Texas Football: 4 Players with the Most to Gain in Spring Practices

Taylor Gaspar@Taylor_GasparFeatured ColumnistFebruary 24, 2014

Nov 28, 2013; Austin, TX, USA; Texas Longhorns quarterback Tyrone Swoopes (18) runs the ball against Texas Tech Red Raiders defensive back Tre' Porter (5)during the second half at Darrell K Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium. Texas beat Texas Tech 41-16. Mandatory Credit: Brendan Maloney-USA TODAY Sports
Brendan Maloney-USA TODAY Sports

The Texas Longhorns will be able to see what Charlie Strong and his new staff can do during the upcoming spring practices. Strong has inherited a team that has faced a lot of adversity combined with a significant amount of losses over the past few years.

But the Longhorns have a clean slate with Strong and his new staff at the helm. Here are four players with the most to gain during Strong's first spring as the Longhorns head coach.


Quarterback Tyrone Swoopes

The biggest story to watch in the Longhorns' spring practice involves the quarterback position. Will David Ash regain the spotlight after suffering a season-long head injury? Will Tyrone Swoopes pass Ash in the quarterback battle? Or will incoming freshman Jerrod Heard make an immediate impact once he arrives in Austin? The answer to those questions are unknown but could be solved during spring practice.

Swoopes showed progress throughout the second half of the 2013 season, but he did not overwhelm Texas fans with his talent. He completed 38.5 percent of his passes and rushed for 79 yards in six games in his first season. Considering the true freshman did not receive significant playing time in 2013, he will likely receive a pass for his mediocre stats.

Spring practice will provide Swoopes an opportunity to either take over the Longhorns' starting role, or secure the No. 2 quarterback spot before incoming freshman Heard arrives on campus.


Wide receiver/running back Daje Johnson

AUSTIN, TX - AUGUST 31: Daje Johnson #4 of the Texas Longhorns breaks free for a 24 yard touchdown run against the New Mexico State Aggies on August 31, 2013 at Darrell K Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium in Austin, Texas. (Photo by Cooper Neill/Getty Images)
Cooper Neill/Getty Images

Wide receiver/running back/return man Daje Johnson is arguably one of the most talented athletes on the Longhorns roster but has struggled to stay healthy and out of trouble during his time at Texas.

Johnson was suspended for his first game as a Longhorn in 2012 after he violated unspecified team rules, suffered an ankle injury against BYU in the second game of the 2013 season and was sidelined for the Ole Miss and Kansas State games. He was also suspended for the Thanksgiving game versus Texas Tech after he violated unspecified team rules and was ruled academically ineligible for the Valero Alamo Bowl against Oregon in 2013.

According to Chip Brown of Orangebloods.com, Johnson is one of 10 players who have been told to either step it up or move on with his career at a different university.

"Strong and the staff want Daje Johnson to buy in and be the playmaker they know he can be," Brown wrote. "But no one's getting an exception to the demands of Strong's program." 

Johnson's 764 all-purpose yards in 2013 proved he can be a difference-maker on the field, but his two suspensions also proved he may not be a reliable option. Spring practice will be the first test to see if he can buy into Strong's game plan and stay out of trouble.


Offensive lineman Kennedy Estelle

In addition to Johnson, offensive lineman Kennedy Estelle has also been put on notice to step up his game, according to the Orangebloods.com report.

Estelle saw action in 12 games during the 2013 season and had eight starts at right tackle to replace an injured Josh Cochran. But the second-year tackle was ruled academically ineligible for the Alamo Bowl.

The 6'7" tackle proved he could take over on the offensive line and needs to continue to show that, considering the Longhorns lose four starters in Donald Hawkins, Trey Hopkins, Mason Walters and Cochran.


Defensive end Shiro Davis

Texas' defensive line took a big hit with Jackson Jeffcoat graduating and entering the NFL draft. The 2013 Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year's absence frees up an open position for a Texas defensive end.

Michael Thomas/Associated Press

The Longhorns currently have Cedric Reed to lessen the drop off in talent with Jeffcoat leaving Texas, but who will be opposite of Reed is still up in the air.

Shiro Davis served as a reserve defensive end in the 2012 and 2013 seasons. He has a two-year combined total of 18 tackles, five tackles for loss, one sack and three quarterback pressures in 20 games.

But the 6'3", 250-pound junior has not had the chance to make an impact as a starting defensive end because he has played behind Jeffcoat, Reed and Alex Okafor during his two seasons at Texas.

Spring practice will be the time to see if Davis can prove to be a starting defensive end or if he will continue his career as a reserve for the Longhorns.


Unless otherwise noted, all information was obtained firsthand.

Taylor Gaspar is Bleacher Report's lead writer covering the Texas Longhorns. Follow Taylor on Twitter: @Taylor_Gaspar