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Texas TE Andrew Beck recovering from hip injury

The Florida native is a key player for the Horns as the team's most experienced returning player at his position.

Among part-time players in 2014, Texas Longhorns tight end Andrew Beck was hardly among the most important, but he will step into a massively important role this fall.

The sophomore from Tampa operated as a move blocker for the Horns down the stretch last year, battling through a hip injury that ultimately required surgery following the season. Now working his way back, the 6'3, 242-pounder is training to replace Geoff Swaim and MJ McFarland, the only tight ends on the roster to catch passes last season.

In fact, Beck is now the most experienced tight end on a roster -- he hasn't caught a pass in college after dropping an opportunity down the sideline against Texas Tech, but he did make two special teams tackles and at times was effective at the move position.

Against Texas Tech and West Virginia, Beck successfully executed 12 blocks to help the Texas running game once the coaching staff felt that he developed the confidence within the offense to contribute.

It took some time, as Beck enrolled early at Texas as a consensus three-star linebacker with strong skills across the board, then made the move to tight end during the fall after catching the eye of assistant head coach for the offense/quarterbacks coach Shawn Watson during a drill.

In an effort to evaluate the different skill sets of each freshman on campus, the coaches typically put them through NFL Combine-style drills. One of those is a cross-field catch drill that includes six balls fired at the player, requiring strong hand-eye coordination to catch them in rapid succession while moving.

Watson quickly picked Beck out of the group as the one with the best hand-eye coordination of them all, sending him racing across the field to head coach Charlie Strong.

"I started politicking right away," Watson said last November. "I ran up to Charlie and say 'Hey, 47 has got unbelievable hands, and he can run.' At that time, we were good at back, but we needed some depth at tight end."

Convincing Strong to give up a linebacker might not have been the easiest thing to do -- the Louisville offer for Beck clearly indicated that the head coach believed Beck could play the position at a high level.

But Strong obviously relented and Beck made the move to tight end during fall camp.

"He was really a perfect fit for what we'd like to do with our moving tight end," said Watson.

Except for the injury that slowed Beck as a freshman, that is. Now, it looks like Beck gained some upper body mass while recovering and enters the spring as the most experienced tight end on the roster with a chance to fill a critical role in the running game and possibly even provide some upside as a receiver.