Since last week, we’ve been analyzing the projected depth charts for Big 12 teams as they exit spring practice.
The series continues with Texas, which did not release an official depth chart this spring. Here’s how we expect it to look in August:
OFFENSE (projected starters in bold)
Some clarity emerged during the spring as Buechele took command and looked sharp in the spring game while Ehlinger understandably fought to find consistency in his first semester on campus. Though the competition will continue in August, Buechele emerged from April as the leader to retain his position after starting every game last year and earning honorable-mention recognition for Big 12 offensive freshman of the year.
A knee injury hampered Warren last year as D’Onta Foreman ran wild, and the rising junior was struck by a hamstring problem this spring. Injuries to Kirk Johnson, Tristian Houston and true freshman Toneil Carter opened the door for Porter, who took advantage of the opportunity to earn an edge in the race for playing time behind Warren.
The Longhorns feature an ultra-talented and multi-faceted group, led by the 6-foot-6 Johnson, who starred in the spring, the speedy Duvernay and the ex-quarterback Heard. The backups are almost equally as potent, providing Texas with more options than it can likely satisfy, though the emergence of a No. 1 wideout remains essential. At tight end, Texas lost Peyton Aucoin and gains Syracuse grad transfer Kendall Moore.
This group came of age last year in opening holes for Foreman. But it struggled at times to protect Buechele as opponents sacked Texas quarterbacks on 8 percent of their throws, a figure that ranked 93rd nationally. Williams is the star of the group, which endured some major shifts this spring after Shackelford suffered an ankle injury. McMillon, a converted defensive lineman, and Rodriguez saw time at center.
DEFENSE (projected starters in bold)
Lots of experience returns, but Texas must improve up front after opponents gouged it for nearly 450 yards last year, including 190 rushing, and 31.5 points per game. Ford and Nelson were productive at times, but they’ll need to get to the quarterback more often as the Longhorns move to a true three-man front under new coordinator Todd Orlando. Ford enjoyed an especially strong spring, and Elliott produced two sacks in the spring game.
The impending arrival of Gary Johnson, the No. 1-ranked juco linebacker prospect, adds another playmaker to this group, which already features Jefferson as a major talent that has too often gone untapped. Wheeler led the Longhorns in tackles last year, just ahead of Hager, who played the hybrid Fox position under Texas’ former coaching staff. His shift to the second level should allow more versatility for the Longhorns at the area most crucial for defensive success.
Another area flush with returning talent, the secondary performed below its collective level of talent in 2016. Hill and Boyd emerged as a solid duo in the spring with Davis, who started nine games over the past two seasons, as a solid third alternative. Locke returns at nickelback. And at safety, Hall’s spring injury allowed the Jones, a major talent, to wrestle time from Bonney. Elliott and the veteran Hall figure to compete in August at strong safety.