- 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 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.
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.
733dWilliam Wilkerson and Max Olson