Around BON, you know that the season is really getting close when it's time for the annual selection of My Guys for the year. If you're new or need a refresher on how it works, the "My Guys" column is a concept I borrowed from the outstanding baseball writer Joe Sheehan, who used to pen the column annually for Baseball Prospectus. The idea is to name the four players (in previous years five players) who you think are poised to have breakout seasons and exceed expectations with big years on the field. Note the distinction between this mission and naming the five best players -- or most productive players, or most important players -- on the team. With My Guys, we're simply naming the four players that we might love more than most.
For the third year in a row, My Guys will be a team exercise here at BON, as Wescott joins me once again for the draft-style format that's worked well for us the past two years. As always, I keep the first pick to myself, but it's a lot more fun to join with West and draft breakout picks in turn.
Before we get to this year's selections, it's always interesting to take a quick review of the previous year's selections and how our favorites wound up performing. Our selections from My Guys 2012 were... well, nothing special, if we're being honest. Wescott and I each picked a dud on defense -- even though Edmond and Phillips were #2 and #3 on the team in tackles, that belied their struggles -- and didn't really see any of our picks have the kind of breakout year that defines a satisfying My Guys pick -- a la Fozzy Whittaker in 2011. Wescott picked a couple of winners on offense in David Ash and Daje Johnson, and Josh Cochran was a valuable contributor, so that's hardly a haul of which to be ashamed. For my part, Malcom Brown was very promising (more on that shortly), but Donald Hawkins fizzled out and though 16 TDs is nice, Joe Bergeron simply met expectations, which isn't the point of this exercise.
Finally, before we dive into this year's picks, a nod to the 2012 All-Breakout Team. If any of these guys were Your Guys, I want to know who you like this year as well.
2012 All-Breakout Team
RB Jonathan Gray
WR Mike Davis
OL Trey Hopkins
And on that note, let's dive in to My Guys for 2013. And most importantly, get on record with Your Guys for 2013 in the comments. Just 11 days to kick off...
PB Pick No. 1: Malcom Brown
Unlike the past couple of years, when it almost felt like we were throwing darts when it came to roster predictions, this year's squad returns a lot of known commodities. That should be a good thing for the product on the field, but it may make under-the-radar picks a little harder to come by. Hey, I'll take that trade off.
And to get this fiesta started, I'm gonna dip back into last year's selections and re-nominate defensive tackle Malcom Brown. He's not exactly being overlooked by fans, but whatever the expectations are, generally, mine are higher. He flashed excellence last year; this year, he's going to be excellent, and flash dominance. Book it.
Wescott Pick No. 1: David Ash
Much love for MB2. I wonder sometimes if he might have ended up at A&M had the Aggies been in the SEC and playing in a 4-3 defense. And why would a coach tell a gap-penetrarting beast like Malcolm Brown that he's as a nose tackle? Nick Saban knows you always tell a big guy he can play in space like a coach might have told Shaq that he could handle the ball as much as he liked. A'Shawn Robinson? Saban sees him as a 3-4 end. Jake Raulerson? An outside linebacker. Sort out the reality later.
I bring that up because at one point I had to mentally concede that Brown looked like he was heading to College Station. It didn't happen and I agree that it should start paying some big dividends this year. He's about ready to hit bear-in-a-china-shop status and there is going to be some destruction in his wake. Believe that.
As for my first pick here, there's only one option for me and though taking David Ash may be a little bit questionable in terms of what this is really about, I don't have a choice -- I'm too far out there in building him up. And I'm well on record with how I feel about the absurd national perception that completely fails to put his body of work into context. So I'm going to take one more opportunity to talk up the Texas starter...
Throwing it back up to you, PB, here's a question...How much would you like to be able to pick Desmond Harrison right about now? /thinks about tackle depth and cringes.
PB Pick No. 2: Cedric Reed
Heading into a season with a lot of positive vibes and potential, the Harrison episode was a reality check reminder about what the downside looks like, and its causes. But this isn't the column for negativity, so let's move on.
I'm with you on Ash, of course, and find the disconnect between pundits' (and some fans) perception of Ash and the reality. Is he a do-it-all-himself superstar? Not really (although we could lean on him more if we weren't so thin at the position). But was he a very good true sophomore, with the potential to lead Texas to a conference title this year? Absolutely.
I'm gonna flip the field for my next pick, though, and tab Cedric Reed, who very quietly did an impressive job starting at defensive end after Jackson Jeffcoat was lost to injury. He's already shown good quickness and strength and he's going to be even better equipped for the position physically this year, but I also like what we've seen from him in terms of his football instincts and feel for the position. With some guys (hi, Reggie Wilson), the football ability struggles to match the physical ability, while others are much more natural, and naturally effective, football players. That's Reed, and I thought he was a genuine bright spot down the stretch last year.
Wescott Pick No. 2: Jonathan Gray
Reed is one of those small-school East Texas kids who always had the physical upside and only needed that man-strength and maturity to put it all together. The development was a direct by-product of Jeffcoat's injury and as much as it hurt the 'Horns last season, it will benefit them this year.
As much as I like Reed, I love my second pick because Johnathan Gray is totally eligible for this and I'm frankly a little bit surprised that you didn't tab him with your selection. In high school, Gray was the Euclidian Terrorist, blowing up angles and finding the endzone no matter what. He didn't have the space last season and the Applewhite offense is going to fit him like a Superman's suit -- there will be more space against numbers on swing passes and flares and the ability to leverage linebackers and jump gaps in the running game.
Gray has always been the perfect package -- the superstar talent with the selflessness to follow Joe Bergeron and Malcolm Brown to Texas and the work ethic to maximize his ability. Applewhite's changes are the final ingredient that will unleash Gray on a college football world that is somehow rather unsuspecting despite the hype that accompanied him to Texas.
I may have whiffed badly on Steve Edmond last season, but I'm feeling like I'm going to be able to point back to these first two picks and do some crowing when the 'Horns start the season undefeated heading into the TCU game on the backs of national breakout campaigns from Ash and Gray and the Texas offense.
That's what's up and now I'm as excited for this football season as I have been. Blow me away with your third pick.
PB Pick No. 3: Kendall Sanders (err... and Marcus Johnson, too)
I love Gray -- you know that -- but you also know me: I can't take QB1 and RB1. Not for My Guys.
No, I like to pick up my predictive shovel and dig a little bit for My Guys, and I'm using my first pick on the offensive side of the ball to grab Kendall Sanders... and if you'll let me cheat a little, Marcus Johnson, too.
I'm cheating a bit here because both guys are banged up at the moment, but what I'm getting at is that I like the potential for either of these guys to turn some heads at WR3. The expectations are there with Sanders, and justifiably so -- he's the full package physically, and a competitor, too. If he plays healthy all year, he's going to make some highlights and rack some stats. As for Johnson, from what I've seen of him so far, he's got some Quan Cosby in him and strikes me as one of those kids who arrives without much fanfare but will leave with everyone knowing who he is.
Wescott Pick No. 3: Sheroid Evans
Wow, so breaking out the first double down in My Guys draft history. In the spirit of elevating the goodwill around a program that needs all it can get, I'll go along with that, because give me some playmakers in pace. Free the ghost of DJ Monroe? In Applewhite I trust.
I'm going to head over the defensive side with my first really legit pick here I haven't exactly reached for my first two. And I'm not exactly reaching here either but the evaluator in me is absolutely in love with Sheroid Evans. Give me the size, the length, the speed, and throw in those tantalizing flashes? Yeah, I'm on board with the next Texas standout featuring world-class speed and the wise teachings of Duane Akina.
At DBU, it's all about who's got next. And Sheroid Evans got next.
PB Pick No. 4: Tyrone Swoopes
Excellent choice - I was eyeing Evans for my fourth choice, but since he's off the board I'll use my last pick to swing for the fences.
Swoopes, Tyrone. He's going to play, and I'm with you: in Applewhite we trust. Major's shown his eagerness to utilize the weapons he has on hand, and to try to get the most out of them. If that's the case, and since we don't want to turn things over to Case, the true freshman is going to be given opportunities to be a contributor this fall. I think he makes the most of it, and emerges as a red zone specialist, not unlike the way Blake Bell thrived in his niche role the past couple seasons for the Land Thieves.
My favorite thing about him is the power in his legs. I mean, holy sh*t -- you watch him run and see those two-ton pistons churn and it just looks... it's hard to believe. He looks like he should move about half as well as he actually does. He's not a gazelle like Vince, but his legs are a weapon, just a different kind. The kid's like a freakish cross between Ben Roethlisberger and Donovan McNabb. I mean, uh... let's wait and see how he develops.
Screw it, that's what My Guys is all about. And that just feels good to say: Tyrone Swoopes, one of My Guys.
Who ya got, champ? Close us out...
Wescott Pick No. 4: Peter Jinkens
Playing Swoopes this season is an investment in the future, just like the last few seasons have been in the team.
The Texas program is fighting to get back into the national elite and Mack Brown needs some soldiers. Apologies for the war cliche, but to channel Kellen Winslow here, Peter Jinkens is a solider for his U. Tre Walker talked about Texas giving up and justified his accusation with a shrug and a casual note that the 'Horns give up because that's just how they are. It isn't how Jinkens goes about his business.
Emotion and intangibles aside, did I mention that Jinkens ran a faster 40 time than Gray at The Opening? He's a stud athlete who was a good enough running back to play the position in college. Instead, he's set to save the coaching career of Manny Diaz.
With a little help from our Guys, the football will be good again. May it be so, and salut, good buddy, to another year in the books and a defining season to come.
And now the conversation opens up to you, BON. Who are Your Guys for the 2013 season?