- Max Olson, ESPN Staff Writer
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Over the next two weeks, we'll be evaluating who the 10 best players are on every Big 12 roster this spring.
Again, these lists won't include junior college or freshman signees who have yet to arrive on campus. We're only looking at players currently with their teams this spring. These rankings are sure to change, but here is our best assessment at the moment.
We continue with the Texas Longhorns:
1. RB Johnathan Gray: The past two seasons haven’t gone as Gray might have planned, but he’s due for a huge senior season. He’s fully recovered from his Achilles tear of 2013, the blocking for him should be improved, and it’s time to shine. Nobody has a better work ethic on the team, and Gray is no doubt hungry for a 1,000-yard season.
2. DT Hassan Ridgeway: The player Charlie Strong lovingly calls "Green Mile" is one scary dude at 6-foot-4 and 307 pounds, and he grew up during his 10 starts last season with six sacks and 11 tackles for loss. He doesn’t have to be as good as Malcom Brown, but he does have to bring it this season.
3. WR/RB Daje Johnson: The phrase "knock on wood" gets thrown around frequently when coaches talk about Johnson, by far Texas’ most dynamic offensive weapon. It’s easy to lose count of the suspensions and injuries he’s overcome in three years. He’s in good standing today, but also down to his last strike. If Johnson can stay on the field, very few players in the Big 12 can do what he does.
4. CB Duke Thomas: He enters his senior year with 23 starts, six interceptions and a lot of motivation. Can Thomas be a really good No. 1 cornerback in this league? We’ll find out this fall, but he’s by far Texas’ most experienced defensive back.
5. S Jason Hall: Strong loves having a good head-hunter at safety, and Hall looks like he’s going to be a special one for the next few years. He started seven games as a true freshman and delivered some highlight-reel hits.
6. DT Desmond Jackson: Jackson returns for a fifth season after a foot injury ended his senior season after three games. He’s played in 41 games, brings leadership and should be an effective complement to Ridgeway up the middle.
7. OG Kent Perkins: From No. 6 through 10, you can throw in any number of players. Maybe Sedrick Flowers should be here since he’s a senior who was more consistent last season. But Perkins has big potential at guard and might be Texas’ strongest player. He could be in for a nice year as long as his knee issues don’t return.
8. WR Marcus Johnson: It’s difficult to rank Johnson this high after the season he just had, one in which he caught 27 passes for 313 yards and seemed to lose a lot of confidence. Jacorey Warrick and Dorian Leonard are earning far more praise this spring, too. But new receivers coach Jay Norvell might be the right guy to bring out the best in Johnson.
9. QB Tyrone Swoopes: It’s hard to leave Swoopes off this list considering his experience and raw talent. His progression will depend on his confidence and consistency, but right now Swoopes is the best option Texas has at quarterback.
10. LB Malik Jefferson: Too high, too soon? Jefferson is playing up to the hype so far in spring practice, and might already be the most talented linebacker on the roster. He’s going to be a menace at the line of scrimmage from the Fox position. So will Naashon Hughes, who might be more deserving of this spot.
195dGreg Ostendorf and Max Olson