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Texas S DeShon Elliott is making "tremendous strides"

The former Under Armour All-American has been putting in the work to catch up after missing the early portion of last season.

DeShon Elliott
DeShon Elliott
via @CoachBedfordUT

Put Texas Longhorns sophomore safety DeShon Elliott on the field and all he does is make plays. Now the former consensus four-star prospect is working this spring to put himself in a position to make plays as a starter at safety for the Longhorns.

According to senior safety Dylan Haines, one of the players that Elliott is competing with for playing time, there's some significant progress happening.

"He's coming along great," Haines said after practice on Tuesday. "That's a guy that missed camp last year basically because he had that 'toe thing'. He's made tremendous strides in the film room, in the classroom as we'd say, learning the game. He's taking it to the field. He's doing everything that he needs to be doing to get on the field. You have to honor that and you have to be proud of him for that."

The talent has certainly always been there. After recovering from the toe injury that cost the Rockwall-Heath product most of fall camp and the early part of the season, Elliott promptly forced a critical early fumble on kickoff coverage against Oklahoma on one of his first plays in burnt orange. When he finally got some playing time at safety, he recorded two interceptions against Kansas, showing a remarkable knack for being in the right place at the right time.

And then there was this infamous moment during the scuffle in Waco with Baylor, when he proved that he's down for whatever -- attitude isn't an issue either.

That's what it looks like to be ready to ride.

Still, none of that was enough for Elliott to crack the two deep at strong safety at the end of the season, as Haines and Kevin Vaccaro occupied the spots in front of him -- the crucial missed time in fall camp was too much to overcome, in the opinion of the coaching staff.

Now up to 215 pounds, Elliott is getting the offseason reps in practice that he missed last August and is part of one of the more intriguing storylines this spring for Texas as he attempts to take control of a starting job. With fellow sophomore PJ Locke spending a lot of time working in the nickel and Adrian Colbert off to Miami as a graduate transfer, Texas only has a handful of scholarship safeties this spring.

So will Elliott move over to free safety and compete with junior Jason Hall, who has been underwhelming for most of the last two seasons after flashing early in his freshman campaign? Or will Elliott continue to battle with Haines, a former walk on regarded as a coach on the field who has the full and complete trust of head coach Charlie Strong and defensive coordinator Vance Bedford?

Since Haines is so highly regarded as someone who can communicate and help the rest of the secondary align, taking Hall's place seems like the much more viable and desirable option as Locke looks poised to win the job at nickel cornerback. Whatever the coaches decide, Elliott can learn a lot from how Haines approaches the game in terms of film study.

"The mental side of the game, I would say, is somewhere around 80%," Haines said. "So if you're the greatest athlete that doesn't necessarily mean that you can play. We play a complicated defense and I think that's good, because if you know what to do, you can anticipate things coming. That's something that I take a lot of pride in my game, is just being able to anticipate things. If you know it's coming it's a lot easier to defend it."

As evidenced by those two interceptions against Kansas, the instincts are there for Elliott. Now he has to continue growing in his understanding of the defense and of opposing offenses. In sharing a position room with Haines, the youngster doesn't have to look far for advice about how to gain that knowledge and then translate it to the field.

The next three weeks and remaining 11 practices will be crucial for Elliott as he works to continue along that learning curve. If Haines is correct and the high-upside young player is making tremendous strides, Elliott should at least figure heavily into the rotation once the season opens in early September.