One of my favorite pieces to read prior to each MLB season is Joe Sheehan's "My Guys" column, penned before each year to highlight those players Joe is eyeballing for a breakout season, yet who aren't receiving big time hype. Translating that to Texas football, I'm looking for those guys (limit of five) who might surprise a lot of folks with how well they play this year -- those with the highest production-to-hype ratio. Malcolm Williams was one of My Guys last year, but doesn't qualify this year because the hype amongst fans has ratcheted way up.
Before offering My Guys for 2009, a quick review of My Guys from a season ago:
Lamarr Houston had a fine, fine year -- even his off-field mistake wound up something of a positive -- but I probably overestimated his immediate impact a smidge. Moving inside from end to tackle, Houston was an outstanding complement to Roy Miller, but the senior Miller was the DT MVP.
Deon Beasley was something of a goat to many fans last year, as his coverage mistakes were highly visible ones and his lack of run support stood out on a Muschamp-directed team full of tacklers. Still, he was mostly outstanding in pass coverage -- far better than most gave him credit for -- and if he decides the NFL might want to see him do some hitting this year, he's got Tarell Brown upside.
Sam Acho had three sacks and nine quarterback hurries and played well as a back up, but the breakout season came from Melton. Acho is primed to shine this year.
Maclolm Williams was a bit of a disappointment out of the gate, simply because he looked so tentative with the ball in his hands. By the end of the year, he was going up and snagging balls at the highest point, one of the team's best special teams players, a ferocious blocker, and a big play threat who only needed a tight end to help him spring free. The best is yet to come.
Michael Huey was a flat out disappointment. When Charlie Tanner went down to injury in September, I thought Huey would keep the starting spot with excellent play, but he was terribly inconsistent. The strength and skills are there; hopefully in year three the light comes on mentally.
Looking at My Guys from 2008, I might have been a year early across the board. I like all five to have "step forward" years this fall.
Finally, while we're here, how about a 2008 All-Breakout Team. If these guys were Your Guys, I'm looking forward to hearing your picks for this year:
2008 All-Breakout Team
My five guys for 2009, after the jump.
MY GUYS, 2009
Chykie Brown, CB -- He's an Aaron Ross clone. Same size, similar skill set and disruptive potential. Not that his talent is much of a secret, but he played hurt throughout most of 2008. If he plays the full season healthy, he's a huge reason Texas gets to Pasadena. Especially in the Big 12, and especially with our question marks on the defensive line, Brown's ability to deal with every team's 1A receiver gives Muschamp breathing room to do all sorts of fun stuff.
Fozzy Whittaker, RB -- I tingle a little bit thinking about what Fozzy can do for this team if he stays healthy. In this offense, he could score a half dozen receiving touchdowns out of the backfield, if he earns the coaches' trust to do all the little things a guy like Chris Ogbonnaya did so well. Whittaker could easily be for Texas what Baron Batch was for Texas Tech a year ago.
Keenan Robinson, LB -- Ladies and gentlemen, meet Rod Muckelroy's replacement in 2010. He'll be dandy as a back up in 2009, as well. The kid tackles so soundly, plays sideline to sideline, and understands how to flow to the ball, avoid/shed blocks, and make the play. Not flashy, just great. He's ready.
Aaron Williams, DB -- It's utterly silly that this guy is going to be a true sophomore. It's utterly silly how much talent Texas is fielding in their defensive backfield, period. I've already said nice things about Chykie Brown and Deon Beasley; Williams may have the most upside of the bunch, and we haven't yet mentioned Christian Scott, Blake Gideon, Curtis Brown, or Earl Thomas. The biggest question surrounding Williams is how best to deploy him: Does Muschamp rotate him as the do-it-all nickelback with the exceptional Earl Thomas? Stick him at corner and douse the opposing passing game with piss and vinegar? There's not much Williams can't do, and he's one big reason why this backfield is as good as was Muschamp's 2003 title-winning group at LSU.
DJ Grant, TE -- Texas's offense needs a tight end. Blaine Irby isn't available. And DJ Grant is as good a candidate as Texas has to fill the role. We don't know how his strength will hold up in a blocking role, but he won't be asked to move mountains here -- just be solid. More than anything, we need a guy who can run the seven yard curl, and dart down the seam to keep safeties from cheating.
And now, you: Who are Your Guys for 2009? And most importantly, why?