2014 Texas Preview: What You Need To Know
Texas DE Cedric Reed
Preview 2014 - What You Need To Know About Texas (Getty Images)
What You Need To Know
What You Need To Know About The Offense:
After averaging a pedestrian 409 yards and 29 points per game, the offense has to be more dangerous, especially after scoring a total of 17 points in the final two games of the year against Baylor and Oregon. It’s going to be an interesting situation with assistant head coach Shawn Watson and offensive coordinator Joe Wickline both involved in the playcalling process, and they have some work to do. The line should be fine in time – Wickline is a terrific O line coach – but it might take the entire fall camp to come up with the right starting five. The running back situation is a strength with Malcolm Brown back and Johnathan Gray returning to form a fantastic rotation – but they need the line to do its job. The receiving corps has potential, but gamebreakers have to emerge and the passing game has to work more down the field. Can David Ash get and stay healthy enough to hold down the starting quarterback job? Will super-recruit Jerrod Heard get a chance right away, or will Tyrone Swoopes improve his passing enough to be in the mix if Ash can’t go after suffering a broken foot?
What You Need To Know About The Defense: Getting into the backfield and to the quarterback won’t be a problem, but now the defense needs to tackle better and has to come up with more big plays. Can new defensive coordinator Vance Bedford make the Texas defense Louisville-tough? His Cardinal run defense allowed just 1,049 yards and ten touchdowns with no 200-yard rushing days – Texas gave up 1,041 yards and ten touchdowns in the first four games of last season. The pieces are there to improve right away as long as everyone in the linebacking corps is healthy. Jordan Hicks and Steve Edmond are coming off of Achilles heel injuries, and if they’re right, the front seven could be terrific. DE Cedric Reed and DT Malcom Brown will soon be playing in the NFL, and Quandre Diggs is one of the nation’s best defensive backs. There’s talent, speed and athleticism across the board – as always – but it’s all about toughness. Bedford is setting the tone early.
Players You Need To Know
1. RB Malcolm Brown, Sr.
Health was a big problem early on in his career, but last year he showed just how good he could be as he did what he could to carry the entire team over the second half of the year. Not used too much early on, with just 23 carries for 63 yards in the first five games, and then he got the ball over and over and over again with 100 yards or more in five of the last eight games, even when things were going downhill. Baylor and Oregon might have ripped up the Longhorns, but Brown ran for 131 yards and 130, respectively, to finish with 904 yards and nine scores. Now he’s back for one final year looking to come up with something special, at 6-0 and 228 pounds and a little more quickness. Can he stay in one piece? He had problems with foot and ankle injuries, but if he puts it all together, he has the size, wiggle and NFL talent and tools to put up huge numbers.
2. DE Cedric Reed, Sr.
After serving as a strong fill-in for Jackson Jeffcoat two years ago – making 46 tackles with 2.5 sacks – he turned into even more of an all-around end last year finishing third on the team with 79 tackles with ten sacks and 19 tackles for loss. While he’s not a speed rusher, he’s great at working his way into the backfield on a regular basis with good fight and toughness. Extremely active and a great athlete for a 6-6, 258-pounder with a great burst off the ball. After showing last year he could put up big numbers against the run, to go along with all he did behind the line, he’s poised and ready for more all-star recognition with All-America potential.
3. CB Quandre Diggs, Sr.
One of the team’s fastest players with next-level warp wheels and 5-10, 200-pound size, he can work either as a cover-corner or as a whale of a nickel defender. The veteran could’ve left early for the NFL, but he’s back after making 58 tackles with 2.5 sacks and generating a team-leading ten broken up passes. Great when the ball is in the air, his makeup speed is enough to track down just about anything, and unlike other Longhorn defensive backs over the last few seasons, he can hit and isn’t afraid to get physical.
4. LB Jordan Hicks, Sr.
He’s way, way, way overdue for some good luck. One of the best linebackers in college football when he’s healthy, he made 41 tackles and three tackles for loss in his first four games before getting lost for the year with a torn Achilles tendon. In 2012, he made 23 tackles in three games before suffering a season-ending hip injury. At 6-2 and 244 pounds he has great size and is a tackling machine, but again, he has to be able to stay in one piece. The Ohio native was snagged away from Ohio State and was a special recruit in a haul of special recruits three years ago with next-level athleticism and tremendous ability. He has the potential to be special as long as he's 100%.
5. QB David Ash, Jr.
If he’s healthy, he’s the team’s best quarterback option with flashes of brilliance over the course of his career with the ability to crank out 300-yard passing games without much of a problem, but there were also enough puzzling disasters that opened the door for Case McCoy to step in. Most of all, Ash’s biggest issue is just staying on the field, suffering from post-concussion issues and being set back this offseason with a broken foot. However, at 6-3 and 227 pounds, he has the size, the mobility, the experience and the accuracy to put up huge numbers and be the exact leader the offense needs. Hardly the problem during UT’s down times over the last few seasons, all the skills are there to be special after completing 61% of his passes for 760 yards and seven scores with two picks and rushing for 152 yards and a touchdown in his three games of work.
6. RB Jonathan Gray, Jr.
The main man for the ground game early on, he ran for 141 yards and two scores against Kansas State and 123 yards against Oklahoma on the way to a 780-yard, four score season, but he suffered a torn Achilles heel and missed the last four games of the season. The 5-11, 210-pound veteran stepped in as a true freshman full of hype after being named the 2011 Gatorade National Football Player of the Year after setting a record with 205 career rushing touchdowns highlighted by a 70-score season, and now he has to come back and be just as quick as both a runner and a receiver. It might take a little while to get back to form, but he’s expected to be close to 100% this season.
7. DT Malcom Brown, Jr.
The big body in the middle, the 6-4, 305-pounder made 68 tackles with two sacks and 12 tackles for loss. While he needed to be stronger and better against the run, he came up with more than his share of plays as the anchor for the spotty run D. Quick off the snap, he’s able to get behind the line from time to time, even though his main job is to hold up against the run. One of the nation’s top defensive tackle recruits a few years ago, it’s salary drive time with the right frame and the right body to work in a variety of ways on an NFL line.
8. LB Steve Edmond, Sr.
The versatile veteran has 6-3, 253-pound size, great toughness and big-hitting ability, coming up with 73 tackles with a sack and two picks working at times in the middle and on the weakside, but he got knocked out for the season with a lacerated liver and was still recovering this offseason. He’s back, and it’s his job in the middle now as the main man for the linebacking corps. Big, fast, athletic and aggressive, he has the talent and potential to change around the run defense as a 100-tackler performer – he made 103 stops in 2012.
9. WR Jaxon Shipley, Sr.
While he’s not nearly as flashy as Jordan, he’s a reliable midrange target, coming up with a team-leading 56 catches for 589 yards and a touchdown, while also averaging 13.5 yards per punt return. The 6-1, 183-pound veteran has the speed and quickness to make things happen when he gets the ball in his hands on the move, but he’ll never be a home run hitter and he’ll never be the all-around playmaker his brother was. However, he’s a fantastic route runner with great hands.
10. C Dominic Espinosa, Sr.
There’s a lot of shifting and shuffling with the rebuilt – but talented – line, but the one sure thing is in the middle. The 6-4, 300-pound Espinosa earned all-star honors last season and comes into the year as one of the team’s most experienced players as a three-year starter and the anchor up front. Versatile, quick and smart, he more of a technician than a blaster, but he’s ultra-reliable and the true leader.
- 2014 Texas Preview