A LOOK AT THE 2013 LONGHORNS
The time is now for David Ash. After a fitful first two seasons, coaches hope he’s grown into the role and can handle the not-inconsiderable expectations demanded in both leadership and managing the Longhorns’ relatively new uptempo emphasis.
Coaches believe Ash, who’s 12-6 as a starter, has matured to where he and the offense won’t endure the roller coaster ride that last year saw him range from awesome (Mississippi, Oklahoma State) to awful (Kansas, Oklahoma). Case McCoy seems to have adjusted to his role as the backup. Freshman Tyrone Swoopes is a physical specimen, but co-coordinator/QB coach Major Applewhite has a ton of rough edges he needs to smooth.
Johnathan Gray, Malcolm Brown and Joe Bergeron are back as arguably one of the top tailback units in the country.
Brown and the slimmed-down Bergeron were impressive in the open practices at the start of fall camp. But Gray was at a different, dynamic level befitting the nation’s top running back recruit in 2012. Daje Johnson is arguably UT’s biggest game-breaking threat, either out of the backfield or lined up in the slot. Also watch converted quarterback Jalen Overstreet, who might be a candidate as the triggerman in the “wild” formation.
Mike Davis and Jaxon Shipley return as the go-to guys after combining for 116 receptions for 1,676 yards and 13 touchdowns. Though they were slowed by health issues early in camp, they are back and being counted on to lead the group.
With the departure of senior Marquise Goodwin and transfer of sophomore Cayleb Jones, it gets interesting after that as Texas searches for both depth and more front-line help. Sophomores Kendall Sanders and Marcus Johnson both have explosive play-making ability, but not much of a résumé yet. Johnson recently strained an MCL ligament, which has slowed his progress. Veteran Bryant Jackson also could help, but he’s sidelined with a broken foot. Freshmen Chevoski Collins, Montrel Meander, Jacorey Warrick and Jake Oliver are possibilities for the rotation.
For years, the Longhorns have been vainly searching for the guy who’s both a receiving threat and a blocker. As in 2012, the candidate who most looks the part is sophomore M.J. McFarland (listed at 6-6, 240), but also as in 2012, he needs to demonstrate consistency in blocking. Texas signed junior-college prospect Geoff Swaim for immediate help in that area, but Swaim also has shown his ability as a receiver. Greg Daniels and converted wideout John Harris also are targets.
Quality and quantity? In recent years there were times where you could check the “none of the above” box. But will this season be different?
It’s not just that all five starters return, it’s that there is finally the potential for depth. The biggest impact could come from junior-college transfer tackle Desmond Harrison, who looks to have the skill set that could create a domino effect among the starting front. But Harrison’s academic issues over online credit hours have kept him out of valuable preseason workouts and his status is uncertain. There are some younger guys who could provide legitimate depth, including tackle Kennedy Estelle and guard Curtis Riser.
There are options at tackle and end, but players there need to prove themselves. At tackle, sophomore Malcom Brown needs to become the bellcow he’s expected to be. Desmond Jackson can plug the run, but can he pressure the quarterback? Seniors Chris Whaley and Ashton Dorsey must assert themselves consistently. Hassan Ridgeway has flashed, but doesn’t look ready yet.
At end, Jackson Jeffcoat needs to stay healthy. Cedric Reed looks ready break out. If senior Reggie Wilson is ever going to do it, it must be now. Coaches like the potential of sophomore Shiro Davis and redshirt freshman Bryce Cottrell.
This is the position that might hold the key to a rebound from last year’s defensive depths. Jordan Hicks is healthy again and middle ‘backers Steve Edmond and Dalton Santos are both noticeably slimmer and quicker. Peter Jinkens adds a much-needed dose of feistiness.
There are plenty of working parts at both safety and corner. Returnees Adrian Phillips and Carrington Byndom look much improved after struggling in 2012, especially early. Quandre Diggs (hip) was limited early in camp, but will be the key figure, especially if he moves into the nickel spot. Guys showing flashes? Sheroid Evans, Duke Thomas and Antwuan Davis, among others.
A key is Anthony Fera living up to his reputation, both as punter and placekicker, that he brought last year from Penn State before a groin injury. Sophomores Nick Jordan and Nick Rose both have a valuable year of experience. Punter Will Russ is finally showing promising signs.