The Texas Longhorns added 13 prospects on Wednesday along the offensive side of the ball in head coach Charlie Strong's first recruiting class in Austin.
But did the Longhorns fill needs? And what will those 13 players bring to the program?
Jerrod Heard, Denton Guyer
6'2 | 195 pounds | **** | No. 2 dual-threat quarterback | No. 10 player in Texas
Arguably the most important player in the class, Heard was also the most irreplaceable late in the process given the massive drop-off to the next-best quarterback in the state for 2014. A highly-coveted recruit who could have had as many offers as he wanted if he had prolonged the process, he committed shortly after being offered, despite offers from LSU and Baylor.
He was the only quarterback offered in the entire class.
A two-time state champion with almost 12,000 total yards, Heard knows how to win at a high level and is a quick and decisive runner with good vision, although he still does a good job of keeping his eyes downfield when scrambling to make plays outside of the pocket with his arm -- he doesn't just pull the ball down and run when he starts feeling pressure.
So although Heard doesn't have the best speed, he is effective with the zone read and has improved with sequencing as a passer to maximize his velocity and rotation, the latter of which he struggled with earlier in his career, but made significant progress with during his time at Elite 11. There's still some growth necessary there as a passer, but he does have good touch and knows how the throw a ball with the proper weight for the situation.
Comment: The Horns got their guy and he's a good one. Simple enough.
Donald Catalon, Aldine Eisenhower
5'11 | 190 pounds | **** | No. 10 running back | No. 25 player in Texas
Another early pledge for the Horns, Catalon was the top in-state target. He's suffered from some foot injuries over the last two years, so there are some necessary concerns about his durability there, but Catalon is impressive with his game speed and has extensive experience working as a wide receiver, making him one of the more versatile running backs to still maintain a classification as an every-down back.
Catalon doesn't have a lot of shake and instead prefers to make subtle slide cuts instead of jump cuts to elude defenders. As a result, there are also some questions about his ability to break tackles at the next level since he doesn't have great size to run through arm tackles. Overall, Catalon was is an impressive and needed get for Texas.
Kevin Shorter, Newton
6'0 | 186 pounds | *** | No. 62 athlete | No. 105 player in Texas
Shorter may only spend one year on scholarship before going the medial route, though he still hopes to play again after suffering a spinal cord bruise that could keep him from putting the pads on in Austin. A track star at Newton, Shorter has good lower body strength for a player who looks more like a cornerback than a running back and always ran with good pad level. Good feet and overall speed rounded out the package for a player who had numerous offers and looked like a potential contributor before his injury.
D'Onta Foreman, Texas City
6'0 | 207 pounds | *** | No. 68 running back | No. 125 player in Texas
The twin brother of wide receiver signee Armanti, D'Onta finally got his Texas offer during the summer and the twin brothers didn't take long to commit, though they did eventually waver a bit late with a planned trip to Missouri that never ended up happening.
The likely short-yardage replacement for Joe Bergeron is an important piece of the class as the replacement for former commit Daniel Gresham, who decommitted and ultimately ended up at Louisville when Bobby Petrino dropped him. Foreman isn't nearly as dynamic of an athlete as his brother, but he could play a critical role in the Texas offense if he's willing to do the dirty work of carrying to ball in short-yardage situations and blocking from two-back sets.
As with Catalon, a significant amount of his upside will be tied to his ability to move the pile and break some tackles. With that being said, the 9.7 yards per carry for Foreman as a junior was certainly an impressive number.
Comment: With Shorter unlikely to play, the Horns missed out on an all-purpose back in the class, but the new staff probably didn't consider it a huge need given the lack of an offer for Dallas Carter's Corey Avery, who fit that mold. Of course, the staff could have also decided it was a need and that Avery simply wasn't good enough to merit a spot.
Otherwise, landing a true star like Dalvin Cook or Leonard Fournette would have been ideal, but neither player was ever likely to end up in Austin, so the group is hardly a disappointment, as evidenced by the grade.
Needs: Three or four
Armanti Foreman, Texas City
5'11 | 176 pounds | **** | No. 16 wide receiver | No. 10 player in Texas
The former Oklahoma commit joined the Texas class when his brother was offered and represents the major addition of the two. The quickest and most dynamic wide receiver in the state of Texas for the 2014 class, Foreman projects as a slot receiver who can turn short catches into big gains, in large part because he can decelerate and then accelerate back to top speed in a short amount of time.
Lorenzo Joe, Abilene Cooper
6'3 | 200 pounds | **** | No. 29 wide receiver | No. 23 player in Texas
The first pledge in the 2015 class and a lifetime Longhorn fan, Joe wavered a bit at the end of the process, visiting TCU, but opted to sign with the Horns. After playing quarterback his last two seasons, there would typically be some concern about his ability as a wide receiver, except that he won the positional MVP honor at the Dallas NFTC over a group of talented wide receivers that included star Louisiana prospect Malachi Dupre.
Joe's senior film was particularly impressive in displaying athleticism that was probably underrated earlier in the process. Showing off exceptional lateral quickness and jump-cutting ability, Joe provided some significant evidence that he can be a wide receiver with after-the-catch ability in college. Throw in the fact that he's a hard worker and all around nice kid and the odds seem high that he maximizes his significant talents in college to the extent that his health allows.
Roderick Bernard, Houston Sharpstown
5'9 | 175 pounds | *** | No. 54 wide receiver | No. 50 player in Texas
An under-the-radar pledge last January, Bernard's stock rose after his film got out and he eventually earned an Alabama offer that was not enough to draw him away from Texas. With 10.81 speed in the 100m and a reported 40 time as low as in the 4.2s, there's no question that Bernard has speed to burn. Able to get open deep and produce big plays from the backfield on hand offs, Bernard is a home-run threat every time he touches the ball.
Dorian Leonard, Longview
6'4 | 200 pounds | *** | No. 75 wide receiver | No. 60 player in Texas
Oklahoma was always perceived as the leader for Leonard, who also held an offer from Florida State, among several others, but Texas was able to land the commitment over the rival Sooners when Leonard decided to follow his own heart instead of the desires of others.
The emphasis was clearly on big-bodied receivers in the 2014 class for Texas -- players with the speed to stretch the field vertically, the size to win jump balls in the redzone and body up defenders in the short passing game, and the physicality to win blocking battles on the perimeter with the growing use of run/pass reads that utilize bubble screens to the perimeter to stretch defenses horizontally, all skills that Leonard possesses.
Garrett Gray, Marble Falls
6'5 | 212 pounds | *** | No. 75 wide receiver | No. 69 player in Texas
Visits to Cal and UCLA never happened for Gray, as he opted to stick around Marble Falls and then sign with Texas. Known as a relatively raw prospect because he was focused on basketball early in high school, Gray nonetheless possesses a lot of the same athletic ability and potential to become a deep threat as former pledge Emanuel Porter, and may even have better straight-line speed.
Comment: Taking six receivers with a glut of them already on campus seemed like a really odd move, so maybe it was a blessing in disguise to miss on Emanuel Porter. Of course, he also may have had the highest upside in the group, too, so that mitigates any benefits to the scholarship chart. It's going to be hard for all five of these players to contribute eventually, so this group is going to have some attrition and it may not take long for it to happen.
Needs: One or two
Blake Whiteley, Arizona Western College
6'5 | 240 pounds | *** | No. 2 tight end | No. 6 junior college player in Arizona
A highly productive wide receiver in high school, Whiteley got a good deal of blocking experience during his year at Western, where he didn't show nearly as much on film as a receiver. He's not a guy who will make plays after the catch for Texas, but he does appear to have good ball skills from his high school film and was a better in-line blocker than most high school prospects, especially since most of tight end size play flexed out a lot, as Whiteley did in Canada.
He also has four years to play three seasons, making him much more valuable than the normal junior-college prospect who only has two seasons of eligibility.
Comment: Texas didn't appear to have a plan for much of the process and was lucky to land Whiteley in the mix of the coaching change. Major save there.
Terrell Cuney, Jasper
6'3 | 270 pounds | *** | No. 7 offensive center | No. 70 player in Texas
The US Army All-American was all Texas all the way and will play center for the Horns. There's a lot of development left for Cuney physically and he's not much over 6'1, so there are some size limitations, too. Can he add weight while keeping his athleticism? If he can, the mobility and body quickness that he possesses should make him really effective in space, but he may always have some issues with the same type of squatty nose tackles that have given current starter Dominic Espinosa struggles over the years.
Alex Anderson, New Orleans (La.) O Perry Walker
6'4 | 300 pounds | *** | No. 50 offensive guard | No. 37 player in Louisiana
The first take of the Joe Wickline era at Texas, Anderson was committed to Arizona State and was prepared to flip to Oklahoma State before Wickline came to Austin. Anderson visited and decided he wanted to follow.
Light on his feet for his size, Anderson probably doesn't have the pure height to play tackle in college, but did have some really impressive moments on film over two years going against star defensive end Gerald Willis and has a good combination of natural punch, upper body strength, and the motor and persistence to stay with plays.
Elijah Rodriguez, Houston Cypress Creek
6'6 | 285 | *** | No. 123 offensive tackle | No. 196 player in Texas
Another important late addition, Rodriguez is a pure Wickline take as well after surfacing late on the radar and being convinced to switch his pledge. The ratings don't do justice to how much Rodriguez was needed -- more indicative was the fact that both LSU and Florida State showed interest late. A pure tackle take with a frame that can hold up to around 320 pounds, Rodriguez has similar mobility to Anderson and could even grow an inch or two because the rest of his family is even taller than he is. In fact, mobility is a trait that defines all three prospects.
Comment: Adding a guard late wasn't absolutely necessary, but will help for depth purposes down the line, but it would have been a big deal to not finish the class with an offensive tackle, making the addition of Rodriguez extremely important. And obviously the development will be key for these players, but Texas didn't exactly land blue chips with their late additions, a fact that hurt the overall grade.
Overview: In all, the Horns satisfied every need except for finding an all-purpose back to replace Daje Johnson, but that's a role that Roderick Bernard could fill after carrying the ball quite a bit in high school. Landing the top quarterback in the state helps make up for settling for lesser-ranked players at other positions and Whiteley was a really important player to add for Texas as the most talented pure tight end the Horns have taken since Blaine Irby and Irby's size always made him more of an H-back type than an in-line tight end who could block defensive ends.