Texas Football: 5 Players Who Have Surprised Us in 2013
Surprises can go both ways, and for the Texas Longhorns, they have experienced either side of that coin through four weeks of the 2013 season: a rash of injuries, glimpses of good, balanced attack, awful defensive efforts.
On the personnel front, Texas has also seen the good and bad. Some have been marginally good or bad, but others have gotten themselves farther away on the spectrum.
With a 2-2 mark on the season and 1-0 in the Big 12, the start was fresh and positive after a somewhat unconvincing win against Kansas State. But with plenty of good players across the board, the ball will have to start rolling on both sides if Texas is to realize its goals.
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Many talked about the departure of defensive end Alex Okafor and how it would impact a front four that was lacking in depth with playmakers.
Cedric Reed saw extended time last season with Jackson Jeffcoat suffering a season-ending injury midway through the season. Moving into 2013, Reed was slated to start opposite Jeffcoat, and through four games, Reed has slowly emerged as one of the team's best physical threats up front.
Obviously, there has not been too much to praise on the defensive side of things for the Longhorns, but Reed has been pleasantly active through four weeks.
Jeffcoat is starting to assert himself, so if Reed can continue to plow forward, good things will come for Greg Robinson's defense.
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With Mike Davis sidelined against Kansas State, it opened up the door for a guy like Marcus Johnson to strut his stuff.
Johnson put in a strong summer before suffering an injury during fall camp. Now seemingly healthy, Johnson embraced the opportunity in front of him against the Wildcats, posted a team-high five catches for 70 yards.
The sophomore showed great hands and good field awareness for a youngster, and as long as Davis is sidelined, Texas has to feel a little more comfortable knowing that Johnson's capable hands are in the offense.
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Much like Johnson, Kendall Sanders really established himself as a possible weapon for the Texas offense during the offseason.
After missing the season opener against New Mexico State, Sanders has averaged just over three catchers per game. And with a career-high 80 yards to lead Texas in receiving against Kansas State, he, too, is slowly emerging as a good receiver option all over the field.
With Davis the deep threat and Shipley the underneath, Sanders has flashed the ability to do both.
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On the sour side of the surprises, right tackle Josh Cochran has had a pretty forgettable first four games, which included an injury during the Ole Miss game.
Texas' offensive line was impressive at the point of attack against Kansas State, but the praise really stops there after huge drop-offs in consistency against BYU and Ole Miss.
As part of an offensive line that was heralded for its returning experience and supposed depth, Cochran has been one of the least impressive pieces so far. And when a player has played as much as Cochran has from the start of his career, one would expect much better production from a third-year player.
Health was a concern coming into the season after Cochran suffered a broken leg in the spring, so maybe those effects have lingered.
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Perhaps one of the more soothing performers through four games has been Anthony Fera, who has undertaken both punting and kicking duties this season.
Following the sure-footed Alex King, the expectations for Fera were mixed.
But through four weeks, Fera has punted 20 balls for an average of 43.6 yards with a long of 68.
In field goals, Fera is 4-of-5 with a long of 47 yards, a much better showing than his injury-riddled 2012 season. His perfect 17-of-17 in PATs is calming, but until he begins nailing the distant field goals with consistency, the optimism is still cautious.