In Saturday’s spring game, the eyes of Texas will be upon …
MALIK JEFFERSON, LINEBACKER
Applauded ahead of the 2016 season, Jefferson disappointed with a 62-tackle campaign. It was believed by some, though, that he was playing out of position as a middle linebacker. Might he shift to the outside with Todd Orlando calling the shots? Jefferson is still viewed as a top-notch talent — and future NFL Draft pick — so how does his junior year begin?
POONA FORD, DEFENSIVE LINEMAN
A 310-pound senior-to-be, Ford ranked fourth on the team in 2016 with his 54 tackles. Ford also had 5.5 stops behind the line of scrimmage. Tom Herman has talked up Ford this spring, and said on Tuesday that “If we can get 11 guys playing like Poona Ford on defense, look out.” Ford also was Herman’s defensive “Freak of the Week” during the final week of spring drills.
TONEIL CARTER, RUNNING BACK
Since D’Onta Foreman is NFL-bound and Chris Warren III (hamstring) and Kyle Porter (ankle) are sidelined by injuries, quarterback Shane Buechele will be Texas’ top returning rusher on Saturday — he ran for 161 yards last season. So some opportunities will exist for rising sophomore Tristian Houston and Carter, an early enrollee from Houston who fell into Texas’ lap after a recruiting snag at Georgia.
CONNOR WILLIAMS, OFFENSIVE LINEMAN
Texas needs a new guard on the right side of its offensive line, but plenty of experience was retained up front with players like Patrick Vahe, Zach Shackelford and Jake McMillon. The biggest name on the offensive line, though, belongs to Williams. An All-American and Outland Trophy semifinalist his sophomore season, he gives Texas a 320-pound anchor at left tackle.
JOSHUA ROWLAND, KICKER
This spring game may have a different tone had Texas solved its kicking issues in 2016. Missed kicks against Kansas, Kansas State and West Virginia costs Texas dearly, however, and those losses helped usher Charlie Strong out the door. Herman signed Rowland out of Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College, and the rising junior hit 25 field goals during his two years there.