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The state of Texas is full of blue-chip football players with potential to make it in college and the pros. And the Texas Longhorns have historically been successful in signing a number of those players almost every year.

Texas' ability to sign blue-chip recruits has dwindled a bit over the past two recruiting classes. It is no secret that Texas has struggled to develop talent in recent years, and the fact that zero Longhorns were drafted in the 2014 NFL draft proves that. But those times could be in the past with head coach Charlie Strong and his staff at the helm.

Even though Texas failed to finish in the top-10 recruiting class rankings over the last two years, the Longhorns still have a handful of blue-chippers who could become difference-makers this season.

Here's a look at four former blue-chippers who have the potential to shine in 2014.

LB Jordan Hicks

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Michael Thomas/Associated Press
Recruiting Class Star Rating Position Rank National Rank State Rank No. of Offers
2010 5-star No. 1 No. 16 No. 2 (Ohio) 14

Jordan Hicks was the nation's No. 1 outside linebacker in the 2010 recruiting class, according to Rivals.com. Despite having offers from 14 Division I programs—including one from his home state school Ohio State—Hicks decided to venture from West Chester, Ohio, to Austin, Texas, to continue his football career.

But his journey in Austin may not have played out the way the former 5-star recruit expected.

After gaining experience in 25 games and eight starts during his first two seasons at Texas, he has only played a combined seven games since due to injuries. His 2012 season ended with a hip injury in the third game against Ole Miss, but he was approved for a medical redshirt, which gave him another chance to show off his skills during his junior season.

That didn't happen. Hicks suffered a noncontact torn Achilles in the fourth game of the 2013 season and missed all of spring practice.

Prior to his injury last season, he led the Longhorns with 41 tackles in three-and-a-half games. The potential is obviously there, and he will have to earn his spot with new linebackers coach Brian Jean-Mary. But if he is a true competitor, his time spent on the sideline over the last two years should add fuel to his fire to prove he can compete among the best.

RB Malcolm Brown

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Ronald Martinez/Getty Images
Recruiting Class Star Rating Position Rank National Rank State Rank No. of Offers
2011 5 Star No. 1 No. 10 No. 1 (Texas) 17

The Longhorns went through a large stretch of mediocre and sometimes invisible ground attacks between 2008 and 2010. When Malcolm Brown picked Texas over 16 other Division I football programs, a lot of hype followed.

He was the No. 1 running back and the No. 10 recruit in the nation in the 2011 recruiting class, according to Rivals.com. He started his career on a good note when he rushed for 635 yards and five touchdowns and racked up more than 100 yards in three games during the first seven games of his true freshman season.

The momentum came to an end when he missed three of the final six games with injury. The adversity faced during his first season was just the beginning of what was the come, as the injury bug was not finished with the former 5-star.

Brown kicked off his sophomore year on a high note with 105 yards on 14 attempts and a touchdown in the first game of the season, but he only had two rushing attempts for five yards in the second game of the 2012 season. He rushed for 128 yards and two touchdowns against Ole Miss in the third game but was sidelined with an ankle injury and missed the following five games, which allowed true freshman Johnathan Gray to secure the No. 1 running back role moving forward.

But Brown proved that he was not going to give up in 2013.

He fell behind Gray and Joe Bergeron at times on the depth chart and had 23 carries for 63 yards through the first five games of the season. He turned up the competition against Oklahoma and rushed 23 times for 120 yards as the No. 2 running back behind Gray.

When Gray went down with a season-ending Achilles injury against West Virginia, Brown took over as the No. 1 guy and finished the season with back-to-back-to-back games of rushing for more than 100 yards.

There has not been an official time table set for Gray's return from injury, which means Brown will likely be the No. 1 guy for the 2014 season. If he continues to stay healthy and perform the way he did last year, he should be set for a solid senior campaign.

DE Cedric Reed

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USA TODAY Sports
Recruiting Class Star Rating Position Rank National Rank State Rank No. of Offers
2011 4-star No. 14 No. 159 No. 23 (Texas) 20

Defensive end Cedric Reed was a highly touted prospect in the 2011 recruiting class. He had the height, athleticism, growth potential and arm length that most football coaches want to find in a defensive end.

He played as a reserve defensive end behind Alex Okafor and Jackson Jeffcoat during his true freshman season in 2011 and the first half of the 2012 season. But when Jeffcoat was sidelined with injury in 2012, Reed had a chance to prove his talent.

He started the final six games of the 2012 season and finished with 46 tackles, 2.5 sacks and 13 quarterback pressures. Those were decent stats for the first-year starter, but nothing compared to what he would do the following season.

Texas has been successful at finding legit defensive ends and molding them into future NFL players. Jeffcoat appeared to be the next big-time defensive end in line for the Longhorns.

All eyes were on him heading into the 2013 season, and one could argue that many Texas and college football fans expected Jeffcoat to run a one-man show. But Reed proved he could play a bigger role than just the other end playing opposite of Jeffcoat. 

There were many games where Reed played just as well, if not better, than Jeffcoat. The duo became one of the nastiest pass-rushing tandems in college football last season. The table below shows how dominant the duo was in 2013. 

Reed/Jeffcoat vs. Total Defense Tackles TFL - Yds Sack - Yds QBH FF
Reed/Jeffcoat 165 41 - 162 23 - 136 35 7
Team 1056 108 - 347 39 - 239 78 12
Duo's Defensive Percentage 16% 38% - 47% 59% - 57% 31% 58%

Reed currently ranks No. 2 of 225 defensive ends for the 2015 NFL draft, according to NFL Draft Scout. If he continues to play at the high level he displayed in 2013, there's no doubt he will be the next great Texas defensive end.

DT Malcom Brown

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eric gay/Associated Press
Recruiting Class Star Rating Position Rank National Rank State Rank No. of Offers
2012 5-star No. 5 No. 26 No. 4 (Texas) 12

One of the most recent 5-star prospects the Longhorns landed was in the 2012 recruiting class. Defensive tackle Malcom Brown was ranked No. 5 at his position and the No. 26 prospect nationally for the 2012 recruiting class, according to Rivals.com. He was a high school All-American, all-state and three-time all-district performer at Brenham High School.

He immediately saw action during his true freshman season, serving as a reserve defensive tackle in all 13 games. He started to display his immense potential toward the end of 2012, and that potential continued to grow last year.

Brown emerged as one of the best young defensive tackles in the conference. He led the Big 12's defensive tackles with 68 tackles and finished third on the team in quarterback pressures (six), tackles for loss (12) and pass breakups (five).

He looks the part of a future NFL player and has a motor that is constantly running hot. He is listed at 6'4", 320 pounds, which means he has put on roughly 40 pounds since arriving in Austin.

If his skills continue to progress as expected, there's a very likely chance that Brown will be at minimum an All-Big 12 defensive tackle for Texas in 2014.

 

Unless otherwise noted, all quotes were obtained firsthand. All recruit rankings provided by Rivals.com.

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