Four days and counting. Three days and a wake-up.
Spring Practice in Austin, Texas is right around the corner.
I can smell the locker room now—all kidding aside, I can close my eyes and recall the smell of my high school locker room after Spring Practice, or two-a-days in the summer heat.
It’s darn near tangible and is one of the lasting memories and joys of my youth.
Last week we covered what appears to be the depth chart for the Longhorns heading into Spring Practice. If you will recall, I am not too concerned about the talent level subsiding on offense in the coming year.
Now, however, let’s take a gander at what Will Muschamp will be working with next season. With the departure of former stars Lamarr Houston, Sergio Kindle, Roddrick Muckelroy, and Earl Thomas, the ‘Horns are entering Spring Practice a little lighter than last season.
However, allow me some leniency, I beg you. For, though most of this year’s signing class will not be on campus until June, there are some positions that I believe are locked up.
Heading into Spring Practice, to say the Longhorns are young at defensive tackle would be an understatement, with only one letterman returning at this position.
That is not to say, however, that UT will not be deep at DT—just inexperienced.
Confusing? Likely so, but when opening day rolls around in September, expect this group to be formidable.
Led by rising junior No. 91 Kheeston Randall, Texas is going to be a force again this season. As a sophomore in 2009, the 6’5”, 288-pound Randall appeared in 13 games, posted 21 tackles, two sacks, three tackles for loss (TFL), nine pressures, and a forced fumble and was a key down the stretch for the Longhorns.
Starting opposite Randall will be rising senior Ben Alexander (No. 92). Hailing from Andersen, South Carolina, the 6’0”, 305-pound Alexander appeared in 13 games for UT, including four starts, and posted career highs for tackles (8) and pressures (3) in the Big 12 Championship game against No. 21 Nebraska.
After those two, well, here’s where it gets a little dicey. 6’4”, 280-pound Calvin Howell (No. 96) did not letter as a true freshman last season but did log four tackles, one sack, one TFL, and one pressure on the season.
However, come Summer Camp, you will see incoming freshmen Ashton Dorsey (Tyler, TX/John Tyler) and Taylor Bible (Denton, TX/Guyer) make serious bids for playing and starting time. These are the No. 14 and 12 ranked DTs in the nation, respectively, coming out of high school, and they are the future stars of this interior defensive line.
In a word, wow. That sums up the talent Texas has returning at the DE position. Led by 6'3", 206-pound rising senior Sam Acho, pictured here, UT is as deep as anyone in the country at DE.
In 2009, Acho was a semifinalist for the Lott Trophy, presented annually to the college football defensive IMPACT player of the year, and was an Honorable Mention All-Big 12 selection by the Associated Press and the league’s coaches.
Lining up opposite Acho will be the 2009 newcomer of the year, 6’4”, 245-pound Alex Okafor (No. 80), who appeared in all 14 games for UT last season, recording 21 tackles, two TFL, a forced fumble, and six pressures as a true freshman.
Behind Acho and Okafor there is not only depth, but also experience. Texas returns Eddie Jones (No. 32) and Russell Carter (No. 97). Jones has appeared in 37 games in his three-year career at Texas, and Carter appeared in nine games as a sophomore in 2009.
Come Summer Camp, however, don’t be surprised if incoming freshman and No. 1 nationally ranked high school DE Jackson Jeffcoat (Plano, TX/Plano West) finds his way into the lineup quickly.
This is potentially the best depth at DE in the nation, folks. There is youth, experience, size, strength, and speed that, in my opinion, will be rivaled only by Florida.
No kidding, folks. Be excited. Be very excited.
Although Texas must replace Sergio Kindle and Roddrick Muckelroy, if you thought the 2009 Longhorns linebackers were good, just wait for 2010.
The returning group of linebackers, combined with the incoming class of freshman headhunters, make this arguably the deepest linebacking corps in the country.
First, there is rising junior Emmanuel Acho (No. 18), who played in all 14 games in 2009 and recorded 48 tackles (36 solo), 10 TFL, two sacks, three forced fumbles, two fumble recoveries, an INT, a PBU, and three pressures.
Then there is Keenan Robinson (No. 1), who also started all 14 games and, as a sophomore, posted 67 tackles, a sack, four TFL, a pressure, and four PBU, and Dustan Earnest (No. 42), who will be the elder statesmen of the group. As a junior in 2009, Earnest notched 25 tackles (16 solo), a sack, and a pressure.
Throw in the mix the No. 2-ranked incoming class of linebackers in the country, and Texas has hands down the deepest set of linebackers in the nation.
This list includes Jordan Hicks, Tevin Jackson, and Aaron Benson, respectively, the first, third and 11th-ranked linebackers in the country coming out of high school.
Not too much to discuss here, my friends. Talented, deep, and hungry for another conference title, these guys are good...real good.
Due to his departure for the NFL, gone from this unit that led the nation in INTs (24) in 2009 is Earl Thomas. However, coming back from that same unit are CBs Aaron Williams, who will be a junior, and senior Curtis Brown.
Also returning at the safety positions are Blake Gideon and Chykie (pronounced Chuckie) Brown, who will be a junior and a senior, respectively, two of the harder hitters in the college game, and both of whom had multiple interceptions last season.
Add to them returning letter winners Nolan Brewster, Kenny Vaccarro, and Ben Wells, as well as a cattle car full of talented incoming freshmen, and this unit appears poised to once again be one of the best defensive backfields in the country.
Although Texas will miss WR/Kick Returner Jordan Shipley, the ‘Horns have several players who are fully capable, and proven, as kick/punt returners.
However, based solely on speed and elusiveness, I believe the starting nod in this role will go to rising sophomore Marquise Goodwin (see Texas A&M 2009).
However, as stated, Texas has a plethora of talent in this department, to include fellow sophomores D.J. Monroe and DeSean Hales, as well as seniors Chykie and Curtis Brown.
Justin Tucker returns for his junior season as the place kicker and backup punter to rising senior John Gold in the kicking department, However, the Longhorns also signed incoming freshman K William Russ, who has a leg strong enough to kick it out of the end zone on every kickoff.
On carefully looking at this part of the UT game, I would not be surprised to find Texas at or near the top of all special teams categories next season.
Okay. So, there you have the 2010 Pre-Spring Practice Depth Chart for your University of Texas Longhorns. We covered the offense last week, and we covered the defensive and special teams units this week.
If you go through this lineup, as I have, I am fairly confident you will find that, not only is Texas capable of once again beating OU and repeating as Big 12 Champions, it's probable.
Life will be as it should, and the world will be on its proper axis.