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Thursday, April 11, 2013
Texas spring takeaways: Winners

By Carter Strickland

AUSTIN, Texas -- Maybe the score didn’t matter in the Orange-White scrimmage but don’t be fooled -- everybody was keeping score.

Play was critiqued. Judgments were made. Assumptions, both good and bad, were confirmed. And undoubtedly there were players who fell to both sides of the ledger: Some excelled and some didn’t. Hey, spring football is a wheat-from-the-chaff thing.

So it is along those lines that the time has come to look at those whose stock rose during the spring and those whose stock, while maybe didn’t fall, at the least stayed stagnant. And in the spirit of giving good news first, here are three players who are on the rise in the Texas program (On Friday, we'll list the losers):

John Harris
John Harris has emerged as a viable receiving option for the Longhorns.
1. John Harris, wide receiver: Harris’ performance in the spring game -- a game-high 92 receiving yards -- was already enough to pique the interest of many. The 6-foot-3 junior had been a player whom many expected to excel last year. But, for whatever reason, Harris never found his way into any of then-playcaller Bryan Harsin’s packages. These days, Texas might not be able to afford to keep him off the field. That’s because not only did Harris prove himself worthy of time with his solid route running, consistent hands and willingness to go and get the ball, but also because Texas could be without two players. Kendall Sanders and Cayleb Jones, who were potential starters, are now in legal trouble and could face extended time away from the team. Harris has started to prove that he could be a player who steps in and takes over as one of the four wide receivers when Texas goes to that set. He could even be a starter in three-wide sets. One thing to be wary of though is that Harris has only played in 10 games and has just four catches.

2. Peter Jinkens, linebacker: OK, he missed a tackle in the spring game. Wanted to get that out of the way first. And, really, he is probably going to miss a few tackles during the season as well. But what Jinkens has started to prove is that he can be in position to make all the tackles. And that is important. So many times last year the linebackers were caught in the wash or caught taking poor angles. That doesn't appear to be the case with Jinkens. He did, at times, have a tendency to run himself out of plays as a freshman in 2012. But this spring he matured and settled down just enough to correct the error of his previous ways.

Jinkens is also a high-energy player, and Texas missed that sort of player at the linebacker spot last year. That energy proved to be infectious among the linebackers as that unit, at least the first three, appeared to be more active in this spring game than they were all of last season.

3. Tyrone Swoopes, quarterback: It’s impossible to go from true freshman to third, and potentially second, on the depth chart and not make the fast-risers list. Swoopes has the physical size to compete at this level right now. His ability to slip or break through tackles was evident when he did just that to Jordan Hicks and Jinkens for a 7-yard gain. The freshman has also picked up the offense more quickly than maybe most had previously believed he would. Credit for that goes both to Swoopes and to quarterback coach Major Applewhite. It’s clear Applewhite sees the potential in Swoopes and that those two are pushing to make Swoopes a viable option sometime in 2013.