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2013 Fierce-40 Previews: #14-Texas

by DJ Boyer on Aug. 5, 2013

2013 Fierce 40 Previews

 

#14 Texas Longhorns

 

2012 Recap:

9-4 and a hard fought win against Oregon State in the Alamo Bowl seems OK but for Texas that is pedestrian and not where the program wants to be. Texas also lost a pair of home games, something you don’t often see out of the Longhorns.

Coaching:

Is Mack Brown suddenly on the hot seat? Brown has been in Texas for 15 years and has a 150-43 record with a national championship on his resume. A few lackluster years have boosters scratching their heads and wondering aloud if maybe a change is needed.

 

Offense

Quarterbacks/Running Backs:

David Ash will be the starter ahead of Case McCoy again but the inconsistency that has plagued him needs to cease. Ash saw pine in four games last year where he was pulled, which is a trend that needs to stop for Texas. One thing that may help is Texas will be going back to the spread offense with new co-coordinators Major Applewhite and Darrell Wyatt. Ash has spent most of the offseason fine-tuning his mechanics (mainly shortening his delivery and becoming more consistent with his release point). Ash is someone I have listed as an undrafted free agent and we will see how the changes and work he put in this offseason translates on the field.

The new offense should go back to more of a power running game and this should suit the personnel as Texas has a nice stable of running backs starting with sophomore Johnathan Gray. Gray posted over 700 yards in his freshman campaign and he will be joined by Joe Bergeron and Malcolm Brown. Bergeron was used more in short yardage and near the goal line as he finished with 16 rushing touchdowns to only 3 for Gray. Malcolm Brown is a change-of-pace compliment that is the better receiver of the three. None of the running backs jump out at me right now but Gray has the best chance at succeeding.

Best Draft Prospect: David Ash QB UFA 2015.

 

Wide Receivers/Tight Ends:

Texas brings back a couple of very nice targets in Mike Davis and Jaxon Shipley and both have to be very happy about their projective draft status. Davis had over 900 yards and 7 touchdowns while Shipley had over 700 yards and 6 scores. Fellow Texas receiver Marquise Goodwin was far less productive but drafted very early in 2013 due to speed numbers alone. I have Davis listed as a 4th rounder for 2014 and Shipley would be a 5th rounder for 2015. Shipley lines up as the inside receiver and would be primarily a slot receiver at the next level, it worked for his brother Jordan who played the same position and went from Texas to the Cincinnati Bengals a few years ago.

Davis is not the only 4th rounder I have projected in the receiving corps as young sophomore tight end M.J. McFarland is a tight end that many who are associated with the program say remind them of Jermichael Finley. McFarland had 8 catches with 1 coming for a touchdown but it is his ability in open space and the yards after the catch that leaves so many coaches and fans astonished. McFarland could turn out to be the real ace of the receiving corps and as I suggest a “diamond in the rough”. Sophomore Marcus Johnson should emerge on the scene this year and provide some big third down catches for the Longhorns.

Best Draft Prospect: Mike Davis WR 4th Round 2014 and M.J. McFarland TE 4th Round 2016.

 

Offensive Line:

The offensive line does not have the number of prospects we are used to seeing along the line at Texas. The good news for Texas is they are all returning and experienced with 3 starting seniors and 2 starting juniors. Every starter along the line is at least 300 pounds with 312 being the mean average. Donald Hawkins seems to be a better pass protector than run blocker which puts him in the minority at Texas as most seem to be built for the traditional Texas run blocking line. I also want to add tight end M.J. McFarland whom I have already spoken of, for being no slouch blocking also. Dominic Espinosa is the junior center who could see the NFL someday. Espinosa was off the radar until last season and by making the calls along the line, he shows great leadership qualities. Texas led the Big 12 in drawing offside penalties, an attribute that I am sure can be traced to both the lineman and the quarterback for their cadences. Mason Walters and Trey Hopkins are senior guards and Walters could make the preseason all-conference team. Overall this is a very solid unit but there is no wow factor or individual standouts that jump out at me on film. If one is not drafted, the prestige being a Texas lineman won’t hurt your chances of making a squad and will definitely get you invited to camp.

Best Draft Prospect: Donald Hawkins OT 7th Round 2014.

 

Defense

Defensive Line:

Texas moves into 2013 without their best lineman Alex Okafor who was drafted into the NFL. Okafor had 12.5 of the 35 sacks Texas registered and made 18 tackles for loss, both were totals putting him at the top of the conference. Jackson Jeffcoat plays defensive end but I see him as a linebacker at the next level. Jeffcoat is coming off a torn pectoral muscle and he certainly has the bloodlines with his father being Jim Jeffcoat, a lineman who terrorized opposing quarterbacks for many years. Cedric Reed had 46 tackles with 8 coming for a loss last season and I see him as a 5th round prospect for 2015. Reed is one of the better lineman in the Big 12 when it comes to run blitzing and minimizing damage from the running attack. Reggie Wilson isn’t listed as a starter but he certainly has enough experience. Wilson registered 31 tackles last season and will play some end when Jeffcoat lines up as a linebacker, which he does about a quarter of the snaps where he is on the field. Texas has always been aggressive going after the quarterback but last season they may have been too aggressive. Many teams simply ran the ball directly at a Texas blitz and it resulted in Texas being ranked 88th against the run in the nation (I can’t remember their ranking ever so low). Look for some packages where the linebackers are turned loose and the lineman stay at home and protect their respective lanes in order to minimize run damage. Chris Whaley and Ashton Dorsey are back as seniors along the interior of the line.

Best Draft Prospect: Cedric Reed DE 5th Round 2015.

                       

Linebackers:

It looks like it will be hit or miss for the linebackers in 2013 as Jordan Hicks is returning from a hip injury he sustained early in the season. Hicks has the ability to get into the backfield and be a disruptive force like Okafor but with an inconsistent line that is not as deep as in the past, teams could double Hicks more often than not and dare other players to step up and get into the backfield. Peter Jinkens and Dalton Santos will be the other starters along the outside and in the middle. Both are sophomores and first year starters, so Hicks does not have a wealth of experience surrounding him. Backups Steve Edmond and Kendall Thompson both have been starters for at least half a season so there is a considerable amount of depth at linebacker. Another concern has to be tackling, as only Iowa State registered more missed tackles in the Big 12 than Texas last season. Getting to quarterbacks and ball carriers is one thing, but being able to wrap them up and bring them down on a consistent basis is another.

Best Draft Prospect: Jackson Jeffcoat 2nd Round 2014.

 

Secondary:

Despite the highest Texas pick from a year ago coming from the secondary (Kenny Vaccaro), this is the area of the defense where Texas should feel the most comfortable. Texas has a few players that look like there are NFL bound and it starts with sophomore Quandre Diggs. Diggs had 59 tackles and 4 interceptions in 2012 while also serving as the punt return man for the team, something that will only enhance his stock. Diggs is listed as a 3rd round prospect and I have safety Mykkele Thompson listed as a 4th rounder in the same 2015 draft class. Thompson is taking over for Vaccaro but he still saw the field enough last year to make 59 tackles and block a pair of kicks on special teams. The draft talent is not just limited to them, as fellow cornerback, senior Carrington Byndom, is also a prospect I have projected to be taken during the 6th round in 2014. Byndom also blocked a pair of kicks, made 55 stops and intercepted 3 passes. If Texas wants some familiarity they can turn to Vaccaro at safety…brother Kevin who looks like he will be a huge part of the team in years to come. This group finished 3rd in the Big 12 against the pass a season ago and that is where I project them to finish this season. This should help Texas improve upon their national ranking of 67 from a season ago. I cannot remember Texas being ranked so low defensively as evidenced by the 5,244 yards from scrimmage the defense gave up, more than any other unit in Longhorn lure.

Best Draft Prospect: Quandre Diggs CB 3rd Round 2015.

 

Special Teams:

Alex King is going to be a hard punter to replace as he averaged over 45 yards a kick in 2012. It looks like Anthony Fera is the frontrunner to handle the duties while Nick Rose seems to have the inside track as the placekicker. These are hardly areas of strength for Texas but the return game is a different story. Quandre Diggs handles the punts and Duke Thomas will return kickoffs. I expect both players to have at least 1 return go the distance this season.

Best Draft Prospect: Quandre Diggs CB/PR  3rd Round 2015.

 

Schedule:

An early game in September on the road with BYU will be a lot tougher than many expect with the suffocating defense that the Cougars return. The October 26th road game with TCU is important because the Longhorns don’t want the appearance that they are no longer the dominant collegiate team in the state and they want to avenge a 20-13 loss from a season ago. There is always the annual Red River game where Texas saw 63 points hung on them by the Sooners in an embarrassing loss. Texas has plenty to prove this season but getting 9 wins again is easily attainable as the defense should be better.

 

Draft Outlook:

Jackson Jeffcoat has a shot at getting drafted near the end of the 1st round but it looks like Texas will have the majority of players from this and next year's class taken in between rounds 3-6.

 

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