Every year, one of the preseason posts that both PB and I like to write is our "My Guys" effort, where each of us pick four players we think will have breakout seasons and exceed expectations.
As usual, there were some ups and downs for both us. Let's break it down.
PB Pick No. 1: Joe Bergeron
Put it this way: if he stays healthy all year, I like Bergeron to effectively be the starting back, and to have so impressive a season that he's pre-season First Team All-Big 12 heading into next year... with some buzz about his potential to be Texas' next Heisman winner.
Bergeron started out the season hot with a 110-yard performance against Wyoming that included his 54-yard touchdown run, still the longest of his career.
Besides racking up 117 yards against Baylor in October, and scoring a ridiculous five rushing touchdowns in that effort, Bergeron mostly struggled, with seven games in which he averaged less than 3.3 yards per carry and failed to register a touchdown over the season's last four contests.
A shoulder injury sustained against Ole Miss probably didn't help things, as he didn't look particularly healthy in the several games after that.
The bigger issue is that he missed holes at times and at other tried to bounce plays outside without having the lateral quickness to do so -- basically, his limitations as a running back were exposed, raising some questions about whether or not he has a brighter future spending some more time at fullback.
Wescott Pick No. 1: David Ash
To me, the value of getting so many reps since the debacle against Kansas State will tell on the field, and I expect him to become a more than competent starter this season, eventually making himself an outright asset by the end of the season. I really liked his candid comments about having to tone down his gunslinger mentality and recognize that his windows are smaller in college, so the maturity in decision-making is going to make a big difference in his play on the field this year. I'm predicting a big-time leap.
A big-time leap? There's certainly statistical support for it -- Ash improved in every category, completing nearly 10% more of his passes to finish tied for 13th nationally, increased his yards per attempt from 6.2 to 8.5, again good enough to tie for 13th nationally, cut his interception rate from 4.6% to 2.5%, and increased his number of touchdown rate from 2.3% to 6%, another massive gain. All that added up to a gain in about 45 points in his passer rating, which put him 20th nationally.
To cap it off, Ash finally was able to recover from early struggles to emerge as a runner on the quarterback draw and make three incredibly important plays down the stretch to lead his second big-time comeback of 2012.
It wasn't a perfect season, but it was the big-time leap predicted before the season. Now, Ash heads into the 2013 campaign as the most experienced quarterback in the Big 12 and perhaps the best.
PB Pick No. 2: Adrian Phillips
I'm a fan of Phillips' game because he's versatile and physical, with the keen football instincts that just about every quality defensive backs must possess. The versatility and physicality intersect in Phillips play in support of rush defense, where he takes good angles to ball carriers and delivers hard, disruptive blows that finish plays and have a chance to pop the ball loose.
The start of the season hardly went as well as PB and many others, including myself, expected, with Phillips consistently engaging in his Keystone Cops routine with Carrington Byndom, where Phillips would somehow manage to miss the tackle in about every way imaginable, Byndom would slow down and take a poor angle, then only barely manage to get a hand on the offensive player, who would inevitably pick up major yardage after the two missed tackles.
It was possible that the shoulder injury suffered last season that kept Phillips from participating in spring practice played a larger role in his struggles than anyone expected or acknowledged at the time. Whatever the case, the results were the same, and they were spectacularly bad.
But Phillips also finished the season on a relatively strong note. He didn't struggle as much taking bad angles or generally looking a step slow and cleaned up his tackling. Over the last five games, Phillips converted 23 of his 27 overall tackling opportunities, including 10 of 14 in the open field, and took only one bad angle.
Wescott Pick No. 2: Steve Edmond
In my estimation, there are going to be plenty of terrible things happening to ballcarriers and quarterbacks when Edmond gets a hold of them. The kid is the size of the guys that Texas Tech was playing at defensive tackle last year, but still moves like someone much smaller, to the extent that Diaz believes he will be fine in coverage. Add in the fact that he has incredible hands, having briefly but successfully played some tight end in high school, and things start to get flat-out unfair.
Edmond is a poster child for the dangers of expecting a player with limited experience (16 career tackles) to step seamlessly into a larger role and excel.
Despite the fantastic high school film, universally high expectations, and lack of concern for how Edmond's size would impact his mobility, the Daingerfield product showed a disturbing lack of instincts, inability to beat blocks, and looked genuinely slow of foot against the spread attacks of the Big 12.
The final line was hardly terrible -- 89 tackles, 51 of them solo, 4.5 tackles for loss, a sack, one interception, and two forced fumbles. As mentioned above, however, watching Edmond play produced a much different perspective on his efforts than merely looking at his solid stats.
At this point, it's questionable whether he's really a linebacker, but the depth along the defensive line doesn't bode well for playing time there even if Edmond makes the switch. Heading into his junior season, Edmond is close to becoming yet another high-profile disappointment for the Longhorns as a former borderline five-star prospect.
PB Pick No. 3: Malcom Brown
Malcolm Brown is the most physically impressive freshman tackle that I can recall, and he appears to have the constitution and drive to get the most out of it.
While the picks of players like Bergeron, Phillips, and Edmond were disappointing at best and well off the mark at worst, it's hard to argue with the solidity of the Brown pick.
At perhaps the hardest position to make an immediate impact in college, Brown fell short of being an out-and-out breakout star, but still turned in an impressive freshman season. Notorious for picking players a year too early, it appears that was once again the case for PB.
With 19 tackles and 2.0 tackles for loss (as well as the 4th-down sack against West Virginia that was negated by timeout), Brown didn't light up the stat sheet, but his quickness and motor showed up on film and he was probably a guy who should have gotten more playing time when other defensive tackles in the rotation weren't playing at the level he was at.
The future is bright for Brown, who looks ready to fully live up to his lofty billing as a sophomore.
Wescott Pick No. 3: Daje Johnson
I'm becoming more and more convinced that the kid is going to be what I always wanted DJ Monroe to be, but DJ could never become, for reasons I don't completely understand, but am increasingly starting to assign as his own fault.
It didn't take long for Johnson to make me look prophetic. On one of his first touches in burnt orange, Johnson did what Monroe did on his first touch -- take the ball to the house, in this case motoring 46 yards in a heartbeat to score against New Mexico on a short catch he took down the sideline.
Big plays would become the trademark for Johnson on the season. There was a another long catch-and-run for 45 yards against West Virginia on one of this three touches. There was the game-opening 84-yard touchdown run against Baylor that gave Texas tremendous early momentum after the two losses to West Virginia and Oklahoma. There was the 70-yard run on the push-pass jet sweep against Kansas St.
In fact, Johnson could have had even more of a breakout season had he actually gotten the ball more often. After barely using the Pflugerville product against Tech, Iowa St., and TCU, Johnson registered nearly 100 yards against Kansas St. on only six touches.
Unfortunately, Johnson also appears to be his own greatest enemy. He was suspended for the first game of the season, there have been other reports of some attitude issues behind the scenes, concerns about his eligibility for the bowl game, and the "back spasms" in the Alamo Bowl? For a guy who can throw a medicine bowl farther than most offensive linemen?
Something doesn't ring true with that and Johnson will have to mature and handle himself better moving forward if he wants to maximize his impact on the team, which could be highly impactful if he can put things together.
PB Pick No. 4: Donald Hawkins
I just have to use my final pick on left tackle Donald Hawkins, who may not exactly be a diamond in the rough, but let's face it: he's an offensive lineman; most fans don't spend much time, if any, evaluating expectations for individual linemen. I suspect that fans will talk a lot more about Donald Hawkins once this season gets underway, however. Particularly as you start to think about the potential upgrade as compared with last year, if Hawkins plays as well as I think he can, it's plausible to imagine that there may not be a higher impact player on the offense. And a case can also be made that he's the player this team can least afford to lose to injury.
Hawkins was indeed an important player to keep healthy since no other young tackles emerged to break into the rotation other than some minor spot duty for Kennedy Estelle, who spent some time on the shelf with a shoulder injury.
And while his play was up and down at times, it's still important to consider the context -- had Hawkins ended up at Oklahoma St., as originally planned, Texas probably would have had to keep Trey Hopkins playing out of position at right tackle and Josh Cochran at left.
The bottom line is that even in the most harsh view, Hawkins was still serviceable, and for that, this pick can't be a miss.
Wescott Pick No. 4: Josh Cochran
On a related note, we actually recruited an athletic lineman! Like, a seriously athletic dude who put on weight quickly, has the feet to stone some edge rushers as he ages well in terms of technique and overall strength, and can get out in space and make plays in the running and screen game. I see future NFL starter potential.
Much like Hawkins, Cochran wasn't bad, and didn't even really have all that many bad moments. In fact, he might have been more consistent than his counterpart on the other side of the offensive line. The problem, to the extent that there one, was that Cochran didn't make the expected leap and he didn't exactly look like a future NFL starter.
The fact that the coaching staff is trying to bring in another junior college offensive tackle they think can beat out either Hawkins or Cochran doesn't reflect that well on either one, too
So there were some definite misses in this group -- Joe Bergeron never broke out, Steve Edmond was flat-out bad for almost the entire season, and Adrian Phillips had the poor start before he managed to become rather serviceable, as he was his first two years at Texas.
Taking the offensive tackles were solid choices to close out the draft and the mostly steady play from both of them, and lack of significant injuries besides the ankle that hampered Hawkins for several weeks, kept the offense operating at a high level for most of the season.
Texas allowed 16 sacks on the season after giving up 28 the year before, helping the 'Horns jump from tied for 74th in the nation in 2011 to tied for 24th in 2012. There's more context needed there before giving all the credit to the tackles, but it is tangible evidence that they did their jobs better than Cochran and Hopkins did last season.
There also weren't that many eligible players who did actually break out. Perhaps Mike Davis was eligible, since he had such a disappointing sophomore season, but he seems borderline for this list. No one else really emerged offensively, though Johnathan Gray had a nice freshman season. Defensively, Desmond Jackson had a nice finish to the season,
In some ways, the fact that the players here didn't emerge was one of the major problems the team faced. The guys who were expected to be good were in a lot of cases, but some of the other guys, like Phillips, Edmond, and Bergeron, never hit the ceiling that so many saw for them.
I'm just glad I didn't pick Demarco Cobbs as one of My Guys.