Texas Longhorns: Desmond Harrison

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 takes 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. 68 Desmond Harrison
Senior offensive tackle


Recruitment rewind: The Houston native finished his high school and prep school ball in North Carolina, then went to Contra Costa Community College in California. His Texas connections made the difference during his recruitment, and the three-star tackle chose UT after official visits to USC, Oklahoma, Arizona State and NC State. After some NCAA delays, Harrison enrolled late in the summer of 2013.

Career so far: When Harrison first joined the program in 2013, the coaching staff hope he would be able to take over the starting left tackle job. But a strange issue involving invalidated BYU independent study credits required Harrison to sit out the first two weeks of fall practice. By the time he returned, on Aug. 20, it was too late for him to win the job. He played in seven games, dealt with a minor ankle injury at midseason and never enjoyed his breakthrough.

Best-case scenario for 2014: Harrison is 6-foot-8 and 318 pounds, the kind of mammoth lineman you want protecting the blind side, and he's currently penciled in to start at left tackle. Texas' new coaching staff sees a big man with big potential, and they're hoping they can get 13 quality games out of him. He's shown flashes of brilliance in practice but still hasn't put it all together.

Worst-case scenario for 2014: Harrison pretty much has to be the solution at left tackle. Texas could try moving Kennedy Estelle or Kent Perkins over there, maybe, but right now the backup left tackles seem to be Darius James and Camrhon Hughes. The Longhorns are betting on a big year from Harrison, and they need one. He's a former basketball player who's still working to master the finer points of playing tackle. If he can't get the job done, Texas might have to do some serious reshuffling up front.

Future expectations: Mack Brown said over and over Harrison would be an NFL draft pick, maybe even a first-rounder, and was one of the best-looking linemen he'd ever seen. At his size, he might get drafted no matter what he does in 2014. But Harrison has one season to prove he can live up to that great potential. If he comes through and starts playing as well as advertised, this Texas offensive line could be one of the better units in the league.
The 2014 season could be a critical one for several Big 12 seniors.

It’s their final chance to maximize their potential, show off for NFL scouts and push their teams to higher heights. In other words, it’s now or never for several Big 12 players who are poised to play the final 12 games of their college careers. Here’s a look at five seniors on the offensive side of the ball who could have a major impact on their team's success or hamper those chances for success if they struggle as individuals.

Receiver/running back Tony Pierson, Kansas

[+] EnlargeTony Pierson
John Rieger/USA TODAY SportsTony Pierson has the potential to stretch a defense, but has only received limited opportunities to do so thus far in his career.
Why he may excel: When he’s healthy, Pierson is a big play waiting to happen. In limited action in 2013, Pierson averaged 10.33 yards per play from scrimmage. He’s had the potential to be one of the Big 12’s top players since his sophomore season but this year is his last chance to cement his name alongside the conference’s top offensive threats. If he’s healthy, KU’s offense will be able to stretch defenses with his speed and quickness.

Why he may struggle: He struggled to stay healthy as a junior and, worse yet, it was a head injury that hampered him. Charlie Weis and the rest of the coaching staff will undoubtedly try to make sure to limit the hits Pierson takes this fall, but the ball will be in his hands so much he will be open to punishment. Having a healthy Pierson is critical for a Jayhawk offense searching for playmakers.

Quarterback Clint Trickett, West Virginia

Why he may excel: Trickett has another year in Dana Holgorsen’s offense and a much better feel for how the Mountaineers’ head coach wants things to run. The senior showed toughness even though he struggled in 2013, but he could put up solid numbers this fall if he makes better decisions and focuses on letting his playmakers do the hard work.

Why he may struggle: Trickett never looked comfortable or confident in Holgorsen’s offense in 2013 and then a shoulder injury forced him to miss the spring. He might not have enough tangible experience to make the offense hum this fall.

Receiver Bradley Marquez, Texas Tech

Why he may excel: Marquez finally gets the opportunity to see a bigger role in the Red Raiders’ offense after playing a supplementary role as a junior. And he’s focusing on football instead of spending the summer playing professional baseball. He’s flashed terrific ability, so it wouldn’t be a surprise to see him emerge as one of the Big 12’s most productive receivers.

Why he may struggle: Marquez saw a lot of one-on-one situations with Jace Amaro and Eric Ward making plays and forcing defenses to account for them last year. If he does start to emerge as a playmaker and garner extra attention, will his production remain steady?

Receiver Curry Sexton, Kansas State

Why he may excel: Teams will be focused on Tyler Lockett, the Big 12’s potential offensive player of the year, anytime Jake Waters drops back to pass. Sexton can make them pay if he matches his consistency in 2013, when he caught 39 of the 55 passes thrown his way. He’s not a game breaking threat like Lockett but he could be a valuable asset for the Wildcat offense.

Why he may struggle: He’s not the type of receiver who will overwhelm defenders with his physicality or speed. If defenses get physical with him, Sexton will have to make them pay for challenging him. If he doesn’t, KSU’s offense will have to look to other, less experienced receivers to fill to void.

Tackle Desmond Harrison, Texas

Why he may excel: Harrison has physical gifts and Joe Wickline has arrived to push him to that potential. If he responds, the Longhorns could have a quality left tackle to build around.

Why he may struggle: If he doesn’t respond to Wickline, he could find himself on the bench. The Longhorns’ new offensive line coach will push him to improve or Wickline will look elsewhere.

Spring game review: Texas

April, 21, 2014
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AUSTIN, Texas -- Texas finished its first spring under new coach Charlie Strong with its annual Orange-White spring game on Saturday. The two-hour scrimmage was won by Texas' first-team offense 38-14, and while Tyrone Swoopes' up-and-down showing stole most of the attention, here are a few more takeaways from the Longhorns' spring finale:

[+] EnlargeTyrone Swoopes
AP Photo/Michael ThomasTyrone Swoopes should improve as he gains confidence.
Best offensive performance: With only one other scholarship back available, you knew Malcolm Brown was in for a big workload. He kicked off his critical senior season with a solid day, picking up 82 yards and a touchdown on 20 carries and adding 26 yards and another score on two screen passes. Texas will need Johnathan Gray (torn Achilles) healthy and Joe Bergeron (academics) back if this run game is going to lead the way, but Brown could be poised for an All-Big 12 caliber season if he stays healthy.

Best defensive performance: Strong didn't need to watch any film to know who stood out on his defense on Saturday. Defensive tackle Malcom Brown was a "handful," in his eyes, and that was obvious to everyone in attendance. The junior lineman racked up five tackles, one tackle for loss and a quarterback hurry, and he spent plenty of time in the backfield. "When he wants to play," Strong said, "he can create a lot of havoc and can make plays."

Best debut: Not many candidates for this, since Texas had just three early enrollees, so let's give a little love to a walk-on. Dylan Haines is a name most Longhorns fans had never heard entering Saturday, but the defensive back stole the show in the first quarter by intercepting Swoopes' overthrown first pass attempt and returning it 23 yards. Haines, a second-year scout team player in 2013, was rewarded for his big play with reps on Texas' first-team defense.

Notable play: Swoopes' best play of the day was his last. He took a low snap midway through the fourth quarter, faked a handoff and hurled a deep ball to Jaxon Shipley, fitting it in perfectly between defensive backs Chevoski Collins and Adrian Colbert. Shipley pulled it down over his shoulder for a 44-yard touchdown, giving Swoopes plenty to smile about after a frustrating start to the day. The pass was by far the best Swoopes has thrown in his first year of action and, to some extent, an encouraging sign he's not afraid to take shots downfield.

Developing storyline: Texas has a chance to have one of the Big 12's better offensive lines this fall under the guidance of Joe Wickline, but this summer and fall camp will be critical toward fortifying that line and establishing needed depth. The mammoth Desmond Harrison must continue to develop at left tackle after a rough 2013 season. Kennedy Estelle and the injured Kent Perkins can become some of UT's best linemen in time. And the battle at right guard, between Taylor Doyle and Rami Hammad, isn't over. Wickline will start his five best, and that five should reveal itself over the next few months.

Biggest question answered: Is Swoopes the heir apparent at quarterback for Texas? He showed flashes in the spring game, particularly in the second half, but he never faced a first-team defense Saturday and his play early on served as a reminder why a redshirt would have been the right move last fall. Shawn Watson is encouraged by his potential and still has plenty to teach him this summer and beyond. Swoopes has raw tools and will get better as he gets more confident, but his coaches and fans should stay patient.

Quotable: "When you look at the level of concern, you look at today and you go out and say defensively you would like to play a lot better and get stops and make sure you don't allow teams to just consistently drive the football on you. Then on offense it is all about executing, but that is going to come with focus and with preparation. What happens is that the players understand what we are looking for and what we are all about. So once we understand that, things are going to get much better because they believe in the system. When they trust and believe in the system, then we are always going to have a chance." -- Strong
Texas entered the 2013 season with one of the nation's most experienced offensive lines. That's no longer the case going into spring ball, though the Longhorns did add one of the nation's most respected offensive line coaches this offseason.

How's he going to put this group together? A look at the battle to replace four former starters:

Departed: Left guard Trey Hopkins (42 career starts), right guard Mason Walters (51) and left tackle Donald Hawkins (23) are graduating, and former starting right tackle Josh Cochran elected to end his playing career due to a recurring shoulder injury. The junior had started 23 of his 30 career games. Backup center Garrett Porter also graduates. Walters’ 51-game start streak tied for longest in the nation among lineman at the end of 2013.

Spring contenders: OT Kennedy Estelle, OT Desmond Harrison, OT Kent Perkins, OT Garrett Greenlea, OT Camrhon Hughes, OG Sedrick Flowers, OG Curtis Riser, OG Rami Hammad, OG Darius James, OG Taylor Doyle, OG Alex Anderson, C Dominic Espinosa, C Jake Raulerson

Summer contenders: C Terrell Cuney, OT Elijah Rodriguez

The skinny: Yep, that’s a crowded field. Lot of big bodies, not a lot of experience among them.

Espinosa is the elder statesman of the group, having started all 39 games of his career. He and Harrison are the only seniors of this group, and Harrison hasn’t played meaningful minutes yet.

We don’t know what many of these linemen are capable of entering spring ball because so few have seen the field, but the bar has been set high for the members of Texas’ 2013 signing class. Former Texas coach Mack Brown considered that group -- Harrison, Perkins, Hammad, James and Raulerson -- the best offensive line class he had ever signed.

Will new offensive line coach and OC Joe Wickline agree? He recruited several of his new pupils during his days at Oklahoma State, but he has no reason to stick to the plan laid out by the previous staff. If the younger linemen beat out the veterans, they’ll play.

The best of the bunch, at least based on 2013 performances, could be Estelle and Perkins. Estelle, a junior, started eight games in place of Cochran and had some promising moments. Perkins was too good to redshirt as a true freshman. Harrison is the wild card of the group and has been an enigma during his time in burnt orange.

As for the guards, Flowers had the full respect of Walters and Hopkins and is finally getting his chance. The highly-touted James redshirted as a freshman, as did Hammad. They’ll battle Riser this spring. Anderson, an early enrollee from New Orleans, could challenge them as well.

That’s how it looks on paper, but keep this in mind: Wickline isn’t afraid to move linemen around and cross-train them at other positions. That preparation paid off for several of his Cowboy linemen over the years. The way this group looks today could be very different come August.

Prediction: Expect movement and possibly a few surprises. It’s all up to Wickline and who makes an impression on him in spring ball. The safest bets to start are probably Espinosa, Estelle and Flowers. Don’t be surprised if James or Hammad win out for the other guard spot, and for Perkins to take a lead over Harrison exiting spring ball. These second-year linemen are legit.
Editor's note: This is the third part of a weeklong series taking a closer look at Texas players worth watching when the Longhorns begin spring practices in three weeks.

Believe it or not, few people believed in offensive tackle Desmond Harrison more than Mack Brown.

The junior college transfer did not achieve much in his debut season, yet Brown was steadfast in his belief that one day Harrison would put it all together and reach his potential. And that potential, he believed, included becoming a first-rounder in the NFL draft.

High praise, sure, but Harrison did nothing in 2013 to prove he deserved it. There were just too many setbacks.

He didn’t arrive early in the spring, instead joining the program in mid-July (and even that was a close call). A couple weeks later, he took the field for his first fall practice.

Then came the ordeal of his transfer credit from BYU that sidelined Harrison until Aug. 20. He was eased back into practice, but by then it was too late to get him ready for a serious role in the season opener. Texas stuck with Donald Hawkins at left tackle, who played well, while Harrison settled for occasional mop-up duty. An ankle injury slowed him during the season.

All in all, it was a rough and challenging first season in the program. The good news is Harrison has another year and another chance to figure out how to dominate in the Big 12.

The expectations for Harrison shouldn’t change. The 6-foot-8, 310-pound lineman needs to go out and earn the starting left tackle job. Texas has two very promising tackle prospects in Kennedy Estelle and Kent Perkins who are fully capable of making Harrison a backup once again if he doesn’t get better.

The X-factor here, of course, is Joe Wickline. The offensive coordinator and line coach worked wonders with all sorts of lineman in his days at Oklahoma State. For all we know, Harrison could have as much raw talent as the best guys Wickline has coached up. But it takes more than size -- it takes full buy-in, the right mentality and a lot of hard work.

If Harrison can get the job done in those areas, he can be special. A Texas offensive line that’s losing three starters needs just that.

Big 12 pre-spring breakdown: OL

February, 21, 2014
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As we wait for the start of spring ball, we’re examining and ranking the positional situations of every team, continuing Friday with offensive line. Some of these outlooks will look different after the spring. But here’s how we see the offensive lines at the moment:

1. Oklahoma: The Sooners lose their captain in All-American Gabe Ikard, who kept the line together through several moving pieces. Those pieces, however, are almost all back. Tyrus Thompson and Daryl Williams are steady veterans at tackle. Inside, guards Dionte Savage and Nila Kasitati both started the Sugar Bowl, and former starter Tyler Evans returns after sitting out the last two years with injury. The Sooners also have been grooming Ikard’s replacement at center in Ty Darlington, who has played well in a reserve role the last two years. Even without Ikard, this is a seasoned unit.

[+] EnlargeJoe Wickline
AP Photo/Sue OgrockiJoe Wickline's move from the OSU staff to Texas is an important storyline in the Big 12.
2. Kansas State: The Wildcats will be stout inside. Guard Cody Whitehair and center BJ Finney are All-Big 12 caliber. Veteran starters Cornelius Lucas and Tavon Rooks are gone at tackle, but Bill Snyder signed two of the top 15 juco tackles in the country in A.J. Allen and Luke Hayes. If Allen and Hayes can solidify the bookends, K-State could be stout up front.

3. Texas: The Longhorns return veteran center Dominic Espinosa, who has 39 career starts. But with three starters gone, the Longhorns really need the light to come up for Desmond Harrison. The talent is there, and if Harrison can put it all together, he’ll give Texas a much-needed bookend on the left side. There’s potential elsewhere in freshman guard Rami Hammad and sophomore tackle Kent Perkins, who could both earn starting roles this spring. The biggest addition to this group will be new assistant Joe Wickline, who worked magic with the offensive lines in Stillwater.

4. Baylor: The Bears need left tackle Spencer Drango to make a healthy recovery from his back injury. After Drango was injured in November, Baylor struggled at times to keep quarterback Bryce Petty upright. Departing unanimous All-American guard Cyril Richardson is irreplaceable, though Desmine Hilliard had a solid sophomore season at right guard. Sophomore Kyle Fuller looks ready to take over at center, but the Bears will need another piece or two to emerge. The skill talent is in place for the Baylor offense to keep humming. How the players up front perform will determine whether it will.

5. Oklahoma State: The key for the Cowboys here will be a healthy return of left tackle Devin Davis. Davis might have been Oklahoma State’s best lineman last season, but suffered a torn ACL during a preseason that knocked him out for the year. Davis has NFL ability, and if he resumes his role, that will allow Daniel Koenig to move back to right tackle. The O-line in Stillwater was something never to worry about because of Wickline’s masterful track record of mixing and matching to get a right fit. It will be interesting to see how the line performs next season with Wickline now at Texas.

[+] EnlargeLe'Raven Clark
John Albright/Icon SMITexas Tech's Le'Raven Clark is one of the best offensive tackles in the Big 12.
6. Texas Tech: The Red Raiders have an NFL talent in left tackle Le'Raven Clark, who earned All-Big 12 honors as a sophomore. Despite Clark, the Red Raiders line struggled last year, giving up 33 sacks (second-worst in the Big 12). But it should be improved in 2014. Juco tackles Dominique Robertson (ESPN JC 50) and Shaq Davis are on the way, and 2013 RT starter Rashad Fortenberry could be back, too, if the NCAA grants him a medical hardship waiver. Losing guard Beau Carpenter to dismissal hurts, but Baylen Brown has starting experience. Brown, Alfredo Morales, James Polk and center Jared Kaster all return after combining for 31 starts along the interior last season.

7. West Virginia: The good news is that the Mountaineers should be superb inside. Quinton Spain is one of the best returning guards in the league, and Mark Glowinski had a solid season at the other guard spot. Tackle, however, is the biggest question on the entire squad going into the spring, outside QB. Coach Dana Holgorsen said Friday that guard Marquis Lucas would be swinging to the outside to compete with Adam Pankey, Marcell Lazard and Sylvester Townes.

8. Iowa State: A healthy Tom Farniok at center would go a long way in stabilizing an inconsistent offensive line that gave up a Big 12-high 38 sacks last season. Farniok was never healthy last year, and it showed. The Cyclones are excited about the potential of Brock Dagel as a cornerstone at left tackle. Jacob Gannon will battle Jake Campos for the other tackle spot, while Jamison Lalk, Oni Omoile and juco transfer Wendell Taiese will compete for the guard spot opposite Daniel Burton. Under the new offensive regime, this line could enjoy huge improvement from 2013.

9. TCU: The line was one of many reasons why the TCU offense struggled so much in 2013. Getting Matt Pryor on the field would be a big help. Pryor is massive at 6-foot-7, 350 pounds, and could fill a need a tackle. Getting Tayo Fabuluje back after a year away from football could help, too, assuming he’s not too rusty. Juco guard Frank Kee, who chose the Horned Frogs over Oklahoma, could fill a spot inside immediately. True freshman Ty Barrett, the prize in a hotly contested recruiting battle, could challenge for time quickly, too.

10. Kansas: John Reagan takes over at offensive coordinator and line coach, and he’ll have some talented newcomers to weave into the rotation. Devon Williams and Keyon Haughton both arrived as three-star guards from Georgia Military College. Haughton is already on campus and could start right away. Freshman Jacob Bragg, the No. 3 center recruit in the country, could vie for time immediately, too, at the vacancy at center (2013 backup center Dylan Admire has moved to fullback/tight end).

Texas position groups to improve: No. 2

February, 13, 2014
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Texas is getting off to a later-than-usual start to its spring practices this year, with Charlie Strong set to lead the Longhorns onto the practice field for the first time on March 18.

Until then, we’re counting down everything you need to know entering next season and the next era of Texas football. This week, we’re breaking down the five position groups with the most room to improve in 2014. We’ve already broken down No. 5 (tight ends), No. 4 (defensive tackles) and No. 3 (safeties). Here’s No. 2 on the list.

[+] EnlargeCase McCoy and Dominic Espinosa
Ronald Martinez/Getty ImagesDominic Espinosa (right) owns 39 of Texas' 49 returning starts on the offensive line.
2. Offensive linemen

The players: Dominic Espinosa, Kennedy Estelle, Sedrick Flowers, Kent Perkins, Curtis Riser, Desmond Harrison, Rami Hammad, Darius James, Jake Raulerson, Garrett Greenlea, Taylor Doyle, Camrhon Hughes, Alex Anderson, Terrell Cuney, Elijah Rodriguez

Last year: Texas entered last season feeling good not only about its starting five, but also its depth for the future. Four of Texas opening-day starters (Donald Hawkins, Trey Hopkins, Mason Walters, Josh Cochran) have moved on. This group was impressive and physical on its best days and maddeningly inconsistent on its worst.

Enter Joe Wickline, regarded as one of the nation’s finest offensive line coaches and the architect of some excellent lines at Oklahoma State. He’s in charge of calling the offense, and his linemen will have to establish an identity.

What’s missing: Experience. Espinosa has plenty of it, with 39 career starts. Estelle has eight starts. Perkins and Flowers have one each. And that’s it. Flowers is a guy the departed starters greatly respected, and his chance to earn a job is now. Harrison was supposed to develop into the starting left tackle but had too many setbacks last season.

The previous staff believed they’d signed their best line class ever in 2013 (James, Perkins, Harrison, Hammad, Raulerson), and it wouldn’t be shocking if several of those guys break into the lineup in 2014.

Moving forward: How will Wickline perceive what he’s inheriting? That’s always the big question when a new coach arrives. Oklahoma State offered scholarships to at least seven of these Texas linemen, so you’d think Wickline is familiar with many of these guys.

It’s also safe to say nobody is guaranteed a starting job along this line. Finding 10 trusted linemen from this group is just as important as a strong starting five. Bring on the competition, and let’s see how Wickline works his magic this spring.
After a whirlwind 48 hours full of meetings, appearances and handshakes, Charlie Strong still hasn’t had much time to find out what kind of talent he’s inheriting.

So let’s make life a little easier for Texas’ new head coach. Here’s an early breakdown of how Texas’ offensive depth chart might look in 2014, based on who’s slated to return and the incoming freshmen. On Wednesday, we’ll break down the Longhorns defense.

Keep in mind, a lot can and will change between now and the end of August. All of these players have to prove themselves to a new regime. You could see lots of movement, position changes and reshuffling between now and the season opener against North Texas.

Quarterback
David Ash, junior
Tyrone Swoopes, sophomore
Jerrod Heard, freshman

[+] EnlargeDavid Ash
Ronald Martinez/Getty ImagesDavid Ash will be back for one more season as quarterback.
Ash comes back after missing nearly the entire season with concussion issues. He gets a medical redshirt and a chance to start over. Swoopes’ redshirt was wasted and he’s still a few years away. Could Heard be Strong’s next Teddy Bridgewater? He won’t enroll early but could play early in his career under this new staff.

Running Back
Malcolm Brown, senior
Johnathan Gray, junior
Joe Bergeron, senior
Donald Catalon, freshman

As long as Gray heals up 100 percent from his torn Achilles, Texas will have one of the best rushing duos in the Big 12. Brown was a revelation to end the season and could be in for a big senior campaign. Bergeron will work his way back into the mix. Catalon and D'Onta Foreman will provide depth as freshmen, and one could contribute early.

Wide Receiver
Jaxon Shipley, senior
Daje Johnson, junior
Jacorey Warrick, sophomore

Shipley is the leader of the group and should be in for a big season, no matter the offense. Will Strong’s staff give Daje one more chance? No guarantees he’s still on the roster by the fall. Warrick earned praise in practice and limited playing time.

Wide Receiver
Kendall Sanders, junior
Montrel Meander, redshirt freshman
Jake Oliver, redshirt freshman

This is the year Sanders can take a big step forward. He’s a legit playmaker whose role will expand. Meander made a strong impression in his redshirt year and is a big, athletic target. He and Oliver will battle for snaps and should contribute in 2014.

Wide Receiver
[+] EnlargeJohnson
AP Photo/LM OteroMarcus Johnson caught 22 passes as a sophomore.
Marcus Johnson, junior
Armanti Foreman, freshman
Emanuel Porter, freshman

Johnson made some big plays and had a nice rapport with Case McCoy. He can stretch a defense and burn corners deep. Should see big opportunities this fall. Foreman and Porter are instant-impact guys among in large group of incoming freshman receivers, and keep an eye on Lorenzo Joe, too.

Tight End
Geoff Swaim, senior
Greg Daniels, senior
M.J. McFarland, junior

Swaim, a junior college transfer, was a revelation as a blocker in 2013. Daniels got the job done as a blocker, too, but neither had many opportunities as receivers. Let’s hope the next staff can salvage the career of McFarland, who got stuck on special teams this season but needs to become a trusted pass-catcher.

Left Tackle
Desmond Harrison, senior
Kennedy Estelle, junior

Mack Brown still believed Harrison will develop into an NFL first-rounder before he’s done, though his first season was a disappointment. If he’s not the solution at left tackle, you could see Estelle or several others move over. Estelle has mostly played right tackle and had some good moments in eight starts, but was suspended from the bowl for grades.

Left Guard
Sedrick Flowers, junior
Darius James, redshirt freshman

The departing senior linemen were big fans of Flowers, who they considered starter-quality throughout 2013 even if he was mostly a reserve. This is his spot to take. James needed a redshirt year to get back in shape, but he has the potential to be one of Texas’ best.

Center
Dominic Espinosa, senior
Jake Raulerson, redshirt freshman

The new veteran leader of the line, Espinosa has 39 career starts under his belt and improved as a junior. Hard to see him losing his spot. Raulerson continues to put on muscle and will have a long, successful career. Texas also adds incoming freshman Terrell Cuney here.

Right Guard
Curtis Riser, sophomore
Rami Hammad, redshirt freshman

Riser is entering his third year in the program and seems likely to be the favorite for this spot, but don’t count out Hammad. He redshirted as a freshman and missed part of the season with an arm injury, but he’s as impressive as any first-year lineman the Longhorns had.

Right Tackle
Kent Perkins, sophomore
Josh Cochran, senior

Perkins earned one start as a freshman and should be an All-Big 12-caliber tackle by the time he’s done in Austin. It’s hard to peg what’s next for Cochran, who lost enough weight from a shoulder injury to necessitate a move to tight end. The former starter could end up at either spot in his final season.

Kicker
Nick Jordan, sophomore

Good luck to whoever must replace Anthony Fera, the All-American and Groza Award finalist. Jordan strugged as a freshman in 2012 but got a year off and seems most likely to assume the kicking duties, though there will be competition.

Texas OT Harrison cleared to practice

August, 20, 2013
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His academic issue with BYU has not been resolved, but after two weeks on the sidelines Texas offensive tackle Desmond Harrison is back on the practice field.

The junior college transfer from Contra Costa (Calif.) College was cleared to participate in practice on Tuesday. Harrison, a 6-foot-8, 310-pound junior, was projected to start at left tackle for Texas this season but hadn't practiced since Aug. 5.

The decision to let him practice comes one day after multiple reports that BYU denied an appeal of its decision to invalidate a credit Harrison received for an independent online study course from the school.

Read the rest of Max Olson's story here.

Rewind: Texas Longhorns fall camp

August, 12, 2013
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AUSTIN, Texas -- After getting to watch six consecutive days of Texas practice, it’s safe to say we’ve taken plenty of notes. Here’s a look back at the superlatives of Texas’ first week of fall camp.

Best offensive performance: QB David Ash. He throws as pretty a ball as any Texas quarterback in the past, oh, 10 years, and on most days the incompletions were few and far between. Ash was sharp and made it all look easy. Nobody is questioning who the team’s top QB is this year.

Best defensive performance: CB Carrington Byndom. Granted, he wasn’t covering Texas’ top two wideouts, but Byndom provided lockdown coverage pretty much all week long. He played like a senior, with considerably more confidence.

David Ash
Max Olson/ESPNDavid Ash has shown his touch during passing drills but still needs to help Texas' offense pick up the pace.
Breakout player: WR Kendall Sanders. Several guys could earn this honor but Sanders thrived this week as the Longhorns’ top wideout with Mike Davis and Jaxon Shipley sidelined with injuries. He could be in for a big sophomore season after catching two passes in 2012.

Best newcomer: OT Kent Perkins. Perkins jumped right into the second-team right tackle spot early in the week and probably would’ve stayed there had a sore shoulder not kept him out a few practices. He impressed his fellow linemen this summer and could have a solid role in 2013. Honorable mention goes to speedy receiver Jacorey Warrick and cornerback Antwuan Davis.

On the rise: CB Sheroid Evans. Quandre Diggs sitting out practice this week meant lots more work for Duke Thomas and Sheroid Evans, and both made a good impression. Evans, a 6-foot, 192-pound junior, snagged several interceptions during the week in 1-on-1 drills and could carve out a key role in Texas’ nickel defense.

Most improved: LB Steve Edmond. The middle linebacker is rebounding from his difficult 2012 season by shedding weight (from 260 pounds to 235), and the results have been positive. Edmond has made plays up the middle in 11-on-11 work and appears to have the edge over Dalton Santos for the starting job.

Fastest player: WR/RB Daje Johnson. We must tip our hats to Evans, a track athlete who probably is truly faster, but Johnson was practically a blur when running routes over the middle this week. His transition from running back to receiver has been a successful one thus far.

Biggest hit: S Adrian Colbert. The redshirt freshman popped tight end Greg Daniels hard Saturday night after he caught a ball over the middle, prompting the entire Texas secondary to run onto the practice field in celebration. The downside: Colbert probably would’ve been popped for a targeting penalty had it happened in a game this year.

Best position change: RB Jalen Overstreet. He’s still getting some work as the No. 3 quarterback, but Overstreet turned heads this week as a running back. He had little trouble adjusting to taking handoffs and showed he could be an explosive weapon as essentially an “athlete” for Texas this season.

Best position group: Running backs. Tough decision here. The RBs get credit here due to Overstreet’s rise and the new and improved Joe Bergeron. The junior back dropped from 240 pounds to 230 this offseason and looks quicker than ever but just as powerful.

Best depth: Offensive line. Thanks to Texas’ decision to practice with three separate offenses, we know the Longhorns have as many as 15 scholarship offensive linemen who could make the two-deep. Perkins and Rami Hammad worked with the No. 2 offense Saturday, and there’s the potential for more reshuffling in the next few weeks.

Top position battle: Wide receiver. The absence of Davis and Shipley meant lots of opportunity for everyone else. First-team reps went to Sanders, Marcus Johnson, Daje Johnson and Bryant Jackson, but Warrick, John Harris, Montrel Meander and Jake Oliver are all in the mix for playing time.

Biggest disappointment: Desmond Harrison’s absence. Texas’ junior college transfer hasn’t practiced since Monday due to an academic issue. Mack Brown has declined to disclose the specifics, but Texas officials believe it will be resolved soon. Still, it’s becoming a troubling development considering Harrison has a chance to be the team’s starting left tackle this fall.

Boldest quote: “Of course you’re mad about last year. You don’t want to be known as a soft defense. We’re taking the right steps to be a dominant defense. We want to be the most dominant defense in the world.” -- Safety Adrian Phillips

Biggest question: Tempo. Ash said Texas' offense will speed things up in the next few weeks after keeping the time between snaps to between 12-15 seconds this week. Just how fast will the final product look, and how well will Texas be executing it by Aug. 31?

Still wondering: We didn’t get much of a look at the Longhorn special teams this week, and it’s safe to say there are still unanswered questions with that unit. Could be some intriguing battles at placekicker and punter over the next few weeks with several participants: Nick Jordan, Anthony Fera, Nick Rose and William Russ.

Injury update: Exclude those who were already planning to be limited entering camp and you have to say Texas fared well. Byndom (head) and Josh Cochran (shoulder) were held out Saturday for precautionary reasons. All in all, there were no major injuries in week one. That’s a significant plus.

Four Downs: Opening observations 

August, 11, 2013
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AUSTIN, Texas -- Each week, Sean Adams looks at a few topics around the Texas Longhorns and college football.

First Down: Up tempo is even faster now

AUSTIN, Texas -- You’re not supposed to mess with a good thing, right?

Texas’ offensive line is as experienced as any in the country this fall. All five starters return and have a combined 124 career starts under their oversized belts.

So why is each of them at risk of losing their jobs? Because, in 2013, Texas thinks it has a chance to have not just a good offensive line, but a great one.

“If one of these guys coming in is better than the starters, we will replace them, without question,” Texas coach Mack Brown said. “And they know that. We’ve told them that.”

[+] EnlargeDonald Hawkins
Tim Heitman/US PresswireDonald Hawkins, a junior college transfer in 2012, could find his starting job in peril because of another junior college lineman.
Seniors Mason Walters (38 career starts), Trey Hopkins (29) and Donald Hawkins (11) and juniors Dominic Espinosa (26) and Josh Cochran (20) enter fall camp as the incumbents and received nearly all of the first-team reps in the Longhorns’ first two days of practice this week.

But for the first time in his tenure at Texas, third-year offensive line coach Stacy Searels has options. He’s wanted 10 offensive linemen he can lean on, 10 he can trust. Thanks to two years of strong recruiting, the cupboard is now well-stocked.

The star of that two-year talent infusion could very well be a lineman who arrived in Austin only three weeks ago: Desmond Harrison.

He’s never put on pads for the Longhorns, and the sum total of his experience in the program is one fall practice. But the 6-foot-8, 310-pound offensive tackle is already the talk of fall camp after wowing his new teammates.

“He is huge. He’s a massive human being,” Hopkins said. “Probably the only person I’ve seen stand next to Mason and make him kind of look short.”

If the touted transfer from Contra Costa (Calif.) College is everything he’s hyped up to be, Harrison could become the starting left tackle by the end of the month. If that’s the case, the rest of the line would be in for a reshuffling.

Hawkins, a junior college transfer last year, could move from left tackle to guard, prompting Hopkins to take over the center duties. Or he could bump off Cochran for the right tackle job. Or he could get benched.

“Your position could change, and you could be second- or third-string really quick,” Walters said. “The guys we have here now really want to play. We have a lot of bodies and talent right now. I love it. We want to be as good as possible, and you have to have somebody pushing you.”

Harrison isn’t the only threat. Brown and Searels have high hopes for four true freshmen who have a serious shot a cracking the two-deep.

“This recruiting class for offensive linemen could be one of the best offensive line classes ever before they finish at Texas,” Brown said. “I can’t wait to see them when we put the pads on. I’m really excited about them. We haven’t been able to find these guys and get these guys on campus like this. It’s going to be fun to watch them. Don’t know how soon that will be, but our future is very bright there.”

Kent Perkins is already working as the second-string right tackle. Guards Darius James and Rami Hammad and center Jake Raulerson lined up with the third-team offense Tuesday. Several could be worthy of serious playing time this fall.

If they are good enough, that puts Searels in somewhat of a difficult position. How does he explain to three seniors and two juniors that the freshmen must play?

Walters and the rest of the veteran linemen have been through a lot together. When Searels arrived in the spring of 2011, the 6-foot-6, 320-pound guard was one of only seven scholarship linemen in the program. He’s started 38 straight games because Texas really had no choice. He and Hopkins have lined up together for 25 of Texas’ last 26 games.

“[Hopkins has] grunted at me before and I knew exactly what he was saying,” Walters said. “That’s just with all of us. You can tap somebody on the shoulder at a certain time and we all know what to look for on certain plays.”

They share that bond with Cochran and Espinosa, both of whom started as true freshmen. Through the good times and the bad these past two years, they survived together. There has to be some intangible value to that.

But the veterans know this is a meritocracy. Searels had six offensive linemen he trusted in crunch time last season. He needs more than that. The added depth comes at a critical time, when an up-tempo scheme will require more rotating to keep the line fresh and effective.

No matter what, Searels needs 10 good men. And that’s only going to make his five starters work even harder.

“Our togetherness is big, and I think that helps with the guys who have been around for a while,” Walters said. “But at the same time, Coach Searels has definitely made it clear he’ll play the five best.”

Opening camp: Texas Longhorns

August, 5, 2013
8/05/13
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Texas is the next Big 12 team who'll begin preseason camp. Let's have a closer look at the Longhorns.

Schedule: Texas will have its first practice Monday after players reported on Sunday. In a somewhat surprising decision, the Longhorns will host three open practices for fans at Darrell K Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium. They'll all be this week, beginning with Thursday and Friday's 7:30 p.m. ET practice and followed by an 8 p.m. ET practice on Sunday.

Setting the scene: It's no understatement to say this season could define Mack Brown's tenure at Texas. If the Longhorns turn the corner and find themselves in a BCS game come January, he'll have successfully turned around Texas. He'll have a strong team returning in 2014 and an uptick in recruiting that signals greener pastures ahead and a more placid end to his career in Austin, whenever that happens. If we see an 8-9 win season or worse, an amazing run in the 2000s will have led to a post-Colt McCoy downfall and Brown likely won't be around to coach those 2014 and 2015 recruits. It'll color how he's remembered and this season will have a huge impact on what the next three to four years look like at Texas.

All eyes on: The defense. We're not going to learn anything about David Ash in preseason camp, but the defense has to show signs that it's capable of bouncing back from last season's nightmare that gave up more rushing yards than any team in Texas' history. Manny Diaz stuck around, and the Longhorns brought back 2004 defensive coordinator Greg Robinson to analyze film and do other tasks to help out, mostly from his home in Los Angeles. The personnel is there with the return of Jordan Hicks and stars Jackson Jeffcoat and Quandre Diggs, but this unit has a lot to prove. We'll get an idea of their progress in camp.

Key battle: Offensive tackle. Sophomore Josh Cochran (right) and junior college transfer Donald Hawkins (left) both turned in good efforts a year ago, but Cochran missed the spring with a broken leg. Junior college tackle Desmond Harrison has finally joined the team and could complicate that race. Texas may shift some guys around, like the versatile Trey Hopkins, but the battle for the tackle spot should be one to watch over the next month.

On the mend: Jeffcoat (pectoral) and Hicks (hip) are finally both healthy and ready to go, and the best news of all for Texas is Hicks being given a medical redshirt. That makes him a junior again this season and means he didn't waste last season when he missed 10 games. Jeffcoat has dealt with pectoral injuries in consecutive seasons as well as a high ankle sprain as a freshman. He's got to stay healthy.

Breaking out: Peter Jinkens. The sophomore linebacker had a big finish to the season after grabbing his first start against Iowa State. He had three tackles for loss and a sack against Kansas State, and nine tackles and a pick against Oregon State in the Alamo Bowl win. He's got a lot of speed at 6-foot-1 and 218 pounds roaming the outside, and earned playing time at both weak and strongside.

Outlook: Texas has the potential to be better than any team in the Big 12 with a talented defense, experienced quarterback, deep stable of running backs and a physical, experienced offensive line. Still, all you have to do is look at games against Oklahoma and Kansas a year ago for a healthy, fair dose of skepticism. That's how a team that won nine games a year ago and returns 19 starters gets picked fourth in the Big 12 by the league's media. These Longhorns have a ton to prove, and a bit more experience and talent to do it than they've had in any year since 2010.

Quotable: Brown, on the struggles over the past few years. "We're a quarterbackdriven league, and if you just look at the last ten years, this league has been known for the best quarterbacks in the country and the best passers and the best offenses. So the fact that we've struggled at quarterback for two years on and off is a true fact that we've struggled as a team some because he touches it every time. ... So when you think about the importance of that player at all levels of our game, it is really, really key, and that's why we're so excited to have David with experience, with maturity, with confidence not only in himself but in his team. He's leading the team much better, and they believe in him right now."

Four Downs: Why David Ash is the man 

July, 30, 2013
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David Ash AP Photo/Mario CantuDavid Ash changed the tune of the Alamo Bowl last December when he went to an up-tempo approach, something that bodes well for the Longhorns as they enter 2013.
AUSTIN, Texas -- Each week, Sean Adams looks at a few topics around the Texas Longhorns and college football.

First Down: This is why David Ash is going to be good

2012 Alamo Bowl vs. Oregon State


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DALLAS -- The informal beginning of Texas’ 2013 season came Tuesday with the Longhorns’ appearance at Big 12 media days. Here are five Texas-related things we learned from Big 12 media days:

1. Ash a year older, wiser

We’ll have a lot more on this topic in a future story, but David Ash made quite an impression during his two hours of media time on Tuesday.

[+] EnlargeDavid Ash
AP Photo/Tim SharpTexas quarterback David Ash appear confident on Day 2 of Big 12 media days.
There’s no doubt Ash has grown much more comfortable with his role as QB No. 1 and as a spokesperson for the team. It’s easy to jump to conclusions that how Ash acted Tuesday is a sign of what’s to come this fall. While I don’t necessarily buy that, he’s definitely carrying himself like a veteran now.

Ash is proud of the fact Mack Brown and Major Applewhite put their full faith in him this spring. He’s excited about the up-tempo scheme and its possibilities. He knows he can bring a lot more to the table in 2013.

“I think I have the ability to do a lot of things,” Ash said. “I can throw any ball. What I’m going to get better at is taking what the defense gives me. Sometimes they give the quarterback the run. If they do, I have no doubt I can take advantage of that.”

That’s confidence. You didn’t see a ton of it in 2012 as Ash battled injury, Case McCoy and his own inconsistency. The seniors in attendance have faith in him. Now it’s time to find out what he’ll do with that trust.

2. Brown unfazed by No. 4 rankings

Brown didn’t squeeze in any serious potshots at the SEC Conference, but he did take time during his 20-minute press conference Tuesday to applaud the parity of the Big 12.

He chuckled when asked, with Phil Steele ranking the Longhorns No. 4 in the nation and conference media tabbing them No. 4 in the league, where his team truly did fit on that scale of expectations.

“I really like the first guy better,” Brown said, referring to Steele. “I don’t know about his merit, but I like it better. Who knows? You know, I do think that we have the most balanced league in the country right now, top to bottom.”

The days of two or three teams dominating the conference are long gone, he said, and anyone can beat anyone. He pointed to the most obvious example -- Texas at Kansas last fall -- as proof.

“When you look at us being voted fourth, I thought what we saw is the numbers are all really, really close, and people are confused on who they think may win this conference championship,” Brown said. “That's a compliment to our league.”

3. Jeffcoat ready to return

For Jackson Jeffcoat, senior season started the October day he found out he wouldn’t play again in 2012.

The preseason All-Big 12 defensive end is proud to say his second pectoral injury in two years is now in the rearview mirror. He has been fully cleared for the start of fall camp next month and is ready to start hitting again.

"I’m just excited to get out there with my teammates, and it’s really helped me grow,” Jeffcoat said. “Being out there and seeing things like a coach and talking with coach about things, it’s different. You see different things. I helped players out and I learned.”

Perhaps that’s the silver lining for Jeffcoat -- he’s glad he got a chance to help Cedric Reed prepare for the starting role and that his absence ended up letting Texas develop its depth on the line.

We heard good things about Shiro Davis, Bryce Cottrell and Caleb Bluiett this week, too, though they’re primarily pass rushers right now. Oscar Giles could have some serious options for rotations this fall.

4. Hopkins likes OL depth

Trey Hopkins insisted he and the four returning members of the Texas offensive line don’t feel threatened by the addition of the best incoming line class of Brown’s tenure.

In fact, the senior guard said he’s excited to see what the five linemen -- Darius James, Kent Perkins, Rami Hammad, Jake Raulerson and juco transfer Desmond Harrison -- can do to provide depth in 2013, especially when an up-tempo scheme likely will call for more substituting up front.

“There’s a lot of competition. That only makes everyone else rise,” Hopkins said. “They can come in, and I expect them to work hard. They’ve shown they’ll work hard. That’s going to be an energy booster for the rest of the team. Everyone knows now you can’t take a lazy step, or the guy behind you will be the guy in front of you pretty soon.”

5. Odds and ends

• Texas officials confirmed Tuesday that linebacker Jordan Hicks officially was approved for a medical redshirt for the 2012 season. Hicks is still considered a junior with two years of eligibility remaining.

• Harrison had his first workout with the team on Monday after enrolling last week. Hopkins called the 6-foot-8 tackle a “massive human being” and has been impressed by his demeanor.

• No update on the status of wide receiver Cayleb Jones and when he’ll resume working out with the team. Jones was suspended this spring and has not been with the program during the summer.

• One interesting note on newly hired football analyst Greg Robinson: He’ll continue to live in Los Angeles this fall and likely will visit Austin only for home-game weekends. Robinson, whose primary duty is to break down opponents’ film, had a similar role with the Seattle Seahawks last year.

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