Chris Whaley finds his spot at tackle

AUSTIN, Texas -- Chris Whaley's third position move will be his final one. Mack Brown has promised as much.

"He will not move from defensive tackle," the Texas coach stated. "I'm not moving him."

Tackle? Yep, that's right. Sure he was moved to defensive end last spring. And he was a running back before that. But now the junior is a tackle -- all 285 pounds of him.

Really, it is that last number that necessitated the move, or moves. Whaley came in as a 235-pound tailback, but he just kept getting bigger and bigger. Now he is a contender for one of the two starting tackle spots, along with Brandon Moore, Ashton Dorsey and Desmond Jackson. He also is poised to be the breakout star of the spring.

The reason for that is Whaley's athleticism. Whaley lacked just that when he came to Texas from Madisonville (Texas) High. That is mainly because he was playing a position, tailback, that didn't suit him. Not at the Division I level, anyway.

"We're too critical on those guys early, because he's growing into a really good football player. And from 235 to 285 and now one of our best pass rushers … Chris Whaley will end up being in the NFL, I think."

Brown did not utter those words about any other player in 2011. He made passing mention to Kenny Vaccaro's NFL decision, as well as a few other comments on players. But never did he so firmly comment on the player's future potential beyond Texas.

The reason Brown and others are convinced of Whaley's upside is because of athleticism that he was so quickly criticized for as a tailback. While he was not quick enough and did not possess good enough feet to compete with 200-pound runners, put Whaley among 300-pound players, and suddenly he is the most athletic in the group.

The coaches picked up on this more in the bowl practices as they flipped Whaley from offense to defense just to gauge what he could do when or if he could give Texas 10 plays at tight end.

"[Offensive line coach Stacy Searels and defensive line coach Bo Davis] are such good friends, and they've worked together forever, that when you're doing your one-on-one drills, [Whaley] can flip over and block in the pass rush drill, the pass pro drill, the one-on-one blocking drill … it is unique. It is different," Brown said.

But, even if Whaley does end up being versatile enough to play both sides, and that is a big if, Brown understands Whaley's future is along the defensive line. That future should get a big kick start this spring.

Carter Strickland covers University of Texas football and recruiting for HornsNation

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