Here's my breakdown of the 2014 Longhorn WR class. The usual disclaimers apply. The folly of trying to project 18 year olds is obvious and relying on film is treacherous, but there are some general insights available even in a brief glance through the keyhole of player potential.
The Longhorns inked five wide receivers in 2014.
Todd Dodge's wide open Marble Falls offense gave Gray the chance to showcase his talents (2500 yards receiving and 35 TDs in two varsity seasons) and a strong Longhorn camp earned him a scholarship.
Gray, by virtue of his athleticism and relative inexperience, has much in common with the classic inner-city underdeveloped player who turned to football late. He is best understood as a high ceiling project - not a maxed-out suburb kid. The 6-4 big strider has good hands, legitimate long speed over the top and natural ball skills. What he lacks is experience, physical development, next level physicality and the opportunity to hone his skills against quality athletes.
Gray has the ability to blow the top off of zone coverage at the college level and he eats up grass quickly when corners play off. If a DB doesn't derail Gray's route early, he's in trouble. Gray will stride over the top and use his long body to make the downfield throw easy. Contrary to the stereotype, at this stage of his development, Gray is a much better potential deep threat than possession receiver.
Gray is an interesting developmental project who, if willing to endure the physical rigors of the game while he builds up his body into football form and learns coping mechanisms for physical press coverage, has a chance to be a good player. If he can't develop the explosiveness, physical mentality and hand techniques to get a good release at the line of scrimmage and beat the jam, he's unlikely to do more than provide depth at the college level.
The film speaks for itself. Foreman has great change of direction, good hands, and is creative after the catch. He's not a straight line burner, but his quickness and ability to bend time and space with the ball in his hands makes him an effective home run threat. I don't throw around comparisons to former Sooner standout Mark Clayton lightly, but his ability to change velocity in fits and bursts is somewhat similar. Foreman needs the ball in his hands on the move where he'll make his impact felt with yards after the catch.
Foreman will best excel in a true spread offense operating from the slot. I'm less optimistic about his abilities playing outside in a more conventional offense. He still has to master the subtleties of the position, but his upside is plainly apparent.
An exciting prospect who needs to be featured in the right role to truly thrive.
The gliding dual threat QB projects as a college wide receiver and he has shown sufficient ability there in various camps to suggest an easy transition. Joe isn't a burner, but he can change direction suddenly, has good size and elite body control. If you want a wildly irresponsible similar athlete comparison for his very best possible upside, consider former Cal standout and current San Diego Charger Keenan Allen. Or for the more local flavor, former Texas WR Sloan Thomas.
If Joe can evolve into a sophisticated route runner, he'll be a 3rd down staple who will make the tough catches and do the heavy lifting for the every down passing game. A lack of elite speed means that Joe will have to rely on route-running, hands, size and guile to make his impact fully felt at the college level.
The dynamic, diminutive Bernard doesn't lack for raw athletic ability. He has pure speed, excellent balance and the ability to stop-start. When he sticks his foot in the ground with his shoulders squared and sees a patch of green in front of him, the defense is in trouble. Not surprisingly, he's an excellent kick returner. He's densely built and should respond well to a college S&C program.
Unless he can demonstrate consistent hands, the ability to read coverages and excellent route running operating from the slot, Bernard is strictly a utility player with value on special teams and in some offensive packages. Bernard also has some intriguing snippets of cornerback film, but size is a big question mark. He might be an interesting change-up RB, but he's probably too small to carry a legitimate job share load.
Adding speed and playmaking is never a bad thing, but Bernard's playing time will hinge on his ability to develop more intangible assets.
The big WR from Longview has good hands, excellent size and solid overall athletic ability. His 6-4 frame will eventually carry around 220 pounds and if he can pair that physical presence with reliable route-running and continue to demonstrate his high school devotion to blocking, he's well on his way to being an early asset at Texas.
Leonard lacks top end speed and dynamism after the catch, but he's willing to go over the middle, he wins jump balls with size and timing and he'll do all of the dirty work required of a big possession receiver.
Texas has been cursed with several misses in the Big WR category recently and Leonard is a promising attempt to arrest that frustrating trend and provide the Longhorns with a consistent red zone threat who can create mismatches in the running and passing game against smaller defensive backs.