Texas Football: 5 Key Players to Watch This Spring
5 Texas Longhorns to Watch this Spring
Spring practice means the Texas Longhorns have officially ushered in the Charlie Strong era. The new head coach, hired Jan. 5, finally has his team on the field. It is his first look at players in action.
Strong has a lot of work ahead of him. This is a Texas team that has underachieved since its appearance in the BCS Championship game in 2009. Early indications are he has the player’s attention. He is the new sheriff in town, and he is not afraid to get his hands dirty to prove his point.
Everyone is auditioning for his job. This is good on many levels. Competition makes everyone better. No one has the luxury of coasting through practice because of their status from last season – last season is history. Strong and his staff are not looking at the past; they are looking to the future. Turning the program around is the goal.
Success will not come without growing pains.
The offensive line is replacing at least three starters. The quarterback position is extremely thin and unsettled. Even the kicking game is up for grabs.
Several players have the opportunity to put some distance between themselves and the competition. It will not be easy. The roster is littered with 4 and 5-star athletes. Texas has had a top 25 recruiting class four years in a row. Winning a starting job on this team will take sacrifice and determination, something that has been missing from the program for quite some time.
Here are five players who have the opportunity to seize important roles going into the spring game on April 19.
5. Sedrick Flowers, OG
Sedrick Flowers saw action in all 13 games last season, including one start. The junior needs to step up to fill one of the vacant guard positions. The former prep All-American was the sixth-best high school offensive guard in Texas in 2011. Offensive line coach Joe Wickline has a knack for getting the best out of his position players. Expect Flowers to be a mainstay on the offensive line this season.
4. Nick Jordan, K
Nick Jordan had the kicking job in 2012 before losing it to Anthony Fera last year. The junior converted 7-of-10 field goals in 2012, but did not make a kick beyond 40 yards. Kickoff specialist Nick Rose may be in the mix for the job, so Jordan will need to show a strong, accurate leg this spring or risk losing his job again.
3. Curtis Riser, OG
Curtis Riser was a reserve lineman in 2013 who saw spot duty. Like Flowers, the redshirt sophomore can secure a starting job with a strong spring. Riser was rated as the sixth-best high school lineman in the country in 2012. A guard job is his if he can show consistency opening holes for the running game. Riser is a wide body who should be able to hold his own against the pass rush.
2. Daje Johnson, RB/KR
Daje Johnson followed up his promising freshman season with a dud. First he suffered a high ankle sprain that cost the speedy running back two games. He was then suspended for the Thanksgiving game versus the Texas Tech Red Raiders for violating team rules. Johnson missed the Valero Alamo Bowl after being declared academically ineligible.
Strong met with Johnson privately to reiterate that there is no room on the roster for players who put themselves before the football program. Johnson is an explosive player when the ball is in his hands. He can make everyone forget 2013 with a strong showing this spring.
1. Tyrone Swoopes, QB
How important is Tyrone Swoopes this season? David Ash missed all but three games with concussion-related symptoms. No one is sure if the next hit Ash takes could be nothing, or end his football career.
Texas only has two quarterbacks on scholarship this spring – Ash and Swoopes. Heralded freshman Jerrod Heard will not be on campus until the summer. This means Swoopes can get the jump on Heard and lock down the No. 2 quarterback job. It would behoove the sophomore to make a good impression on the coaches this spring. It would also go a long way towards alleviating fans' anxiety about the quarterback position.