Texas Football: Predicting the Depth Chart Heading into Fall Camp
David Ash has been named Texas' starting quarterback heading into fall, which solidifies at least one part of the depth chart for the time being.
Without the game's most important position dominating the position battles, Charlie Strong can focus on the ones at receiver, along the offensive line and at linebacker.
All three of those groups have talent that needs to be evaluated in camp, and here's how it all should look once it's all been sorted out.
Starter: David Ash
Backups: Jerrod Heard, Tyrone Swoopes
As first reported by Rivals.com's Anwar Richardson, David Ash will enter fall camp as Texas' starter at QB. Figuring out his backup will be less of a clear-cut choice.
As long as Ash is healthy, he should be the starter. Tyrone Swoopes flashed in the spring game but looked unsteady enough to provide Ash with some solid job security. Until we see more from the defensive end with a cannon, there's no reason to think he is ready to lead this team.
However, it's tough not to get excited about Jerrod Heard. After spending most of the offseason with quarterback whisperer George Whitfield, Strong is giving Heard an "opportunity to compete," according to Chip Brown of Horns Digest, which is bad news for Swoopes. The two-time state champ has impressed just about everyone who's gotten a look at him, including Whitfield and the coaches at the Elite 11.
Both players are great athletes, but Ash's brittle nature means one will have to grow up fast. Heard would be the betting man's choice to answer the bell, even as a freshman.
Starters: Malcolm Brown or Johnathan Gray
Backups: Joe Bergeron, Donald Catalon, Daje Johnson, Jalen Overstreet, Alex De La Torre (FB)
Now that Gray has been medically cleared, according to CBSSports.com' Jeremy Fowler, the Longhorns can officially lean on the size-speed, one-two punch that he forms with Malcolm Brown. With Gray bringing the shiftiness and Brown the power, these two combined for over 1,600 rushing yards last season and are ready to wear out the opposition.
Bergeron's return from suspension gives Texas a prolific short-yardage back who is capable of handling a full workload. Along with his 25 touchdowns, the bruising senior has five 100-yard games for his career.
This full complement of experienced backs lessens Texas' need to lean on talented freshman Donald Catalon, while Daje Johnson should still see carries as a hybrid runner/receiver. Alex De La Torre will be the fullback when called upon.
Bergeron has also been dismissed from the team, per Orangebloods.com. That makes Foreman a serious candidate for short-yardage duty as a freshman.
Orangebloods.com reports that Jalen Overstreet has been dismissed from the team for a violation of team rules. This should only impact the 'Horns if the position sustains multiple injuries, in which case D'Onta Foreman could become relevant.
Starters: Jaxon Shipley, Marcus Johnson, Kendall Sanders
Backups: Jacorey Warrick, Daje Johnson, Armanti Foreman, Lorenzo Joe, Montrel Meander, Jake Oliver, John Harris
As you can see above, this group is led by Jaxon Shipley and Marcus Johnson, then there's everyone else.
Shipley is better than his 589-yard 2013 campaign would indicate, and the only thing that can stop him from cracking an All-Big 12 team is instability at quarterback. Named to the Biletnikoff Award watch list, Texas' top wideout has hands like glue and runs the crispest route on the team.
Shipley will primarily work out of the slot, while Marcus Johnson mans the top outside position. The junior led the 'Horns with 15.9 yards per reception in 2013 thanks to breakaway speed and above-average awareness. If he continues to improve, look out.
From here, it's a jumbled mess. Kendall Sanders cracked 50 yards just twice last year in seven starts, and the enigmatic Daje Johnson has never been able to string consecutive games together.
As Strong told reporters on Tuesday, "[We] need someone that can catch a five-yard hitch and turn it into just a big play where you go yards after a catch with YAC yardage." That leaves plenty of room for Jacorey Warrick and the incoming freshmen to find a role. Warrick has some of the slickest moves on the team and should be no worse than the fourth option.
Still, pay attention to Lorenzo Joe and Armanti Foreman, because each has the talent to push Sanders.
According to a report by the Austin-American Statesman's Brian Davis, Sanders and Meander have been arrested for second degree sexual assault.
One of Strong's core expectations for the team, listed here by Barking Carnival's Scipio Tex, includes respect for women, so this could be the last we see of either player on his team. That immediately moves Warrick, Joe and Foreman up the depth chart.
Starter: Geoff Swaim
Backups: Greg Daniels, Blake Whiteley, M.J. McFarland
Barring some significant improvement from someone in this group, Texas' tight end position is due for another season serving as a glorified lineman.
Geoff Swaim will resume being the top option here, if you can even call him that coming off his 14-yard season.
Starters: LT Kent Perkins, OG Sedrick Flowers, C Dom Espinosa, RG Taylor Doyle, RT Kennedy Estelle
Backups: OL Darius James, OG Rami Hammad, OT Desmond Harrison, OT Camrhon Hughes, OG Alex Anderson, C Jake Raulerson
Sedrick Flowers and Dom Espinosa are cemented in their positions, as is Kennedy Estelle so long as he can stay out of trouble. But left tackle and right guard will see some competition that should end with at least one of Texas' best young talents beating out an upperclassman.
Before he went down with a knee injury this spring, Kent Perkins was the odds-on favorite to become Texas' starting left tackle. The 6'5", 310-pounder has been cleared to return to practice, per The Associated Press (via KXAN.com), and Quandre Diggs told reporters on Tuesday that the massive sophomore recently hit 36 reps on the 225-pound bench press. No way that is staying on the bench.
Junior Taylor Doyle is manning the right guard spot that will see a long position battle. Redshirt freshmen Darius James and Rami Hammad both have the talent to claim it, though the coaches could elect to use James as a multipurpose sub because of his ability to play tackle.
Starters: DE Cedric Reed, DT Malcom Brown, DT Desmond Jackson, DE Shiro Davis
Backups: DE Caleb Bluiett, DT Hassan Ridgeway, DE Bryce Cottrell, DT Poona Ford, DE Derick Roberson, DT Alex Norman, DT Chris Nelson
Cedric Reed, Malcom Brown and Desmond Jackson, pending a possible NCAA investigation, are good to go up front, while Shiro Davis will have his hands full trying to fend off Caleb Bluiett.
Bluiett was the defensive star of the spring game, recording eight tackles and two sacks against the first-teamers. Davis had a high profile coming out of high school, but Strong is not about to play that game.
Now that Reed has been cleared of any wrongdoing, as he told reporters at Big 12 media days, Texas is just waiting to see what happens with Jackson. It would be a surprise to see him get more than a game or two, but one of those games could be BYU. That means it's time for Hassan Ridgeway to finally step up, or freshman Poona Ford is going to blow right past him.
Starters: OLB Tim Cole, MLB Steve Edmond, OLB Peter Jinkens
Backups: OLB Jordan Hicks, MLB Dalton Santos, OLB Kendall Thompson, OLB Demarco Cobbs, OLB Tevin Jackson, OLB Naashon Hughes, MLB Andrew Beck
This is by far Texas' deepest position, and it's anyone's guess as to how the two-deep will shake out. Out of this group, only freshmen Naashon Hughes and Andrew Beck have yet to record a start.
Barring any severe consequences stemming from the aforementioned agent dinners, Steve Edmond is the only safe bet to start every week. Jordan Hicks has been cleared to play, per the earlier AP report, and is one of the best in the conference when he's healthy, while Demarco Cobbs is hot on the comeback trail after sitting out last season.
This will be a fun group to monitor as we build toward the season.
Thompson will be leaving the team due to a history of repeated concussions according to InsideTexas' Justin Wells. This good news because Longhorns will still have plenty of depth at the position, and the senior linebacker will no longer be putting his future at risk on the field.
Starters: CB Quandre Diggs, S Josh Turner, S Mykkele Thompson, CB Duke Thomas
Backups: CB Bryson Echols, S Edwin Freeman, CB Antwuan Davis, S Adrian Colbert, S Chevoski Collins, CB Sheroid Evans, S Erik Huhn, CB Jermaine Roberts
No unit has more potential for disaster than Texas' depleted secondary in the Big 12. But with a subtle move, Strong may have offered some insight as to how to he plans to plug the holes.
Other than preseason All-Big 12 corner Quandre Diggs, the 'Horns don't have much to hang their hats on in the secondary. Duke Thomas has been inconsistent, and the Josh Turner-Mykkele Thompson safety duo lacks the size to come down to make plays in the box.
That's why Edwin Freeman, a tweener on the recruiting trail, is so important. The 6'1", 215-pound freshman is listed at safety for the Longhorns, which perpetuates the idea that Strong will utilize the 3-3-5 defense he has employed throughout his career. In such a defense, Freeman projects as the hybrid defender discussed here by Smart Football's Chris B. Brown.
At the very least, Freeman brings some size to a position group that desperately needs it. If he can get a grip on Strong's defense, Texas will be much better than anticipated on the back end.
Turner has also been dismissed from the team, but is hopeful for a return to the team per Orangebloods' Jason Suchomel. As these things stand now, Freeman would be Texas' starting strong safety alongside Thompson.
Per the earlier Orangebloods.com report, Collins has also been dismissed from the team along with the running back Overstreet. That will mean a role for redshirt freshman walk-on Dylan Haines, who recorded an interception in the spring game.
Note: Unless otherwise noted, all stats and player information courtesy of TexasSports.com, with recruiting data accrued from 247Sports. In light of the recent dismissals, suspensions and departures from the team, this page will continue to be updated in order to reflect the active roster.