Texas Longhorns: UT incoming impact

Incoming impact countdown: Nos. 1-3

February, 21, 2014
Feb 21
9:00
AM ET
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 1.

This week we broke 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. Here are our final three.

Edwin Freeman
William Wilkerson/ESPNEdwin Freeman should make an immediate impact on Texas' defense.
3. LB Edwin Freeman
Arlington Bowie | 6-1, 215


2013: 101 tackles, 7.5 sacks, 12 TFLs, 5 forced fumbles, 3 pass breakups

When Freeman arrives at Texas, he’ll have to face a question that has followed him throughout his recruitment: Is he a safety or a linebacker? We say linebacker, because it seems like an obvious outcome for his growth, but the truth is the answer might be somewhere in the middle. Finding a more hybrid-type role might make sense here.

But regardless, Freeman has some nice tools and a real knack for stripping the ball, which will come in handy when competing with so many veteran Longhorn linebackers. Easy to see him getting his first shot as a special teams enforcer before moving up to bigger responsibilities. This was a big-time get for Charlie Strong and one who should pay dividends right away.

2. WR Armanti Foreman
Texas City | 6-0, 180

2013: 42 receptions, 750 receiving yards, 9 receiving TDs, 182 rushing yards, 1 rushing TD, 20 tackles, 6 interceptions, 3 INTs returning for TDs, 1 fumble recovery, 1 punt return TD

As you can see from the above résumé, Foreman is a young man of many talents. Getting him to stick with Texas and sign wasn’t an easy task for this new coaching staff, but he was worth the challenge. “Money,” as he calls himself, can change games in a variety of ways and was right up there with K.D. Cannon as one of the state’s most explosive receivers.

Whether he can put in the hard work required to see the field this fall is the real question. After his years of stardom in Texas City, it might take a bit of an attitude adjustment before Foreman earns the full trust of his coaches and gets his big break. But if you want someone capable of scoring at any moment, here’s your guy.

1. DE Derick Roberson
San Antonio Brennan | 6-3, 235


2013: 111 tackles, 20 sacks, 39 TFLs, 39 QB pressures, 4 pass deflections, 3 fumble recoveries, 1 forced fumble

What a phenomenal senior season, which ended with a trip to the state title game against Jerrod Heard and Denton Guyer. Roberson played like an absolute freak, and it’s easy to see why he can be a pass-rushing specialist as a freshman who enters the game in opportune situations and creates havoc.

A skeptic might look at Roberson and believe a year in the weight program is a must if he wants to thrive early on. He’s going to grow into his big frame nicely in time under new strength coach Pat Moorer, and that growth will be a priority. There are promising options at defensive end alongside Cedric Reed, most notably Shiro Davis and the third-year guys from his class, but Roberson has proven he’ll be an instant impact talent. That’s why he’s No. 1 on our list.

The final list

1. DE Derick Roberson
2. WR Armanti Foreman
3. LB Edwin Freeman
4. DT Poona Ford
5. QB Jerrod Heard
6. RB Donald Catalon
7. CB Jermaine Roberts
8. WR Lorenzo Joe
9. TE Blake Whiteley
10. S John Bonney
11. LB Andrew Beck
12. LB Cameron Hampton
13. WR Garrett Gray
14. WR Dorian Leonard
15. OG Alex Anderson
16. C Terrell Cuney
17. ATH Roderick Bernard
18. DT Chris Nelson
19. DT Jake McMillon
20. S Jason Hall
21. RB D’Onta Foreman
22. OT Elijah Rodriguez
23. RB Kevin Shorter

Incoming impact countdown: Nos. 4-8

February, 20, 2014
Feb 20
10:00
AM ET
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.

[+] EnlargeLorenzo Joe
Tom Hauck for Student SportsTexas has a logjam at receiver, but don't be surprised if Lorenzo Joe contributes this fall.
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.

[+] EnlargeJerrod Heard
Max Olson/ESPNBarring injuries at the QB position, the best option for Jerrod Heard and Texas might be to redshirt in 2014.
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.

Incoming impact countdown: Nos. 9-13

February, 19, 2014
Feb 19
9:00
AM ET
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.

[+] EnlargeJohn Bonney
Steve Dipaola/NikeWith question marks already at safety for Texas, John Bonney has a chance to earn early playing time.
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.

Incoming impact countdown: Nos. 14-18

February, 18, 2014
Feb 18
9:00
AM ET
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 starts 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. Part one ran on Monday.

18. DT Chris Nelson
Lakeland (Fla.) Victory Christian | 6-foot-3, 280 pounds


2013: 100 tackles, 9.5 tackles for loss, 2.5 sacks, 2 forced fumbles, 3 fumble recoveries

Before he chose the Longhorns, Nelson told local papers he could bring his “Florida swag” to Texas. How quickly he can do so will depend on what kind of shape he shows up in, and how hungry he is to get into the two-deep.

He was a much-needed final addition for this class, especially with the DT decommittments Texas suffered, and he knows there is plenty of opportunity awaiting him in his first season if he works hard to take it. Nelson brings plenty of confidence. Let’s see what he can do if the Longhorns need him early on.

Terrell Cuney
William Wilkerson/ESPNTerrell Cuney is already a mauler at center, but an established two-deep will likely allow him the ability to redshirt and get even stronger.
17. ATH Roderick Bernard
Houston Sharpstown | 5-10, 175


2013: 60 rushes, 594 rushing yards, 4 rushing TDs; 25 receptions, 364 receiving yards, 2 TDs, 2 kick return TDs

The obvious and probably lazy comparison Bernard will get in his first year is Daje Johnson considering his size, speed and versatility. His film suggests he’s a bit more like D.J. Monroe. You want this kid returning kicks and taking handoffs on sweeps, that’s for sure. Had he been able to enroll early as planned, we’d have a lot better sense of where he fits best.

Mack Brown always coveted home-run threats such as Bernard in recruiting, but how will the new staff put his talents to use? He’ll need to get stronger, but if he can prove to Les Koenning and the offensive coaches that he’s a weapon with the ball in his hands, he could see the field in 2014.

16. C Terrell Cuney
Jasper (Texas) | 6-3, 260


2013: 92% grade, 24 pancake blocks, 2 sacks allowed

The only reason Cuney, a four-star prospect and one of the nation’s best at his position, is this low on the list is simply because Texas is already two deep at center this season. Dominic Espinosa is a three-year starter and redshirt freshman Jake Raulerson appears to be the obvious choice to back him up.

If that means a redshirt for Cuney, that's not a bad thing at all. He’s capable of putting on more weight and developing into a long-term contributor as an interior lineman, and putting in that year to prepare for the college game will help. Still, Cuney is a mauler in the run game and he’s going to fight his way into the mix when he arrives in Austin.

15. OG Alex Anderson
New Orleans O. Perry Walker | 6-5, 310

2013: 80 pancake blocks

Enrolling early was the best possible thing Anderson could do for his development, even if it might not mean playing time this fall. Anderson was a Joe Wickline find in January, and it’ll be interesting to see where the new offensive line coach starts him off this spring after Anderson mostly played tackle as a senior.

If he does indeed work with the guards, he’ll get to challenge an inexperienced group led by Sedrick Flowers. It wouldn’t be surprising to see Anderson right in the mix with Rami Hammad, Darius James and the rest of the second-year guards if he plays his cards right this spring.

14. WR Dorian Leonard
Longview (Texas) | 6-4, 200

2013: 40 receptions, 763 receiving yards, 11 receiving TDs

Though there are questions about his speed, but Leonard’s combination of raw talent, size and tools make him a guy who I think can surprise folks in the next few years. He can go up and get it on jump balls, and the former basketball player is only going to get stronger as he grows into his frame. There’s plenty he has to refine, but don’t sleep on Leonard.

The problem is, Texas is stacked at receiver going forward, with five signees coming in and only one senior graduating. There could be position changes and departures, but it wouldn’t be surprising if Leonard takes a redshirt considering how many wideouts will be ahead of him when he arrives on campus.

Incoming impact countdown: No. 19-23

February, 17, 2014
Feb 17
9:00
AM ET
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.

D'Onta Foreman
Max Olson/ESPNThree-star signee D'Onta Foreman has the frame to be a physical running back or a linebacker.
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.

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