Over the past few years, the Texas Longhorns have established themselves as one of the top destinations for highly-recruited football players not only from the state of Texas, but across the nation as well.
Texas’ 2011 class is ranked by scouting services as one of the top in the country again and includes several talented athletes who could be impact players as soon as they hit the practice fields in Austin.
After a disappointing 2010-1011 season, finishing five to seven overall and missing a bowl for the first time in many years, Mack Brown needs players to step up and make an impact at several key positions.
With Garrett Gilbert’s struggles last season, an open quarterback competition is likely on the horizon. Will David Ash emerge as a serious competitor for the starting job?
The running back by committee approach is out the window with the arrival of Malcolm Brown and Joe Bergeron.
Could Texas’ next impact receiver be Jaxon Shipley, or could Miles Onyegbule or Mykkele Thompson step up and become the next go-to guy?
The defensive side of the ball will also be greatly improved with the arrival of talented players at each position.
Let’s take a look at some of the potential impact players for the 2011-2012 Longhorns.
The most likely choice for next season’s freshman impact player is Cibolo Steele’s star running back, Malcolm Brown. Brown has been compared by many to Ricky Williams, Cedric Benson or Earl Campbell, all big and powerful downhill runners who could just as easily knock you over as run around you.
With little competition among current Texas running backs, Brown may not be a starter during the early season, as the nod will likely go to senior Fozzy Whittaker, but he will definitely be given enough carries to win the job as the season progresses closer to Big 12 play.
If Brown can show a quick understanding of Texas’ offensive scheme during spring practice, this timetable could easily be shortened.
Look for Malcolm Brown to have the biggest impact of all of the Longhorns’ incoming freshmen.
Another Longhorn recruit who could quickly contribute is Brownwood’s Jaxon Shipley, brother of former Longhorn great and current Cincinnati Bengal wide receiver Jordan Shipley.
Shipley’s size, route-running ability and great hands have earned him comparisons to his brother and other great Texas high school possession receivers. Jaxon, however, may have an opportunity to play and contribute much more quickly than Jordan did during his time on the Forty Acres.
Texas’ receiving staff played poorly as a group during the 2010-2011 season, often dropping catchable passes thrown by Garrett Gilbert, not creating enough separation at the line and earning a poor run after catch average.
Malcolm Williams, James Kirkendoll and John Chiles all performed well below the standards that are expected of Texas receivers. Shipley, along with fellow freshmen Miles Onyegbule and Mykkele Thompson, and current Longhorns Darius White and Mike Davis will likely see the majority of the catches during 2011.
If Jaxon Shipley picks up on Bryan Harsin’s game plan, he could have a huge impact on the Texas offense in 2011.
Thought by many to be the most talented player in Texas’ class, linebacker Steve Edmond from Daingerfield High could be an instant impact player on the defensive side of the ball.
Earning comparisons to former Longhorn superstar Sergio Kindle due to his intimidating hits and powerful frame, Edmond dominated during his time in high school, finishing his career with multiple scholarship offers from schools across the country.
Due to his ability to play either outside or inside linebacker, Edmond could see the field very quickly and contribute early in the 2011 season. If he doesn’t immediately play on defense, he could be the type of special teams player who creates, similar to current Longhorn linebacker Kenny Vaccaro.
While people don’t often think of an offensive lineman as being an “impact” player, Klein Collins’ Garrett Greenlea could be just that due to timing alone.
The Texas offensive line was much-maligned this past season due to its lack of ability to protect Garrett Gilbert from defensive line pressure, forcing him to throw into coverage and often with passes deflected at the line of scrimmage.
At 6’7″ and 300 pounds, Greenlea already has the size needed to play and contribute quickly. If he develops good chemistry with Paden Kelley, Tanner Doyle and the other Longhorn lineman, Gilbert could see much bigger pockets during the 2011 season.
Texas doesn’t have the luxury of developing younger players like they have in years past, redshirting guys to help them slowly adjust to the college game. Look for the three mentioned above and several others to make a quick impact on a team that must rebound from a poor 2010 season.