Texas Longhorns: Taylor Doyle

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. 74 Taylor Doyle
Junior offensive guard


Recruitment rewind: A three-star offensive lineman from nearby Lake Travis High School in Austin, Doyle was a member of three of the Cavaliers' five consecutive state title teams. He overcame a broken ankle at the end of his junior season to earn all-state honors as a senior and chose Texas over offers from Baylor, Texas Tech, Arizona and Houston.

Career so far: Doyle redshirted in 2011 and worked with the scout team during the 2012 season. He played briefly in two games last season, as a reserve lineman against Kansas and on special teams at West Virginia, but that's the extent of his playing career. He's earned scout team player-of-the-week honors three times at Texas. Doyle emerged as the No. 1 right guard in the Texas spring game this year.

Best-case scenario for 2014: Doyle holds down the right guard spot all season long and gets the job done. He's not the physical freak up front like Desmond Harrison or Kent Perkins, but Doyle is entering his fourth year in the program and seems to have earned the respect of new line coach Joe Wickline so far. If he's solid, he can at least match the production of Mason Walters from a year ago.

Worst-case scenario for 2014: Rami Hammad and Perkins provide the biggest threat for the right guard job, and Sedrick Flowers appears to be fairly locked-in at the left guard spot. Hammad and Perkins are more touted and probably a little more talented, but both are second-year players and Hammad has no game experience. If either wins the job, Doyle might only play limited snaps this fall.

Future expectations: It's safe to say not too many Texas fans were familiar with Doyle when he took the field in April with the No. 1 offense. He's been overlooked and probably underrated in his time at Texas, but he took a big step toward changing that in the spring. If he becomes the Longhorns' starting right guard out of fall camp, he'll have to fight hard to keep the spot. Once practice begins Aug. 4, every day is going to matter a great deal for Doyle if he hopes to prove himself.
AUSTIN, Texas -- A new coaching staff meant a clean slate and a new start for several Longhorns this spring. Here's a closer look at five Texas players who appeared to help their chances of making an impact in 2014 with their performances in spring ball.

1. WR Marcus Johnson

[+] EnlargeJohnson
AP Photo/LM OteroMarcus Johnson is poised to become Texas' big-play threat this season.
You remember Johnson from his 59-yard touchdown against Oklahoma and the 120-yard day against TCU a week later, but they were just glimpses of the speedster's potential.

After being relatively underused last fall, Johnson seems poised for a breakout year. He caught the attention of his new head coach with plays like this.

"I'll say this, he can run," Charlie Strong said. "I know that he can separate from a defensive back. [He needs] confidence and just continue to work on his confidence. What I told Marcus, I said, 'You have big-time ability. You need to play like that each and every day.'"

Johnson finished fourth on the team in targets last year and caught 22 balls for 350 yards and two scores. It's hard to believe he's already a junior, but that's how it goes when your freshman season gets wasted the way Johnson's was in 2012. He appeared in eight games but didn't record a catch and was targeted only one time.

He has an opportunity, with deep threat Mike Davis gone, to become the kind of impact wideout who makes defenses look silly when they sneak up to stop the run. That's just what this Texas offense will need.

2. OG Taylor Doyle

The more casual Texas fan must've been a little confused when scoping out the new-look Longhorns offensive line at last month's spring game. They've rarely seen the guy who was holding down the first-team right guard spot.

That would be Doyle, a local kid from Lake Travis with just two games of playing experience at Texas. The reason the junior was in that starting spot had a lot to do with opportunity.

He has been sitting behind four-year starters Mason Walters and Trey Hopkins, who departed just in time for new offensive line coach Joe Wickline to show up. Doyle learned enough over three years on the scout team to show Wickline he can compete for the right guard job.

Doyle has to hold off talented redshirt freshman Rami Hammad, who came close to seeing the field in 2013, and it's entirely possible the injured but exciting Kent Perkins moves over and takes the right guard job after moving over from tackle this spring. But at least for this spring, Doyle got lots of first-string reps and opened the door for more.

[+] EnlargeMykkele Thompson
Stacy Revere/Getty ImagesIf he can play consistently, Mykkele Thompson could be poised for a big role in Texas' secondary.
3. S Mykkele Thompson

With 18 starts and 20 more appearances under his belt, is now the time when Thompson finally breaks out?

That's not to say there haven't been good days and big plays along the way, but Thompson is one of those guys who might have benefited in a big way from new coaches with new perspectives.

"We played him some at corner and some at safety," defensive coordinator Vance Bedford said. "He had an outstanding spring from the first practice to the last practice."

Thompson hasn't been very consistent in the last two years and struggled at times to be a reliable tackler and hitter, but Texas needs him to have a big year in the secondary with Adrian Phillips gone. It wouldn’t be surprising if he's a defensive standout in 2014.

4. LB Timothy Cole

New coaches just seem to like this guy. Installing Cole as a starter was one of Greg Robinson's first moves as defensive coordinator last year, though that plan was short-lived.

Now the new guys running the Longhorns have taken a liking to the 6-foot-2, 235-pound Cole.

"I call him Nat King Cole's nephew," Bedford said. "I mean, he is a big, physical guy."

After having hip surgery in January, Cole was healthy for spring ball and took advantage of the fact so many other Texas linebackers were not, starting with the first-team linebackers in the spring game. He doesn't bring the size of Steve Edmond or Dalton Santos, but he's athletic and figures to make more plays in space than he did in his less-than-stellar first start against Iowa State last year.

Cole was still learning back then, as a redshirt freshman, and has more to learn now with a new playbook. But if Texas' veteran linebackers deal with more injuries this fall (and that seems likely, doesn't it?), Cole could be in for significant snaps.

5. K Nick Rose

Can't forget the kickers. Texas had a near-automatic placekicker in Anthony Fera last year. In Rose, it has a junior whose role has been exclusively used on kickoffs over the past two years.

An open competition this spring to replace Fera resulted in Rose's emergence. If the season started today, he'd figure to be the guy on field goals, extra points and, yes, kickoffs. William Russ would be the punter. There's still time for that to change, with several candidates for each duty.

But we know Rose can boom it, as evidenced by his kickoffs and two solid attempts in the spring game -- a 40-yard make and the 55-yarder he missed. He just needs to be consistent, or else somebody else will have to take Fera's place.

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

Spring game preview: Texas

April, 18, 2014
Apr 18
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AUSTIN, Texas -- The first Texas football game of the Charlie Strong era will look a lot more like a practice.

The Longhorns hit the field this weekend for the first time since Strong arrived. Even though fans can expect a more scrimmage-like approach to the annual Orange-White spring game, there will be plenty worth keeping an eye on.

When: 1 p.m. Saturday

Where: Darrell K Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium

[+] EnlargeTyrone Swoopes
Matthew Visinsky/Icon SMISophomore QB Tyrone Swoopes will get a chance to work with the No. 1 offense in a game setting Saturday.
What to watch for:

  • Swoopes' confidence: The last time we saw Tyrone Swoopes in action, he looked like a flustered freshman (he was, in fact, a freshman) trying his hardest not to mess up amid a beatdown from Oregon in the Valero Alamo Bowl. He wasn't afraid to take some shots, and he scrambled for a 28-yard gain, but all in all it was a tough ask for a first-year QB who still had a lot to learn. With David Ash sidelined, Swoopes gets a chance to run the No. 1 offense in the spring game and show how far he has come in 14 practices with Shawn Watson, Texas' new quarterbacks coach. Watson is enthusiastic about the sophomore's future and praises his work as a student of the game, but this is a chance to see how well he can execute with a crowd watching and a No. 1 defense coming after him. Strong says the key to Swoopes' play is confidence and playing within himself. Everyone in attendance on Saturday will want to see if he can do just that.
  • New-look defense: This is going to be a vanilla ballgame on both sides of the ball. Both coordinators acknowledged that after their final practice Thursday. Why give up the good stuff when any Big 12 opponent can DVR the game on Longhorn Network and pick it apart? Even fiery defensive coordinator Vance Bedford will show restraint. But how he lines this defense up, both in scheme and personnel, will be intriguing. Texas coaches say this will be a multiple defense capable of lining up in 4-3 or 3-4, and you could see a little bit of both on Saturday. No, the defenders can't touch Swoopes. But you better believe Bedford will demand they get after him and put up a fight.
  • Playmakers on the outside: The hype is building for this Longhorns receiving corps, and their coaches have had nothing but good things to say about a group that must make up for the loss of deep threat Mike Davis. Nobody will be surprised if Marcus Johnson is the breakout player of the spring game. He's a star in the making. Jaxon Shipley, Kendall Sanders, Daje Johnson and Jacorey Warrick are all said to have had a big spring as well, and don't be shocked if you see tight end Geoff Swaim do some things in the passing game after primarily serving as a blocker in 2013.
  • Rising returnees: A new coaching staff means a clean slate for these Longhorns, and that means a fresh start for players who either weren't playing or were underperforming. The differences will be far more noticeable by August after a long summer of lifting and drills, but there will be some new standouts on Saturday. Guys such as safety Mykkele Thompson, offensive guard Taylor Doyle and linebacker Tim Cole have made an impression on the new staff and could do so again this weekend. Or perhaps it'll be someone nobody else is talking about, like how Duke Thomas caught everyone's eyes last year.
  • New sheriff in town: It's going to be a little strange to see someone other than Mack Brown on that sideline, isn't it? You know plenty of Texas fans will have their eyes on Strong for a glimpse of how he operates in a game setting and what he bring to the Texas sideline. You know the 100-plus recruits in attendance will care about that, too. For all the talk about how Strong is a stern coach out to lay down the law and whip the Longhorns into shape, let's see him have a little fun on Saturday.
Editor's note: This is the fourth part of a weeklong series breaking down Texas’ most important spring position battles when the Longhorns begin practice in two weeks.

Moving on: It’s entirely possible no BCS program had a more experienced duo of offensive guards in 2013 than Texas. Mason Walters started 51 of his 52 career games at right guard. Trey Hopkins started 42 career games, 28 of them at left guard and 14 at right tackle, and twice earned All-Big 12 honors.

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Cooper Neill/Getty ImagesSedrick Flowers is the most experienced of Texas' guard options, having played every game in 2013.
The contenders: The guys ready to take over for those two longtime starters have a combined one career start among them. That one belongs to Sedrick Flowers, the most experienced of these interior lineman. He started at left guard in the Valero Alamo Bowl against Oregon.

Sophomore Curtis Riser earned limited playing time in 2014, as did junior Taylor Doyle. Touted recruits Darius James and Rami Hammad both redshirted as freshmen, and true freshman Alex Anderson enrolled early in January.

Moving forward: The Joe Wickline factor is strong with this group. Texas’ respected new offensive line coach says he’s simply looking to find the five best offensive linemen and piece together his lineup this spring, and he’ll bring fresh eyes and a new perspective when it comes to which of these guards can help this Texas line in 2014.

Flowers would seem to be the favorite to land a starting gig after playing in all 13 games last season. By the end of his sophomore year, Flowers was respected as a trusted backup by Walters and Hopkins, and both agreed he’d be worthy of taking their place this fall. But he’ll have to earn that spot, and the competition should be strong.

The rest of Texas’ guards have potential, but only two of them have even seen the field. Riser appeared in four games last season, and Doyle saw action in two contests.

The guys most fans will be watching this spring are James and Hammad. The former was one of the nation’s best offensive line recruits a year ago but took a redshirt because he was out of shape. That time off should help him better prepare for playing at this level. Hammad came close to earning a spot in the lineup in the middle of the 2013 season, but he went down with a season-ending injury and should be healthy this spring.

Anderson, a New Orleans native, arrived in Austin with a chip on his shoulder and should benefit from getting in early. He could be a sleeper challenger in this group.

Another possibility to keep in mind: Wickline likes to cross-train his offensive linemen at several positions, so he’ll likely try out several other Longhorns at the guard spots to see if he can find a fit. Don’t be surprised if someone like Kent Perkins, a sophomore, proves he can handle such a move and challenges for a spot this fall.

Prediction: I can tell you right now that Flowers and Hammad seem like the safest bets to win jobs, but a lot can change this spring. Wickline will try to instill a certain mentality with his offensive line this season: Your job is on the line every single week. Whoever the favorites are after spring, they’ll have to fight every day to keep their spots.

Horns Snapshot: OL Darius James 

February, 5, 2013
2/05/13
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To gear up for 2013 national signing day, HornsNation’s William Wilkerson is breaking down every commitment in the Longhorns' 2013 recruiting class.

Vitals: Offensive lineman Darius James, Harker Heights, Texas/Harker Heights | 6-foot-5, 340 pounds

Horns Snapshot: OL Kent Perkins 

February, 4, 2013
2/04/13
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To gear up for 2013 national signing day, HornsNation’s William Wilkerson is breaking down every commitment in the Longhorns' 2013 recruiting class.

Vitals: Offensive lineman Kent Perkins, Lake Highlands, Texas/Lake Highlands | 6-foot-5, 300 pounds


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Longhorns add impressive OT in Knox 

November, 26, 2012
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There’s seldom a year when offensive line recruiting isn’t at or near the top of a program’s priorities list.

It appeared to be Texas’ main agenda in 2013 with three of its top four commitments coming from the big fellas up front and should be one if its most critical points of emphasis again in 2014.

[+] EnlargeDemetrius Knox
Miller Safrit/ESPN.comESPN Watch List offensive tackle Demetrius Knox almost committed to Texas this summer.
Texas got a big piece of its recruiting puzzle figured out on Monday with the verbal commitment of ESPN Watch List tackle Demetrius Knox, who chose the Longhorns over Ohio State, TCU and Alabama. The 6-foot-4, 296-pound bookend is considered the top junior lineman in the state.

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HornsNation, will analyze each of the scholarship players currently on the Texas roster. (The bulk of the 2012 class is not currently on the roster.) We will look at the player’s past contributions, what he might do for Texas this year and the future impact he could have on the program. Starting with No. 1 Mike Davis we will go through the roster numerically before ending with No. 99 Desmond Jackson.

No. 74
Taylor Doyle

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M.J. McFarland wasn’t one of the 18 true freshmen who played this season for the Longhorns.

He was a redshirt -- one of the few in the celebrated Class of 2011. In fact his name barely drew a whisper until bowl practice rolled around. It was then the tight end started to draw some praise. Now McFarland has started to elicit some hope among the coaching staff.

“He is up to 254 pounds and we need tight ends,” Texas coach Mack Brown said. “It will be fun to watch him in the spring because he has the running and catching because he was a wide receiver, but he has got to continue to get better in his blocking.”

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