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Potential position changes highlight Texas offseason storylines

As many as five players could switch positions for the Longhorns in the coming weeks.

NCAA Football: Alamo Bowl-Utah vs Texas Daniel Dunn-USA TODAY Sports

A defensive end moving to tight end. A cornerback moving to safety. A wide receiver moving inside to the slot.

There’s normally a position change or two for every college football program in the offseason, but for the Texas Longhorns, there’s an unusually high number of players who could switch position when the Horns open spring practice some time next month.

Some of those potential changes are a result of continued gaps in the roster, but head coach Tom Herman has also done a strong job of recruiting versatile football players who can contribute at multiple positions.

Roschon Johnson

Current position: Running back

Potential future position: Quarterback

After injuries in preseason camp devastated the running back position, the No. 6 dual-threat quarterback in the 2019 class, according to the 247Sports Composite rankings, switched from quarterback to create depth.

When Jordan Whittington aggravated his surgically-repaired groin, Johnson suddenly became the back up to Keaontay Ingram. And the Port Neches-Groves product impressed immediately with his natural feel for the position, from ball security to pad level to pass protection. Johnson ended the season with 123 carries for 649 yards and seven rushing touchdowns, good for 5.3 yards per carry.

The breakout game happened against West Virginia as Ingram struggled — Johnson turned 21 carries into 121 yards. Against Oklahoma the next week, Johnson broke off a 57-yard run and scored touchdown.

In the passing game, Johnson was reliable enough to haul in 23 catches for 158 yards and a touchdown.

After the regular season, the plan was for Johnson to return to quarterback pending an offseason discussion with Herman. Whether that conversation has happened yet should become more apparent when Herman meets with the media on Tuesday, but Johnson’s future for next season is currently unknown.

With Whittington’s return and the nation’s No. 1 running back set to arrive on campus this summer in Bijan Robinson, there will be significantly more competition for Johnson at running back — it’s possible although unlikely that he could end up as the fourth-string running back this fall if he stays at the position.

A path towards playing time at quarterback isn’t more clear, however, as Sam Ehlinger still has a season of eligibility, with Casey Thompson as the heir apparent. No. 2 dual-threat quarterback Hudson Card is already on campus and he’ll be joined by his 2020 classmate Ja’Quinden Jackson in June.

If Johnson does want to return to the quarterback position, he’s already missed a season of repetitions at the position, so the window might be closing for his viability as a passer.

Jordan Whittington

Current position: Running back

Potential future position: Wide receiver

Ranked as the No. 2 athlete in the 2019 recruiting class, Whittington was originally recruited by Texas as a wide receiver, but three running backs transferred after the 2018 season, the Longhorns weren’t able to add a second running back to the recruiting class, and the lone signee, Derrian Brown, suffered a stroke weeks after signing with the Longhorns.

So the coaching staff moved Whittington to running back, where he was perhaps an even more natural runner than Johnson during the spring. With 62 yards rushing and four catches in the Orange-White game, Whittington didn’t disappoint in his first appearance for the Horns.

After entering preseason camp as the No. 2 running back, Whittington eventually underwent two more surgeries on his groin and only appeared in the first half of the season opener.

Now the future positions of Johnson and Whittington are intertwined — if Johnson remains at running back, Texas could opt to move Whittington to wide receiver to compete for the starting job at flanker if Brennan Eagles moves to the X position. If Johnson moves back to quarterback, it makes sense to keep Whittington at running back to allow him to compete with Robinson for the right to serve as Ingram’s backup.

Daniel Young

Current position: Running back

Potential future position: Linebacker

Juwan Mitchell is still with the team after entering his name into the NCAA transfer portal before deciding to withdraw it and remain in Austin, but the linebacker position still lacks ideal depth due to injuries and attrition.

Since running backs coach Stan Drayton prefers to only play two running backs, Young projects as a player who will be on the outside looking in at the position after only receiving 16 carries in 2019.

Young played linebacker early in his career at Houston Westfield before he moved to running back as a junior. As a willing blocker and physical runner, Young has some attributes that could translate well to defense, so although Young is a little bit undersized at 6’0, there are plenty of linebackers who have had success in the Big 12 at that height. When Young played the position as a sophomore, he had an impact, recording six sacks and two forced fumbles.

Tyler Johnson

Current position: Left tackle

Potential future position: Guard

When Johnson arrived last January, he was a top-60 prospect and the No. 8 offensive tackle nationally. Herman spoke about the potential for him to contribute early, an unusual accomplishment for a freshman offensive lineman.

Johnson didn’t end up playing in 2019, but he did serve as the No. 2 left tackle behind Sam Cosmi after the injury to Reese Moore.

Listed at 6’6 and 315 pounds, Johnson has the body type that could translate inside to the guard position, too, where the athleticism that makes him a viable tackle candidate would allow him to serve as an impact player pulling on Power or Counter and getting to the second level on inside zone.

With one guard position open, there’s not a lot of confidence here in Tope Imade finally emerging as a contributor in his final season on the Forty Acres, so the Horns may have to find a better option on the current roster or on the graduate transfer market.

Of the players currently on campus, there’s a solid chance that Johnson is the most ready to take over for Parker Braun next to Cosmi.

DeMarvion Overshown

Current position: Safety

Potential future position: Linebacker

At 6’4 and 210 pounds, the former high school defensive end at Arp has faced questions about his long-term position ever since he committed to the Longhorns in 2017 — there’s no question that Overshown has the frame to carry 225 pounds. And since he’s never shied away from delivering big hits, there’s reason to believe that he could make a quick transition to linebacker.

Safety is also the most crowded position on the team. Caden Sterns and Chris Brown are the likely starters there if BJ Foster returns to the nickel and wins the job there. Following a redshirt season, it’s possible that Josh Thompson could earn the starting job there.

So then the question becomes whether new defensive coordinator Chris Ash will continue to utilize the dime packages that Todd Orlando did over the last several seasons. From the standpoint of getting the best defensive players on the field, Ash may have to do just that.

Since Overshown projects as one of the top 11 defenders on the team, Ash will either have to utilize Overshown in the dime package or spin him down to linebacker and see if he can earn the starting role at weakside linebacker, what Orlando called the Rover.

So what are your predictions about where each of this players will see action in 2020?