- 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 kid 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. Which members of Texas’ 2014 class have a chance to help out the Longhorns from day one?
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. If you missed it, here were the first two portions of the list.
13. WR Garrett Gray
Marble Falls | 6-foot-4, 210 pounds
2013: 78 receptions, 1,267 receiving yards, 17 receiving TDs, 197 rushing yards, 3 rushing TDs, 1 kick return TD
Gray flew under the radar during his recruitment before running a 4.4 at UT camp and committing soon after getting offered. What’s underappreciated about him, it seems, is his freaky athleticism. Like Dorian Leonard, he brings a basketball background to the game and is a major leaper who exploded in Todd Dodge’s offense.
Like all the other receiver signees in this class, Gray is facing an uphill climb if he wants to play as a true freshman. He might be the sleeper find of this class, whether he plays early or not, and could have enough raw tools to impress receivers coach Les Koenning.
12. LB Cameron Hampton
Dallas Carter | 6-0, 200
2013: 93 tackles, 15 sacks
Hampton might be more of a developmental prospect compared to his peers in this group, but the dude can hit and plays with intensity. He’s quick enough that it’s not hard to envision Hampton emerging as a playmaker on special teams coverage and carving out a role there as a freshman.
Stacked might not be the right word, but Texas has a lot of linebackers returning this season. All of them, actually, pending any offseason departures. Dalton Santos and Steve Edmond are the incumbent starters at inside linebacker, but Hampton can push them and make them better.
11. LB Andrew Beck
Tampa (Fla.) Plant | 6-3, 230
2013: 110 tackles, 7 sacks, 3 fumble recoveries, 1 forced fumble
Beck wanted to be a Longhorn no matter what, even after Manny Diaz and Greg Robinson both left, and stuck with his plans to enroll early throughout the turmoil. He was serious about getting to Austin and getting to work. What can he do in Year 1?
As is the case with Hampton, Beck is looking at a bit of a logjam when it comes to playing time this fall. But he’s an athletic prospect who will put on good weight, can play any linebacker position -- and maybe even some tight end -- and proved at Texas camp he can develop into a playmaker in the years to come.
10. S John Bonney
Houston Lamar | 6-1, 180
2013: 36 tackles, 8 passes defended
Bonney could move up this list quickly when he joins the program for several reasons. Texas has some real question marks at safety going into 2014, and new DB coaches mean a clean slate and a chance for the two best players to play.
Bonney is a sharp, polished product who brings leadership and ball skills. He can help this secondary. Texas has a few promising defenders -- Leroy Scott and Adrian Colbert, for starters -- who could rise this offseason and relegate Bonney to the sidelines this fall, but Bonney was one of the best safeties any Big 12 school signed and shouldn’t get overlooked.
9. TE Blake Whiteley
Arizona Western C.C. | 6-5, 245
2013: 8 receptions, 67 receiving yards, 2 TDs
Nobody is a lock to play right away, but Whiteley might be the closest. The early enrollee and junior college transfer joins a tight end group that needs bodies (and pass-catchers), and he’ll get to play for the coach (Bruce Chambers) that recruited him. So he’s in good shape from the get-go, as long as he can get the playbook down.
What does he bring as a tight end? Whiteley had a reputation for his receiving skills during his high school days in Canada, and his blocking was still a work in progress at the juco level. He’d be a good fit to split out in the slot and make plays over the middle if he adjusts well.
677dWilliam Wilkerson and Max Olson