We continue with a breakdown of the defensive depth chart.
1. Brian Orakpo 2. Eddie Jones
The "quick" side is, if you're looking at the DL from the secondary, the right hand side of the field. Brian Orakpo and Eddie Jones are as fierce a 1-2 combo at one DE slot as you'll find in the country. Period. Jones starts for 95% of Division 1 teams.
1. Derek Lokey --OR-- Roy Miller 2. Ben Alexander
Mack says Lokey and Miller are both starters, and this is another case where the "backup" is a starter almost anywhere else in the country. We'll be wringing our hands shortly when we talk about the secondary, but Texas fans have absolutely nothing to fear when it comes to the defensive line. This is a ridiculous group of players. Keep an eye on Ben Alexander, too. Just a sophomore, he's going to be seeing solid minutes this year in preparation for Okam and Lokey's graduation.
1. Frank Okam --OR-- Roy Miller 2. Thomas Marshall
Still no surprises here. Okam, when healthy, is one of the most physically imposing tackles in all of football and could be a top 10 NFL Draft pick if he stays uninjured. Marshall's a fifth year player who can eat minutes but isn't a true impact player.
1. Aaron Lewis 2. Lamarr Houston
I've said it before, but Mack Brown has simply dominated the state of Texas recruting at this position. Lewis has earned his starting job with his unrelenting motor, but Houston is almost as freakish as Eddie Jones. Blocking the Texas line this year will be a monumental challenge.
[Strongside] 1. Robert Killebrew 2. Dustin Earnest / [Middle] 1. Rashad Bobino 2. Jared Norton / [Weakside] 1. Scott Derry --OR-- Rodderick Muckelroy 2. Keenan Robinson
Sergio Kindle's boneheadedness this summer complicates the linebacker position, at least in the short term. For now, the situation is a bit confusing. For one thing, you could make a case that Texas' three best linebackers are all listed on the Weakside LB position.
I think, though, that you have to look at this unit as a whole (which is why I've listed it all together). Larry MacDuff has been cross-training several of these guys to play on both sides of the field, and even in the middle, which means it's hard to make projections or criticisms based on the depth chart below. And again, we don't yet have Kindle to think about.
Though the current situation is a bit confusing, I think it a mistake to label it a weakness. Texas has 6-7 guys who potentially have good seasons in them. We're in much better shape than a year ago, even if one or two of the starting three don't show improvement from 2006.
Let's note the solid depth and talent for now, and wait to evaluate this group as play begins.
1. Ryan Palmer 2. Deon Beasley --OR--Chykie Brown
Okay, here's the thing. Mack Brown talked in his presser about how size at this position is not everything. And he's right. Speed and the ability to play the ball is as, or more, important than a corner's actual height.
With that said... Palmer was a major disappointment last season. I say that noting, of course, that the expectations were minimal. We BONers didn't start calling Palmer and Foster "Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dum" just because we're mean-spirited. We did so because they were lousy.
Mack says that Palmer has earned the starting job, and as a matter of operating philosophy, I'll reserve criticism until we've played some actual football. Let's just note now, for the record, that we're skeptical. Very, very skeptical.
[Free] 1. Marcus Griffin --OR-- Drew Kelson 2. Tyrell Gatewood / [Strong] 1. Erick Jackson --OR-- Ishie Oduegwu
Mkay. I honestly don't even know how to evaluate this. If we're going by the "OR" standard as heretofore applied, Texas has four "starters." Seriously, the more I try to think about this, the more I wrinkle my brow and want to give up.
I honestly don't know. And nobody else does, either. It's game week, so we'll get some data soon, but for now, we have to just subtly cross our fingers and toes while we wait to see what happens on the gridiron.
1. Brandon Foster 2. Curtis Brown --OR-- Earl Thomas
Like I said: Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dum? Together? As starters?
Hey - I'll be the first to (happily) eat my words if my skepticism is misplaced, but I have to file this in the Team Worry category as of now. Foster's had a whale of a fall camp, so I'll give him the benefit of the doubt. The worry is seeing him and Palmer out there starting together.
For now, we're forced to believe one of two things: If you're the pessimistic sort, you might believe the coaches are handing out Starter Tokens to veterans. If you're the optimistic sort, you might believe that Palmer and Foster are our two best options right now.
Whatever's the case actually may be, this gets a dark, dark red flag for now. Fingers, toes, and eyes crossed.