Texas Football: 8 Longhorns That Need to Bounce Back in 2014
Just as some players come out of nowhere to become stars, others can just as randomly take the opposite path. That was the case for several Longhorns that are looking to bounce back in 2014.
For one reason or the other, players are bound to suffer a letdown at some point in their career. It could be the result of injuries, coaching, surrounding players or some combination of the three, but it happens nonetheless.
And after setting high standards in 2013, Longhorns like Jaxon Shipley and Daje Johnson have to put their disappointments from last season behind them.
Unless otherwise noted, all stats and information are courtesy of TexasSports.com.
QB David Ash
Though most fans would prefer to see sophomore Tyrone Swoopes under center, David Ash remains one of Texas' most important players. His ability to recover from a tough 2013 season is a major component of the team's future success.
Ash has been inconsistent at times, but there is no doubt the Longhorns sorely missed his ability to stretch the field. Over his three starts, Ash averaged 8.7 yards per attempt whereas backup Case McCoy could muster just 3.4 through the final three games of the season. The Longhorns had no firepower through the air, and Ash's arm would have made a major difference.
Now that he has gotten nearly six months to recover from his concussion symptoms, the hope is that Ash can return to his old self. He can't become a timid quarterback and needs to get comfortable taking hits and letting the big plays develop in the pocket.
A big part of that will be trusting his new coaches after the old ones ran him into the ground and cost him what should have been an All-Big 12 season.
WR Jaxon Shipley
Whether it was Case McCoy's woeful passing or simply a down season, Jaxon Shipley had trouble last year. Now, he has to step up as the Longhorns' most experienced receiver.
After setting career highs in receptions, yardage and touchdowns as a sophomore, Shipley settled down in 2013. The Longhorns' best route runner had the worst statistical season of his career, finding the end zone just once and catching four balls for 19 yards over his last three games.
With Mike Davis gone to the NFL, the rising senior has to perform like a No. 1 receiver on a weekly basis. Kendall Sanders and Marcus Johnson are both still adjusting to being every-down players, making Shipley's ability to move the chains crucial to the Longhorns' success.
Thanks to an assist from improved quarterback play, expect Shipley to settle right back into his normal, play-making ways.
OW Daje Johnson
Under Charlie Strong's regime, this season is the definition of "make or break" for enigmatic speedster Daje Johnson.
At times in 2013, Johnson looked every bit the player he has the potential to be. First, he needed only nine touches to rack up 129 yards and two touchdowns against New Mexico State. Then, after recovering from an ankle injury, he took a punt 85 yards to the house in the 36-20 upset over Oklahoma.
But the all-purpose weapon also took a few steps back as a sophomore. Suspended for both the Texas Tech and Oregon games, Johnson's immaturity kept him from seeing the field when his team could have used his game-breaking abilities.
Made famous by his list of expectations, this is not the type of behavior that Strong is about to tolerate. While he is the head coach, the members of the Longhorn program will go his way or they will get out of the way—including those that are as talented as Johnson.
If he can commit to being a great player, Johnson can quickly become an unstoppable weapon in Texas' offense. This season will show whether or not he has that in him.
LB Jordan Hicks
Over the last two seasons, Jordan Hicks has gone from elite out-of-state coup to a potential star whose career has been decimated by injuries.
Despite sustaining season-ending injuries each of the last two years, there is no doubt the former 5-star recruit is immensely talented. He had been the team's leading tackler at the time of both injuries, needing less than three quarters to pile up three tackles for loss before going down against Kansas State.
Now, Hicks' ability to both get over the injury bug and make an impact are in serious doubt. The 'Horns return all of their starting linebackers from last season, and Hicks is already expected to miss spring ball.
Though he could still receive another medical redshirt, the odds are sadly not in Hicks' favor.
LB Peter Jinkens
Coming off a strong freshman campaign, there were high hopes for Peter Jinkens (subscription required) in 2013. Now that he has gone through his sophomore slump, the linebacker should be ready to step up as a junior.
For stretches of the 2012 season, Jinkens was Texas' best linebacker. He brings fire and sideline-to-sideline speed to the position, deriving a lot of potential from his ability to be a three-down defender in the Big 12.
But whereas Dalton Santos and Steve Edmond thrived under Greg Robinson, Jinkens struggled to find his way in the new defense. After totaling just 20 tackles through nine games, he finally picked up the pace with 21 over the last two games of the season.
Jinkens' enthusiasm and athleticism make him a great fit for Charlie Strong's philosophy. As long as he can pick up the system during the offseason and add some weight to his 218-pound frame, he will pick up where he left off at the end of the year.
The following players have yet to turn in noteworthy seasons for the Longhorns, but offer a lot of potential. Each will be looking to fulfill those expectations this season.
CB Sheroid Evans: A senior, Evans brings length and ridiculous speed to the cornerback spot. He looked ready to breakout after a strong spring, only to tear an ACL five games into 2013. He will miss spring ball, so we could be waiting on something that never happens.
DT Hassan Ridgeway: Another offseason stud loaded with upside, Ridgeway never took advantage of the opportunity afforded by Chris Whaley's injury. Unlike Evans, he's healthy and has every chance to work his way into a starting role.
OT Desmond Harrison: Harrison faced eligibility issues that derailed his season before it started. At 6'8" and 310 pounds, he has the latent ability to be a great offensive tackle. Whether he ever grows into one is anybody's guess.