All expectations for this year’s freshman class were met, fulfilled, and exceeded with a Sugar Bowl victory for No. 15 Texas over No. 5 Georgia.
Safety B.J. Foster and B-backer Joseph Ossai, who made his first career start, looked like veteran defensive players out there. Ossai was seemingly in on every tackle for Georgia’s first couple of offensive drives and Foster was flying around the field delivering popping hits. The nation got a dose of how special this class can be on Tuesday night.
Signing as the nation’s No. 3 recruiting class last December, Tom Herman’s first full recruiting class has already taken significant measures towards restoring this program as elite over a year later. With another offseason of development, 5-6 players from this class have a real shot to start on defense from day one next season. The future is only getting brighter for these guys.
Foster got the start in place of Caden Sterns, who was still nursing a knee injury suffered against Oklahoma in the Big 12 Championship game. On Friday, Sterns provided a positive injury update on that knee:
Texas FR All American Caden Sterns said he will not require surgery on his knee that forced him to miss the Sugar Bowl.— CJ Vogel (@cjvogel3) January 5, 2019
Also said OSU WR signee Garrett Wilson (@GarrettWilson_V) & UT DB signee Tyler Owens (@tkowens471) are two guys that really stand out to him at @19AllAmerican
Mojo Ojomo and Keondre Coburn saw some action at defensive tackle and Ayodele Adeoye played on special teams. Along with wide receiver Malcolm Epps, these players were the lone freshmen to play while maintaining their redshirt this season, as they played in four games or less.
Keaontay Ingram (RB): Tim Beck’s offense came out with some well-designed scripted play calls on the first drive of the game, one of which resulted in Ingram’s longest play of the game — a 17-yard dump off pass for a big third-down conversion. This play worked perfectly against Georgia’s blitz call and Ingram patiently waited for his blocks to develop to pick up the big gain.
On a play that’s been so effective all season long, Ehlinger capped off the opening drive on a designed quarterback run following Ingram’s lead block.
The freshman running back was held in check on the ground, though. Running between the tackles against Georgia wasn’t going to be easy and that’s why Tre Watson was so effective with his ability to run laterally against their defense.
Ingram finished with nine carries for 25 yards (2.8 YPC) and added 24 yards on three receptions through the screen game.
2019 outlook: With graduate senior Tre Watson gone, Ingram will take on a bigger role as the team’s likely lead running back next season. His lateral quickness and elusiveness are areas to improve on while taking that next step as a back.
Season Stats: 142 carries for 709 yards (5.0 YPC) — 3 TDs, 27 receptions for 170 yards — 2 TDs (6.3 YPC)
Brennan Eagles (WR): Eagles saw limited action against Georgia.
2019 outlook: With Collin Johnson returning, the 6’3 freshman will learn from the 6’6 senior at the XWR position for another season.
Season Stats: 1 reception for 35 yards
D’Shawn Jamison (WR): On Jamison’s only offensive snap, Ehlinger was too indecisive on a run-pass option play and fumbled the exchange. Jamison was open with space and blockers ahead, too.
2019 outlook: This offseason of development will be key for Jamison. The competition at wide receiver will be heavy, especially at the slot receiver position with Jake Smith and Jordan Whittington enrolling early. A position change back to cornerback is possible for Jamison if these two freshmen progress quickly. Regardless of what happens, his elite speed will be needed somewhere on the field.
Season Stats: 4 carries for 8 yards (2 YPC), 3 receptions for 2 yards, 10 kick returns — 20.2 YPR, 9 punt returns — 13.1 YPR - TD
Keondre Coburn (DT-3): Coburn made an excellent leg tackle on D’Andre Swift to limit what could have been a big gain. Immediately after Coburn lost his helmet on the play, he knew he had to come out for a play and sprinted to sideline. High IQ play from Coburn all around.
2019 outlook: Coburn will compete for the starting defensive tackle spot.
Season Stats: 2 solo tackles
Mojo Ojomo (DT-3): Ojomo played a couple snaps in the middle of that defensive line.
2019 outlook: Ojomo will compete for a starting spot along on the defensive line.
Ayodele Adeoye (LB-4): The freshman linebacker from IMG Academy appeared in his fourth game as a special teams specialist.
2019 outlook: Linebacker is an area in need of depth and starting voids to fill for the Horns next season. With another offseason under Yancy McKnight’s strength and conditioning development, Adeoye has a chance to emerge into a starting linebacker. He’ll likely compete with incoming California product De’Gabriel Floyd at the Mac linebacker position.
Joseph Ossai (LB): Ossai made his first career start over Jeffrey McCulloch at the B-backer position. Another month of practice sure meant a lot for a guy that was really picking it up towards the end of the season. He out-physicaled Georgia’s big offensive line and was effective on run stops. He finished with eight tackles (five solo) and it felt like he had 15 with the impact he made.
2019 outlook: There’s no doubt that the loss of Charles Omenihu is irreplaceable. But, the edge position doesn’t lose much ground, if any, with Roach returning and Ossai at the B-backer position.
Season Stats: 11 tackles (5 solo), sack, FF
DeMarvion Overshown (LB/S): Overshown played his role on special teams again in this one.
2019 outlook: Although he only played on special teams, Overshown is another one of those highly-recruited guys that will compete for a starting position next season. It’s unclear where that will be, as he could grow into his body and play linebacker eventually. But, for right now, he’s another returning freshman safety that Todd Orlando can move around on defense.
Season Stats: 1 tackle
Anthony Cook (CB): After Davante Davis got ejected for a targeting hit on Georgia’s last offensive drive of the game, Cook entered the game at cornerback. Cook was then ejected for a questionable targeting call on his first play in the game. It was definitely a late hit on Fromm but not sure that was targeting.
Just like the Anthony Wheeler situation last season, the targeting rule carries over to the next season, which means Cook will miss the first half of the season opener. Thankfully, it’s at home against Louisiana Tech and not Maryland. Still, those first-half reps of real game-action with LSU coming to Austin the following week would be important.
2019 outlook: Senior starting cornerbacks Kris Boyd and Davante Davis played in their final game on Tuesday. The top two cornerback commits from this class — Cook and Jalen Green — are top candidates to fill their shoes next season.
Season Stats: 18 tackles (13 solo), PBU, sack
Jalen Green (CB): With Davis and Cook out of the game, Green was the next man up at cornerback. He totaled two tackles on the final defensive drive of the game.
2019 outlook: As mentioned above, with a year of experience already under their belts, it’s likely going to be Cook and Green’s turn as a cornerback duo.
Season Stats: 3 solo tackles
B.J. Foster (S): The defensive player of the game belongs to safety B.J. Foster. Against a well-protecting offensive line, a four-man rush wasn’t going to be enough. So, Todd Orlando disguised blitzes all night long and Foster executed to perfection.
Time after time, Foster’s closing speed and late pressure forced Jake Fromm into multiple throwaways and errant passes. The freshman timed up his blitzes perfectly and delivered some striking hits.
He popped the ball out of D’Andre Swift’s hands late in the first half on a run and nearly caused a turnover. The former five-star rated recruit was making five-star like plays all over the field.
Foster totaled three solo tackles (2 TFL) and had a really nice pass breakup on a downfield throw towards the sideline.
2019 outlook: If Brandon Jones returns for his senior season, the back end of the secondary will be set with him and Sterns. This would keep Foster at his current role as a hybrid safety in Orlando’s defense, though he could also move to nickel back.
VIDEO: Texas talked all week, and really all year, about being the more physical team. Our @ATXANT10 got a great shot of BJ Foster (@nofear_2) lowering the boom on Jake Fromm. Texas was the more physical team all night. pic.twitter.com/dYT1aExecF— Jeff Barker (@JeffBarker_) January 2, 2019
Season Stats: 46 tackles (33 solo), 9 TFL, 2.5 sack, INT, 2 FF, 3 PBUs
Cameron Dicker (K): Dicker did his job for the most part in this one. Despite a kickoff out-of-bounds and a missed 45-yard field goal late, he made two key field goals and had a decent onside kick attempt.
2019 outlook: With Austin Seibert’s eligibility up, Dicker will hold reign as the conferences best returning kicker. Finally, an offseason where the kicking game is no longer a question mark for the Horns.
Season Stats: 18-25 FG (72%) — 4-5 20-29 yards, 6-7 30-39 yards, 7-11 40-49 yards, 1-2 50+ yards, 38-39 XPs (97.4%), 2 tackles (1 solo)
Ryan Bujcevski (P): This game may have been Bujcevski’s most well-executed punting performance of the season. He was fluid with his timing and put the ball in the right spots. On five punts, he averaged 41.4 yards with four punts pinned inside-the-20 and a long of 52 yards. It was very important for Bujcevski to avoid a blocked punt at the end of the first half punting from near his own goal-line with eight seconds left. Kirby Smart sent the house, but Bujcevski got the punt off in plenty of time.
2019 outlook: A year of progress would be a way to sum up Bujcevski’s freshman season. Adding strength to help increase hang time and distance on his punts would provide another boost to this football team. Tom Herman loves to win the field position game, as seen as a key strategy against Georgia. Bujcevski can help that cause with a strong offseason in the weight room.
Season Stats: 63 punts — 40.3 YPP, 18 downed inside-the-20, 9 50+ yards, 1 tackle
Other true freshmen that have played this season:
Joshua Moore (WR)*
2019 outlook: Still recovering from a shoulder injury, Moore will compete at the slot receiver position with incoming freshman Jake Smith. There will be plenty of reps to go around at the slot receiver position if Lil’Jordan Humphrey goes to the NFL.
Season Stats: 7 receptions for 53 yards — TD
Malcolm Epps (TE-3)
2019 outlook: Listed as a wide receiver right now, Malcolm Epps could transition into a tight end if he gains enough weight or remain at the X position. He lined up there when he saw in-game reps this season. At 6’5 230-pounds, Epps suits the position well as another big body target that Ehlinger can throw it up to.
Season Stats: 1 reception for 18 yards
Caden Sterns (S)
2019 outlook: The freshman safety duo of Sterns and Foster exceeded most expectations during their first year in Austin. Sterns’ coverage skills and instincts are already off the charts for a freshman. If he can stay healthy and take advantage of a somewhat down quarterback year in the Big 12 next season, he’ll compete for the Jim Thorpe Award.
Season Stats: 62 tackles (44 solo), 3 TFL, sack, 4 INTs, blocked FG, 4 PBUs
Two other storylines to follow this offseason? Whether quarterbacks Cameron Rising and Casey Thompson, neither of whom saw any playing time this season, opt to take their names out of the transfer portal and remain at Texas or head elsewhere in search of playing time.