When the clock hit double zero's on Thanksgiving Day in Austin, Texas, the Texas Longhorns senior class (and/or the redshirt juniors) had just witnessed their 23rd defeat in their four years. And this defeat might've been harder than any other. After seeing a key player at every position go down at one time in the game, it seemed, this loss confirmed what many Texas fans had been scared of -- the 2015 Texas Longhorns will not make a bowl game.
With the season now officially over, it's time to focus on the impending coaching changes and recruiting.
Since the core of this team are still going to be underclassmen Texas seems to be in a good place entering next year. Let's get going and take a way-too-early look at the depth chart.
|Wide Receiver (H)||17||Ryan Newsome|||||27||Roderick Bernard|||||--||Davion Curtis|
|Wide Receiver (Z)||1||John Burt|||||--||Collin Johnson|||||8||Dorian Leonard|
|Tight End (Y)||42||Caleb Bluiett|||||80||Blake Whiteley|||||47||Andrew Beck|
|Right Tackle||75||Tristan Nickelson|||||--||Jean Delance|||||70||Buck Major|
|Right Guard||77||Patrick Vahe|||||72||Elijah Rodriguez|||||--||Denzel Okafor|
|Center||50||Jake Raulerson|||||51||Terrell Cuney|
|Left Guard||76||Kent Perkins|||||79||Garrett Thomas|||||--||Tope Imade|
|Left Tackle||55||Connor Williams|||||58||Brandon Hodges|
|Wide Receiver (X)||3||Armanti Foreman|||||5||Lorenzo Joe|||||6||DeAndre McNeal|
||Jerrod Heard|||||18||Tyrone Swoopes|||||14||Kai Locksley|
|Tailback||33||D'Onta Foreman|||||25||Chris Warren III|||||28||Kirk Johnson|
|Place-Kicker||--||Max Hall|||||35||Jon Coppens|
|Fox End||40||Naashon Hughes|||||90||Charles Omenihu|||||49||Derick Roberson|
|Tackle (Nose)||93||Paul Boyette, Jr.|||||94||Alex Norman|||||--||Gerald Wilbon|
|Tackle||98||Hassan Ridgeway|||||95||Poona Ford|||||--||Uncommitted freshman|
|Strong End||91||Bryce Cottrell|||||92||Quincy Vasser|||||--||Malcolm Roach|
|Middle LB||55||Dalton Santos|||||--||Dontavious Jackson|||||30||Tim Cole|
|Strongside LB||45||Anthony Wheeler|||||35||Edwin Freeman|
|Weakside LB||46||Malik Jefferson|||||44||Breckyn Hager|||||45||Cameron Townsend|
|CB||9||Davante Davis|||||29||Sheroid Evans|||||24||John Bonney|
|Free Safety||31||Jason Hall|||||11||PJ Locke|||||26||Adrian Colbert|
|Strong Safety||44||Dylan Haines|||||16||DeShon Elliott|||||18||Kevin Vaccaro|
|CB||5||Holton Hill|||||2||Kris Boyd|||||16||Jermaine Roberts|
|Nickel||2||Kris Boyd|||||24||John Bonney|||||11||PJ Locke|
|Punter||13||Michael Dickson|||||38||Mitchell Becker|
|Punt Returns||17||Ryan Newsome|||||2||Kris Boyd|
|Kickoff Returns||17||Ryan Newsome||AND||2||Kris Boyd|
|Snapper (PAT/FG)||45||Kyle Ashby|
|Snapper (Punts)||45||Kyle Ashby|
1. Jerrod Heard, RS So, 1L
2. Tyrone Swoopes, Sr, 3L
3. Kai Locksley, RS Fr, RS
4. Matthew Merrick, RS Fr, RS
5. Shane Beuchele, RS, HS
It seems like Texas is done taking quarterbacks in this class even though it seems like bringing in a JUCO quarterback or graduate transfer would be a smart option. Allowing Heard another summer to develop could be what Texas needs and along with a better offensive line and more developed and talented wide receivers Texas could finally have what they need, However, this position is still a long way from being figured out.
1. D'Onta Foreman, Jr, 2L
2. Chris Warren, So, 1L
3. Kirk Johnson, So, 1L
4. Tristian Houston, RS Fr, RS
This position will probably be what Texas is going to be built around next year. Foreman might be the best player on the offensive side of the ball and Warren might not be too far off, if we're talking potential. While this group has lacked that true speedster, Johnson and Houston seem to have that covered. If Texas' run-heavy plan stays on track, the 1-2 punch of Foreman and Warren will be almost impossible to stop.
1. Caleb Bluiett, RS Sr, 3L
2. Blake Whiteley, RS So, RS (Medical)
3. Andrew Beck, Jr, 2L
4. Incoming Freshman
5. Peyton Aucoin, RS, HS
Caleb Bluiett has taken over the starting position with really well-balanced play for Texas and I expect him to keep it next year. Converted linebacker Andrew Beck hasn't ever taken off like some people thought he would but after a couple lean years Texas has tight end depth. With promising prospect Blake Whiteley coming back from injury, incoming freshman Peyton Aucoin and in my opinion another tight end from the high school ranks, Texas will have plenty of options at the tight end position for the first time in a long time.
1. Ryan Newsome, So, 1L
2. Roderick Bernard, Jr, 2L
3. Davion Curtis, Fr, HS
4. Ty Templin, Sr, 1L
1. John Burt, So, 1L
2. Collin Johnson, Fr, HS
3. Dorian Leonard, Jr, 1L
4. Jake Oliver, RS Jr, --
1. Armanti Foreman, Jr, 2L
2. Lorenzo Joe, Jr, 2L
3. Deandre McNeal, So, 1L
4. Jacorey Warrick, Sr, 2L
5. Reggie Hemphill, RS, HS
The depth at the wide receiver position will be tremendous again next year. Texas will bring in a stud to match John Burt at the Z position in Collin Johnson. I would love to see a TCU-style offense with one back, two tall recievers on the edges and speedsters in the middle. In the last category, Texas will have plenty of them next year, but can they use them? Newsome, Bernard, Curtis, Foreman, and Warrick all have take the speed to take the top off the defense, but it's all about blocking for the quarterback and developing one who can connect with them. Texas will have a number of recievers to go to next year and can easily be one of the deepest teams in the nation next year at wide receiver, but first? Lets see if they have someone to catch those passes from.
1. Connor Williams, So, 1L
2. Brandon Hodges, RS Jr, TR-RS
1. Patrick Vahe, So, 1L
2. Elijah Rodriguez, RS So, 1L
3. Denzel Okafor, RS, HS
1. Jake Raulerson, RS Jr, 1L
2. Terrell Cuney, Rs So, --
1. Kent Perkins, Sr, 2L
2. Garrett Thomas, RS Fr, RS
3. Tope Imade, RS, HS
4. Alex Anderson, RS So, --
1. Tristian Nickelson, Jr, 1L
2. Jean Delance, Fr, HS
3. Buck Major, RS Fr, RS
The offensive line will be much improved next year. Freshman Connor Williams and Patrick Vahe have been the two best offensive linemen and junior Kent Perkins has been the third best. The fourth-best offensive lineman, as of today, isn't even if the starting lineup -- when Kent Perkins went down and Tristian Nickelson had to step in he was surprisingly good. Since then he's been in and out of the lineup and been very solid. With another year of polishing, the 6'9, 305-pound sophomore could be a great bookend to Connor WIlliams. Nickelson's emergence could allow Perkins to slide over to guard, the position he's performed better at throughout his time on the 40 Acres.
After penciling in Raulerson at the center position, the backup roles start to be filled. I think Hodges and Major can be good tackles one day so they will man the backup spots. Garrett Thomas, who per 247Sports was 6'5.5, 306 pounds coming into Texas, is now 6'6, 274 pounds, which makes you think they're setting him up for tackle or center, but he landed at guard due to youth behind him and the tackles spot being manned. The offensive line should have three (or more) additions in guards Denzel Okafor, Tope Imade, and currently uncommitted tackle Jean Delance.
1. Bryce Cottrell, RS Sr, 3L
2. Quincy Vasser, Sr, 1L
3. Macolm Roach, RS, HS
1. Paul Boyette Jr, RS Sr, 2L
2. Alex Norman, RS Sr, --
3. Gerald WIlbon, Fr, HS
4. Jake McMillion, RS So, --
1. Hassan Ridgeway, Sr, 3L
2. Poona Ford Jr, 2L
3. Incoming Freshman
4. Chris Nelson, RS So, 1L
1. Naashon Hughes, RS Jr, 2L
2. Charles Omenihu, So, 1L
3. Derrick Roberson, RS So, 1L
4. Andrew Fitzgerald, RS, HS
If Hassan Ridgeway returns to the Texas defensive line, the Longhorns return the starter at three positions and Paul Boyette Jr. -- who quietly had a nice season with 5 TFL and 3 sacks. Texas also plans on bringing in two or more defensive ends and two defensive tackles -- whether that's Wilbon and Kendell Jones or Wilbon and Jordan Elliott.
The talent of the front line should be quality, but the talent of the backups could be a problem. With an undersized Alex Norman and Quincy Vasser -- who hasn't shown much this year -- that could be something to watch. The snaps at Fox End will be mostly Hughes with Omenihu and Roberson getting their fair share.
1. Dalton Santos, Sr, 3L
2. Dontavious Jackson, Fr, HS
3. Timothy Cole, Sr, 3L
4. Demarco Boyd, RS, HS
1. Malik Jefferson, So, 1L
2. Breckyn Hager, So, 1L
3. Cameron Townsend, RS Fr, RS
1. Anthony Wheeler, So, 1L
2. Edwin Freeman, RS Fr, 1L
3. Incoming Freshman
Texas only loses one key linebacker this year, Peter Jinkens, and returns most everyone from the two deep. They also plan on adding three linebackers from the high school ranks and Dalton Santos back from injury. If Santos doesn't return, the middle linebacker position will need some reshuffling. The other two positions will both be littered with youth and talent -- Jefferson is the most talented player on this Texas (team?) defense and Edwin Freeman, Anthony Wheeler, and Breckyn Hager have all seemed to show the coaches something this year. It will be interesting how the all the spots shake out in the linebacker room next year.
1. Davante Davis, So, 2L
2. Sheroid Evans, SR, 3L
3. John Bonney, RS So, 2L
4. Bryson Echols, SR, 3L
5. Obi Eboh, RS, HS
1. Holton Hill, So, 2L
2. Kris Boyd, So, 2L
3. Jermaine Roberts, RS So, --
4. Antuwan Davis, RS Jr, 2L
1. Kris Boyd, So, 2L
2. John Bonney, RS So, 2L
3. P.J. Locke, So, 2L
Charlie Strong and company will have riches of talent at the cornerback position next year. Davis and Hill had breakout years as freshman, Sheroid Evans is a vet who when healthy has performed well and was reportedly performing well before being injured this spring, and Kris Boyd and Jermaine Roberts both are young guys who seem to have high ceilings but have not reached them yet.
Now, will another offseason be what they need? Maybe not, but I'm under the impression it will be for Boyd because he has the skills to be an elite cornerback, plus sub 4.45 speed -- which is plenty enough to keep up with all the shifty slot receivers a nickel cornerback defends. With all that I believe all three spots will be manned by members of Charlie Strong's first full recruiting class at Texas.
1. Jason Hall, Jr, 3L
2. P.J. Locke, So, 2L
3. Adrian Colbert, RS Sr, 3L
1. Dylan Haines, Sr, 3L
2. Deshon Elliot, So, 2L
3. Kevin Vaccaro, Sr, 3L
Texas, as at most every position, returns its starters at safety. Hall should start for his third straight year, as will Haines. Also, the depth will be a lot stronger. DeShon Elliot, whose year has been littered with injuries, will take another step and back up, and maybe even split reps with Haines. The safety spot should be a darn good one next year for the defense.
Special Teams (1):
1. Max Allan, Fr, HS --WALK ON
2. Evan Moore, So, -- --WALK ON
1. Michael Dickson, So, 2L
2. Mitchell Becker, JR, -- -- WALK ON
Texas will have one special teams specialist on scholarship next year. Now, is that a recipe for success? Probably not, but with Nick Jordan forgoing his last year of eligibility, Texas is left hung out to dry at the place-kicker position. The punter position will be held down by Michael Dickson, who has been very good after his early season struggles. So while special teams may be all but special next year, cheers to kickoffs out of bounds, missed field goals, and shanked punts!
If Texas brings in a freshman class of 15, which is how many I planned for, and no attrition occurs -- which with Charlie Strong at the helm seems uh, unlikely, to say the least -- Texas will have 83 scholarship players next year. Say two transfer and three are booted then Texas can take 22 in the class of 2016, which seems about ideal. Now, if the Longhorns can find 22 seniors that have as much interest in Texas as the staff does with them is a whole other issue. In the end, Strong and company seem destined for a small class this year and a bigger class in 2017 with 15 minimum leaving due to graduation and a couple more due to other matters.
Texas certainly doesn't have the most talent in the nation next year, not by a longshot, but it is certainly more than this year.Texas improves talent in the quarterback room, the offensive trench, and the linebacker and secondary rooms.
I'm sure the coaches wont be the only ones looking forward to turning from last year's page onto this one and I think the results will show it. I think Texas may be on the good side of some heartbreaking (for the opposition) breaks which may start to slam the brakes on Texas' skid of roller coaster seasons.