Every Friday, HornsNation recruiting writers William Wilkerson and Max Olson will answer a question about the Longhorns.
This week's question: At which position does Texas need the most immediate help in 2013?
William Wilkerson: It has to be safety.
For as much flak as Blake Gideon got last season for his play he’d be an improvement over anything the Longhorns have thrown out there this season.
Texas found itself in real trouble when it realized it wasn’t getting the type of production it envisioned receiving from Adrian Phillips, who has been one of the faces of its tackling issues; the Longhorns’ 91 missed tackles this year are 31 more than any other team else in the Big 12 and 3rd-most among all FBS teams.
That forced the Longhorns to play Mykkele Thompson in a more prominent roll probably a littler earlier than they would have liked. The adjustment from high school quarterback to head-hunting safety has been average at best. And who knows if it will ever get there.
Josh Turner has shown glimpses in coverage but I’m not sold on his long-term ability to come up to the line of scrimmage and make an impact in stopping the run. I like him to come in as a nickel or dime option but not an every down DB.
That being said, those are Texas’ options going into 2013 at this point along with Adrian Colbert, who looks like he’s on his way to redshirting, and incoming freshman Erik Huhn, who will be coming off an ACL injury.
The Longhorns could really get a boost in the next two weeks if ESPN 150 safety Marcell Harris chooses Texas over Florida, Florida State and Oklahoma. He’s exactly the type of safety the Longhorns could use to shore up some of these issues.
At 6-foot-1 and 209 pounds, Harris has the frame and physical mentality to make a difference in run defense plus the speed (4.5) to excel in pass coverage.
But I’m guessing Harris stays close to home and chooses Florida, which means Texas is going to have to work with what its got right now or find another alternative.
Just don’t look Gideon’s way. He has exhausted his eligibility.
Max Olson: I’m going with the offensive line, which might make no sense. But hear me out.
Texas’ offensive line is set up to return five starters next season. That’s typically viewed as a critical advantage -- teams with veteran offensive can set the tone in any game.
Only, Texas has been incapable of that this season. This line is solid, but it’s not intimidating anyone. It’s good enough to not get noticed much. For a program that’s convinced its future is tied to the power run game, though, that’s not good enough.
And in the big picture, the problem really isn’t the starters. What’s more concerning is the fact that after saying throughout the offseason that the Longhorns needed 10 good men on the line, Mack Brown and his staff only have six they actually entrust with playing time.
What that says about the development of backups Sedrick Flowers, Thomas Ashcraft, Garrett Porter and Kennedy Estelle, I’m not sure. That Texas’ starting linemen haven’t suffered significant injuries this season is remarkably fortunate, because who knows what is waiting in the wings.
What we do know is Texas is set to sign one of the nation’s best offensive line classes. The Longhorns’ top three rated verbal pledges all come from coveted big men: Harker Heights (Texas) center Darius James, Celina (Texas) tackle Jake Raulerson and Dallas Lake Highlands tackle Kent Perkins.
Texas is also sitting pretty for four-star interior lineman Caleb Benenoch and Andrew Billings and could even add a junior college transfer. The haul should be an impressive one come signing day, but what happens next?
If offensive line coach Stacy Searels can get this group’s development on track from the start, they’ll have a chance to fortify this Texas line with the depth it sorely lacks.
More importantly, the 2013 line class can push those incumbent starters. Without increased competition, Texas will stay stuck in the rut of knowing its five best offensive linemen are its only five lineman.