While everyone has penciled in true freshmen to start from Day 1 across the starting 11 - and yep, a few will - a more realistic approach suggests that they’ll experience growing pains facing athletes as good or better than they are, our coaches have no interest in anointing anyone, and they will be forced to compete with a group of older players who are on their own developmental journeys. A novel system and new coaches means fresh eyes on old talent. Who will try to be the apple of their eyes when the pads come on?
Kirk Johnson - RB
The conventional wisdom is that Johnson will be fighting for the #3 HB job with true freshman Kyle Porter, who showed up in Austin looking like an action figure. He might. Are we sure he’s not fighting for a #2 role? The actual requirements of our offense may have a more reliable opinion than the internet masses. Johnson has elite quickness, a choppy quick cut running style and before his season-ending injury against Texas Tech, he looking strong, amassing 3 carries for 32 yards.
This offense can use his skill set. Given the additional importance of the RB calling out some blocking assignments in pass protection, you have another X factor that will determine playing time. It’s a crowded Longhorn backfield, but a healthy KJ can get play.
Tristan Nickelson - RT
The staff giving Nickelson a depth chart nod stole some of the thunder from this entry, but the late-blooming giant is remaking his body and dominated offseason S&C contest displays. That’s encouraging, but given that most of the best players on the mid-1990s Dallas Cowboys OL would have suffered a stroke during Moorer’s warm up, let’s not get too carried away for what it means when the whistle blows. Nickelson doesn’t have to start to be helpful. Giving us a legit 3rd OT and allowing a freshman to ease in over time is a boon.
Lorenzo Joe - WR
7 catches and 109 yards over two years doesn’t warrant much attention and poor Joe was omitted from last Fall’s preseason depth chart entirely. He kept working, earned playing time and eventually proved himself valuable late in the season as a blocker. He’s frequently discounted as a potential contributor given that he appears to be a tweener for the inside/outside receiver roles, but Joe’s best attributes: a favorable size/quickness ratio, reliable hands and blocking, make him a useful, if not optimal, option in an offense that wants to run the ball and minimize freshman gaffes. Sterlin Gilbert needs to win games, not fulfill Platonic ideals. That means players like Joe, Leonard and Oliver have a new lease on life if they’ll do the dirty work.
Armanti Foreman - WR
John Burt is our best WR and Collin Johnson is the freshman fever superstar, but the third man in the conversation, Foreman, has a real chance of doubling two years of prior output if he’ll come correct. Hard to believe he’s a junior now. If Joe might help provide a steady hand, Foreman provides a boom/bust component. He has 21 catches, 370 yards and 4 TDs over two years and has been far less of a factor than his assumed talent suggests. If it doesn’t happen in an offense that’s friendly to Foreman’s abilities after the catch, then it’s not going to happen at all. Get some of former Baylor WR Antwan Goodley’s tape and watch it on a loop, Armanti.
Tyrone Swoopes - QB
Boo-prise! If you didn’t anticipate this, then you suffer from Tyrone’s issues on a deep post route. If you believe a true freshman QB will pilot us seamlessly through 52 quarters of football, you possess a level of optimism that supposes you’ll catch a fish when you fall in a puddle. We’ll need Tyrone. We’ll need the Tyroneasaurus package. Last year, Swoopes contributed 988 yards of total offense (rushing/passing) and accounted for 16 touchdowns. We’re not shelving that in the name of offensive purity. And the odds are we will need Tyrone Swoopes to quarterback Texas to a victory in a game. Or games. With the hopes of our entire season resting on that effort.
No pressure or anything....
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