Inking Kai Locksley was important, but let's pump the brakes a little. Locksley is a very good athlete and rudimentary passer who played in a high school Wing T. He threw for less than 1,000 yards in both his junior and senior seasons. High school passing volume isn't strictly determinative of future success (see Brett Favre), but you generally get better at throwing by throwing. His father is the offensive coordinator at Maryland and the macro parts of the game should make sense to him and lend his play a degree of sophistication, but his skill set as a passer still needs much more time to blossom. Kai has great lateral movement for his size (see run at 0:35, dear lord) and once he adds 20 pounds to his skinny frame, he'll be even more difficult for DBs to handle in the open field. He has shown - wait for the irritating scout babble term - arm talent! - at passing camps and in individual workouts, but the requirements to excel at college game speed are likely a good ways off.
Matthew Merrick's role is to provide reliable depth for the next five years and incubate until 2017 or 2018 to see if he can press for something more. The potential greyshirt has a college adequate arm and reasonable mobility and his late move to emphasizing football in his life means he's a bit of a blank slate who could respond inordinately to training and instruction. And he throws a really pretty, well-placed ball - solid spin yet still drops down in his receiver's hands like a roll of Charmin. Hopefully, Merrick provides a steady, low ego back up who could step up and save a season sometime down the road.
Tristian Houston is a good athlete with legitimate speed in a 200 pound package. There are a number of FBS level running backs like him in Texas every year and he'll operate at the level his offensive line allows once he maxes out his physical potential as a home run threat. I'm not trying to minimize the potential of a future 215 pound dude who can break a 70 yard run at the college level, but he'll need to evidence other soft skills to be a primary mail carrier.
Look at his ability to make choppy, dirty jump cuts, double back on himself, yet always progress upfield. It ain't pretty or graceful, but that kind of ugly projects really well. Kirk Johnson could credibly play as many as three college positions (HB, Slot, Safety) and he combines great measurables with obvious fluidity and athletic versatility (his 4.0 shuttle time his senior summer is fantastic and I explain here why you need to take particular note of his trajectory as an athlete). Combine those data points with good film and unimpeachable blood lines and I rate him higher than all of the services. Kirk is a really good football player and while his rankings are respectable, I'm not sure evaluators adequately understand that he's a pretty rare combination of inputs. I think some opinions were calcified on Mr Johnson well before his senior year due to his early commitment and his lack of interest in the process. He has a lot of attributes that translate well to the next level.
The cut and plant upfield he makes on that first highlight is jaw-dropping for a man his size.
Chris Warren is intriguing for his sheer size (a legit 6-2, 240), the NFL polish in his game and surprising speed, but I have to confess that he's not my preferred type of runner. I'm generally not a fan of high base, heavy backs - particularly when they're his size this early in their careers. He's going to have work hard against his genetic desire to break 250. That said, he carries that weight incredibly well, our staff absolutely loves his ability and he'll push for time early with Catalon and Gray. I'm leery of letting my preferences preclude the notion that he may simply be a freak. His presence could also signal more use of some of the downhill running concepts in which he'd thrive.
Part of my reservation is that high center of gravity backs can be susceptible to early penetration, even if that initial penetrator can’t finish the play. Make a big man stop-start or step laterally when he doesn't want to and he loses his super powers. They love a predictable hole and a soft edge so they can get their shoulders upfield. An agile runner can exploit penetration and drop a 85 yard back-breaker J Charles style. Big guys also tend to take a lot of hits to their knees and upper thighs and lose some of their flexibility and springiness to constant injuries.
However, Warren is split high with a running style well-suited to shaking glancing blows off of his thighs, trampling ankle-diving DBs and has natural balance to make up for his higher base. Warren is a polished pass catcher, has good vision, can run through contact when defenders get into his legs and he’s not stiff. As a pure athlete, he’s a marvel. If he’s Michael Bush or even former CU runner Chris Brown, that’s a hell of an asset. He could be even more than that - a category-defying RB. I believe his future success will be heavily premised on the soundness of the overall offense - namely our QB and OL play. I don't see him as the RB who can conjure something from nothing (Charles, 2007; Ricky, 1997) against good defenses, but get the hosses around him and he'll make people pay.