The Texas Longhorns haven’t played football in a public setting since late December, but with nine early enrollees on campus and a handful of players who redshirted last season, there will be plenty of intrigue during the Orange-White game on Saturday at Darrell K Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium.
So here’s a list of seven players to watch.
Quarterback Sam Ehlinger
Fox Sports football analyst Joel Klatt believes that Ehlinger is the best option moving forward for the Longhorns and the sophomore will have a chance to create some more separation from junior Shane Buechele on Saturday. The offseason emphasis has been on quickening Ehlinger’s release and avoiding turnovers. Based on head coach Tom Herman’s comments, Ehlinger has done a good job of taking those directives to heart. Playing clean football in the Texas Bowl was a strong indication of improvement with decision making, but now it’s time to show better command of the run-pass option game, improve downfield accuracy and timing, and continue to protect the football.
Running back Daniel Young
The public challenges from Herman to his running backs this spring haven’t exactly been subtle. Cameron Townsend was moved over from linebacker and Cal graduate transfer Tre Watson will be watching the game from the stands. So the clear suggestion is that Young is still working through some issues like ball security. He’s also a player with an unusual level of upside for a running back because he’s only played the position for three years. This fall, he’ll be the best power/speed option on the team even if Watson joins the program, meaning that the snapshot provided by the Orange-White game will be important for Young.
Wide receiver Lil’Jordan Humphrey
Arguing for Collin Johnson in this spot is legitimate, but Humphrey is intriguing because he’s the back-up X receiver, a possible option in the slot, and a guy who can play to the boundary or the field in 10 personnel. And though Humphrey almost certainly won’t have a chance to show it on Saturday, he’s also an option on direct snaps and has the best after-catch ability of any wide receiver on the team. After his suspension for the Texas Bowl and buzzy performances in spring practice, will he show flashes of emerging as the team’s top pass-catching threat next season?
Tight end Reese Leitao
The former basketball player redshirted last season after his suspension for an offseason arrest and conviction. During bowl preparation, Leitao impressed offensive coordinator Tim Beck with his pass-catching ability. A high school defensive end as well, Leitao also possesses the physicality, experience, and size to be an effective in-line blocker. So the Texas debut for Leitao is an important storyline at the tight end position, which doesn’t feature much depth on campus right now.
Left tackle Samuel Cosmi
Herman has already made it clear that he wants to see more improvement from the back-up offensive linemen, a group that includes the redshirt freshman Cosmi. Now one of the strongest players on the team, Cosmo physically draws comparisons to Connor Williams. The question is whether he can start showing public flashes of that upside or whether he’s still a year or more away from serving as a contributor. With Calvin Anderson only at Texas for one season, the Longhorns will have to find another left tackle for the 2019 season and Cosmi capably stepping into that role is currently the ideal scenario.
Defensive lineman Ta’Quon Graham
With starting nose tackle Chris Nelson still recovering from his elbow injury, Graham will likely see some first-team or second-team reps at the nose tackle position. Now at 290 pounds, Graham has remarkable athleticism to play over the center and should have chances to disrupt the offensive line with the type of slants that defensive coordinator Todd Orlando likes to employ.
Defensive back Caden Sterns
All of the early enrollee defensive backs qualify as players Texas fans are surely excited about watching in burnt orange and white for the first time, but Sterns earns inclusion on this list because he’s the most versatile. Capable of playing virtually any position in the secondary, where Sterns lines up during the scrimmage will provide insight into where the coaches currently see him contributing. With so many different roles available in the nickel and dime packages and an elite mental makeup, Sterns is a dream for coaches.
Which players are you looking forward to watching during the scrimmage? Let us know in the comment section.