Position grades for the 2016 Longhorns

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Photo Credit: Lillian Michel | Daily Texan Staff

Quarterback: C-

Head coach Charlie Strong has three options at quarterback: senior Tyrone Swoopes, redshirt sophomore Jerrod Heard and true freshman Shane Buechele. In 2015, Swoopes was primarily utilized in the 18-wheeler package. Heard impressed fans with a record-breaking game against California. But never lived up to the performance, finishing the season with five touchdowns and five interceptions. Buechele dazzled fans in the spring game with an 199-yard, two-touchdown performance. If he starts against Notre Dame, he will be the first true freshman to open the season as the Longhorns’ starting quarterback. 

Running Back: A

Texas’ backfield is its top strength on offense. Texas will rely on junior D’Onta Foreman and sophomore Chris Warren to provide power from the running back spot. Foreman averaged a staggering 7.2 yards per carry in 2015 while, Warren averaged 6.6 yards per attempt.

Wide Receiver: B-

Texas returns its top option from last season in sophomore John Burt, who finished with 457 yards and two touchdowns. Junior Armanti Foreman will also be a solid option outside while true freshmen Collin Johnson and Devin Duvernay hope to make a splash in their first season. 

Tight End: C-

Last season, Texas’ two tight ends, Caleb Bluiett and Andrew Beck, combined for just  16 receptions for 244 yards. Both tight ends will try to improve in new offensive coordinator Sterlin Gilbert’s fast-paced offense this year.  

Offensive Line: B+

The offensive line is rock solid on the left side with sophomore tackle Connor Williams and guard Patrick Vahe, who were both selected to the 2015 Freshman All-American team. True freshman Zach Shackelford will likely start at center, and senior Kent Perkins will start at right tackle. Freshman Patrick Hudson could be the answer at right guard – he ranks as the No. 2 guard in the 2016 class, according to 247sports.

Defensive Line: C-

In year’s past, the defensive line has been a strength for Texas’ defense. This year it will be different. After losing junior defensive tackle Hassan Ridgeway and senior defensive tackle Desmond Jackson to the NFL, the Longhorns will need someone to step up. Strong will turn to junior Poona Ford and senior Paul Boyette for leadership up front.

Linebacker: B+

Everyone’s eyes will be on sophomore linebacker Malik Jefferson, who was named to the preseason All-Big 12 team . Jefferson will be accompanied by a young linebacker corp that includes sophomore Anthony Wheeler and freshmen Jeffrey McCulloch and Erick Fowler. 

Secondary: B-

Senior Dylan Haines and junior Jason Hall will likely start at the safety spots against Notre Dame. But sophomore DeShon Elliott and true freshman Brandon Jones have shown promise and will challenge the upperclassmen for playing time. Sophomore cornerbacks Davante Davis and Holton Hill will look to build on their impressive freshman campaigns. 

Special Teams: D

While Strong wasn’t able to “generate a kicker,” he did find a suitable replacement for Nick Rose. Former LSU kicker and 2015 Lou Groza Award semifinalist Trent Domingue transferred to Texas on July 25. Domingue went 13-of-17 in 2015. Sophomore punter Michael Dickson will start for his second-straight year after earning honorable mention All Big-12 honors in 2015.