Five freshmen to watch heading into 2017

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Photo Credit: Joshua Guerra | Daily Texan Staff

Sam Ehlinger

Position: Quarterback

Sophomore Shane Buechele may have all but wrapped up the starting quarterback job in the spring game even if head coach Tom Herman refused to name a starter postgame. But don’t write off Ehlinger in 2017 just yet. The Longhorns still don’t have a proven backup on the roster, and if Herman can’t bring in another scholarship quarterback between now and fall camp, Ehlinger will be the lone guy behind Buchele. An injury or struggles from the starter could lead to the freshman seeing game action this year. 

 

Gary Johnson 

Position: Linebacker

There’s already been one Gary Johnson who’s made a name for himself on the 40 Acres. That would be the Longhorn hooper from 2007–2011, who was a four-year starter at forward for former head coach Rick Barnes. Longhorn fans will hope for a similar impact from this Gary Johnson, who could be a real playmaker at linebacker alongside junior stalwarts Malik Jefferson and Anthony Wheeler. Johnson, a junior transfer from Dodge City Community College in Kansas, was the No. 1 junior college inside linebacker in the nation last season, per 247Sports. His ability to play inside could help Jefferson move back to the edge rusher spot.

 

Cade Brewer

Position: Tight end

Brewer’s commitment to Texas turned plenty of heads in the recruiting world. The Lake Travis product originally committed to SMU in April alongside his teammate and quarterback Charlie Brewer (no relation), but Cade ultimately decommitted and signed with the Longhorns. Cade Brewer will compete for the starting tight end job along with senior Andrew Beck and freshman Reese Leitao, looking to bring some added playmaking to a unit that has struggled mightily over the last decade. Texas hasn’t had a significant playmaker at the tight end position since Jermichael Finley in 2006–2007.

 

Reese Leitao

Position: Tight end

Leitao was at the center of controversy recently when Herman announced that Leitao would still be allowed to keep his scholarship after his felony drug charge was lowered to a misdemeanor. Leitao originally signed with Texas in February on National Signing Day, but later that month, he was arrested in Tulsa, Oklahoma, with a charge of drug possession with intent to distribute within 1,000 feet of a school. Leitao’s charge was downgraded to misdemeanor in May and was allowed to keep his scholarship, causing a bit of a stir on social media. Moving forward, Leitao’s every move will be under the microscope as he fights for the starting job with Brewer and Beck.

 

Joshua Rowland

Position: Kicker

Texas’ kicking game has struggled mightily over the past three seasons, a far cry from the glory days of Justin Tucker and Phil Dawson. Both Trent Domingue and Nick Rose failed to deliver for former head coach Charlie Strong, missing critical extra points and chip-shot field goals late in games. Now, it’s Rowland’s chance to right the special-teams ship. The junior transfer from Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College is rated as the No. 1 junior college kicker in the nation per 247Sports and will look to bring some much-needed consistency to the Longhorns’ shoddy kicking game.