AUSTIN — Too much to expect a repeat of 2015?
Texas and its fan base might have been spoiled in 2015 with the amount of freshmen that were about to contribute at a high level almost from the start of the season at Notre Dame.
While it is a tall order to expect the 2016 class to duplicate the exploits of John Burt, Conner Williams, Patrick Vahe, Malik Jefferson, Holton Hill and Davante Davis, the age of college football where redshirts are assumed have long passed us by.
With that in mind, here are group freshmen that could be pressed into duty early and often either out of need or out of ability to impact on the field.
OL Zach Shackelford, Belton (Belton, TX)
OL Denzel Okafor, Lewisville (Lewisville, TX)
OL Jean Delance, North Mesquite (Mesquite, TX)
At a robust and strong 6-foot-4, 295, Shackelford has the size, strength and football IQ to be able to log serious time at center. Texas lost Taylor Doyle to graduation and Jake Raulerson to UCLA and have a pressing need at the position. Let’s be honest, the center position was really bad at most times in 2015 and regardless of why the player that played did. Shackelford being an early enrollee and going through the spring could prove vital if he can adjust to the size and strength of football at the Big 12 level.
Okafor and Delance will be needed for depth on the offensive line with Delance good enough to challenge for serious playing time at right tackle. Again, Texas cannot expect to get the same contribution from freshmen as they did in 2015 but they need talent and they need depth.
Delance and Okafor and good enough right now provide that.
LB Erick Fowler, Manor (Manor, TX)
He’s is just too big, strong and fast to keep from making a contribution for a team that struggled at times to get pressure with the front four. Texas also struggled putting together blitz packages to get sacks and at the least force the offensive plays to speed up their clock. I clamored for Jefferson to get to the Fox end position and create havoc last year but it is actually a role that Fowler can play and would be very comfortable in. There is no way that Fowler does not see the field in 2016 even if the capacity in which he plays is unclear right now.
WR Collin Johnson, Valley Christian (San Jose, CA)
Johnson is another early enrollee that will have the opportunity to go through spring practice and learn this new offense at the same time as the veterans. While it will be interesting to see how Johnson handles the variance between his high school competition at Valley Christian and the competition that he will face in practice, his balls skills and nearly 6-foot-6 height will prove fruitful in the new G-Force offense.
DT Chris Daniels, Trinity (Euless, TX)
DT Jordan Elliott, Westside (Houston, TX)
DT D’Andre Christmas-Giles, St. Augustine (New Orleans, LA)
Honestly, I feel wrong for only putting these three instead of putting all five here and letting them duke it out. All three could log serious time until a real rotation is established using them and the returning veterans Poona Ford, Paul Boyette, Jr. and Chris Nelson. Meanwhile, no disrespect meant to additional freshmen Marcel Southall, Duncanville (Duncanville, TX) and DT Gerald Wilbon, Destrehan (Destrehan, LA).
QB Shane Buechele, Lamar (Arlington, TX)
It is easily conceivable that Texas has the setting, the steamed spinach, sautéed mushrooms, loaded bake potato and the Darioush Signature Cabernet at the table. The only thing missing; the steak.
Texas is a really good football team without the one thing that any team needs to bring all the talent together – the quarterback.
While flaws have been exposed in Tyrone Swoopes and Jerrod Heard, they will have a shot to win the position in the new offense of Sterlin Gilbert. The two that need to largest look might be Kai Locksley and freshmen early enrollee Shane Buechele.
The new G-Force offense is in need and quick decisions, no panic and pinpoint accuracy. Buechele will be in the mix from day one and could be the best pure and accurate passer of the ball on campus right now.
While I reserve the right to add to the list, I feel good about the additions to the depth chart for the players above.