- Max Olson, ESPN Staff Writer
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Texas is getting off to a later-than-usual start to its spring practices this year, with Charlie Strong set to lead the Longhorns onto the practice field for the first time on March 18.
Until then, we’re counting down everything you need to know entering next season and the next era of Texas football. This week, we’re breaking down the five position groups with the most room to improve in 2014. Here’s No. 5 on the list.
5. Tight Ends
Last year: Swaim, a junior college transfer, started nine games and caught three passes for 14 yards. Daniels also hauled in three passes and picked up 28 yards in six starts. McFarland did not record a reception and appeared in 11 games, mostly on special teams. Whiteley joined the program in January after one season at Arizona Western Community College.
What’s missing: You saw those receiving stats, right? The Longhorns haven’t had a tight end record 20 catches in a season since Jermichael Finley left campus. His last year in burnt orange? 2007.
Louisville made good use of Gerald Christian (28-426-4 TDs) last season, and Joe Wickline and Shawn Watson have relied on pass-catching tight ends in the past (Brandon Pettigrew at Oklahoma State, Mike McNeill at Nebraska). Is this finally the year of the tight end revival at Texas?
Moving forward: Swaim and Daniels were asked to be blockers in Texas’ power run-heavy attack, and on that front they did an impressive job in 2013. Bruce Chambers returns as the tight ends coach and knows what those two can do in the run game, but will either see an expanded role?
McFarland was supposed to be the long-term answer at tight end before his demotion last season. It’s time for him to put it all together. Whiteley is an unknown commodity but was a big-time receiver in high school. Getting him in the program a semester early is a real plus. There’s hope for these guys, and how they’re utilized in the new offense will be interesting to watch.