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Monday, March 18, 2013
5 Horns to watch in second half of spring

By Sean Adams

AUSTIN, Texas -- Texas has one of the most experienced teams in the Big 12 coming back for the 2013 season. It has finished the first half of spring practice, went on spring break and now will settle back in to finish the spring as strong as possible.

In order for the Longhorns to realize and capitalize on their potential, there are some players that will have to step up for rest of spring practice. Here are five Longhorns who need to have a huge spring:

Adrian Phillips
The Longhorns need a big year out of safety Adrian Phillips
No. 1: S Adrian Phillips

Phillips had a tough year in 2012 and drew criticism from just about every Longhorns fan.

Was he set up to fail? The answer to that is always no in my mind, but he definitely did not have everything he needed to be successful. Couple that with the need that Texas had for him to be on the field because of the personnel and we should have been able to predict his struggles.

He wasn’t able to tackle or work out during the spring of 2012 and was limited in fall camp due to injury. When live football started and players like Tavon Austin ran at him full speed, Phillips was still trying to get his legs under him.

Early word in the spring is that Phillips is playing at a much higher level than this time in 2012. His continued growth and success will be vital to shore up the defensive backfield that has a big question mark at safety.

No. 2: WR John Harris

If you were to look at the Texas wide receivers lined up shoulder to shoulder and pick them based on the eyeball test, Harris might be the guy you choose first. He is 6-foot-3, 218 pounds, and is fast, athletic and has good ball skills. But he has yet to put the consistency together to make a splash in the Longhorns program.

With Texas pushing toward an uptempo offense coupled with uncertainty surrounding rising sophomore Cayleb Jones, Harris needs to solidify his place in the five-receiver set for the Longhorns. Even under the assumption that Jones returns at some point, depth is a huge need.

The remainder of this spring will probably be his last opportunity to push for serious playing time and make his mark in the Texas program.

No. 3: LB Dalton Santos

There is really only one known quantity at linebacker, Jordan Hicks. Santos has a real opportunity in front of him and it is a need position for the Longhorns.

While his situation is not as dire as the one facing Harris, this spring is still a huge opportunity for the slimmer Santos. There has been focus on the linebacker position in recruiting and the opportunities to grab playing time and starting spots going forward will be reduced.

Santos could go a long way to trotting out on the field with the first team to start the season if he can deliver and prove he has grown and evolved as a player this spring.

Mason Walters
A consistent Mason Walters could help boost Texas' offensive line in 2013.
No. 4: OL Mason Walters

I talked to a few professional scouts over the last couple of weeks and they all had the same thing to say about Mason Walters: “When he gets mad, he is a hell of a player.”

The Texas offensive line struggled in the middle last season and while it would be silly to isolate or even point to Walters as the culprit, he is a guy that could go a long way toward alleviating the problem.

He played most of 2012 dinged up with back issues and an ankle injury. As a healthy guard looking to establish himself for the NFL, he has enjoyed a fairly good first half of spring. His consistent play could solidify the offensive front and raise his stock for the 2014 NFL draft.

No. 5: TE Geoff Swaim

The junior college transfer at tight end could be a big factor for Texas. If this 2013 version of the Longhorns is going to be physical, they have to have a tight end that can set an edge.

While Texas is talking tempo, it would still rather be characterized as physical but playing fast, rather than being labeled a spread team. If Texas is going to own the line of scrimmage, it will have to have that sixth man there with the offensive line at times.

Swaim has shown during the first half of spring ball that he has the talent. He has given a glimpse of what might be possible, but he will be a guy that will benefit from being healthy as well when he is able to seriously hit the weight room between the end of spring football and fall camp.