We handled the defense already. Let's wade into the O.
QB David Ash
RB Malcolm Brown/Johnathan Gray
The starter at QB has been clear since Day 1. Jerrod Heard and Tyrone Swoopes are battling for #2 and the word is that Heard has looked like a freshman and Swoopes continues to struggle with timing and anticipation. Swoopes should win the back-up job coming out of Fall camp, but starting either for any length of time would be less than desirable.
RB is perilously thin and the two healthy options available have had three of their combined five years hampered by injuries. Not good. Catalon is still out and late joining D'onta Foreman isn't up to game speed and may not be particularly great even when he is. Brown and Gray are more or less co-starters and both will have a shot at 1,000 yard rushing seasons if they can avoid injury. Walk-ons Eddie Aboussie and Gaston Davis will see 4th quarter snaps if Texas can stake a big lead.
TE Geoff Swaim
Swaim will be the one constant at the TE position with MJ McFarland, Blake Whiteley and converted LB Andrew Beck all contending for situational roles in 2 and 3 TE sets. Greg Daniels is out for the next few weeks and it's not clear he'll have much of a role beyond third TE when he returns. Alex De La Torre is the starting FB, but his snaps will come mainly from being a better option than the #2 TE.
WR Marcus Johnson
That's the only bet-your-life opening day starter at WR. With Jaxon Shipley currently limited to some drills, that leaves an unproven mix to choose from. The rest of the WR group is a swirl of bodies and options; and none have asserted themselves sufficiently to be marked in ink instead of pencil. They include:
John Harris, Lorenzo Joe, Jake Oliver, Garrett Gray, Dorian Leonard
Jacorey Warrick, Ty Templin (walk-on), Armanti Foreman, Roderick Bernard
Daje Johnson (must serve suspension first)
Instead of worrying about positions in a mix that will include 2-4 receivers on the field at any one time, it's useful to think of it as smalls and bigs. With Daje as his own multi-tool self.
Every mix of options has pluses and minuses depending on aptitude, experience and body type. The coaches are basically looking for six guys to play. The smalls are competing primarily at slot (or wherever the freshmen can find simple coverage reads or catch a screen pass), Daje Johnson is a multi-tool who can line up anywhere and the big body guys are all more or less fighting for the same available role as chain movers, possession receivers, blocking surfaces and red zone threats.
Armanti Foreman and Lorenzo Joe have thus far most distinguished themselves in the freshman class, Jacorey Warrick has flashed ability and occasionally unreliable hands and John Harris has shown his best play to date. Ty Templin is worth keeping an eye on inside - he's reliable. Reliable matters.
Your takeaway is that a lot of guys will play, our WR corps without a healthy Shipley to help out Marcus Johnson is fairly unremarkable and we'll be forced to burn some shirts we don't want to burn if some veterans don't step up.
Projecting a Wickline O-line is a fantasy as its components are constantly being futzed with in practice and in game action, but we have a fairly good guess at the first 5 up. Who backs up where and our best options at which position then gets fairly hazy. The starting five is pretty athletic, not particularly seasoned and has potential to grow over the course of the year. Espinosa will be a key component in getting the right line calls to cohorts that will find themselves in early season game panic.
Wickline doesn't follow traditional depth charts. He's looking for his best 8. Within that 8, each player is assessed based on their aptitude at all positions. So starting OG Perkins is still our #3 OT (replacing a suspended Harrison) until such time as Marcus Hutchins, Darius James or some other convert wrests it from him. Similarly, if Darius James asserts himself in his general play and we have an injury inside, it's quite possible that he will battle Taylor Doyle as our #3 OG who seems to have the edge over Curtis Riser. There are no clear lines of succession. It's competition within and across position groups. No silos.
It may help you to think of each player as having a rating at the three OL positions: OT, OG, C. When there is an injury, the next highest rating at that spot fills in - the depth chart is a rough guideline at best. If that fill-in creates another opening (say, in the case of Perkins sliding out to RT) the next highest rating fills in there. And so on. Make sense?
If you're expecting a deftly executed offense on opening day with a new system, reshuffled OL, likely freshmen starters at WR and no Shipley, crap in one hand and wish in the other and see which one fills up first. As health improves, suspensions clear and reps are gained, the offense should get sharp.
Want to understand the offense we'll be running and the offensive coordinator who will be running it?