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Texas early enrollees making strength gains and impressing early

The big group is already making big moves on the Forty Acres.

Caden Sterns during a spring practice

Back in early January, an unusually large cadre of early enrollees arrived on campus to begin preparation for their respective careers with the Texas Longhorns.

Among the nine players were two consensus four-star quarterbacks, a physically freakish wide receiver raked second in the state at his position, a mature junior college offensive lineman, one of the nation’s top inside linebackers, three defensive backs, including a consensus five-star prospect, and the nation’s top punter.

By the end of offseason workouts in early March, one of those early enrollee quarterbacks, Oklahoma native Casey Thompson, already looked like a college player (far right):

The freakishly talented wide receiver, Brennan Eagles, had run a 4.51 40-yard dash, a 3.99 shuttle, and posted a 37-inch vertical leap last spring at a Nike event. At 6’4 and 214 pounds. Then he got to Texas:

The linebacker, Ayodele Adeoye, said that he dropped his body fat by a third and added 10 pounds of muscle mass to a frame that was already remarkably well-developed.

The gains of the two safeties were touted by position coach Craig Naivar on Wednesday:

Head coach Tom Herman started off his first spring press conference by touting the strength gains of his entire program, but the recent tweets provide some perspective on just how far the early enrollees have come in the last two months.

On the field, Herman recently said he was happy with the play of his young quarterbacks.

“I can’t tell you enough, knock on wood, those two young guys for guys that should be in high school right now… I’m used to when your fourth string quarterback goes in, you might as well turn your back, get a water, and let it play out because you’re not going to move the ball,” Herman said. “We moved the ball with those two guys in there.”

For offensive coordinator Tim Beck, those two players are still trying to learn the system and adjust to the increased level of competition, but he’s also come away impressed with their potential.

“The two younger guys are swimming,” Beck said. “I should say this. I am impressed. I like those guys. I think they’re very talented guys. They’re smart guys, but when it gets out here sometimes when the bullets fly you can see it struggles for them a little bit, all of it to marry into one. I like what they’re doing. I do.”

Ayodele is swimming, too, but he’s also benefitting from an increased number of repetitions due to the injuries of seniors Gary Johnson and Edwin Freeman.

Now, with the news that senior nickel back PJ Locke III is out with a stinger suffered last Saturday during the scrimmage, both Caden Sterns and BJ Foster will have opportunities to play more down the stretch and in the Orange-White game.

And, in fact, that’s happening:

Like Beck with his quarterbacks, defensive coordinator Todd Orlando has positive things to say about his early enrollee defensive backs when asked.

“They’re unbelievable kids,” Orlando said last week. “We’ve had zero issues if I can knock on wood here. We’ve had zero issues with those kids. They’ve been accepted by our vets, which that’s to me what I look at. When a young guy comes into a program, I just watch the upperclassmen. They know whether they’re good in the locker room. They want them to be great players because they’re going to help them win. I just watch our vets with them. Probably took them two weeks where they said this is a part of our crew. We’ll show you how things go around here. They’ve been great. They’ve been really, really physical. They just work.”

Both Sterns and Foster made plays in the high school all-star games last January, with Sterns earning defensive MVP honors at the US Army All-American Bowl after securing two interceptions in San Antonio. Foster had an interception, forced fumble, and another big hit in the Under Armour All-American game in Florida.

The two players are already drawing comparisons to one of the toughest players to emerge from the school once known as DBU in recent years — Quandre Diggs, who is something of a big brother to Foster as a fellow Angleton native:

They all got that dog in ‘em. While Foster might as well be from the Diggs-Jammer family tree, Sterns has impressive pedigree, too — his older brother, Jordan, was a standout at Oklahoma State who had a chance to make the roster in Kansas City before an illness led to his release last August.

The other early enrollee defensive back, Anthony Cook, also looks like he’s made progress physically. He’s facing a deeper depth chart at cornerback, but still flashed recently when he forced junior wide receiver Collin Johnson to make an extremely difficult one-handed catch against physical coverage. And Cook is also receiving an opportunity because senior Davante Davis, the prospective starter opposite of team leader and rising senior Kris Boyd, recently tweaked his ankle in practice.

The kids are gonna be alright, y’all.