Before Texas begins its first season under Charlie Strong, we're taking a deep dive into all the talent he inherits in 2014. Our Burnt Orange Breakdown series will take a closer look at each scholarship player returning this fall and what we can expect from him. We're going down the roster from No. 1 Shiro Davis all the way to No. 99 Desmond Jackson.
No. 36 Alex De La Torre
Recruitment rewind: The four-star inside linebacker from Denton (Texas) Ryan was ready to commit to Texas before his junior year, and made it official when he got his offer in February 2011. De La Torre was Texas' second verbal pledge for the class and was a three-time all-state player at Denton Ryan, where he recorded 385 career tackles, 64 TFLs, 20 sacks and four TDs. De La Torre enrolled early at UT and moved from linebacker to fullback during his first spring in the program.
Career so far: De La Torre played in seven games as a freshman backup fullback and dealt with an ankle injury in the middle of the season. Last season, he served as Texas' No. 1 fullback and played in all 13 games on special teams as well. In addition to his blocking efforts, De La Torre chipped in two memorable plays in 2013: He ran for 19 yards on a fake punt against Kansas State and hauled in a 2-yard touchdown catch in overtime at West Virginia that proved to be the game-winner.
Best-case scenario for 2014: Considering Texas' best advantage on offense will be its running backs, there's still going to be a need for De La Torre in power sets no matter what offense the team operates. He should be in for a similar role to last season, maybe with a few more chances in the play-action pass game and on short-yardage runs.
Worst-case scenario for 2014: Could Texas phase the fullback out of its offense completely? This seems unlikely. Joe Wickline had a pretty good one last season at Oklahoma State in Kye Staley, and Louisville did use a few players in that role last season (typically converted defensive linemen/linebackers). Even if the staff senses its best bet is a spread attack, you could still see a fullback in some pistol looks. Still, De La Torre could see his opportunities decrease from a year ago simply because Texas should be more diverse offensively and not so run-heavy.
Future expectations: You don't see a lot of fullbacks in the Big 12 anymore -- maybe that's why De La Torre was an honorable mention All-Big 12 selection a year ago -- but Texas has a good one. It wouldn't be surprising if new running backs coach Tommie Robinson works De La Torre out with the rest of the running backs in camp just to see how diverse his skill set is, but De La Torre is good in his niche role and should be an asset this fall.