Texas Longhorns: Bryson Echols

Before Texas begins its first season under Charlie Strong, we're taking a deep dive into all the talent he inherits in 2014. Our Burnt Orange Breakdown series will take a closer look at each scholarship player returning this fall and what we can expect from him. We're going down the roster from No. 1 Shiro Davis all the way to No. 99 Desmond Jackson.

No. 15 Bryson Echols
Sophomore cornerback

Recruitment rewind: Less than two weeks after his DeSoto (Texas) High School teammate Curtis Riser committed to Texas, Echols pulled the trigger on a pledge after a visit in February 2011. A two-time all-state DB and Under Armour All-American, Echols ranked 79th in the final ESPN 150 for his class and sixth among all corners. He snagged nine interceptions in his final three years for the Eagles and developed blazing speed on the track. How fast? He ran the first leg on a DeSoto relay team that was the nation's best.

Career so far: Echols redshirted in 2012 and made his debut last fall, playing on special teams in all 13 games with snaps at corner at the end of three blowout wins. He recorded one tackle in all but two games in 2013 and showed some promise on coverage units, though he did also draw a few penalties in the process.

Best-case scenario for 2014: Safe to say Quandre Diggs and Duke Thomas are locked in for the starting corner spots, so best case for Echols might be proving himself enough to earn opportunities in nickel coverage and chances to play on passing downs. He's fast, competitive and getting stronger after bulking up 10 pounds since joining the program. Take those traits, play smart football, and you'll get a chance to help this defense and maybe even force a few turnovers.

Worst-case scenario for 2014: Echols will have some good competition at corner from senior Sheroid Evans and redshirt freshman Antwuan Davis, and you might even see Jermaine Roberts compete for snaps if he's ready as a true freshman. There's a ton of talent in that group of backup corners, and it would be easy to fall behind Evans and Davis if Echols isn't sharp in fall camp. He's going to be a talented contributor on special teams, but in his third year at UT surely he wants more than that.

Future expectations: DeSoto is indisputably one of the best talent factories in the state of Texas (thanks in large part to excellent coach Claude Mathis), and yet for some reason its three alums on the Texas roster have yet to achieve much. Of those three, Echols seems most likely to make his breakthrough in 2014. He needs it, too, because when Diggs and Evans graduate there's going to be plenty of playing time right there for the taking.

Five to watch: Youth on the rise

May, 7, 2014
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.
During the summer, HornsNation will analyze each of the scholarship players on the Texas roster -- excluding the Longhorns' 2013 recruiting class -- in our Burnt Orange Breakdown series. Starting with No. 1 Mike Davis, we will go through the roster numerically, finishing with No. 99 Desmond Jackson.

No. 15 Bryson Echols
Freshman cornerback

AUSTIN, Texas – Mack Brown isn’t quite sure what to do with Duke Thomas. Not just yet anyway.

"We will just have to look at it and probably play him both ways in the fall," the Texas coach said.

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AUSTIN, Texas – Quandre Diggs wants to quell all the rumors.

"I feel like we can put those rumors to rest about me playing safety this spring because that’s not what I’m doing," said the junior defensive back. "I’m playing nickel and corner. I don’t have a problem playing safety, but that is not where I’m needed right now."

[+] EnlargeQuandre Diggs
AP Photo/Rogelio V. SolisThe Longhorns experimented with playing Quandre Diggs at safety but he's sticking at cornerback.
There was a thought back in December that -- with Kenny Vaccaro leaving and the remaining safeties underperforming throughout 2012 -- Texas could move Diggs to safety. He even took some reps at that spot in bowl practice. Texas appeared to be deeper at corner and therefore could afford to make the move.

But there has been steady improvement, and as a direct result much more faith, in returning safeties Adrian Phillips, Mykkele Thompson and Josh Turner. Phillips is expected to be the leader of that group and the one certain starter. Many of his problems in 2012 were pinned on a shoulder injury that hampered his development.

"I have a lot of faith in those three guys in safety so we can put those rumors to rest," Diggs said.

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Position breakdown: Defensive back 

February, 21, 2013
AUSTIN, Texas -- Duane Akina will spend most of the spring mix and matching.

Given time, the Texas secondary coach likes to take his time before typecasting a certain player in a certain role. Ideally, Akina prefers to have every defensive back ready and able to play every role.

That versatility can not only cover up some deficiencies but also make the back four a stronger and more cohesive unit because every player understands the role to the player next to him seeing as how he has spent at least some time in that role.

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Every Friday, HornsNation recruiting writers William Wilkerson and Max Olson answer a question about the Longhorns.

This week’s question: Which position is Texas’ biggest need for its 2014 class?

William Wilkerson: This comes down to a few positions for me.

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Every Friday, HornsNation recruiting writers William Wilkerson and Max Olson will answer a question about the Longhorns.

This week's question: Texas has seen Ricky Seals-Jones, Daeshon Hall, Kyle Hicks and now Durham Smythe decommit from the 2013 class. Who is the one recruit Texas can't afford to lose before signing day?

William Wilkerson: There are several choices here but I’m going with ESPN 150 DB Antwuan Davis because of Texas’ struggles recruiting the secondary in this class.

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AUSTIN, Texas -- Head coach Mack Brown and the rest of the Longhorns coaching staff will continue to evaluate their freshmen class as they try to determine which players to redshirt as the season wears on.

Texas has played 14 freshmen through three games.

“That will probably continue to occur until the seventh week of the season,” Brown said. “You won’t travel with all of them but you still look at them.”

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DeSoto coach Claude Mathis just told me ESPN 150 athlete Dontre Wilson doesn't have a top two and is still trying to narrow down his top 6 schools.

The schools he told me are Texas, Oregon, Ohio State, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State and Texas A&M.

Personally, I think Oregon and Texas are his favorites in that order. I know the distance is a concern to him in going to Oregon, but that could be something he chooses to accept if Texas doesn't dangle something more appealing than a "DJ Monroe" -type roll in front of his face. He is not happy about that.

Wilson will be competing in the 4x100 and 4x200 relays at the state track meet this weekend alongside Bryson Echols. Wilson is expected to announce his decision at DeSoto's spring game on May 25.

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AUSTIN, Texas -- Four-star cornerback Bryson Echols (DeSoto, Texas/DeSoto) has sent in his letter of intent to Texas.

Echols (5-foot-10, 175 pounds) is the No. 6 cornerback and the No. 79 player overall in the ESPNU 150. His high school teammate, offensive guard Curtis Riser, is also committed to the Longhorns.

[+] EnlargeBryson Echols
Travis L. Brown/ESPNDallas.comDeSoto's Bryson Echols could be the next in line in Texas' long defensive back tradition.
Echols, an Under Armour All-American, has been committed to Texas since Feb. 26, 2011. He chose the Longhorns over offers from Arizona, North Texas and Kansas.

He is one of three true defensive back commitments in this class along with Kevin Vaccaro (Brownwood, Texas/Brownwood) and safety Adrian Colbert (Mineral Wells, Texas/Mineral Wells). Athlete Orlando Thomas (Copperas Cove, Texas/Copperas Cove) will likely end up in the secondary as well.

Scouts take: “Echols is a fierce competitor between the white lines and plays the game bigger and faster than his measureables might indicate. Will need added bulk and strength to continue playing with his physical style and to press and reroute bigger college receivers. Size should come and Echols has some intangibles you simply cannot coach. We expect this guy to emerge as one of the upper-tier corners in this class.”

Importance to class: The Longhorns have long prided themselves on being “DBU,” and appear to be in pretty good hands to be able to continue that tradition with young cornerbacks Quandre Diggs, Adrian Phillips and Carrington Byndom. But you can never have too many solid corners in a pass happy league like the Big 12, and Echols is the top corner in Texas.

How soon can he make an impact? This will be an interesting one to watch because of the loss at safety of Blake Gideon and Christian Scott. Not saying that Echols will be a safety. That’s unlikely to happen. But someone needs to fill that hole and it could be Phillips, even out of nickel coverage packages. If that happens than Echols could be in line for playing time. If not, guys like Leroy Scott, Josh Turner and A.J. White could likely see the field before Echols as a cornerback.

Texas commits tumble in final rankings

January, 19, 2012
ESPNU 150ESPN.com Illustrationtbd by editorial

The final ESPNU 150 rankings are out, and Longhorns fans might not be happy with two big moves.

Quarterback commit Connor Brewer (Scottsdale, Ariz./Chaparral) was ranked No. 3 among passers and No. 34 overall in the previous rankings. He’s now ESPNU’s No. 7 quarterback and ranked 130th overall.

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ESPNU 150 Midlands breakdown 

October, 20, 2011
Lone Star State well-represented
Texas football followers believe their state has the best athletes. The latest ESPNU 150 helps to support that argument -- again.

Of the 150 players, 24 represent the Lone Star State (16 percent). Two of those -- defensive end Mario Edwards (Denton, Texas/Billy Ryan) and Johnathan Gray (Aledo, Texas) -- are ranked in the top five and are five-star players.

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Texas Longhorns Show Out On Pro Day
The Texas Longhorns produced several eligible NFL Draft athletes who participated in Pro Day Tuesday afternoon in Austin, Texas.