Texas linebacker Malik Jefferson watches from the sidelines after leaving the game with an injury against Texas Tech during the first half at Royal Memorial Stadium on Thursday, November 26, 2015. DEBORAH CANNON / AMERICAN-STATESMAN


The Eyes of Texas: Five Horns the Horns will be watching

Posted April 14th, 2017


In Saturday’s spring game, the eyes of Texas will be upon …

Texas Longhorns Malik Jefferson sacks Iowa State Cyclones Brian Peavy during the second half of a NCAA college football game, Saturday, Oct. 15, 2016 at Darrell K. Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium/Jamail Field, Austin, Texas. RICARDO B. BRAZZIELL/AMERICAN-STATESMAN


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?

OU running back Samaje Perine is tackled by UT defensive tackle Poona Ford in the third quarter at the Cotton Bowl in Dallas Saturday October 8, 2016. JAY JANNER / AMERICAN-STATESMAN


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.


Texas Longhorns (30) Toneil Carter during spring practice Thursday, March 30, 2016. RICARDO B. BRAZZIELL/AMERICAN-STATESMAN


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, drops back to pass block against California (75) Puka Lopa, right, in the second half of the NCAA game held at Royal-Memorial Stadium in Austin, Texas, on Saturday, September 19, 2015. California defeated Texas 45-44. (RODOLFO GONZALEZ / AMERICAN-STATESMAN)


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.

University of Texas Head Football Coach Tom Herman talks with the team during spring practice on Tuesday, March 7, 2017.


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.