Monday, August 25, 2014
Strong's debut will feature fresh faces
By Max Olson
AUSTIN, Texas -- Charlie Strong and his coaches won't be the only new guy running out the tunnel for the Texas Longhorns on Saturday night. There are many more fresh faces Longhorn fans will soon get to know. Get ready for some surprises.
Strong did not release a depth chart Monday -- he'll do so later this week -- but based on what he and his players have said throughout fall camp, it's clear Texas will be relying on some players that even the recruiting junkies don't know much about. A primer on 10 players to watch as Texas opens the Strong era on Saturday against North Texas:
Safety Jason Hall: The freshman safety from South Grand Prairie High in Dallas was a three-star recruit who's exceeded all expectations for both his talent and age. He has ideal size at 6-foot-2 and 207 pounds and has earned rave reviews from Strong and his fellow DBs in recent weeks. "Jason understands the game," linebacker Jordan Hicks said Monday. "You can see his confidence. He's one of those young guys who you can expect to play well in games. He's going to be a great player." Hall is still battling for a starting safety job and Strong wants a decision mid-week on who will start.
Receiver Ty Templin: Not your typical walk-on. "He's always kind of stood out in everybody's mind for a while," quarterback David Ash said. "Every conversation I remember, going back for years, was, 'You know, that Ty Templin kid, he's good somehow.'" Ash says the 6-foot, 180-pound sophomore is a reliable pass-catcher who isn't afraid to go over the middle. With Jaxon Shipley (hamstring) day-to-day and Daje Johnson suspended, Templin has a real chance to break into the starting lineup for the opener.
Safety Dylan Haines: We profiled Haines during fall camp, and the walk-on hasn't lost any momentum after wowing his coaches and teammates with a spring-game interception and a strong showing in summer workouts. "Dylan was probably the biggest shock of the spring," Hicks said. "He came on and he came on strong." While he and Hall will continue to battle, the safe bet is that both will see plenty of action in the opener and beyond.
Receiver Jacorey Warrick: After playing mop-up minutes last season as a true freshman, "Petey" Warrick has consistently been talked up as a receiver on the rise. "He's a little guy, but he's really quick, really fast, nice hands, got stronger," cornerback Quandre Diggs said. "He's made some strides." He's a 5-foot-11 speedster in the slot who should see the field a lot, especially if Shipley is unavailable.
Defensive tackle Hassan Ridgeway: The sophomore who Strong calls "The Green Mile" will be Texas' top defensive tackle off the bench and is finally buying in. Defensive end Cedric Reed says the big man put on 50 pounds last year and "all he could do was sleep." Not true this fall. "He looks good, physically. He looks like a monster," Reed said. "He's really taking the game serious, eating right, in the playbook, really dedicated himself to this defense. I think he'll be a breakout player this year."
Offensive tackle Marcus Hutchins: The fourth-year player has yet to achieve much at Texas and has moved around between the offensive and defensive line. But he seems to be getting offensive line coach Joe Wickline's attention as a potential left tackle. The 6-foot-5, 278-pound lineman might get the call Saturday to fill in for Desmond Harrison, who's suspended for at least one game. You could also see redshirt freshman Darius James in this role, too.
Receivers Armanti Foreman, Lorenzo Joe: Of the five members of Texas' true freshman receiver class, these two put themselves in the best position to play immediately. Foreman has the explosiveness and quickness to turn a short pass into a big play. He's a game-breaker if Texas can get him in space. Joe is more of a possession receiver at 6-foot-2, but he provides sneaky athleticism and is surprisingly polished for a guy who played QB in high school last year. They'll get thrown in the mix on Saturday at some point.
Punter William Russ: The big question mark that not enough people talk about. Strong praised the fifth-year senior for having done "an unbelievable job" in fall practice. "He's one of those guys, he has a strong leg now. He may boom one 60 and the next one may go 20," Strong said. "He's got to get a little more consistency." There will be just as much scrutiny on Nick Rose, who gets his first shot at place-kicking duties after being the kickoff specialist for two years.