When he was a freshman, Shiro Davis was wearing the same shoes that Cecil Cherry wore this August.
Albeit, very briefly.
Those shoes didn’t fit then, and they don’t fit Davis now.
Which is exactly why Davis is entering his senior season at Texas and not finishing his career at LSU or some other campus. But he can relate to at least some of the feelings that led Cherry, a four-star linebacker from Frostproof, Fla., to the decision to transfer from Texas after only three days of football practice.
“I definitely see where he’s coming from,” Davis said of Cherry’s departure after a practice last week. “Every freshman has problems. Hey, I thought about (transferring). But I just had to put my head down and get back to work.”
Davis was a late commitment to Texas before signing day in 2012, reneging on his earlier pledge to LSU. He’s had a rocky career at best, but has plugged away and emerged as a likely starter for this year’s team.
“I don’t want anyone to look at me as a quitter,” Davis said. “I understand why (Cherry and redshirt freshman running back Duke Catalon left), but that’s a decision you have to live with.”
Davis, a Louisiana native from Shreveport, made his decision to leave his home state even after committing to LSU. He was considered a huge prize for Mack Brown on signing day.
But stardom has successfully eluded this 6-3½, 260-pound defensive end as he has battled to get on the field behind more celebrated players such as Cedric Reed and Alex Okafor.
Davis has played in 33 games for the Longhorns but started only four. He’s never had more than 22 tackles in a season, this after making 85 stops in his senior high school season alone when he was named one of ESPNU’s top 150 national prospects.
His mind might have been a blur early in his college days, but he has his head straight now and hopes to leave a positive mark before finishing.
“I definitely want no one to say that Shiro Davis is a bust,” he said. “There’s definitely pressure on me. I need to play up to my potential. It’s something that’s on me heavily since this is my last year.”
If Davis hasn’t been a bust, he’s been in that neighborhood. He has been underwhelming, his play largely limited to a role as a backup defensive end and special-teams contributor. His 3½ sacks last year ranked tied for fifth, and he’s never made more than the six tackles he had against UCLA last season.
He – and his coach – think it’s time for Davis.
“Shiro has had a solid two-a-days camp,” defensive coordinator Vance Bedford said Friday. “He’s a physical player for us. What he brings to us is a guy with a ‘Don’t Mess With Me’ attitude. He brings that to the table for us.”
But a last chance to impress? Bedford likes what he’s seen.
“I wouldn’t call it desperation,” Bedford said. “I’d call it a guy who’s maturing. He understands the expectations to be a senior and be a leader. His time is now. He’s worked hard at this point to be the guy.”
Davis and his teammates are also driven by their desultory performance in the bowl loss to Arkansas.
“Everybody was very disappointed in that game,” Davis said. “Personally, it made me sick. It’s pushing everybody to be better.”
This season he’ll be a headliner on what should be one of the Big 12’s better defensive lines and what could be the strength of this Longhorn team. That said, bodies have been in short supply in the early going.
Defensive tackles Hassan Ridgeway and Desmond Jackson are the best two in the line but are just now returning from injuries. End Caleb Bluiett is finishing up academic work, and end Naashon Hughes missed work because of a root canal. Sophomore Poona Ford and juniors Bryce Cottrell and Paul Boyette add meaningful depth.
When they’re all healthy, the defensive front should spearhead that side of the ball and set the tone for the entire team. An influx of young talent, including freshmen linebackers Malik Jefferson and Anthony Wheeler and redshirts John Bonney at corner and Edwin Freeman at linebacker, should make immediate impacts.
“We’re bringing the younger guys on,” Davis said. “I want to leave here with a decent year. We’ve got to be better. We haven’t had double-digit wins since, what, 2009? It’s time for Texas to be back on top.”
That’s been a while. But Davis promises he has no regrets and would do it again.
“I love Texas,” he said. “If everything fell like it did, I’d do it again. No downers.”
And no quitters either.
Contact Kirk Bohls at 512-445-3772.