Before Texas begins its first season under Charlie Strong, we're taking a deep dive into all the talent he inherits in 2014. Our Burnt Orange Breakdown series will take a closer look at each scholarship player returning this fall and what we can expect from them. We're going down the roster from No. 1 today all the way to No. 99 Desmond Jackson.
No. 1 Shiro Davis
Junior defensive end
Recruitment rewind: The No. 77 recruit in the 2012 ESPN 150 pulled off the biggest signing day stunner of Mack Brown’s tenure when he backed out of his commitment to LSU in the final hour and faxed his letter of intent to Texas. The Shreveport (La.) Woodlawn standout and Army All-American’s strong relationship with Bo Davis and last-minute concerns about being a Tiger prompted a switch that almost nobody saw coming in the days leading up to his signing. Davis’ decision was hailed as one of Brown’s best and most surprising recruiting victories ever.
Career so far: Davis played in the final seven games of his true freshman season as a reserve pass rusher. The loss of Jackson Jeffcoat to a torn pec midway through that season prompted the staff to cancel Davis’ redshirt plans. As a sophomore backup in 2013, Davis recorded 15 tackles -- four behind the line of scrimmage -- and was credited with one sack and two quarterback pressures. The rise of Cedric Reed meant there simply wasn’t much room for playing time beyond second-string reps.
Best-case scenario for 2014: Davis can emerge as one of the surprising standouts of the Big 12 and, if he plays up to his vast potential, make this Texas defensive line one of the nation’s best. He brings elite speed and all the tools to succeed as a three-down player in this league. Davis flashed his potential a few times last season, most notably against Texas Tech, and convinced the previous staff he’s going to be special. Under the tutelage of new defensive line coach Chris Rumph, whose reputation for developing NFL talent is impressive, Davis takes the big next step and becomes a dominant complement to Reed.
Worst-case scenario for 2014: There’s reason to believe Rumph has no intention of playing favorites and starting a super-touted end just because he’s expected to. There’s also enough competition at defensive end that, if Davis were to go down with an injury for any period of time, someone like third-year end Caleb Bluiett could step in and never look back. Texas has consistently faced injuries and unexpected departures along the D-line in recent seasons, so these possibilities can’t be overlooked.
Future expectations: If Davis continues to develop and grow into the end Texas coaches expected when they signed him in February 2012, he’ll have serious pro potential. It's hard to imagine Davis would look to leave after 2014, though he will be draft eligible, and there’s so much he can still accomplish first. The first two seasons weren’t much from an on-field standpoint, but they prepared Davis for what’s coming next, and that’s a major role on the Longhorns defense.