That's the post-Spring conventional wisdom. It's true we're nowhere close to MNC caliber depth, but that's not my Spring game takeaway. Is our depth really so bad? It's better than 2010 or 2011. Perhaps this staff has raised the bar on what depth actually means.
I define depth as productive players beyond your starters; including your starters.
I started using the term "false depth" a few years back to describe what I was saw accumulating on our OL, at RB, WR and other positions when preview magazines would inevitably champion Longhorn depth, citing that Tre Newton, Vondrell McGee, injured Fozzy, and Cody Johnson had all seen starting snaps at halfback and this must be good since they're now all "experienced." And hey, 8 tight ends - what depth!
The program and its promoters were confusing depth with a list of carbon-based lifeforms and miscast talent.
Real depth comes in three varieties: experienced players who aren't quite talented enough, young players who aren't quite experienced enough, and good players who can't beat out great players. We like the latter best. And all of these quality measures are relative. Is that back-up a 3 out of 10 or a 6 out of 10? And are they backing up another 3 or are they backing up a 9? Inevitably, we have seniors that rise to claim the Russell Gaskamp Award, but as predictable as it is that it will happen every year, we never know who it will be.
So let's talk actual depth. Where we have it, where we might see it develop, where it lacks, and whether it matters in some areas as much as we're led to believe.
We're good to go in three spots.
RB. Doesn't require much explanation. This is the best unit since Ricky, Shon, and Priest all shared Mackovic's pinot. Or Ricky shared the depth chart with anyone. We have two high level starters, a badass incoming freshman or two, and Jeremy Hills is feeling Gaskampy. And Heath Hohmann is a latter day Doc Blanchard, should we choose to go 6th string on that ass.
DT. We may lack a star, but we have four defensive tackles that are college starter quality, with none of the four yet maxed out in terms of physical ability or skill development. And each has a special skill, like Uma Thurman's Fox Force Five. I usually don't cite incoming freshman contribution for a position this close to the ball, but Brown from Brenham is the closest thing I've seen to Warren Sapp in a high school senior. The last one was junior film of Taylor Bible. Hmm. NEVER MIND.
DB. We were down two starters in the Spring game and looked just fine. Want to try that with the DB group last year? Or 2008? Let's both pause and laugh uproariously, while holding chardonnays and wearing linen. Mykkele Thompson and Josh Turner are good, Duke Thomas has Akina humming Pointer Sisters songs, and Sheroid Evans has big-time athletic potential. If reliable Leroy Scott is the 5th guy off of your bench, you're doing just fine. We have six DBs I feel good about and the next three are at least game. We're the 1% here. Trust me.
OT. No lipstick for this pig at the moment, but the idea of a third tackle developing isn't completely insane. Cochran and Hawkins will be better in September than they are now.
QB. I'm optimistic about Ash. Back-up is a problem.
TE. Water, water everywhere, but not a drop to drink. Lots of TEs, none can satiate our thirst for 42 catches and 7 touchdowns. In a perverse way, injuries are mitigated as everyone ranges from a 2.5 to a 4.5 out of 10, but overall quality lacks. We'll still be better than in 2010 or 2011.
WR. Of our deficiencies, this one has the best chance to be addressed by Mike Davis stepping up his game to join Shipley as a solid starter. Marquise Goodwin showed real progress over the latter half of the season and he's a legit #3 WR. Desean Hales has an aura of Gaskampyness about him, but he may just be messing with us. John Harris, Bryant Jackson, even an incoming freshman may be able to help us, but likely as role players. DJ Monroe - though gifted - is more of a big play threat than a 50 catch reliable.
Not As Big A Deal As People Make It Out To Be
Interior OL. Searels cross trains for a reason. Good OTs are unique animals and no reshuffle can solve starters going down, but we have options at guard and center.
LB. Overdone, IMO. The easiest work-around on our defense. Diaz has three he feels good about, our DBs are a team strength, and we'll have the best starting DL in the league. We'll spend entire stretches of the season in nickel and dime. I'd love to have six good linebackers. When have we ever had that? We're happy when we have two.
DE. Jeffcoat's loss forced Cedric and Reggie's development and having four OK to very good players at two spots is actually solid. Similarly, defining edge pressure in a Diaz defense by the DEs alone isn't very useful. Look at how we lined up Jordan Hicks against Cal and in the Spring game. Think about how we can use Chris Whaley and Brandon Moore in odd fronts.
Our lack of depth is true and terrifying in some areas and merely definitional in others. We've changed our definition of depth from the last few years - particularly on offense - from "guy who has been around here for three years and knows our routines" to "will help us beat OU." That's not a change in depth - that's a positive change in standards.
The rest of our depth issues either hinge on offseason improvement or are hard-wired into our current reality based on previous recruiting/development failures. Like 90% of the rest of college football. Some of our depth issues are overblown because they view certain positions in isolation beyond Diaz or Harsin's bigger scheme options and creativity.
If we have major injuries at QB and OT, we're dead. But I don't know many college football teams that can shrug off bad luck there. So the question isn't whether Texas has ideal depth. The question is whether we're markedly different from anyone we'll play next year.