During offseason conditioning, Texas Longhorns head coach Tom Herman famously repeated his line about the team not having a depth chart, but the reality then and now remains that 11 men were going to trot out with the ones on offense and 11 men were going to start with the ones on defense when spring practice began.
And so it was for the ‘Horns just as it was for every other team around the country putting on shells for the first time.
After three practices, and with the fourth looming on Thursday afternoon, there are some early takeaways from the emerging depth chart, which still features plenty of potential for movement, but is likely largely set for the moment.
As a note on this depth chart, it was compiled from this description of Tuesday’s units, with some extrapolation — for instance, Chris Warren III wasn’t working with the first team, but is almost certainly the No. 1 back.
Likewise, there was some movement with the No. 1 cornerback position, with Davante Davis and Holton Hill working with the first team and Kris Boyd working with the second team. Given the brief looks at practice footage, Boyd hasn’t been giving up the big plays that are still plaguing Davis and Hill, who are likely battling for that other starting with John Bonney now occupying the boundary safety position.
When Hall returns from his hamstring injury, likely after or near the end of spring practice, he should have a strong shot of displacing Elliott based on his proven ability as a blitzer. On the flip side, this is an important spring for Elliott to make a jump forward and the increase in first-team reps is a big opportunity to showcase whatever improvement he’s made since last season.
At the linebacker position, Texas practices in nickel against Herman’s pro-spread offense, so it’s unclear who would play the F-backer position among linebackers like Erick Fowler, Demarco Boyd, and Cameron Townsend. Fowler likely fits somewhere at B-backer or middle linebacker, while Townsend was listed in the strong side position last year that played to the field.
There’s also some speculation involved in projecting what positions the backs up and players, and it’s also worth noting that Hager could also send some time at B-backer because of his pass-rushing skills.
In practice on Tuesday, Buechele took all the first-team reps, so in the early stages of the competition, it seems that the coaches haven’t seen anything from Buechele or Ehlinger to disrupt the status quo of Buechele in the starting role.
Another close battle is in the slot position, where Armanti Foreman and Devin Duvernay are in what is likely a close competition, with Foreman spending some time with the ones in the first two practices.
On Tuesday, Herman used the slot receivers in the hybrid position that helped elevate players like Curtis Samuel last year at Ohio State — those slot players are the ones who will take jet sweeps or motion into the backfield and receive handoffs. Duvernay in particular seems well suited to that role with his running back-like build. In fact, there was speculation last year during the summer that he could see time there.
Saturday’s scrimmage will provide more insight on the depth chart, especially on special teams, where junior college transfer Joshua Rowland and Mitchell Becker are competing for place-kicking duties. Becker improved tremendously during the course of last season on kickoffs, so expect him to retain that role.
Punter Michael Dickson has been working through a hamstring injury, but will remain the starting punter, while it’s not yet especially clear what players will handle kick returns and punt returns.