Texas Football: Projecting the Longhorns' 2013 2-Deep Depth Chart
The Texas Longhorns are only weeks into their offseason, but coming off of a critical, Alamo Bowl win, the 'Horns created some much-needed momentum for themselves heading into the 2013 season.
Much of the team returns for what figures to be a heavily-scrutinized season, as the Longhorns are searching for the right answers in their third year in the rebuild that Mack Brown started following the 2010 campaign.
While many of the other Big 12 teams will be starting with fresh quarterbacks and remolded offenses and defenses, the Longhorns have the luxury of returning a vast majority of their playmakers.
Here is an updated projection of the Longhorns' two-deep depth chart next season.
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Quarterback: David Ash, Case McCoy
Coming off an impressive second-half performance in the Alamo Bowl, David Ash is firmly in the driver's seat to operate the starting job next year. Barring some unprecedented setback, it is Ash's job to lose.
The sophomore made the right kind of strides that allowed the Longhorns to experience success in multiple phases of the offense. Now, it is all about delivering with consistency over a 60-minute period for consecutive weeks at a time.
Rumors have stirred over Case McCoy's future in the program. He is expected to return for his senior campaign, but his role likely will be limited.
Keep an eye out for redshirt freshmen Connor Brewer and Jalen Overstreet. If Ash goes down and McCoy cannot deliver, then the two youngsters present some interesting options moving forward.
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Running Back: Johnathan Gray, Malcolm Brown
Johnathan Gray officially stamped himself into the annals of Texas football, and he surpassed expectations by holding down the fort at running back.
With Malcolm Brown battling injury troubles for the second straight season, Gray's readiness and his demeanor arguably carried a Texas running game that oftentimes looked run-of-the-mill.
Brown still brings a versatile skill set to the table, possibly the most diverse of the three top backs on campus, but Gray's ability to stay healthy could maintain the edge to earn the starter's job.
Do not forget about Joe Bergeron and Daje Johnson, however, as both command significant carries in the scheme of the running game.
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WR X: Mike Davis, Kendall Sanders
WR H: Jaxon Shipley, Bryant Jackson
WR Z: Marcus Johnson, Cayleb Jones
The top two receivers, Mike Davis and Jaxon Shipley, return for the 'Horns, and they present the most consistent and valuable options in the passing game.
On somewhat of a limb, Marcus Johnson could emerge this spring as a true playmaker filling in for the departed Marquise Goodwin. If not Johnson, though, Cayleb Jones has patiently waited for his opportunity.
Texas still lacks the proven depth that can allow the passing game to take off, but there is plenty of talent on campus to enter the fold.
Tight End: Geoff Swaim, M.J. McFarland
Same story, new chapter at tight end for the Longhorns.
Texas still is without a proven playmaker at tight end, one who can catch as well as block for an offense that can be very multiple. And with D.J. Grant having graduated, Texas will have to review its options.
Incoming JUCO tight end Geoff Swaim may have the upper hand at this point, but expect the 'Horns to use plenty of tight-end sets to spread the wealth until a top option emerges.
M.J. McFarland has flashed his pass-catching abilities, but has not taken the big leap that the coaches had hoped. If he improves in the slightest in his pass-blocking, McFarland may become a huge X-factor for the Texas offense.
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Left Tackle: Donald Hawkins, Kennedy Estelle
Left Guard: Trey Hopkins, Sedrick Flowers
Center: Dom Espinosa, Garrett Porter
Right Guard: Mason Walters, Sedrick Flowers
Right Tackle: Josh Cochran, Kennedy Estelle
Most football things begin with the offensive line, and the Longhorns return all five of their starters for next season.
Texas may still be without a true mauler with a mean streak who can ignite the offense into a firecracker, but the consistency and experience that returns is a big plus for the Longhorns' 2013 outlook.
The biggest fights may come on the back end of the two-deep. There will be a number of young offensive linemen vying for a backup spot, so if the upperclassmen like Garrett Porter and Sedrick Flowers do not answer the bell in the spring, some new faces could see the field early.
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Defensive End: Jackson Jeffcoat, Cedric Reed, Reggie Wilson, Shiro Davis
Defensive Tackle: Desmond Jackson, Malcolm Brown, Chris Whaley, Ashton Dorsey
The Longhorns do lose Alex Okafor at defensive end, arguably the biggest hit on defense. But with Jackson Jeffcoat on the mend from pectoral surgery, again, Texas figures to be in good hands with the returning experience on the edge.
The interior will feature a strong rotation of power and athleticism not seen on campus for some time.
Brandon Moore just declared for the NFL draft, opening up new holes for the young defensive tackles to fill.
Desmond Jackson and Malcolm Brown have flashed so much promise early on, it will be hard for others to displace them.
One freshman to watch for is A'Shawn Robinson. Just like Brown earned himself first-year snaps, Robinson could merit those same early looks.
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Strong-Side: Peter Jinkens, Tevin Jackson
Middle: Steve Edmond, Dalton Santos
Weak-Side: Jordan Hicks, Kendall Thompson
Linebacker was a position of huge concern last season, and it never really got better until very late in the year.
Jordan Hicks should return after a hip injury that kept him out for most of the season. But the bigger questions come with the return of a horde of young linebackers that saw huge action in 2012.
The results were very much up and down last year, but if guys like Steve Edmond, Peter Jinkens and Kendall Thompson can progress just a little bit, the linebackers will be far ahead of where they were even six months ago.
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Cornerback: Carrington Byndom, Duke Thomas, Leroy Scott, Bryson Echols
A surprise to some, Quandre Diggs should get a big look at safety, opening up a vacancy at cornerback.
Carrington Byndom looks poised to return for his senior season following a junior campaign that left much to be desired after a strong sophomore year.
Opposite him could be Duke Thomas, a relative unknown with plenty of upside. Do not discount Leroy Scott and Bryson Echols, another unknown, to make an early splash if Thomas cannot find a groove.
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Safety: Quandre Diggs, Adrian Phillips, Josh Turner, Mykkele Thompson
Quandre Diggs is the highlight of this group following the departure of Kenny Vaccaro to the NFL.
Adrian Phillips will be a senior following a rather forgettable and inconsistent junior season.
Josh Turner and Mykkele Thompson saw plenty of time in the back, and while inconsistency got the best of them for the most part, both flashed the athleticism and playmaking ability that Texas recruited.
Keep your eyes on Kevin Vaccaro, the younger brother of Kenny. If Kevin plays with the same violence and swagger that Kenny brought to the table, the Longhorns could have another gem buried in their depth chart.
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Kicker: Anthony Fera, Nick Jordan
Punter: William Russ, Anthony Fera
The kicking game can only get better, many will say, following a highly unstable year between Anthony Fera and Nick Jordan. Both return for the 2013 season, and the starting position is still up for grabs. Fera should have plenty of time to get fully healthy, but Jordan will be tight on his heels if he cannot find his rhythm.
In the punting game, it will be hard for the Longhorns to build off of what Alex King was able to accomplish in his one season in Austin.
William Russ has been on campus for some time, but has largely been forgotten. His emergence could be critical in finding the hidden yardage on special teams.