The start of the spring semester at Texas on Tuesday also marked the first day of classes on the 40 Acres for the six early enrollees from the 2012 class -- quarterback Connor Brewer, offensive lineman Camrhon Hughes, linebacker Alex De La Torre, defensive back Orlando Thomas, and the two junior college prospects, offensive tackle Donald Hawkins and defensive tackle Brandon Moore.
As is typical with early enrollees, the expectations for each new Longhorn are vastly different, with several players expected to contribute early and several expected to need some growth and development time at Texas before contributing. Here's a look at what Texas needs and wants from each this spring.
- Connor Brewer -- Expected to compete with Case McCoy for the back-up job behind David Ash, the ideal situation would be for Brewer to take a redshirt season to give him time to develop and avoid wasting a year of eligibility, as happened to McCoy. And even though McCoy apparently didn't receive the news he wanted when he put out transfer feelers, there are still no guarantees that he will be with the team past the spring, increasing the pressure on Brewer to emerge as a capable back-up. There's also an outside shot that Brewer could give David Ash some serious competition for the starting job, but as polished as Brewer is -- more polished than Ash out of high school -- expect a transition period as Brewer gets used to the offense and the speed of the Texas defense.
- Donald Hawkins -- Expectations for the JUCO tackle transfer are perhaps as high or higher than any other incoming player, certainly higher than any of the other early enrollees. Expected to compete for and win a starting tackle job this spring, Hawkins is one of the keys on the offensive line going into 2012 because of his ability to solidify a tackle position, which would allow Trey Hopkins to move back inside to guard. Mack Brown's recruiting pitch to Hawkins was that he would have a chance to start immediately -- now the impetus is on Hawkins to make Brown's prediction come true.
- Camrhon Hughes -- The massive, physically imposing Hughes is known as one of the more raw prospects in the class and probably the most raw offensive linemen of the four Texas currently has committed or on campus in the 2012 class. As a result, the expectations are pretty low for Hughes at this point -- simply to come in, work hard, increase his strength, and prepare to contribute down the road.
- Brandon Moore -- The mammoth 6-5, 330-pounder was recruited because of his previous relationship with Bo Davis when the current Texas defensive line coach was the coach at Alabama. With Kheeston Randall departing, Davis is looking for a defensive tackle to do the dirty work lined up over the center. While Moore was not one of the top 50 JUCO players in the country for the 2012 class, he does have big-time college experience at the highest level and should step right into the defensive tackle rotation -- as long as he can hold off Ashton Dorsey, who may play more over the ball after spending most of 2011 as a three tech.
- Alex De La Torre -- Perhaps the least-regarded prospect of the 2012 commits, at least in this writer's estimation, talking about DLT's skills devolves into a discussion of intangibles just as quickly as it does with Case McCoy, in this case in regards to his instincts. Undersized for a linebacker at 6-0 and lacking muscle definition, the coach's son isn't expected to contribute early at a position loaded with depth. After playing some fullback for Ryan, DLT's best chance of getting on the field quickly could be by making a position change. However, the instincts that DLT does have for the linebacker position -- his best attribute as a prospect -- may keep him there unless the other options at fullback completely flop.
- Orlando Thomas -- The former high school quarterback hasn't gotten many reps at defensive back -- he didn't play both ways for Copperas Cove during the football season or in 7on7 -- Thomas nonetheless impressed Texas coaches there during a summer camp and recorded an interception at defensive back during the Offense-Defense Bowl. So despite the physical tools Thomas has, expect him to need some time to transition to the position full time. Add in the depth at both safety and cornerback and Thomas starts looking like a redshirt candidate unless he shows some incredible aptitude for the position and can vault past older players.
So, Texas fans, what are you looking for from these players this spring? Which do you expect to contribute next fall? Who will have the highest expectations placed upon them?