Practice has begun. The season opener is on the horizon. Football is back.
To preview Texas’ impending season, we’re spending part of August by asking 20 burning questions in 20 days.
No. 14: Who are Texas’ five most important players this season?
David Ash, Quarterback
Sure, it’s easy to say the quarterback is the most important player on the team. He’s one of the most important players on any team. But Ash is critical for two reasons.
First, Texas doesn’t have a backup ready for full-time duty. Sophomore Tyrone Swoopes needs to show dramatic improvement before he’ll win over the masses. And freshman Jerrod Heard is just that…a freshman. It’s very difficult to see a true freshman walk on the field and win.
Secondly, Ash needs to stay healthy for the team’s psyche. If he goes down early in the season with another concussion issue, the whole locker room would take a psychological blow. They know what the backup situation looks like. There are some vocal seniors on this team that would keep everybody’s spirits up. But there is no experienced played like a Case McCoy who could ride to the rescue this time.
Quandre Diggs, Cornerback
We all know that Diggs is the team’s vocal leader, its emotional heart and soul. But even defensive coordinator Vance Bedford admitted Diggs needs to have a huge on-field presence this season if the team is to be successful. Whether he’s playing on the edge at corner or as the slot corner, Diggs needs to get more interceptions and knock down more passes. He’s not coming off the field, so Diggs needs to make the most of every play possible.
Cedric Reed, Defensive end
Reed is widely believed to be one of the best pass-rushing defensive ends in the Big 12. He needs to live up to that hype. Defensive line coach Chris Rumph said if Reed was honest with himself, he probably didn’t have a great spring. Rumph expects more, much more. Reed had 10 sacks last season and was a disruptive force. This year, he needs to be a beast. Think Jadeveon Clowney from 2012, not the guy who loafed through last year and still ended up the No. 1 overall pick by the Texans.
Malcolm Brown, Running back
One particular play from last year’s Alamo Bowl still stands out. Brown was running out wide and smashed into a would-be tackler. Now, Brown was pushed out of bounds on the play, but the Oregon tackler was knocked flat on his tail. ESPN microphones picked up Brown dishing out some R-rated smack talk, too. We’re all for good sportsmanship. But good grief, if that angry bruiser shows up every game this season, the Longhorns should be just fine in the backfield.
Whoever plays left tackle
Offensive line coach Joe Wickline abhors pigeonholing guys into one specific spot. Every player should play multiple positions, he believes, so if someone gets hurt it won’t be so disruptive. The most important position on any offensive line is left tackle. That’s who usually faces the opposing team’s best pass rusher. Wickline said he won’t settle into a permanent starting lineup until midseason, so expect to see Kennedy Estelle (6-foot-7, 285), Desmond Harrison (6-foot-8, 318) or maybe even the smaller Kent Perkins (6-foot-5, 325) get a look-see.
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