Thursday, February 21, 2013
Five Texas redshirt freshmen to watch
By Max Olson
No member of Texas’ 28-man recruiting class in 2012 expected anything less than early playing time when he joined the program, especially after the Longhorns had seemingly thrown every freshman they had on the field the previous season.
For 12 of those 28 signees, getting onto the field in year one just wasn’t in the cards. After spending the fall on the practice field, in the weight room and home in their dorms for road games, those dozen recruits are ready to start making a name for themselves.
It all starts with a breakthrough spring. Last year, tight end M.J. McFarland was really the only redshirt freshman who saw meaningful playing time for the Longhorns. What does 2013 have in store for this year’s crop of second-year freshmen?
Where does freshman signal-caller Jalen Overstreet stand on the Texas depth chart?
Here are five redshirt freshmen to keep an eye on going into this week’s first spring practices:
There are plenty of other highly touted guys in Texas’ 2012 class, but it’s Colbert who plays at a major need position this spring. Quandre Diggs playing safety might make that a moot point, but there’s no guarantee that move will stick. Colbert, a three-star product of Mineral Wells, Texas, was one of the state’s better sleeper prospects and brings legit track speed to the position.
The Longhorns tried out several safeties in the starting lineup last season alongside Kenny Vaccaro with fairly mixed results. Now that Vaccaro is gone, it’s time to see if Colbert can be a difference-maker back there.
That Texas did not sign a defensive tackle in 2013 should, to some extent, speak to the level of confidence its coaches have in the four they inked in 2012. Malcom Brown is already in line to be a future star, but don't sleep on Ridgeway.
He’s got the size at 6-foot-4 and 280 pounds, and the former defensive end showed at the U.S. Army All-American Bowl (one sack, one forced fumble) that he’s capable of making an impact when he lines up at tackle. Paul Boyette Jr. and Alex Norman are also factors here, but Ridgeway has a real chance to emerge as a rotation player this spring.
You can’t put this list together without talking about Overstreet. Yes, fellow second-year quarterback Connor Brewer should start the spring ahead of Overstreet, and they both might be battling for the less-than-glamorous role of QB No. 3.
But you know fans will want to see what Overstreet, a 6-foot-2, 216-pound dual-threat quarterback, will be capable of in a more high-tempo passing attack. If Major Applewhite does value the rushing talents of the guy operating his offense, there’s no better time than now for Overstreet to make an impression with Tyrone Swoopes on campus on Jerrod Heard on the horizon.
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A bit of a mystery man in last year’s class, Cottrell was one of the final members of the Longhorns’ class after the two-star prospect flipped from Oregon. He came in as a speedy end/linebacker hybrid type from Plano West and has the type of frame that should’ve benefitted greatly from devoting a year to weight training.
Jackson Jeffcoat and Reggie Wilson are both seniors, and the quality of the depth behind them really depends on how this 2012 class pans out. If you’re looking for someone who could surprise this spring, it very well could be Cottrell.
A strong case can be made for putting Riser’s teammate from DeSoto, cornerback Bryson Echols, in this spot. But Texas has an impressive group of five incoming offensive linemen threatening to shake up the order of its starting five up front, including powerful guards Darius James and Rami Hammad.
Riser will have to fend off them, veteran starter Mason Walters and Trey Hopkins as well as several others young backups. It’ll be easy to get lost in that sea of big men, so this spring is an important one for the former ESPN 150 prospect.
Also, don’t forget about tackle Camrhon Hughes, who missed 2012 with a torn ACL but does have the advantage of being in the program one full year after having enrolled early.