One of my favorite columns of any kind each year was MLB columnist Joe Sheehan's "My Guys" piece, which he used to run prior to each season, highlighting a handful of players he loves to have great, high-impact seasons but who aren't receiving sufficient hype. This year, he tweaked the format to "Breakout Players," but the concept is about the same.
Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, right?
Right. My Guys for 2008:
Lamarr Houston, DT - If there's a Lamarr Houston Hype Parade, I suppose I've been the guy with the funny hat, elongated wand, and whistle. I've seen others here and elsewhere start to come around, but judging by the poll in the right sidebar... I'm not exactly leading a revolution. As I keep saying during each of this summer's radio appearances, I think he's the best player on the team.
Deon Beasley, CB - I'm not exactly on an island here, but as far as I can tell, my opinion of Deon Beasley's potential this season is well ahead of most. Not only is he a shining example of proper player development - a credit to the coaches - but the end result is a player who's as mentally confident as he is physically gifted. Playing elite cornerback requires that kind of mental confidence - if you're thinking, you're finished - and if all goes well, Texas has one of the conference's best cornerbacks and the coaches get as strong a reinforcer as is imaginable that the Beasley Way is the Proper Way to develop a player. He's not the team's most gifted defensive back - just the best developed. With so much young talent in the DB Cupboard, a championship-level secondary can be had sooner rather than later.
Sam Acho, DE - Lamarr Houston? Is an NFL-caliber physical freak. Sam Acho... far less so. But it took me about three plays last season to do that thing where you sort of squint in at the TV, hit rewind, and ask yourself, "Wait, who was that?" The kid has absolutely phenomenal instincts, and if Brian Orakpo is the obvious star at end, Acho is the guy - more so than Eddie Jones, perhaps - that I look forward to seeing on the field opposite Orakpo. Especially given what Muschamp will be asking of his front four, I love what Acho brings to the table.
Malcolm Williams, WR - Though I sense more Kirkendoll and Buckner hype, I'm sticking with Williams as My Guy to be the breakthrough receiver for Texas this year. I remember 2004 well enough to be wary of expecting too much of any first-year receiver, but if there's a 2008 successor to Limas Sweed, I think it's Williams. I'm making him one of My Guys because he's a lot stronger than Sweed was in '04.
Michael Huey, G - I see absolutely no difference between Huey and Justin Blalock, a four-year starter at Texas and immediate starter for the Atlanta Falcons in the Sunday league. A product of the Kilgore football factory, Huey is an Absolutely Dependable starter waiting to happen.
Who are Your Guys heading into 2008? And more importantly.... why?