- Max Olson, ESPN Staff Writer
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Now that they’ve signed their letters of intent, Texas’ incoming recruits can officially toss their stars in the trash. They don’t matter now.
While such ratings and rankings are helpful throughout the recruiting process, they mean nothing once a player sets foot on campus and joins the program. Gold stars won’t decide who gets to play as a freshman. Preparation, fit, need, raw talent, confidence, some good fortune -- a whole lot of real stuff matters now.
In 2013, only three Texas true freshmen -- Kent Perkins, Tyrone Swoopes and Jacorey Warrick -- and two junior college transfers played in a signing class of 15. Which members of this next class have a chance to help out the Longhorns from Day 1?
This week we’re breaking down the Texas signees by their ability to make an early impact during their time on the 40 Acres, counting down from No. 23 to No. 1.
23. RB Kevin Shorter
Newton (Texas) | 6-foot, 190 pounds
2013: 630 rushing yards, 9 rushing TDs, 11 receptions, 224 receiving yards, 4 receiving TDs
Shorter knows playing in 2014 is not likely because of the spinal cord injury he suffered in October. If he’s going to don the burnt orange in his time in Austin, Shorter could need a procedure and will need the approval of UT doctors. He’s facing a long road to recovery but hopes a college career is at the end of the road.
When healthy, Shorter was one of East Texas’ most dynamic athletes, capable of changing games as a rusher, receiver and defensive back. He was all over the place in Newton’s Wing-T offense and could touch the ball in a variety of ways in a college offense if cleared to play again.
22. OT Elijah Rodriguez
Houston Cypress Creek | 6-6, 280
A last-second January find by the new coaching staff, Rodriguez was set to sign with Colorado but couldn’t turn down becoming a Longhorn and following in his grandfather’s footsteps. He had a dozen offers but remained a sleeper prospect throughout the past year.
Rodriguez already has said he’ll likely take a redshirt in 2014, but he’s excited about the prospect of devoting a year to his development. Texas loses three starting offensive linemen but has plenty of talent in the cupboard. Rodriguez’s talents probably won’t be needed this fall, but he has the right mentality going in and could be a guy that surprises in this class down the road.
21. RB D'Onta Foreman
Texas City | 6-2, 217
2013: 2,102 rushing yards, 31 rushing TDs, 22 tackles, 12 TFLs, 5 sacks, 1 interception
Where does he fit in best on a college field? That’s a question that has to intrigue the new Texas coaching staff. Foreman was an underrated commit last summer who runs a legit 4.4, a power back who also busted a 99-yard touchdown run as a senior. His stats in his final year at Texas City made Texas look awful smart for offering.
While Texas could need some help in the backfield, especially if Johnathan Gray is slow to get back to the lineup, Foreman just might be a linebacker, too. He’s certainly got the size and frame to develop toward that role. For now, he should just focus on getting qualified and getting to Austin.
20. S Jason Hall
South Grand Prairie | 6-2, 190
2013: 57 tackles, 6 interceptions, 6 pass breakups, 2 touchdowns
It’s hard to peg whether Hall is underrated or properly rated on this list, because it’s obvious Texas has some real needs at safety for 2014 and beyond. But Hall has been underestimated throughout his high school days, and he’ll arrive in the summer with every intention of contributing early.
He brings nice size to the safety spot and has dedicated a lot of time to working with DB coaches and raising his game. Hall’s game might blossom with a redshirt year, especially in the weight room, but don’t count him out for immediate playing time just yet.
19. DT Jake McMillon
Abilene | 6-3, 245
2013: 43 tackles, 4 TFLs, 1 sack, 3 pass breakups
It wouldn't be shocking at all if McMillon works his way up this list in the summer, because his reputation for hard work at Abilene was impeccable. He’s an interesting kind of tweener along the defensive line -- Texas coaches considered him a defensive tackle in camp last summer -- but one who brings a lot to the table.
No matter where new defensive line coach Chris Rumph puts McMillon, there’s going to be a need for depth throughout the Texas line in 2014. His best bet for the future is probably to bulk up toward a spot up the middle, but he is versatile and will agree to whatever is required to chip in for the Longhorns early in his career.