A surprising last-second push by the Texas Longhorns resulted in the commitment of Newton (Texas) all-purpose back Kevin Shorter on Saturday afternoon, representing the first significant coup for new Longhorn running back coach Larry Porter since he arrived on campus back in January.
A consensus four-star prospect, Shorter had been down to the Razorbacks and Aggies, but a visit to Austin for the Texas Stampede recruiting event put the Longhorns seriously in the mix for the first time and gave him something to think about. A subsequent trip several days later may have been enough to put the Longhorns in the driver's seat. In the days leading up to his pledge, the Crystal Ball predictions for Shorter started trending in favor of the Longhorns after leaning heavily to the Aggies earlier in the month.
Shorter is ranked as the No. 23 athlete nationally in the 247Sports composite rankings, though 247Sports itself has him as the No. 11 athlete. The composite also has him as the No. 284 player nationally and the No. 36 player in Texas. As with the position rankings, 247Sports has him higher nationally and in Texas. One of the most highly-recruited prospects in East Texas for the 2014 class, Shorter also held offers from Baylor, Clemson, Florida State, Georgia Tech, LSU, Miami, Mississippi State, Nebraska, Ohio State, Oklahoma, Tennessee, and UCLA, among others.
One of the top Texas athletes in the 2A classification, Shorter won the silver medal in the long jump last season and looks poised to earn gold during his senior season with the gold medalist graduating. The speed and explosiveness needed for that event transfer to the field, where Shorter excels as a running back for Newton. Listed as an athlete, schools are recruiting Shorter as an all-purpose back capable of carrying the football from the backfield or threatening defenses with his speed as a wide receiver.
The classification of Shorter as an all-purpose back makes sense -- he's a bit high cut for a running back and has a relatively thin lower body, hardly the ideal build for a volume back at the college level. However, Shorter makes up for his build with remarkable lower-body strength, consistently good pad level, and explosiveness that allows him to break tackles at the high school level, though there are some competition caveats inherent for any small-school player.
Shorter is an outside threat for Newton, which likes to give him opportunities to use his speed to take the corner, which he does easily at his level of competition due to his speed and ability to take the edge without losing his top-end speed. As a result, he may have to be careful about wanting to bounce everything outside in college, but he does show the vision to find available creases inside the tackles, as well, and the decisiveness to hit them quickly with a north-south style.
Capable of slide and jump cutting through traffic, as well as stutter-stepping, Shorter has strong lateral movement abilities and good top-end speed that allows him to blow up favorable angles for opponents. As an added bonus, Shorter is clearly conscious of ball security, almost always keeping the ball high and tight to his body, even when unthreatened in the open field, a strong habit that will benefit him as he moves to the next level.
Overall, Shorter projects as somewhat of a niche player, but his skillset is impressive enough that he should be able to carve out an all-purpose role and contribute at a high level because he's more than just a fast athlete with an ideal build for cornerback -- he's a prospect with a number of excellent running back skills.
The Longhorns now have their all-purpose threat in the class and should use Shorter in a hybrid running back/wide receiver role to take advantage of his diverse skill set as they are attempting to do with sophomore Daje Johnson this season. Shorter is now the third running back in the 2014 class for Texas, joining Houston (Texas) Eisenhower's Donald Catalon and Texas City (Texas) prospect D'Onta Foreman. The class sits at 23 pledges, good enough to rank at the top of the Big 12 and No. 8 nationally.
Look through SB Nation's many excellent college football blogs to find your team's community.