Texas Football: 4 Freshmen Who Could Become Household Names in 2014
Texas football underwent a complete makeover with the hiring of head coach Charlie Strong and his staff, and with this makeover came a clean slate for the team.
The Longhorns had spring practice to prove themselves to Strong and his staff, and now the incoming freshmen will have to do the same thing.
Strong signed 23 athletes on national signing day, with three enrolling early and participating in spring practice. Of the remaining 20 signees who will come to Austin following high school graduation, here's a look at four Longhorns who could become household names in 2014.
4-Star LB/DB Edwin Freeman
Texas has a variety of linebacker options on its roster, but the position has been one of the more inconsistent units on the defense for a number of years, mainly due to injuries.
Incoming freshman Edwin Freeman offers a unique skill set for the Longhorns. The 4-star athlete has the talent to see playing time as a linebacker or some role in the defensive backfield.
Texas returns all linebackers from 2013, but that does not mean Freeman won't see the field this season. The 6'1", 215-pound talent has the strength, instincts and ability to make plays in the running game as a linebacker and also has the experience covering receivers down the field as a safety.
Whether it is at linebacker or defensive back, expect to see Freeman taking the field this fall.
3-Star DT Poona Ford
Defensive tackle Poona Ford was a must-get for the Longhorns. The 3-star tackle was originally committed to the University of Louisville, but when Strong made the move to Texas, Ford followed him.
The Longhorns currently have two solid defensive tackles in Malcom Brown and Desmond Jackson, but Texas is lacking depth behind the big duo.
Sophomore Hassan Ridgeway is the most experience backup tackle on the roster. Aside from him, Texas has third-year players Paul Boyette Jr. and Alex Norman, who have yet to prove themselves during their time at Texas.
That's where Ford could come into the picture.
The 6'1", 288-pound tackle plays with good leverage and has exceptional strength. He is one of only two defensive tackles that Texas has signed over the last two years, which gives him a big opportunity to see playing time in his debut season.
4-Star QB Jerrod Heard
Texas went through a period of six seasons with two of the best quarterbacks in college football in Vince Young and Colt McCoy. The period following those glory years has been the exact opposite.
The quarterback position has consistently plagued Texas since 2010. The Longhorns have managed to go through seven different scholarship quarterbacks since the 2010 season—three transferred and one switched positions.
Texas has three options on campus: an injured David Ash, an inexperienced Tyrone Swoopes and tight end-turned-quarterback Miles Onyegbule. In other words, the quarterback position is once again an area of concern.
Incoming freshman Jerrod Heard is coming off a stellar high school career that included two state championships for Denton Guyer. He has all of the tools to become a successful college quarterback and the maturity you don't typically see in a young player.
There's a decent possibility Heard will see the field in 2014, especially if Ash struggles to return from his Jones' fracture, but the freshman's playing time will depend on how well he learns the offense once he's on campus.
4-Star DE Derick Roberson
If one were to point out an area of strength for Texas in 2014, it would likely be defensive end. The Longhorns have a veteran option in senior Cedric Reed, who could turn into an All-American in 2014, and two talented ends who have not had much opportunity to nab a starting role in Caleb Bluiett and Shiro Davis.
Texas fans may be asking themselves, "Why should I keep an eye on an incoming freshman when the Longhorns have a decent amount of depth at defensive end?" The reason is because of Derick Roberson's upside.
The 6'3", 225-pound end has a high motor, speed and quickness off the edge to get after quarterbacks. He has a frame that could add weight, which will likely happen after strength and conditioning coach Pat Moorer gets his hands on him.
Roberson may not be a starter in his first season, but it would not be surprising if he sees playing time as a backup in 2014.
All star rankings provided by Rivals.com.
Taylor Gaspar is Bleacher Report's featured columnist covering the Texas Longhorns. Follow Taylor on Twitter: @Taylor_Gaspar.