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Texas sophomore S Caden Sterns preparing to lead young secondary

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The preseason All-Big 12 selection will need a big year on the field and on the sidelines for the Longhorns.

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: NOV 23 Texas at Kansas Photo by Scott Winters/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Even before he stepped on campus, expectations were high for Texas Longhorns safety Caden Sterns. He arrived ranked as the nation’s No. 1 safety and as the No. 1 player in the state of Texas, per the 247Sports Composite, making him the highest-ranked addition since Malik Jefferson four years earlier.

To the delight of Texas fans, Sterns didn’t wait long to prove that the hype was warranted.

As a true freshman he led the team with four interceptions, contributed 62 tackles, and recorded eight pass breakups en route to a Big 12 Defensive Freshman of the Year award and being named a semifinalist for the Jim Thorpe award.

So Sterns has proven himself on the field, at least from a talent perspective, so what’s next for the talented young star?

“Just continuing to be a pro,” Texas defensive coordinator Todd Orlando said on Saturday. “Get with Brandon Jones, know how those older guys prepare, be really efficient. He’s got the talent, there’s no doubt about it, but sometimes it takes a little bit to learn.”

Sterns, admittedly one of his own worst critics, will find himself taking on a leadership role in spite of his his level of experience. His mental development seems to be both his and the coaches’ focus as Texas prepares for the season.

“I’m always hard on myself so I have to learn how to reload as me and coach talked about,” Sterns said following the first week of practice. “Let go of the mistake or if I made a play, just let it go and continue to keep playing.”

From the outside, Sterns is already seen as a player to watch at Texas, as one of just four Texas players and the only defender named to the preseason All-Big 12 team. The Longhorns need players even younger than him to be major contributors, so the time is now to step up and show the way.

“I think anybody can be a leader, it’s not just age. Experience, it matters, but at the same time it’s the same game you’ve been playing since you were young,” Sterns said. “There are still things I need to work on, probably being more vocal and continuing to lead by example and just continuing to guide and teach the little things to everybody.”

His role as a leader will be paramount for a reloading Texas defense, as they replace all three of last year’s starting cornerbacks with young, but talented defenders. But Sterns is still around, and although he’s only a true sophomore, he’s already emerged as a staple and a leader for this Longhorns defense.