The 2013 college football season is nearly here, and summer workouts are in full swing.
The Longhorns are battling the mid-summer Texas heat, but there are a handful of players who will be battling their peers as they look to avoid any slip-ups that could sink them down the depth chart.
A number of 'Horns struggled throughout the 2012 season, as others simply underperformed when it mattered the most.
The short leash can either give a player the urgency to improve or the anxiety that may lead to a downward spiral. And for the following players, it could mean the difference between standing out or falling behind.
No Texas player has a bigger magnifying glass hovering over him than sophomore wide receiver Cayleb Jones, whose recent snafus with University policy and the law have jeopardized his development in the Texas program.
Jones is suspended for the remainder of the summer in addition to the team's season-opener against New Mexico State, effectively opening some doors for others.
Off-the-field issues aside, Jones turned in a quite promising spring camp, but quickly nullified his progress with a series of poor decisions.
If the seemingly unstable pass-catcher does make a positive rebound, you can be sure that he will be out of strikes.
Whichever player winds up securing the starting job, you know that there won't be much slack.
Not a lot has changed at the position from a year ago, daresay even two years ago. Limited bodies with even more limited skill sets have confined the Texas offense enough to the point where the Longhorns are exploring new options.
Redshirt sophomore M.J. McFarland–slightly set back by a minor knee injury–still appears favored to see the most action, but the doors are pretty wide open. McFarland hauled in just eight passes in 2012.
Junior Greg Daniels has shown few upsides as a pass-catcher, and junior college transfer Geoff Swaim is a virtual unknown at this point. Furthermore, juniors John Harris and Miles Onyegbule (recruited as wide receivers) could get looks at tight end as well, likely in passing scenarios only.
In truth, the lone certainty is that the situation is very much a work in-progress.
The situation at linebacker seems to be forever fragile with a certain proclivity for inconsistency.
Junior Steve Edmond dropped 21 pounds between the Alamo Bowl win and the onset of spring practice, but that has not exactly pinned him down as a proven contributor. There is still plenty of development to be had for the former Daingerfield standout.
Too many times last season did Edmond fail to provide the physical force up the middle. Poor positioning and poor disengagement opened far too many holes, only exacerbating Texas' struggles against the run.
Edmond still appears to be the front-runner to start at middle linebacker, but Dalton Santos has closed the gap enough for him to be in the conversation if Edmond cannot establish himself early.
Jordan Hicks' presence aside, Edmond was regarded as an eventual force at linebacker, but we have yet to see those projections come to life. Is he a true middle linebacker or is Edmond destined for a position switch? Either way, the leash on the the 6'3" Edmond is growing shorter.
Senior defensive tackle Chris Whaley is a very interesting piece to the Texas defense this season.
On the one hand, Whaley's experience and seniority are positives that will sustain his place in the rotation up front. He has shown glimpses of his disruptive potential, but consistency and power are lacking.
On the other hand, guys like Desmond Jackson and Malcom Brown are knocking (loudly) on the doors behind Whaley, and if he fails to up his game early on, we could see Jackson and Brown offer up plenty more productivity.
In reality, Whaley will play as long as he is contributing consistently. Anything less than that and Texas' younger DTs will have the edge.
The Texas secondary has consistently been a strength relative to the throng of recent struggles defensively. Losing safety Kenny Vaccaro hardly helps, but the fluctuation absolutely comes with college football.
With Vaccaro gone, senior Adrian Phillips becomes the most experienced safety that the 'Horns have on their roster. That can be seen as good or bad depending on which Phillips shows up (2011 or 2012).
It is no secret that Phillips' 2011 season was far better than his 2012 efforts, but he should be given every opportunity to solidify himself in the defensive backfield this season.
Texas has favorable numbers in its depth chart, which means if the 2012 Phillips does show up early on, we could see a little movement in Duane Akina's secondary.