Simply put: Heard is the quarterback the Longhorns have been looking for. A dynamic runner who is one of the better zone-read threats we've seen the past few years, Heard also has the throwing ability to test teams through the air, as his three high school seasons of 2,000-plus passing yards would attest. His last two years, he's added a pair of 2,000-yard rushing seasons to the resume as well, along with two state championships. Heard has that IT factor to go along with his ability, and waged a very interesting war with Texas A&M commitment Kyle Allen at the U.S. Army Bowl. Allen finished as Scout.com's No. 1 QB, but if you just went by the week's events, I'm not sure he was better than Heard.
But while you could stop at Heard, you'd be remiss to leave out Roberson, arguably the top pro prospect out of the Texas bunch. Long, lean and with explosion and fluidity, Roberson is an elite pass-rushing defensive end who simply needs to fill out lanky frame. When he does, you'll be hard-pressed to find a better end prospect for a team that goes against spread offenses on pretty much a weekly basis.
Early Impact Guy — Blake Whiteley, Arizona Western C.C.
There's only one junior college transfer in the class, and he's one of the few early enrollees. That makes Whiteley the easy choice here as the best chance to break into a pretty experienced lineup immediately. But Texas also has a pretty big need for Whiteley's talents, as returning top tight ends Geoff Swaim and Greg Daniels are both block-first, block-second types. Whiteley didn't get a ton of passes in junior college, but the Texas staff thought it found a potential NFL-type receiving tight end when they scouted him out. If he can beat out M.J. McFarland, he's likely to get plenty of time when the Longhorns want or need to throw the ball.
Diamond In The Rough, Class Sleeper — Jason Hall, S, South Grand Prairie
Charlie Strong has always found a spot for versatile safeties who can run, hit and cover, and Hall may be flying under the radar a bit in those categories. Standing 6-foot-2 with long arms, Hall has little issue coming downhill, an attribute that will only be further emphasized once he fills out into the 200-plus pound range. For South Grand Prairie, he filled every role in the backfield, even taking to cornerback at times to defend top Metroplex wide receivers like DaMarkus Lodge. While you wouldn't want to leave him there all game, the fact that he has the length, feet and skill set to play a coverage role as well only emphasizes his value. And how many three-star DBs can boast offers from Bo Pelini, Bob Stoops and Duane Akina?
Biggest Need Filled — Defensive Tackle
It seems strange to list tackle here when the Longhorns entered National Signing Day with just one committed in Jake McMillon, a player that Texas listed at 240 pounds on its Signing Day release. But the day itself brought commitments and signings from both Poona Ford and Chris Nelson, the two top defensive tackle targets on coach Charlie Strong's board. Ford is an especially nice catch, a guy who, with better height, could have been an even more highly touted prospect than the four-star he was. He's a potential impact guy at a position where the Longhorns need 'em. And Nelson has the size, frame and athletic ability to give new defensive line coach Chris Rumph something to work with and develop.
Biggest Need Left Unfilled — Elite Defensive Back
When people look at the 2014 class, the first thing that they're going to notice is the sheer amount of defensive back talent the state produced. And second, they're probably going to notice that Texas didn't get any of it. Tony Brown (Alabama), Jamal Adams (LSU), Nick Harvey (Texas A&M), Arrion Springs (Oregon), Edward Paris (LSU), Dylan Sumner-Gardner (Boise State) and even Davion Hall (though Hall will start at receiver at Baylor) spent time on the Texas radar, but none ever made it to the Texas recruiting class. That puts a lot of pressure on 2013'ers like Antwuan Davis and Chevoski Collins to be the real deal. It's not that Texas struck out at the position per se — Hall, John Bonney, Edwin Freeman (if he stays at safety) and Jermaine Roberts can all play, but I don't know that they're the types of players you build your whole secondary around. This class was littered with those kinds of players, and Texas didn't land 'em.
You could also add in depth at defensive end. Texas didn't get any ends in the 2013 class, and with McMillon likely headed to the inside at the next level, and Texas missing on Myles Garrett, Solomon Thomas, Sione Teuhema and Kolin Hill, among others, leaves the 'Horns a bit light at that position. Though if you're going to take one, Roberson is a heck of a one to have.
Biggest Recruiting Battle Won — Edwin Freeman, S, Arlington Bowie
Freeman was certainly the most drawn out battle that Texas won in this class, with the Longhorns recruiting the Arlington Bowie product from the start of the 2014 cycle and not closing on him until after the coaching change in January. But it should be worth the wait. Freeman is the linebacker that runs like a safety, or a safety that hits like a linebacker, a 215-pound ball who excels at the box and plays well in space. For Texas to hold off challenges from Texas A&M, TCU and Oklahoma, among others, was a nice recruiting win for the Longhorns, and Freeman is a guy with plenty of ability.
Both Heard and Roberson would qualify in that they received a ton of interest, particularly after the coaching change, but neither visited other places or really allowed their recruitments to become a "battle" in the first place.
Biggest Recruiting Battle Lost — Jamal Adams, S, Lewisville Hebron
Texas was one of the first schools on Adams, a playmaking safety from the Dallas area, and the Longhorns were among his top choices all along. But when Texas made the coaching change, Adams eliminated the Longhorns from contention, and he wound up inking with LSU, a relative latecomer to his recruitment, and a school that Texas likely led before the switch. Adams was an elite talent — I think he was the second-best prospect in the state to Myles Garrett — and was a much-needed upgrade at a need position, somebody that Texas could build its secondary around.
Biggest Decommitment Gained — Poona Ford, DT, Hilton Head (S.C.)
Perhaps no prospect in the Texas class is as mysterious as Ford. What do I mean by that? At first glance, Ford, at 6-feet tall, is an undersized defensive tackle. Except that 1) he has the length of a player much, much taller and 2) he already has the kind of good weight, at nearly 290 pounds, that you look for. So what's the rub? What exactly does Ford's lack of height cost him (if anything, he'll get better leverage)? So he might never be 310 pounds, but Ford has outstanding quickness and athleticism, and he's an outstanding scheme fit for what Strong and defensive coordinator Vance Bedford want to put on the field in Austin.
Biggest Decommitment Lost — Emanuel Porter, WR, Dallas Lincoln
Porter was one of the highest-potential kids in the 2014 Texas class, a 6-4 wideout who ran an electronic 4.41 40-yard dash, vertical-leaped 36 inches and had the body control of a star basketball player (which, of course, he was). If he had a quarterback for his time at Dallas Lincoln, there's little doubt (at least on my part) that he would have been considered with KD Cannon and Davion Hall as one of the top receivers in the state, and his potential, in all likelihood, exceeds both of those players. Instead, Porter reopened things late and eventually decided to re-pick TCU; he was committed to the Frogs before flipping to Texas in the first place.
Should Have Recruited — Marcus Green, CB, Cedar Hill
The 2014 Texas defensive back recruiting class was a stacked one. Enough so that some guys fell through the cracks a bit. And when Texas was desperate for a cornerback, it's almost inconceivable that the Longhorns didn't head after Green, a talented 6-1 defensive back who, even if he didn't work out at corner, could have given the Longhorns an outstanding safety. Green came to Texas camp between his sophomore and junior years and likely would have jumped at a Texas offer. Instead, he picked Oklahoma in the spring of his junior year and stuck throughout. Green would have been the best cornerback in the Texas class. Instead, he'll be somebody the Longhorns face in the Cotton Bowl the next several years.
Biggest Recruiting Foil — LSU
The easy answer here is Texas A&M. But while A&M certainly landed several prospects that Texas was after, the real foil this year might have been LSU. LSU took two key Texas key decommitments after the coaching change, landing four-star pass-rusher Sione Teuhema and defensive tackle Trey Lealaimatafao. In recruiting Emanuel Porter, a four-star Texas decommitment, LSU scheduled an in-home for the same time as a last-ditch Texas visit to get him on campus, canceling said visit to the 40 Acres. And none of that counts that LSU beat Texas for two of the top defensive backs in the state in Jamal Adams and Edward Paris, nor that the Tigers were able to hold off their home state when the Longhorns tried to dabble there. Last, but not least, Leonard Fournette, who gave Texas an official visit and would have helped the Longhorns re-stock the running back pool, chose LSU.
Of course, A&M would have to be right there too. Nick Harvey was a top Texas target who stuck with A&M all the way through. Myles Garrett could have been an outstanding answer next to Roberson. Josh Walker, DeShawn Washington, Jarrett Johnson, Koda Martin and Zach Ledwik also had Texas offers. And if those weren't bad enough, A&M did pull out one-time Texas commitments Otaro Alaka and Zaycoven Henderson as well.
Really, either way, there isn't a wrong answer there.
This Class Will Pan Out If…
Heard and Roberson play up to expectations and a few sleepers emerge. Look, for all the talk about missed opportunities (much of it documented in this article), Texas still put together a top-25 class and one of the top classes in the Big 12 (Oklahoma and Oklahoma State wound up on top of Texas, but barely). It's not like this was a total failed talent grab. But it is a class that will depend more on development than previous Texas classes. And that's fine: that's a big part of the reason Strong was brought in in the first place, to do a better job of developing that talent.
This Class Will Fail If…
The players don't develop and this becomes just a depth class. Texas is losing some of its higher end talent over the next couple of years, and the Longhorns can't deal with another 2006-2007 type class. Neither of those classes was void of talent either, but those players, for one reason or another, didn't develop at a great rate once they hit campus. Texas can't afford that with this class, as there are relatively few guys talented enough to step on the field and make it on raw talent alone. This could be a class that we look back on as underrated if guys are put in the right spots, get better and help the Longhorns succeed. Or, we could be looking at it as a class that just wasn't quite up to Texas standards, as some have already done.