I have graduated from one of the best Indian universities, with a GPA of 3.4/4 with a bachelors+masters in Physics. I had applied for a graduate position in a few US universities last year in the field of theoretical high energy physics, but couldn't get in. This year my paper's got published in Physical Review D in October. However, I am officially not attached to a physics program anywhere since July.
So, my question is: How much does a gap of a year weigh against a recent paper in PRD in getting selected in a good US university? Do you know of someone who could get into a grad school after a break of a year or more, while being detached officially from physics? How did such a person justify the gap in her/his SOP? The universities that I'm thinking about are: UMich Ann Arbor, UMaryland, UChicago, UCSB, UCSD, Yale, etc.
Thanks in advance.