Texas Football: Grading the Longhorns' 2014 Recruiting Class by Position
It's been nearly two weeks since the Texas Longhorns officially signed 23 new players to join their program as part of their 2014 recruiting class.
Three of them are already on campus, with the remaining 20 set to arrive during the summer in preparation for fall camp and the kickoff to the 2014 season.
In what was Charlie Strong's first class in his new position at Texas, the former Louisville coach was able to keep the core of the class together despite the coaching transition. The class lost a bit of punch with a couple of key decommitments, but Strong added enough of his flavor of player late in the process to bring in a good haul.
Neither time nor convenience was an ally for him, as he had just one month to hit the recruiting trail before signing day.
Nevertheless, the class is in, and it has the look of a group that can be developed into great pieces to Strong's puzzle in Austin.
Note: Information about Texas' 2014 class courtesy of 247Sports.
Commitments (1): Jerrod Heard
Texas has been the definition of mediocrity in recent seasons, especially at quarterback. The Longhorns have not been getting the high-level production that is required to make the leap to championship contender.
Could all that change with Heard?
The 6'2.5" Heard is a potential star, but can quarterbacks coach Shawn Watson work some more magic like he did with Terry Bridgewater at Louisville? That development will be key.
Leadership comes naturally for the Denton, Texas product, and his dual-threat ability precedes him as the No. 2 dual-threat quarterback in the 2014 class, according to 247Sports.
He has the intelligence, speed, moxie and leadership. Can he perfect the arm?
B-plus is a baseline, and Heard has a chance to end with a much better grade. Development will be key, as well as how soon Texas will see him on the field with the starters.
Commitments (3): Donald Catalon, D'Onta Foreman, Kevin Shorter
The 2011 and 2012 hauls were very good to the rushing corps, and 2013 fell flat with no commitments at the position.
But 2014 has the look of hidden talents.
Catalon could have an opportunity to play early, with Johnathan Gray still on the mend from an Achilles injury, and the Houston product could get the shot with pretty good speed and a good build.
Foreman is just a big guy with great measurables and skill sets. He may fit into the running game as a blocker or a ball-carrier at 6'0", 207 pounds.
Shorter, meanwhile, suffered a devastating spinal cord injury at the tail end of his high school career and may never suit up for the Longhorns.
Catalon may have fallen semi-below the radar, but he has the tools to be successful. Texas has some guys with good production history and experience, so in reality we may not see anyone emerge from this group for at least a season or two.
Commitments (5): Lorenzo Joe, Roderick Bernard, Armanti Foreman, Dorian Leonard, Garrett Gray
Texas may have struck gold at wide receiver, which hasn't been done in a long time.
Joe, Bernard and Foreman are all breakaway athletes and slippery in the open field as flat-out playmakers with the ball in their hands. Leonard and Gray bring size and skill at 6'4" and 6'4.5", respectively.
The key to this group will be the quarterback.
We have seen Mike Davis and Jaxon Shipley go up and down with inconsistent quarterback play, and it would be a shame to see this group suffer the same circumstance because of poor performance under center.
This class has a chance to be very special and productive early.
At least two men from this group will become huge pieces for Texas, and that might be a conservative outlook given how athletic these receivers are. But again, they may be dictated by the production from the quarterback position.
Commitments (1): Blake Whiteley
For the second year running, Texas went to the junior college ranks to find relief at the tight end position.
Last year it was Geoff Swaim, who has emerged as a great blocking option, but he left plenty to be desired as a pass-catcher.
Swaim returns for his senior season, and Texas adds Whiteley out of Arizona Western College in Yuma, Ariz.
The 6'5", 240-pound Whiteley is already enrolled, and he should challenge immediately for some looks in the offense, especially since Swaim was able to come in and contribute throughout the year.
Whiteley isn't afraid to get physical in the running game, which will only add to his desirability if he can prove to be a proficient receiver off the edge.
Whiteley isn't expected to be otherworldly, and the Longhorns just cannot seem to find and develop a tight end from the high school level. JUCO is nice and all, but having a good contributor for more than one or two years might be a better route.
Commitments (3): Terrell Cuney, Alex Anderson, Elijah Rodriguez
Offensive line recruiting has been very slow to catch up, and it has shown with the progression in the trenches.
Cuney committed during Mack Brown's tenure, but Anderson and Rodriguez were late flips from Arizona State and Colorado, respectively.
This group is hardly expected to come in and push the depth early. Rather, they will be developed over the next season or two in preparation to compete for starting bids by no later than 2016.
Let's see if Texas is paying offensive line coach Joe Wickline enough dough.
Again, this is a group that will not emerge until a season or two down the road, but the parts seem to be there. Now it is just a matter of tinkering until the finished product is ready for the field.
Commitments (3): Derick Roberson, Poona Ford, Chris Nelson
Ford and Nelson were late pickups in the recruiting cycle, as Strong's relationships with both prospects earned Texas a few huge commitments at defensive tackle.
Roberson is the No. 4-ranked strong-side defensive end in the nation, according to 247Sports, and comes in with great speed, motor and athleticism off the edge. He is the kind of guy who could develop into another star and follow in Jackson Jeffcoat's and Cedric Reed's footsteps.
Texas has been hitting on its defensive line recruits in recent seasons, and there is every reason to believe this next trio of athletes will earn its worth in a few years.
All of the work that Strong put in during the one month he had paid off when Nelson and Ford joined up with Roberson. This is a group that can push the starting lineup early, and we could see at least one of them this season.
Commitments (2/3): Andrew Beck, Cameron Hampton, (Edwin Freeman)
Texas and its linebackers have not lived up to its potential in recent seasons, not since the departures of Emmanuel Acho and Keenan Robinson in 2011.
The Longhorns added Beck, who enrolled in the spring semester, and Hampton to the mix. They are a couple of sizable athletes—6'3" and 6'1.5", respectively—with a nose for the football.
It might be easy for these two to get lost in the mix, given how slowly the position has developed since bringing on guys like Steve Edmond, Dalton Santos and Peter Jinkens. However, if Beck and Hampton buy into Strong's defensive philosophies and work ethic, they could be future starters.
Freeman is a wild card as part of Strong's 3-3-5 look.
He has the ball skills and speed to run safety in the defensive backfield but is physical enough to jump around the second level and add leverage in the running game. Keep an eye on how Freeman is used in his career.
There are no world-beaters here, just a few guys who look to have the right heads on their shoulders to become successful. If Freeman drops down to the linebackers, the group gets a huge boost in physicality and meanness—something that Kenny Vaccaro brought in spades.
Commitments (3/4): Jason Hall, John Bonney, Jermaine Roberts, (Edwin Freeman)
Texas got a good mix of athletes at the back end of its defense, and it shouldn't be upset with its haul.
Yes, a Jamal Adams or a Nick Harvey would have been huge late additions, if Texas got them to flip, but the entire haul has ball skills and good speed and can body up with receivers.
Bonney and Hall are slated for safety, and Bonney's play also is reminiscent of Kenny Vaccaro—violent and physical with ball skills.
Freeman is a wild card here as well, and he would make a class with three safeties. If he can add the weight, linebacker is a better fit, but do not be surprised if he winds up moving around the entire field.
This is a solid haul. It could have been better, but it also could have been worse. These guys will contribute in short time, but there is no lack of playmakers.