Five to watch: Youth on the rise

May, 7, 2014
May 7
10:00
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AUSTIN, Texas -- We continue this week's five to watch series with underclassmen who could take on important roles for the Longhorns in 2014. We'll exclude offensive lineman Kent Perkins, who would definitely make this list, because he made yesterday's list of key missing parts.

[+] EnlargeCaleb Bluiett
John Rivera/Icon SMICaleb Bluiett will be another athletic pass-rusher on Texas' defensive line.
DE Caleb Bluiett

Why put Bluiett here at No. 1 when he's not going to start? Because he reminded everyone in the Orange-White game why he's going to play a lot this fall.

The redshirt sophomore was disruptive off the edge in the spring game, tying for the team led with eight tackles while adding two TFLs and a pass breakup for the No. 2 defense. And with Jackson Jeffcoat and top backup Reggie Wilson gone, Bluiett will have to chip in.

He arrived in Austin an intriguing athlete, capable of playing tight end or along the defensive line. He bounced around between those duties throughout the 2013 season, flashed against Texas Tech once he settled in on defense and got to start against Oregon.

Bluiett has put on at least 30 pounds since joining the program and filled out into a really well-built end with intriguing tools. If he keeps coming along, he'll make life a lot easier for first-time starter Shiro Davis and the rest of this line.

WR Jacorey Warrick

Coaches and teammates call him by his nickname, "Petey," and it's a name you heard a lot during spring ball.

Warrick, a sophomore who played sparingly last year and didn't record a reception, has a chance to catch foes by surprise in the slot this fall. He overcame a torn meniscus suffered during his senior season at Houston Cypress Falls and was one of only a few true freshmen to see the field. Now it's time for an expanded role.

The 5-foot-10, 174-pound wideout enters Year 2 as one of the fastest players on the team at his position. He'll be pushed by fellow second-year receivers Montrel Meander and Jake Oliver (all three should contribute this season) and incoming freshmen like Armanti Foreman and Lorenzo Joe, but Warrick is a sharp route-runner who should get snaps in four-wide sets.

CB Bryson Echols

Lots of big-time former Texas defensive backs made their hay early with their special teams play. Last year, it was Echols who started making a name for himself on that front.

And not always in good ways, of course, with the few roughing the punter penalties Echols collected. But he did end up leading the Longhorns in special teams tackles with 10 on the year, and the DeSoto product can be one tough customer.

Where he fits into Texas' plans for 2014 remains to be seen, with Quandre Diggs and Duke Thomas slated to start at corner, but you need nickel backs in the Big 12 who can cover and tackle in space. As the Texas staff sorts through which pieces can make this defense complete, Echols' help in the secondary could make a difference.

Then again, it's entirely possible that by the end of the 2014 season, we're talking a lot more about redshirt freshman Antwuan Davis. He was good enough to play last year, but Mack Brown wisely opted to preserve his redshirt. A confident, aggressive corner with excellent speed, he was the real deal as a recruit and might be poised for a breakout.

LB Naashon Hughes

Hughes opened some eyes in the spring game with his play off the edge for the No. 2 defense. Depending on how Charlie Strong and Vance Bedford construct this defense, he could find himself fitting into a specialty role going forward.

[+] EnlargeKendall Sanders, Naashon Hughes
Brendan Maloney/USA TODAY SportsNaashon Hughes (40) impressed Texas' new coaching staff this spring.
The redshirt freshman from Harker Heights proved with his senior year of high school ball he deserved a full scholarship, and not the planned grayshirt. He brings speed and athleticism in a 6-4, 231-pound package, and is the kind of linebacker who can rush from the outside and get the job done in coverage.

Texas' overwhelming surplus of linebackers might mean a year on the bench for Hughes, unless more injuries strike that group, but his time will come.

DB Chevoski Collins

If you want a sleeper who could come out of nowhere on defense and make a difference, look at Collins and fellow safety Adrian Colbert.

Unless another underclassman like John Bonney or Erik Huhn rises up, Colbert and Collins seem likely to take over as backup safeties behind the typically inconsistent duo of Mykkele Thompson and Josh Turner. Collins, a skilled athlete from Livingston could play in several spots in this secondary and brings lots of confidence for his age.

The redshirt freshman worked with the No. 2 defense in the spring game and still has some growing to do, but file that name away for down the road. He'll get his chance.

Max Olson | email

Big 12 reporter

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