Texas Football: Meet Texas' New Starters for 2014
The Longhorns have to replace seven departed starters from the 2013 roster. Past the midway point of fall camp, the leaders to fill those spots are pretty apparent.
Charlie Strong must replace two starters along the offensive line, leading receiver Mike Davis, safety Adrian Phillips and All-American defensive end Jackson Jeffcoat. Additionally, he must address the spots he opened up when he dismissed receiver Kendall Sanders and suspended safety Josh Turner.
Strong's work is cut out for him, but he does have some decent experience to pull from. Linemen Kent Perkins and Sedrick Flowers each have a start under their belts along with some steady reserve action. Receiver Marcus Johnson is also a no-brainer after making a few starts as a sophomore.
The rest are entering new territory, playing positions that must produce on a weekly basis.
WR Marcus Johnson
Receiver Marcus Johnson became a fan favorite in 2013 thanks to his explosive playmaking abilities. Now a junior, he's locked in as a starting outside receiver and will be one of the team's top offensive weapons.
Johnson started four games as a sophomore and now will ascend into Mike Davis' outside role on a full-time basis. Already an established big-play threat who averaged 15.9 yards per catch, his goal is to become a more consistent option, especially with Jaxon Shipley nursing a bum hamstring.
So far, it sounds like Johnson is taking the necessary steps. HornSports' Matt Cotcher reported last week that Johnson and quarterback David Ash stayed late to get some extra work in, and Quandre Diggs threw some compliments the junior's way on Saturday.
"Marcus [Johnson] is back. Marcus is the big play guy; we all look for Marcus to have a big year," Diggs told reporters.
Combine that improved work ethic with his breakaway speed, reliable hands and better-than-advertised footwork, and Johnson's a candidate to approach 1,000 yards this season.
OL Kent Perkins
Even after suffering a knee injury in the spring, Kent Perkins has killed it during fall camp and has nailed down a starting job.
Like Johnson, Perkins comes into this season with starting experience, but the full-time role will be a new one for him. His position also seems to have changed, as Perkins runs with the starters as a right guard, to which position coach Joe Wickline says the 330-pound sophomore is better suited.
However, Perkins could still see time at tackle given the uncertain status of Desmond Harrison and rocky history of Kennedy Estelle. He was recruited to play that position and would be a better option than backups Jake Raulerson and Camrhon Hughes.
Charlie Strong called Perkins the strongest guy on the team, and he will be just fine no matter where he ends up.
OG Sedrick Flowers
Sedrick Flowers was a starter in all but name last season. It's just becoming official in 2014.
Flowers served as Texas' sixth man on the front line in 2013, coming in when someone needed a breather and serving as an extra blocker in power sets. The junior guard is second only to center Dom Espinosa in terms of experience and will be one of the leaders up front.
He's cemented into the left guard spot and is one of the safest bets on the team to turn in a strong season.
OT Desmond Harrison
So long as he stays out of trouble, Desmond Harrison will be one of Texas' starting tackles in 2014.
As previously noted, Harrison is indefinitely suspended for a violation of team rules, but he has been running as the first-team right tackle. Defensive end Cedric Reed has been matched up against him at that spot and told reporters on Saturday that he's quite impressed with the big senior.
I think [Harrison] got moved over to right tackle from left tackle and I think that's where his home is. He is pretty good there. He has a quick step and he is fast in his drop. He is very hard to beat. Especially with him being 6-foot-8 with those long arms, and he is able to move. I think at the right tackle position … he is going to shine.
At 6'8" and 313 pounds, a motivated Harrison can do whatever he wants in the trenches. If he can keep up the good work, Texas' offensive line will be much better than expected.
WR Jacorey Warrick
Kendall Sanders' dismissal opens up a spot in the starting three-wide set, and Jacorey Warrick is the slight favorite to claim it so long as he can fend off a freshman.
OrangeBloods.com lists John Harris and Ty Templin as the active starters next to Marcus Johnson, but it's difficult to believe that both have beaten out Warrick. There's just no way that either can abuse defenders like Warrick does in this drill, and his 4.49 speed (per ESPN) makes him one tough cover out of the slot.
However, Warrick has had some issues with drops, according to The Austin-American Statesman's Cedric Golden, so the possible demotion likely has a motivational purpose. That said, freshman Armanti Foreman brings a similar skill set and has been on fire throughout camp.
"[Foreman]'s a player that has a lot of speed and the thing you like about him is he's one of those guys that can take a 5-yard hitch and take it to a 20-yard gain," Strong said during his Tuesday press conference. And as he stated during Big 12 media days, Strong really wants a player in this offense that brings that ability.
To this point, Warrick has earned the opportunity to start, but this is certainly a battle to watch.
DE Shiro Davis
Davis has played sparingly behind the likes of Jackson Jeffcoat, Cedric Reed and Alex Okafor, but the assumption has been that the top-100 recruit (per 247Sports) would run away with the job once the opportunity presented itself. Bluiett has made it difficult, though, racking up eight tackles and two sacks against the ones in the spring game.
The 6'3" junior has rebounded from his forgettable one-tackle day and continues to draw the majority of first-team reps. Defensive line coach Chris Rumph credits this to his prowess against the run, which will be necessary for this spot when teams try to avoid testing Reed on the opposite side.
DE Shiro Davis is running with the 1s on defense. Rumph believes he's a better run stuffer, but Caleb Bluiett is a better pass rusher.
Unless that changes, Davis will stick as the starter while Bluiett sees consistent work on passing downs.
S Dylan Haines
There is a full-blown logjam at safety. Walk-on Dylan Haines continues to draw rave reviews, freshman Jason Hall is better than anticipated and Josh Turner is practicing in full, all of which are setting up a pivotal position battle.
Haines has been working with the first team since camp opened, and there has been no indication that he is slipping. The Austin-American Statesman's Brian Davis reports that Strong is still going out of his way to endorse Haines, but that hasn't stopped him from exploring other options.
Hall, a 3-star recruit according to 247Sports, is also getting his chance at first-team reps to legitimize speculation that he could start as a true freshman. He brings serious aggression to the field, as you can see at the 0:40 mark in this video, and Texas will need it next to the lankier Mykkele Thompson.
Then there's Turner, who started this whole debate by becoming a casualty in The Purge. He's been working with the regular squad and took out some frustration on Ty Templin during last Sunday's practice. He would be the starter had he not clashed with Pat Moorer, also according to Davis.
The expectation is that Turner will sit out a game or two, then return to the lineup. Given his experience, Haines or Hall will have to play extremely well to keep Turner on the bench. But if the season started today, Haines would be the starter.
Unless otherwise noted, all stats and information courtesy of TexasSports.com.