Texas Longhorns: Thomas Ashcraft

AUSTIN, Texas -- Before his senior season started, Kenny Vaccaro figuratively took a look around and literally figured out what was left of the vaunted 2009 recruiting class.

Four downs: Class of 2009 unfulfilled 

January, 16, 2013
Each week Sean Adams looks at a few topics around the Texas Longhorns and college football.

First down: Recruiting of unfulfilled promise

Kenny Vacarro called the small number of seniors in 2012, "The few, the proud -- the seniors." Depending on whether players redshirt or not, there are always at least two classes for a recruiting class to finish their eligibility.

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The departures of Thomas Ashcraft, Kyle Kriegel and Trey Graham from the Texas program is more tough news for a 2009 recruiting class that was already much-maligned.

That No. 3-ranked class included 20 promising future Longhorns. Transfers and departures left Texas with only two senior leaders from that group this season: Kenny Vaccaro and Alex Okafor.

In fact, Ashcraft, Kriegel and Graham giving up their final season means that only six signees from 2009 -- Okafor, Vaccaro, Barrett Matthews, Chris Whaley, Mason Walters and Garrett Porter -- will play out their full eligibility as Longhorns.

Ashcraft was among Texas’ most highly touted members of that class. The 6-foot-5, 315-pound offensive lineman was an Under Armour All-American, a member of the ESPN 150 and ranked No. 5 among guard prospects.

The Cedar Hill (Texas) grad played in 35 games but never broke into the starting lineup. Most of his snaps came on special teams or in reserve roles. He was Mason Walters’ top backup at right guard in 2012.

For Kriegel, playing time was just as elusive. Opportunity finally did present itself in 2012 when he played in five games, but had he come back he would’ve faced plenty of competition for limited snaps in his final season.

The 6-foot-5, 280-pound Kriegel was ranked No. 45 among defensive end prospects out of Elysian Fields (Texas) High and finished with one tackle in seven career games.

Unfortunately, Graham never got that opportunity. After the No. 8-ranked tight end recruit redshirted as a freshman, right knee injuries cost him two full seasons. He returned to the practice field this fall but did not appear in a game in his career.

Now they’ll prepare for a life after football. All three will be University of Texas graduates by the end of the spring. Their scholarships were by no means wasted.

By giving up their senior seasons, they open up spots in the 85-man roster for members of another promising Texas recruiting class, one that will need plenty of its signees to pan out if the Longhorns hopes to compete for national titles again.
The Texas quarterbacks have dominated the headlines for the past month -- actually the past 12-plus months -- but there are a few more storylines for the No. 15 Longhorns as they take the field for the first time against Wyoming on Saturday.

With that in mind here are three questions Texas hopes to have answers to by the time Week One is over and Week Two begins.

Who, if anybody, will run the wild formation?

Texas is not as in love with the wild formation as it was a year ago. A lot of that has to do with Fozzy Whittaker being gone. He was extremely adept at being patient and finding the right creases in that set.

[+] EnlargeJoe Bergeron
Brendan Maloney/US PresswireTexas tailback Joe Bergeron will likely be the go-to guy for the wild formation in 2012.
After weeks of trying out everybody from Jalen Overstreet to Jeremy Hills, Texas appears as if it has settled on Joe Bergeron to take the direct snap in short-yardage situations and Johnathan Gray to be more of a traditional wild back.

Bergeron brings with him a powerful, straight-ahead running style that is conducive to getting one or two tough yards if he has a full head of steam. He also has enough shimmy in his game that if something opens up he can bust a longer run.

Gray can get to the outside and is a better cutback runner than Bergeron. These two qualities make him perfectly suited to take the direct snap in those longer down-and-distance plays.

But Texas might not rely on the formation as much as it did a year ago. The Longhorns typically used the package in red zone situations. This year there is the thought, at least early on, that Texas must expand its options in the red zone and therefore might shy away from the wild formation at least in the nonconference games.

Can Texas create depth in the offensive line?

Offensive line depth is the largest concern Texas has in 2012. There was the thought hat Sedrick Flowers would step up and he has yet to do that. Remember this was a player Texas was depending on as a true freshman until he suffered an injury and redshirted. Flowers is over the injury but, despite being the top athlete on the offensive line, has not shown that he has what it takes to be a consistent player.

He is not alone in that. Right now Texas only feels comfortable with seven offensive linemen -- Luke Poehlmann and Thomas Ashcraft are the top two subs. That means Texas is going to be looking hard at Garrett Porter and Garrett Greenlea in this first game. Kennedy Estelle, a true freshman, is also going to get work at tackle. Texas has to get Estelle up to speed because he is going to play in Big 12 conference games.

With Anthony Fera out how sound is the kicking game?

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Five surprises on Texas' depth chart 

August, 22, 2012
AUSTIN, Texas -- You knew Texas’ first depth chart for the 2012 season would give the world an answer about the quarterback battle.

Here’s five more things you need to know about the rest of the Longhorns’ two-deep:

1. Defensive tackle

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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. 79
Thomas Ashcraft
Offensive line, 6-5, 315, junior

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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.