For a quarterback that’s entering his fourth year behind center, there sure are a lot of question marks surrounding Longhorn junior David Ash. Is he one hit from ending his career? Will the foot fracture that kept him out of spring practice have any lingering effects? If he stays healthy, Longhorn fans may be pleasantly surprised. If not, they will have to rely on unproven, but promising, youngsters in sophomore Tyrone Swoopes and freshman Jerrod Heard.
Running backs: A
Senior Malcolm Brown and junior Johnathan Gray will be a two-headed monster. The two could be the best running back tandem in the Big 12. But with the dismissal of Joe Bergeron and Jalen Overstreet from the team, the depth at the position took a big hit. The two injury-prone stars will need to stay healthy.
Kendall Sanders’ dismissal from the team is a huge blow to what was already a thin receiving corps. Jaxon Shipley and Marcus Johnson will get the most targets. While Shipley is a good possession receiver, he is not your ideal No. 1. Johnson must make huge strides to prove he can make big plays on a consistent basis. Junior Daje Johnson, who has been injury prone throughout his career and is now facing a team suspension, along with relatively unknown receivers in senior John Harris, freshmen Jacorey Warrick and Jake Oliver, will need to step up to fill the hole left by Sanders.
Offesnve line: B-
Senior center Dominic Espinosa, entering his fourth year as a starter, will anchor an upperclassman-filled offensive line under new offensive coordinator Joe Wickline. Despite losing three of the five starting linemen, this is still a veteran bunch that should be very similar to what we saw last season.
Defensive line: A-
The defensive line is one of the strongest units on the team. Led by preseason senior All-Big 12 selection Cedric Reed at defensive end, Strong boasts a veteran unit up front. Junior defensive tackle Malcom Brown, senior defensive tackle Desmond Jackson and junior defensive end Shiro Davis are all expected to have good seasons, keeping opposing quarterbacks under constant pressure while slowing down the run.
While there are no stars here, it is a deep group. Seniors Jordan Hicks and Steve Edmond and juniors Peter Jinkens and Dalton Santos should hold their own. Sophomore Timothy Cole also appears ready to make a difference in the Longhorn front seven.
Defensive backs: B-
The cornerback situation should be solid with star senior Quandre Diggs and junior Duke Thomas leading the way. Senior Sheroid Evans is coming back from a torn ACL and could be a big factor, depending on how his knee responds. The issue lies with the safeties as projected starter Josh Turner is suspended indefinitely and primary backup Chevoski Collins has been dismissed. That leaves inconsistent senior Mykkele Thompson and unproven sophomore Adrian Colbert in a possible starting position, with very little depth behind them.
Special Teams: C
We are not sure what to expect from Nick Rose, aside from a strong leg. All we’ve ever seen him do is bomb kickoffs through the end zone. Sophomore Nick Jordan and his six missed field goals on 15 attempts will have you biting your nails. Senior William Russ will likely be punting for the first time in his career. The return game is a little brighter for the Longhorns, though, with longtime returners Daje Johnson, Diggs and Shipley expected to get the majority of reps.