Texas freshman Kris Boyd made two big special teams plays against Notre Dame last week. (RODOLFO GONZALEZ / AMERICAN-STATESMAN)

Brian Davis

American-Statesman Staff


Eyes on Texas: Time for freshmen to take over Longhorns

Coach Charlie Strong should fully commit to playing every freshman possible

Posted September 10th, 2015

Story highlights
  • From here on out, LB Malik Jefferson should become a regular team spokesman.
  • Where are WR DeAndre McNeal and DE Charles Omenihu?
  • Defensive coordinator Vance Bedford: 'Kris Boyd thinks he can walk on water.'

Nationally-televised blowouts make for delectable catnip for those recruiting against Texas. Three in a row is practically a Godsend for those in Waco, Fort Worth and, of course, College Station.

It doesn’t help when those wearing burnt orange lose faith.

“I remember when (Notre Dame) first scored,” senior receiver Daje Johnson said. “I saw a lot of players already getting down on themselves. Like, it was just one touchdown. You have to have more heart than that.”


Those comments only reinforce what should be obvious. Starting Saturday against Rice, Texas should fully commit to its youth movement. Johnathan Gray stays on the field. Ditto for Naashon Hughes. Otherwise, the other 20 starting jobs should be filled by as many youngsters as possible.

That means redshirt freshmen Jerrod Heard gets the nod over Tyrone Swoopes at quarterback. End of discussion.

Freshmen receivers John Burt, Ryan Newsome and DeAndre McNeal (remember him?) should be targeted early and often. Freshmen Kris Boyd, Davante Davis and P.J. Locke should play almost every snap in the secondary. Can we see defensive end Charles Omenihu, please?

Texas linebacker Malik Jefferson, left, and head coach, Charlie Strong come out onto the field for the second half against Notre Dame at Notre Dame Stadium last Saturday. (RODOLFO GONZALEZ / AMERICAN-STATESMAN)
Texas linebacker Malik Jefferson, left, and head coach, Charlie Strong come out onto the field for the second half against Notre Dame at Notre Dame Stadium last Saturday. (RODOLFO GONZALEZ / AMERICAN-STATESMAN)

And from here on out, freshman linebacker Malik Jefferson becomes a regular team spokesman. How long did it take him to get comfortable against the Irish? “I was comfortable from the first snap,” Jefferson said.

“I don’t speak highly of myself or the kids in my class, but there’s something special about us,” Jefferson said. “The meetings we have, the talks we have, the relationships we’ve built throughout the whole process was great. It could be this year, it doesn’t matter. We can be great. It’s going to start one day.”

Saturday, perhaps? Too soon?

Defensive coordinator Vance Bedford continues to downplay how well Jefferson played last week. But his eyes light up, and Bedford gets legitimately excited when talking about the freshman class as a whole.

“We’re in there Monday night as a defensive staff,” Bedford said. “We’re watching video, and about five of our freshmen come in there and sit down for about 30 minutes watching video with us, just laughing and joking. They have a different mindset.”

When was the last time you heard a UT coach crow about players — especially freshmen — for putting in extra time in the film room?

Should Jefferson and his band of merry freshmen just take this thing over?

“Right now, that’s not our role,” Jefferson said. “We don’t see ourselves as taking over the team. We see ourselves as coming in and helping the team. We know it’s not about us. It’s about the older guys. Our time will come. We understand that.”

No, Malik. Your time is now. Jefferson had the best defensive showing against Notre Dame with nine tackles (2.5 for loss). Burt had one of the only offensive highlights, a 48-yard catch on a deep ball. And Boyd had far and away the best effort on special teams, making two sensational plays on sheer hustle.

“Kris Boyd thinks he can walk on water,” Bedford said. “My man is off the charts. I love that kid. Once he figures out how to play, he has the potential to be an extremely good football player.”

Mike Farrell, the national recruiting director for Rivals.com, tweeted a not-so-friendly message to Texas fans on Wednesday: “So when is it time to admit that Charlie Strong isn’t the right fit at #Texas? Or is that already the consensus?”

The freshmen jumped all over him.

“Blow it. Strong’s the man,” Boyd tweeted.

“Lol,” Newsome added.

“You might be an idiot,” safety DeShon Elliott said.

These 18-year-olds have the confidence and swagger that Texas fans should absolutely love. Are they good enough to lift the Longhorns into Big 12 title contention? Well, at this moment, don’t look past the Owls (1-0). But at least we’re no longer wondering if there are enough players in the locker room who want to win.

So despite the recent run of bad news and those three straight blowout losses, should recruits still consider Texas?

“Potential,” Jefferson said. “You can’t run away from something that’s going to be great in a few years.”