Texas Football: 5 Longhorns Primed for Breakout Seasons in 2014

Zach Shelton@@zachisagingerFeatured ColumnistJuly 28, 2014

Texas Football: 5 Longhorns Primed for Breakout Seasons in 2014

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    Kendall Sanders' arrest leaves Texas with an open starting spot at receiver.
    Kendall Sanders' arrest leaves Texas with an open starting spot at receiver.USA TODAY Sports

    It's been a tumultuous week for the Texas Longhorns, who now need breakout seasons from players like Edwin Freeman more than ever.

    Following the arrests and indefinite suspensions of receivers Kendall Sanders and Montrel Meander, Charlie Strong has dismissed running back Joe Bergeron along with safeties Josh Turner and Chevoski Collins for violating team rules.

    The suspensions and dismissals leave Texas with holes at receiver and safety, but provide ample opportunity for other promising talents to prove their worth. 

    So long as they survive Monday's meetings, these five players are due for a breakout season based on talent and opportunity.

Honorable Mention: OL Darius James

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    Though he could still earn a starting gig, Darius James will begin fall camp as one of Texas' reserve linemen. Even then, the redshirt freshman will still have an impactful season for the 'Horns.

    A 5-star recruit coming out of high school, the 6'5" James arrived on campus as one of the team's most gifted players. He's a natural guard with a mauler's mentality, but also has the athleticism to swing out to tackle, which he did in the spring game.

    Because of that talent, most would have expected James to run away with a starting job this spring, but Taylor Doyle's development has been an unexpected roadblock.

    Still, The Oklahoman's Gina Mizell notes that Strong has taken notice of James' progress, and offensive line coach Joe Wickline has an affinity for guys that play numerous positions up front.

    That alone is going to make James the go-to guy when one of the starters needs a breather, but nobody should be surprised if he takes somebody's job in fall camp.

DE Shiro Davis

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    With Jackson Jeffcoat on to the NFL, Davis has a great chance to prove he can be a star pass-rusher.
    With Jackson Jeffcoat on to the NFL, Davis has a great chance to prove he can be a star pass-rusher.Michael Thomas/Associated Press

    Defensive end Cedric Reed is Texas' most disruptive defensive player, and opponents are going to do whatever they can to limit his impact on the game.

    That will leave the door wide open for Shiro Davis to have a huge season opposite the preseason All-Big 12 end.

    Davis has had a quiet career thus far for the 'Horns, recording just one sack and 18 tackles in 20 games. This is well below what you would expect from the consensus 4-star recruit, but the opportunity has never been there behind Reed, Jackson Jeffcoat and Alex Okafor.

    Now Davis has a chance to lock up a starting job for the next two seasons, with Reed's presence all but guaranteeing a steady dose of one-on-one matchups.

    He should be able to capitalize, or else it will be Caleb Bluiett who enjoys the breakout campaign.

WR Jacorey Warrick

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    Sophomore wideout Jacorey Warrick was already due for an expanded role in 2014, and the recent roster attrition has made him key to the team's success this season.

    Warrick turned heads this summer when video was released of him abusing his defensive teammates in one-on-one drills. The quickness stands out above all, but the 5'10" receiver also tests in the 4.4 range in the 40-yard dash, making him a true home run threat.

    Even before Sanders was indefinitely suspended for sexual assault, those traits made Warrick a lock for a higher snap count. Strong told reporters at Big 12 media days that he wants a player with the burst to turn short passes into big gains, which is Warrick's specialty out of the slot.

    Not only should that ability lead to a starting role for Warrick in Sanders' stead, but Monday's meetings have the potential to hand a bulk of the return duties to him as well.

    Citing a now-edited report by HornsDigest.com's Chip Brown, College Spun's Matt Lombardi has suggested that offensive weapon Daje Johnson is one of the players who is facing dismissal in the near future. If that proves true, Warrick will be on the short list of players to pick up Johnson's work on punts and kickoffs.

    Based on talent and opportunity, he is simply a no-brainer to take off this season.

S Edwin Freeman

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    Similarly to Warrick, safety Edwin Freeman's skill set makes him too valuable for the Longhorns to leave on the bench. And with Turner now facing a dismissal from the team, Freeman's looking at a starting role as a true freshman.

    Out of Texas' 23 commits for the 2014 class, none has a better case for early playing time than Freeman.

    At 6'1" and 215 pounds, he's big enough to make plays in the box and has the range to remain effective in coverage situations. Texas needs a player like that next to the 183-pound Mykkele Thompson, who will never be mistaken for an enforcer over the middle.

    Whether or not Turner's dismissal is upheld, Freeman will have a place on the field. The outcome of Turner's meeting with Strong will simply determine if the physical safety will begin his Longhorn career with the first team.

WR Marcus Johnson

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    Johnson emerged as one of Texas' top deep threats in 2013.
    Johnson emerged as one of Texas' top deep threats in 2013.USA TODAY Sports

    Following his midseason eruption in 2013, junior wideout Marcus Johnson is ready to become one of Texas' most reliable offensive weapons.

    Johnson flew under the radar entering last season, but became a fan favorite after scoring 59- and 65-yard touchdowns against Oklahoma and TCU. His production leveled off late in the season, but he still finished with a team-best 15.9 yards per reception.

    With Mike Davis trying to make an NFL roster, Johnson is set to start as one of the team's only experienced outside receivers. 

    The hands, speed and route-running ability are all there for him, so it's a matter of continuing to put it all together.

    Considering that the junior did the bulk of his damage with Case McCoy at quarterback, the combination of Johnson's speed and David Ash's deep ball should allow the receiver to thrive.

DT Malcom Brown

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    Brown has some of best pure ability of anyone on Texas' roster.
    Brown has some of best pure ability of anyone on Texas' roster.USA TODAY Sports

    Opponents, coaches and ESPN Insider Mel Kiper Jr. (subscription required) have taken notice of Malcom Brown's unique talents at the defensive tackle position.

    This season, he will turn those talents into his first All-Big 12 nod.

    Everything is there for Brown but the recognition. He finished 2013 ranked third on the team in tackles for loss, pass breakups and quarterback pressures, while finishing seventh in total tackles with 68. He does a little bit of everything with scary explosiveness for someone that weighs 320 pounds.

    Just as important as what Brown pumps into the stat sheet is his ability to eat space and free up his teammates.

    His ability to occupy multiple interior blockers allows guys like Reed to get after the quarterback, while his own disruptiveness in the backfield will punish teams that don't pay him enough respect.

    Brown's all-around talent makes him a legitimate draft prospect as a junior, and we're all about to see why in 2014.

     

    Unless otherwise noted, all stats and information courtesy of TexasSports.com. Recruiting data courtesy of 247Sports.com.