Dallas Colleges: William Russ

Strong's debut will feature fresh faces

August, 25, 2014
Aug 25
7:15
PM CT
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.

Burnt Orange Breakdown: William Russ

June, 3, 2014
Jun 3
3:00
PM CT
Before Texas begins its first season under Charlie Strong, we're taking a deep dive into all the talent he inherits in 2014. Our Burnt Orange Breakdown series will take a closer look at each scholarship player returning this fall and what we can expect from him. We're going down the roster from No. 1 Shiro Davis all the way to No. 99 Desmond Jackson.

No. 19 William Russ
Senior punter


Recruitment rewind: Russ initially committed to Arkansas over Miami, Vanderbilt and Louisiana Tech, but Texas entered the picture shortly thereafter for the Shreveport, La., standout and he flipped to the Longhorns in late January of 2010. ESPN's No. 13-ranked kicker prospect arrived in Austin with the ability to kick field goals, punts and kickoffs and was recruited to help fill the void left by Hunter Lawrence graduating.

Career so far: Russ redshirted in 2010 and then recorded a total of four kickoffs in two games during 2011 and 2012. He served as Texas' backup punter behind Anthony Fera last season and did not appear in a game.

Best-case scenario for 2014: Exiting spring ball, it appears Russ has proved himself to be the front-runner to take over the punting duties in 2014. He recorded three punts in the Orange-White spring game for an average distance of 43.3 yards with two inside the 20-yard line. Texas' last two punters -- Fera and Alex King -- were both transfers, but the staff did not bring in a newcomer this spring to take the job. Nobody is standing in Russ' way of starting.

Worst-case scenario for 2014: Texas has two more options at punter in senior Michael Davidson and redshirt freshman Mitchell Becker, and the competition will continue into fall camp. If Russ isn't getting the job done early on, the Longhorns coaches probably won't be afraid to make a change and give Becker or Davidson a shot.

Future expectations: Texas won't ask one kicker to handle both placekicking and punting duties. That's a tall task Fera and Justin Tucker could handle, but most guys can't. That should make life a little easier for Russ, who has a big leg and should be able to stay relatively fresh for the duration of the season. He just needs to hold onto his job and give the Longhorns a much-needed advantage in field position.

Position battles to watch: Kicker/punter

March, 7, 2014
Mar 7
9:00
AM CT
Editor's note: This is the fifth and final part of a weeklong series breaking down Texas’ most important spring position battles when the Longhorns begin practice in two weeks.

Moving on: Anthony Fera, who leaves as the most decorated kicker in Longhorns history after a remarkable 2013 season. Fera was the first consensus All-America selection and Lou Groza Award finalist in school history and also one of the Big 12’s best punters. Texas fans figured replacing Justin Tucker would be impossible, but Fera was arguably better in his second and final season in burnt orange.

The contenders: Despite losing Fera, the Longhorns do bring back one experienced placekicker in Nick Jordan and a junior-to-be in Nick Rose who has handled kickoffs for two seasons.

Texas also brings back William Russ, who will be a senior this fall, as well as junior Ben Pruitt, sophomore Michael Davidson and redshirt freshman Mitchell Becker.

Moving forward: After years of divvying up the duties among the staff, Texas finally has a designated special teams coach in Chris Vaughn. He’ll also coach the secondary with Vance Bedford, but is responsible for finding the next Fera on this roster.

This time, though, it seems more likely Texas will go back to having a two- or three-man unit for handling kicks this season. At least, that seems like a likely outcome because of Rose’s specialty -- booming kickoffs. He raised his touchback rate from 36 percent as a freshman to 42 percent in 2013 and should be given an opportunity to earn another role in year three.

Jordan did not appear in a game last season but hit on 9-of-15 field goal attempts as a true freshman in 2012, holding down that job for 10 games while Fera dealt with a groin injury. He hit seven of his final 10 attempts that year and was understandably inconsistent for a rookie. The job should be there for the taking for Jordan this spring.

But Vaughn wants competition. He says he’ll put all his options on the field this spring, put them in pressure situations and find out who stands out.

Russ is a bit of a dark horse in this race, a scholarship player who has dealt with injuries during his career. He and Becker might be the best options at the moment for finding a punter, but there’s no reason to count out Pruitt, Davidson (who recorded one kickoff last season) or anyone else at this point.

Prediction: A too-close-to-call battle in spring ball. Seems like a safe bet right now would be that Jordan is the placekicker, Russ and Becker are battling for punter duties, and Rose continues to hold down the kickoffs. But if someone is good enough to do multiple roles, the staff won't be afraid to consolidate responsibilities.

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