Between a handful of injuries and two handfuls of suspended players over the past few years, the Texas football staff has learned to rely on more than just veteran players alone.
As Shawn Watson, assistant head coach for offense, said, success doesn’t just require “work with ones,” but, instead, in the era of head coach Charlie Strong, the Longhorns look to “develop the team.” With this philosophy, the staff expects to reward freshman standouts who have already proven themselves in the offseason.
“We play with what we have, and we’re always looking to develop younger players so that they’re in place to play,” Watson said. “We always have that philosophy. During training camp, we work with ones, twos and threes so that we can bring the younger players along and increase our depth. It always works out in a formula for a season.”
Among the freshmen rumored to run the offense Saturday are wide receivers Armanti Foreman and Lorenzo Joe. Foreman, the No. 15 wide receiver in the class of 2014, according to ESPN, was a four-time district honoree at Texas City High School, recording 32 touchdowns throughout his high school career before he and his brother, freshman running back D’Onta Foreman, signed with Texas. Joe, an Abilene Cooper High School graduate, arrives in Austin with three all-district honors behind him, including the District 2-5A Offensive Most Valuable Player his senior year as quarterback. Behind center, he passed for 1,864 yards with a 58.3 percent completion rate and also rushed for 1,657 yards, averaging 8.1 yards per carry.
However, his high school performance only got him a spot on the roster. With Strong’s motto for earning privileges, Joe also needs to earn his spot on the playing field. Now, Watson believes Joe’s summer showing has proven that.
“Lorenzo Joe is going to be a factor in our season somewhere down the road,” Watson said. “When? It’s probably going to be when the opportunity presents itself, but he’s been prepared.”
Though he’ll no longer jog out to center, Joe has worked closely with junior starting quarterback David Ash throughout training. Ash said Foreman and Joe showed a “tremendous amount of dedication” that will translate to execution on the field.
“It was a hard camp,” Ash said. “It was a grind, and those guys came out every day, and they improved each and every day. They learned more and more, [showing that], beyond the shadow of a doubt, they have the capability and the ability to play football at this level. It won’t be long before they’re a huge part of what we do.”
Defensively, Strong anticipates freshman defensive back Jason Hall will also see playing time. According to Strong, ESPN’s No. 87 safety in the nation has positioned himself to contribute. The All-State 5A honorable mention tallied 57 tackles, six interceptions and six pass breakups his senior year of high school, claiming the compliments of Texas’ leading defensive back Quandre Diggs.
“He’s a guy that will come up and hit you,” Diggs said. “He’s rangy. He’s like 6-foot-2, 6-foot-3, and he’s smart. He’s instinctive. He’s a freshman who came in and worked his tail off. He’s always had a hunger for the game.”
Freshman running back Donald Catalon has also garnered recognition, although Watson anticipates giving him a little more time to develop before he hits the field.