National Signing Day is here, and Charlie Strong's first recruiting class is signed, sealed, and delivered. Sure, Strong hasn't been on the job at Texas long, but he was able to close on 23 prospects while also adding some very key players in need areas Wednesday afternoon.
Texas finished with a 3.17 star average, which puts it at 20th in the Rivals.com team recruiting rankings.
The headliner of the class is at quarterback, and Texas signed one of the best in the country when it locked up Denton Guyer's Jerrod Heard. Rated as the No. 85 prospect in the country, the 6-1 dual-threat quarterback could compete to start the moment he arrives on campus, and his leadership qualities are just as highly regarded as his great physical tools are. Heard is also the highest rated player that the Longhorns signed.
Although they're not as highly rated as some other prospects Texas signed, two of Strong's most important commitments came on Wednesday when he added defensive tackles Poona Ford and Chris Nelson. The defensive tackle position was an enormous need for the Longhorns. Slightly undersized, Ford (Hilton Head High School; South Carolina) shows tremendous strength, plays with good leverage, and was a standout at the Semper Fi All-American game. Nelson, from Victory Christian in Lakeland, Florida, is a very athletic player with a high ceiling as a defensive tackle.
Texas was able to land a very strong wide receiver class, and Strong and his staff won a couple of key victories late by holding on to Rivals250 prospects Lorenzo Joe and Armanti Foreman. Joe, from Cooper (Abilene), played mostly quarterback late in his high school career, but showed off impressive route-running ability and ball skills to go with his size and speed at various camps over the course of the last year. The Texas City (Texas City) standout Foreman is one of the most explosive and dynamic players in the state of Texas with the football in his hands. After visiting TCU officially, Joe stuck with the Longhorns and Foreman flirted with an official to Missouri before he, and his brother D'Onta Foreman, honored their Texas commitment.
Joining Joe and Foreman are Marble Falls' (Marble Falls) Garrett Gray, Longview's (Longview) Dorian Leonard and Sharpstown's (Houston) Roderick Bernard. At 6-4, 200 pounds, Leonard uses his size and strength to make plays as a vertical threat and across the middle. There aren't many players in Texas as fast as Bernard (10.81 seconds in the 100 meters in 2012), and he's a home-run threat each time he touches the ball while also being a guy that could be used as a potential running back. Gray gives Texas even more size at the position at 6-5, and is a smooth in his movements as a route-runner, which allows him to create separation from defenders.
Players with outstanding quickness off the edge that can get after the quarterback are prized possessions, and Texas landed one of those in Brennan (San Antonio) defensive end Derick Roberson. An Under Armour All-American, Roberson finished the year ranked No. 93 overall in the Rivals100, and made plays throughout his week in Orlando at the Under Armour All-America week. The 6-3, 225-pound defensive end has a frame that should take on some more muscle, but his speed, motor, mean-streak, and edge-rushing ability could allow him to play early at Texas. Abilene's (Abilene) Jake McMillon could play a number of spots along the defensive line, and adds versatility to the Texas recruiting class after a tremendous high school career.
The defensive back class is headlined by one of Strong's first commitments at Texas - Bowie (Arlington) safety/linebacker Edwin Freeman. Freeman is a uniquely skilled player because he has the size, strength, and instincts to play linebacker and make plays in the running game. But he also has the ability to play strong safety and cover receivers down the field. After a strong week in Orlando as an Under Armour All-American, the four-star prospect finished his career ranked as the No. 125 prospect overall in the Rivals250.
A couple of other defensive backs that could play a number of places defensively are Lamar's (Houston) John Bonney and South Grand Prairie (Grand Prairie) prospect Jason Hall. Texas beat out a number of schools late, including Baylor and Auburn where Bonney visited recently, to hold on to Bonney, who was recruited as a corner by some schools because of his coverage skills. The Houston-area product shows impressive instincts on the field, and has the size to play safety and the quickness to line up in the slot and cover receivers. As for Hall, he's a very long defensive back at 6-2 (maybe closer to 6-3) that, like Bonney, has the size to play safety and the coverage skills to play corner.
Another Under Armour All-American at defensive back that Texas signed is St. Augustine (New Orleans, Louisiana) cornerback Jermaine Roberts. At 5-9, 170 pounds, Roberts' physical nature and technique allows him to play larger than his listed size. He's a very competitive player that plays the position with confidence, and had offers from the likes of Ohio State, Alabama, Florida State, Michigan, UCLA, and Oklahoma.
New offensive line coach and offensive coordinator Joe Wickline made an impact late when he flipped Elijah Rodriguez from Colorado to Texas and went into New Orleans to sign Alex Anderson. Rodriguez (Cypress Creek; Houston) is a 6-6, 280-pound tackle prospect that projects to add even more size and weight when he arrives at Texas. Anderson is a very physical lineman that possesses a lot of raw tools that could allow him to really blossom into a key contributor along the offensive line before his career is over, and he's already taking classes at UT. Also, Wickline held on to Army All-American Terrell Cuney, who committed to Texas out of Jasper High School almost a year ago today. Blake Whiteley is a junior college tight end from Arizona Community College (Yuma, Arizona) that is already enrolled at Texas, and has the ability to be a pass-catching threat.
Texas could need a freshman to contribute immediately at the running back spot because of the injury this season to Johnatha Gray, and Eisenhower (Houston) four-star running back Donald Catalon is a candidate to step in and play early. Rated as the No. 193 prospect overall in the Rivals250, Catalon is a running back that does it all. He can run with speed, power, has size, and can line up as a slot receiver with the ability to make plays in the passing game. Also, Texas signed Newton (Newton) running back Kevin Shorter. One of Texas' special play-makers with the ball in his hands when healthy, Shorter suffered a spinal injury this season and his football future is unclear.
Nelson wasn't the only prospect Texas went to Florida to get. Andrew Beck was one of the state's best linebackers this season at powerhouse Plant (Tampa, Florida), and is already enrolled at Texas. The three-star prospect was a tackling machine in high school, and also played tight end, which is an example of the athleticism and speed he has. Beck should fit in at Texas as a rangy linebacker, but at 6-3, 230 pounds he has the size and strength to make plays near the line of scrimmage. Dallas Carter standout Cameron Hampton joins Beck in this class of linebackers, and the very physical, aggressive Hampton should fit in as a middle linebacker in Austin.
Predictably, the Longhorns suffered some bumps and bruises along the way in the form of decommitments once the coaching staff was completely changed. Sione Teuhema signed with LSU Wednesday after being a longtime Texas commitment, and players like Otaro Alaka, Zaycoven Henderson, Courtney Garnett, and Trey Lealaimatafao decommitted from Texas late in the process.
That being said, Strong did a good job of holding on to a lot of key members of the 2014 class while also securing a lot of commitments late from key prospects, including several at need positions. Texas added depth, play-makers, versatility, and a few big-time prospects that could step on to the field early in Austin.