Texas Football: 5 Weakest Positions to Worry About
The Texas Longhorns' struggles were hardly limited to just one position or aspect of the game.
On the contrary, the 'Horns faced adversity at almost every position on the field, creating some very interesting scenarios throughout the spring and likely into the start of the 2013 season.
The defensive line loses Alex Okafor on the edge and will have to replace Kenny Vaccaro at safety, but those efforts are only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to uncertainty at various positions.
The Longhorns appear set and confident at quarterback and running back, with David Ash and a trio of ball-carriers in Johnathan Gray, Malcolm Brown and Joe Bergeron sharing the load. But Texas has some lingering question marks elsewhere.
The linebacker position came with huge question marks last season, and many of those inconsistencies have not be hammered out and have lingered into the 2013 campaign.
Although Jordan Hicks is on the return after missing 10 games in 2012, will he continue where he left off as one of the potential stars at linebacker?
Additionally, Texas will have to rely on the growth of its youth. Peter Jinkens, Kendall Thompson and Steve Edmond played huge minutes last season, and the 'Horns were forced to live with the growing pains. Will those ailments translate into a more productive linebacker unit in 2013?
Moreover, Edmond has not come on at the Mike position as fluidly as many had hoped. And with a strong spring out of Dalton Santos, the developments in the middle are very wobbly.
Punter and Kicker
Coupled together, the punter and kicker positions issue very little confidence on Texas' special teams.
Anthony Fera appears to be the favorite to follow Alex King as the punter, an area where King excelled in his one season in Austin. Fera did handle punting duties while at Penn State, but if his punting numbers mimic the transition he had with his field goals, the Longhorns will need a contingency plan.
As for the place-kicker, Nick Jordan figures to get the nod with Fera shipping to the other side.
The sophomore did not exactly impress during his freshman season, but perhaps a year of struggles and seasoning has done him more harm than good.
Apart from Mike Davis and Jaxon Shipley and the occasional burst out of Daje Johnson, wide receiver is very thin with experience.
With Cayleb Jones and Kendall Sanders likely facing some sort of suspension, their developments have been cut well short after both surfaced to become legitimate third options behind Davis and Shipley.
Now, the receivers are essentially weak by default because of the lack of consistent playmakers.
If one or two of Bryant Jackson, John Harris, Miles Onyegbule and Marcus Johnson can emerge with some confidence and consistency, then maybe the Longhorns will have something brewing.
There are just too many question marks behind the top two.
It is no news that the tight end position at Texas has been lacking in production for years now, but this season could finally be the year that M.J. McFarland breaks out.
Sounds familiar, no? That is because many have been waiting for McFarland to make some serious noise ever since he got to campus.
Only Geoff Swaim and Greg Daniels share the position, and neither have generated the kind of attention that McFarland has been able to conjure up this spring.
After redshirting his freshman season, McFarland caught just eight passes for 125 yards in 12 appearances. He did score a touchdown, but to say he is a prime candidate for a breakout campaign is quite ambitious.
Kenny Vaccaro made the back end of the secondary much more potent with his presence, but Texas will likely see a drop in production from the position unless an Adrian Phillips or a Mykkele Thompson really emerge as a prime-time performer.
Phillips struggled with missed tackles all last season, although he improved late in the year. Thompson was one of several young players to play significant minutes, and his progression has issued some confidence in the defensive backfield.
But the difference in talent between Vaccaro and the rest is visible, and it is a wide margin.
Quandre Diggs could slide back to help out from time to time, but Texas will have to see some notable developments out of Phillips and Thompson.