Texas Football: Previewing the 4 Biggest Position Battles in Fall Practice
The Texas Longhorns are just days away from the start of their fall camp, and it will set the stage for a wild ride this season.
The 2012 season became mired by injuries and inexperience, but the outlook for 2013 is quite the opposite.
The 'Horns return some big pieces off of injury, namely defensive end Jackson Jeffcoat and linebacker Jordan Hicks. But the biggest change will be the experience factor with Texas welcoming 19 returning starters to the field this year.
So while the numbers look pretty firm atop the depth chart, there are a handful of positions that will feature plenty of rotation possibilities and players looking to emerge where there may be some weakness.
Here are the four biggest position battles heading into Texas' fall camp.
Texas' offensive line is an expected strength this season, and the arrival of one junior college player has created some interesting scenarios up front.
Desmond Harrison, a 6'8", 300-pound mauler, recently enrolled at Texas and joins an offensive line that has plenty of working pieces all over the place. But therein lies the problem.
In 2012, Josh Cochran and Donald Hawkins—a junior college transfer in his first year in Austin—manned the edges, and their work was solid.
With Cochran having missed most of the spring and all of summer nursing a fractured leg, the feeling at offensive tackle has to be somewhat cautious.
Are these Harrison and Hawkins' jobs to lose? Will Cochran be healthy enough to hold down his spot? Does Harrison, who projects at left tackle, force Hawkins to the right side?
The answers are clear, as Harrison, Hawkins and Cochran figure to be the three headliners at the position, but the questions still need matching.
A season ago, the middle linebacker spot was Steve Edmond's to lose.
The outlook was that Edmond had great run-stuffing, physical potential, but the knock on him was experience. And when Jordan Hicks missed 10 games with a hip injury, Edmond simply could not up his level of play.
By midseason, many questioned if Edmond had a future at the position or if he was destined for a position move down to the line of scrimmage, which allowed Dalton Santos to enter the picture.
Fast-forward to today, and not much has changed.
Edmond and Santos have made respective stride—with the expectation that Edmond will retain his starting spot—but the emergence of Peter Jinkens outside could put the Mike position in a bit of a forgettable situation.
The battle between Edmond and Santos will be a point of interest, as the entire position was one of the biggest weaknesses that Texas fielded last year. Although Texas is expected to play a fair amount in the nickel with a two-linebacker look, likely Hicks and Jinkens, Edmond and Santos would do well to put in a good few weeks before the season begins.
Texas has struggled to field consistent, difference-making defensive tackles in recent history, but that may change in 2013 with the Longhorns looking to rotate a quartet of solid players.
The rotation seems the best way to mix and match Texas' quality at the position, and between Ashton Dorsey, Chris Whaley, Desmond Jackson and Malcolm Brown, the Longhorns have the bodies and experience to hope for improvement.
But who will get the starts and what combinations will yield the best results?
Dorsey and Whaley have the seniority, but Jackson and Brown may have the edge in straight-up talent.
All four were jockeying for position throughout the 2012 season, and that battle has poured into the 2013 season with plenty at stake.
It is not very often the backup quarterback position commands some attention, but Texas has consistently faced quarterback problems in recent years, and the No. 2 spot is a critical one this season.
Case McCoy is the incumbent No. 2 going into his senior season, but nipping at his heels is true freshman Tyrone Swoopes.
Swoopes claimed the No. 3 spot during the spring, effectively bumping Connor Brewer, who recently announced his decision to transfer to Arizona, and Jalen Overstreet out of contention.
The obvious predicament comes around if starting quarterback David Ash suffers an injury, which will offer up one of two scenarios.
A short-term fix could have McCoy come in and mop up the mess with a somewhat proven track record of winning games in big moments. But his shortcomings could put Texas too far behind the eight-ball, if it comes to that.
The long-term solution figures to put Swoopes in action as the dual-threat difference-maker that has become a dominant ideology at the position.
Ash will command the attention, but you can be sure there will be many eyes on his backup.