Texas Football: Report Card Grades for Every New Texas Starter

Zach SheltonFeatured ColumnistSeptember 1, 2014

Texas Football: Report Card Grades for Every New Texas Starter

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    John Harris was a bright spot among Texas' struggling new starters.
    John Harris was a bright spot among Texas' struggling new starters.USA TODAY Sports

    There was a lot to like in the Texas Longhorns' 38-7 romp over North Texas. The defense was impenetrable, both Johnathan Gray and Malcolm Brown looked spry and new starter John Harris had a career night at wideout.

    In a 31-point win with so many positives, the hope is the rest of the new starters can catch up with Harris before too long.

    The Horns entered the night with seven new first-teamers, including three up front on the offensive line. This group struggled as much as anyone, allowing several hits on David Ash and serving up spotty run blocking for most of the night.

    Harris gets the highest marks after his dominant night, while the majority of the group must still figure out how to turn their significant talent into on-field success.

WR Marcus Johnson: D

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    Junior Marcus Johnson was surprisingly quiet in his first game as a full-time starter.
    Junior Marcus Johnson was surprisingly quiet in his first game as a full-time starter.Cooper Neill/Getty Images

    The season opener was a forgetful one for junior Marcus Johnson, who will have much better days in 2014.

    A breakout candidate, Johnson recorded only one catch for six yards to kick off his first season as a regular starter. Making matters worse, the deep threat was pulled in favor of the bigger John Harris in two-receiver sets.

    We'll have to see how this plays out during a more competitive game, but that usage would limit Johnson's week-to-week consistency. The Horns' protection issues will force Shawn Watson to put more bodies on the line of scrimmage, so the third receiver could be limited to strict passing-down work.

    Despite the slow night, Johnson is still absolutely loaded with potential. Anyone doubting that needs to read what Watson said about him at the end of camp.

    Marcus knows all of our positions. He's such a brilliant football mind. He gets football easy. He has an explosive speed that you can't coach and he's got the hands to go along with it. He's an easy guy for me. I gravitate to him and I want to target to him all over the place. He's had an outstanding camp. He hasn't missed a beat and we've asked him to know everything. We always try to cross-train one of our guys to know all the positions because we're a conceptually based offense. We plug in a lot and he's been able to do it. Not only does he have a great skillset, but he's got a brilliant football mind.

    You can trust that this was just a bad night for a good football player.

WR John Harris: A-

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    Harris' 225-pound frame was too much for the North Texas secondary.
    Harris' 225-pound frame was too much for the North Texas secondary.Cooper Neill/Getty Images

    An early case of the dropsies prevents John Harris from getting a perfect score for his otherwise stellar first career start.

    "John Harris has been our most steady performer and biggest performer of our whole entire training camp," Shawn Watson said to close the offseason. Harris has had big offseasons before, but the senior proved that he is for real with a seven-catch, 110-yard night against North Texas.

    Starting at the X receiver spot, Harris was just bigger and stronger than anybody the Mean Green could throw at him. He was brushing off tacklers seemingly every time he had the ball and was consistently open all over the field.

    Harris is one of Texas' biggest receivers at 6'3" and 225 pounds, so the role is there. As Shawn Watson put it after the game: "He's a big receiver and uses his body well. He's perfect for the role we're playing him at. So I was really happy with everything he's done. He's done very well for us."

    Look for Harris to stay heavily involved, especially in the red zone, where Texas will need his big frame.

OT Marcus Hutchins: D

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    Will Desmond Harrison (pictured) be able to stop the bleeding at tackle?
    Will Desmond Harrison (pictured) be able to stop the bleeding at tackle?Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

    The Longhorns need much more out of their offensive line for them to be competitive this season, and tackle will be a problem area until something gives with Marcus Hutchins.

    The entire offensive line struggled to open holes and protect David Ash, the latter of which has a lot to do with Hutchins. He was beaten often, and he looks like he's still getting acclimated since switching back from defensive tackle.

    Hutchins is an athletic guy, so he will get better. The problem is Texas can't really afford to wait on him, and the hope is that the suspended Desmond Harrison will be ready to replace him as early as next week.

OG Sedrick Flowers: D-

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    Sedrick Flowers (right) struggled in a contest in which he should have dominated.
    Sedrick Flowers (right) struggled in a contest in which he should have dominated.Eric Gay/Associated Press

    Can't outright fail somebody in such a comfortable win, but Sedrick Flowers simply did not look like himself on Saturday.

    What goes for Hutchins goes double for Flowers, except you expect much better from a guy who was a starter in all but name last season. SB Nation's Kris Boyd summed up his night pretty succinctly:

    Sedrick Flowers is getting owned up front.

    @Kris_Hughes, 30 Aug 2014

    Not only was this against North Texas, but it was against North Texas and its entirely new defensive line (per PhilSteele.com). Flowers is supposed to be a rock up front for the Horns, especially if center Dom Espinosa's busted ankle is a long-term problem.

OG Kent Perkins: D

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    Despite poor play from Perkins and others, Johnathan Gray (pictured) was still able to find running room with ease.
    Despite poor play from Perkins and others, Johnathan Gray (pictured) was still able to find running room with ease.Eric Gay/Associated Press

    An offseason star, Kent Perkins was another part of the group that struggled to contain an inexperienced defensive line. He is another player that will have to be better.

    Perkins just wasn't moving guys around like you would expect from a player of his impressive stature. In fact, we saw a good amount of second-teamer Taylor Doyle in this contest (per the Austin American-Statesman's Brian Davis), so perhaps Perkins is still catching up with the scheme.

    For him and Flowers, this was a wholly disappointing night for two talented guys. On the bright side, both Malcolm Brown and Johnathan Gray averaged over five yards per carry in spite of the inconsistent performance up front.

DE Shiro Davis: B

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    Davis looked like he has his starting job nailed down thanks to solid overall play.
    Davis looked like he has his starting job nailed down thanks to solid overall play.Michael Thomas/Associated Press

    Holding a team under 100 yards of offense, as the Longhorns did on Saturday, takes a concerted effort in which everyone plays sound football. Shiro Davis did just that in his first-ever start while also showing off his impressive athleticism.

    Davis recorded a lone tackle in the second quarter, stuffing Antoinne Jimmerson just beyond the line of scrimmage. However, his true highlight was his coverage of tight end Marcus Smith well downfield on the same play that Dylan Haines recorded the game's first interception.

    Per Brian Davis, the junior got the nod over Caleb Bluiett because he is the more effective run-stuffer. The Mean Green averaged less than two yards per carry, and Bluiett was rarely subbed in to spell Davis.

    Let's see how he does against tougher competition, but a 250-pound defensive end who can drop into coverage will be tough to pull off the field.

S Jason Hall: Inc.

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    Haines (pictured) made a much larger impact on Saturday's win than the listed starter Hall.
    Haines (pictured) made a much larger impact on Saturday's win than the listed starter Hall.Courtesy of 247Sports.com

    Though he was listed as the starter on this week's depth chart, freshman safety Jason Hall saw little action on Saturday and could be heading to the bench for a bit.

    Dylan Haines and Adrian Colbert each recorded interceptions playing next to senior Mykkele Thompson, while Hall failed to even record a tackle. Haines was the guy Hall narrowly beat out for the starting gig, and the track star Colbert is one of the team's best athletes.

    A true freshman, it's surprising that Hall came on so quick during the fall. In this conference, making him an every-week starter would be placing a lot of responsibility on such a young safety.

    Hall will come on eventually, and defensive coordinator Vance Bedford seems to have faith in Haines until that day comes:

    He earned the right to be out there.  He had an outstanding spring and outstanding camp.  He went out there and did some things that I'm excited about.  He tackled well and that's No. 1.  The interception is great, I'm all for that; but when he had an opportunity to make plays and tackling, he did a good job of that.

    As long as Haines continues to play well and Colbert finds ways to contribute, waiting on Hall should be the least of this team's problems.