at Texas just took another step in the right direction. Justice Finkley, an SI99 prospect and one of the country's top defensive line recruits, is headed to play his college football in Austin.
The Trussville (Ala.) Hewitt-Trussville senior, who picked the Longhorns over in-state Alabama as well as Colorado, went public with the decision on Thursday.
Huskies head coach Josh Floyd, who has the program undefeated early in the 2021 season, says one of his senior leaders is playing at an all-time high.
"He's always been a disruptive guy along the defensive line, but I think he's playing better than he's ever played and has taken it to another level this year," Floyd told SI All-American. "I think the older he gets, the better he's gotten with technique, being disciplined in his play. We've moved him around some, too.
"The biggest value with him is he is a guy who can play multiple spots on the D-line. I know some people like him on the interior, I think more people like him on the edge as a true defensive end type."
From a physical perspective, Finkley offers plenty against an offensive line. He stands 6'2", 265 pounds with clear physical, athletic gifts, helping him to 37 stops (13 sacks) behind the opposing line of scrimmage to this point in his varsity career.
Floyd says the work towards getting better, mainly in the weight room, signifies how balanced of a prospect the newest Longhorn commitment has become.
"He's kind of a freak in the weight room and even though he gets stronger and stronger, he's gotten more athletic," he said. "He's not just a big, strong guy, he's an explosive kid who can run and jump. His ball get-off is crazy and he's just hard to block.
"He Power clean 330 pounds, squats 535 pounds, benches 375 pounds and probably the crazy one is the split jerk, where he does 350 (pounds), which is crazy. I think that's the most impressive lift he has. I almost get a little nervous watching him do it."
The gifts aren't just physical with Finkley. There is an accountability in his on-field and off-field life that makes him that much more desirable for a college football program.
"He's a guy that just does the right thing, on and off the field," Floyd said. "Both of his parents are educators, they both have their doctorate degrees, so they obviously stress academics to him. He's a 3.9 GPA kid who has gotten into schools like Stanford, he could have gone Ivy League, he's that kind of a kid -- which is rare to have that in such a great player. You don't see that a lot.
"He is a great leader for us. He truly cares about winning football games. He's reaching personal goals but wants to win a championship this year. He's not a big rah-rah guy, though he'll say something when he needs to. He's more of just a lead by example, bring it every single day, guy. When he's on the field, you know if you're lined up against him, you better be ready to roll, because he doesn't take any plays off."
The total package? Finkley even utilizes the weight room and academics to fuel his improvement on the field.
"He needs stuff to challenge him," Floyd said. "He's almost stronger than everybody he's working out with at this level, so that's what's fun watching him. He finds different ways to challenge and motivate himself."
At the next level, especially as Texas transitions from the Big 12 to the SEC in the coming years, Floyd thinks the positional and size adjustment against the common blocker will be critical for Finkley's development.
"Technique-type stuff depending on where they play him on the defensive line," he said. "Taking on blocks, pass rushing skills, you have to keep perfecting your craft. The biggest thing is going to be adjusting to the level up and the guys that are just as big and strong."
Finkley is ranked as a member of the SI99 rankings, sitting as the No. 85-ranked recruit in the class of 2022, also registering as a top 10 interior defensive line projection. Texas entered September with the nation's No. 7 recruiting class following a big August on the defensive side of the ball.
The newest UT pledge may also be the class headliner on defense.