Thursday, May 5, 2011
The Revolving Door: Texas
By David Ubben
I've done it. You've done it.
"Hey, is that guy still around?"
Even with two fewer teams, it's hard to keep track. Our next series, which we did last year, too, takes a look at two key players for every team in the league that are taking their talents elsewhere, returning to campus, or arriving to try and write a legacy of their own.
So really, this series isn't so much for the fans of the teams in the posts, but more for everyone else. It wouldn't be a bad idea to bookmark this series.
Next up: Texas
Sam Acho, DE
Texas struggled last season, but Acho didn't. The senior lineman was the rock of the defense on and off the field, earning both All-Big 12 first-team honors and the Academic Heisman. He also accompanied his parents on mission trips to Nigeria during the summer and was a semifinalist for the Lombardi Trophy in 2010 and a semifinalist for the Lott Trophy in 2009. He'll be missed by the Longhorns after being drafted in the fourth round by Arizona.
Aaron Williams, CB
Williams crashed Texas' starting lineup for a game as a freshman, but has been a full-time starter for his past two seasons. Williams was one of just three players in the Big 12 to leave school early after last season, forgoing his senior year to have the Buffalo Bills make him the 34th overall selection of last week's draft. Williams played some nickel back, played some cornerback, and he was also the guy who ended Sam Bradford's career with a hit in the first quarter of 2009's Red River Rivalry. Last season, he was an All-Big 12 second-teamer and broke up 13 passes, making 46 tackles and forcing three fumbles.
Keenan Robinson and Emmanuel Acho, LBs
This pair are close friends and should be the two vocal leaders of the defense in 2011 under new direction. Will Muschamp is gone, and Manny Diaz has arrived. Last season, Robinson and Acho combined for 187 tackles as the team's top two tackles. Emmanuel is Sam's younger brother, so it's clear he'll have somewhere to go if he has questions about stepping into the role as a team leader. Both have nice combinations of size and speed. Robinson (6-foot-3, 235 pounds) and Acho (6-foot-2, 240 pounds) should be among the Big 12's best at their position next season.
Whittaker and Johnson combined for 943 yards and eight scores last season. They'll have to be better this season for Texas to bounce back from its 5-7 record in 2010. Together, their efforts still would have only ranked 11th in the Big 12 if they were one back. Whittaker, a more balanced back, has dealt with a nagging shoulder injury and Johnson, though solid at the goal line for most of his career, doesn't give the Longhorns a big-play threat at 250 pounds. Both are seniors, but if they're not better next season, both could be out of a job. D.J. Monroe is likely to get more touches in space, and the nation's top running back is headed to Austin this fall.
Malcolm Brown, RB
Brown is the guy Texas fans have been waiting for. Not since Jamaal Charles has Texas had what could be called a franchise back. Is Brown the guy? There's no way to know for sure until he gets to campus this fall, but the 6-foot, 215-pounder was among the nation's top recruits in the 2011 class and is a power runner with decent speed. The Texas 5A Offensive Player of the Year in 2010, the Cibolo, Texas native rushed for 1,800 yards and 23 scores while leading his team to a state title.
Quandre Diggs, CB
Texas fans have already had a chance to see Diggs, and they had to love it. The 5-foot-10, 190-pounder was the nation's top cornerback in the 2011 class, and after enrolling early, is already challenging for a starting spot in Texas' new defense. He was all over the place in Texas' spring game, and has already made a big impression on his teammates for his efforts. Off the field, he helped hold together Texas' top-flight recruiting class in the midst of upheaval on the coaching staff, too. He was on the phone with his future teammates, telling them to hold tight and let Mack Brown do his job. Diggs could be in store for a special, special career.