- 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 three parts.
8. WR Lorenzo Joe
Abilene Cooper | 6-2, 190
2013: 1,864 passing yards, 13 passing TDs, 1,657 rushing yards, 22 rushing TDs
Joe is one of the clear-cut leaders of this class and one of its most intriguing athletes. Abilene Cooper wisely played Joe at quarterback in an effort to put the ball in the hands of its best player as much as possible, and he thrived in that capacity. But Joe has been working to refine his receiving skills on the side throughout during the two years, and won’t be as raw as you’d think by the time fall camp arrives.
The logjam at receiver has been well-documented in this series, so it’s once again difficult to peg where Joe fits into this mix and who he’s capable of surpassing on the depth chart. Devoting a year to the wide receiver position will be good for him, and Joe is talented enough to help the Longhorns in 2014.
7. CB Jermaine Roberts
New Orleans St. Augustine | 5-9, 170
2013: 56 tackles, 6 interceptions, 1 kick return TD
Roberts considers himself a game-changer akin to Tyrann Mathieu, and the Louisiana native will show up in Austin with immeasurable confidence and swagger, both on and off the field. But where does he fit in from Day 1?
There could be an opening at corner depending on how defensive coordinator Vance Bedford and defensive backs coach Chris Vaughn approach replacing Carrington Byndom, or maybe Roberts can step in and help on nickel and dime coverage immediately. He’s at least got a shot at finding a role on special teams, and he’ll want a shot at returning kicks. This kid wants to play, and he’ll have the opportunity to prove himself.
6. RB Donald Catalon
Houston Eisenhower | 6-0, 200
2013: 866 rushing yards, 410 receiving yards, 9 TDs, 38 tackles, 1 interception
As is the case with the other running back signees in this class, it’s possible Catalon could end up at another position besides running back during his career. He shows enough natural instincts and skills to play in the secondary. Is that where he’s most likely to maximize his potential? Too soon to tell.
What we do know is Texas needs help at running back this fall, and Catalon would appear to have the clearest path to entering that stable and contributing. He’s a slasher with a nice combination of speed and power, but he’s got work to do if he wants to get on the level of Texas’ three incumbent backs.
5. QB Jerrod Heard
Denton Guyer | 6-2, 190
2013: 2,148 passing yards, 22 passing TDs, 6 INTs, 2,172 rushing yards, 28 rushing TDs
Why, you ask, is Heard not at the top of this list? Because where we stand today, it still seems like a redshirt is the more probable outcome for Heard in his freshman campaign. That seems even more likely if Texas does end up landing former USC quarterback Max Wittek via transfer.
Heard is special. We’ve written that he’s the quarterback of the future for the Longhorns. That’s still true if he doesn’t play in 2014, and that year would be a remarkably valuable experience. All bets are off if David Ash goes down, obviously, but right now the smartest course of action would be keeping Heard on the bench and letting him soak in the knowledge Shawn Watson and Joe Wickline offer.
4. DT Poona Ford
Hilton Head (S.C.) | 6-1, 288
2013: 135 tackles, 28 TFLs, seven sacks, 17 QB pressures, two forced fumbles
This is one bad dude. Power, quick feet and a knack for inflicting pain -- that, in a nutshell, is what Ford can bring to the table. And Texas coaches made it perfectly clear to him during his recruitment that he was a need, a must-get who can play from Day 1 if he brings his best.
The depth behind Malcom Brown, Desmond Jackson and Hassan Ridgeway is questionable at best. Playing time is there for the taking so long as Ford takes care of his business. And what else can he do? Well, he did play some fullback last fall. Enjoy.