Not only will the Texas Longhorns have the eyes of the country fixed squarely on their backs during the 2011-2012 season, many of these backs will belong to underclassmen who will be expected to make an instant impact on the Forty Acres.
Although final depth charts have not been formally announced, its become a foregone conclusion that several freshmen and sophomores will get substantial playing time for the Longhorns this season.
Two names that continue to be mentioned in almost every post-practice presser and on Texas-centric websites are freshmen Quandre Diggs and Jaxon Shipley.
Shipley, brother of NFL receiver Jordan Shipley, has rocketed up the wide receiver depth chart and should be the No. 2 target for whoever emerges at quarterback for Texas. Shipley’s precise route-running, speed, athleticism and strength for someone his age have impressed co-offensive coordinators Bryan Harsin and Major Applewhite. There’s little doubt that if the Texas passing game succeeds in 2011 Shipley, and sophomore Mike Davis, will be a huge reason why it does.
On the defensive side of the ball, Quandre Diggs has earned the respect of his teammates and new defensive coordinator Manny Diaz (and earned the nickname “Quandre the Giant”) through his hustle, hard-hitting, and ball-hawking ways throughout spring practices and the early pre-season. Diggs, brother of San Diego Chargers cornerback and Texas Ex Quentin Jammer, has all of the tools to be a rock in a Texas defensive backfield which will be tested early and often in 2011 in spite of being somewhat undersized for a Division I cornerback.
Diggs and Shipley also promise to play a large part in the kick return game for the Longhorns. As his brother did while on the Forty Acres, it appears that Jaxon Shipley will be returning punts for Texas this season. Diggs is likely to join Shipley on kickoff returns as well as the Longhorns try to create some explosive plays in special teams to make the field shorter for the offense.
Several other freshmen and sophomores including DeMarco Cobbs, Alex Okafor, Jordan Hicks, Jackson Jeffcoat, Carrington Byndom, Adrian Phillips, Darius White and, of course, Malcolm Brown, will all be asked to help the Longhorns turn things around after a frustrating 2010.
Kris Hughes is a contributor to Turfburner on Texas Longhorns football, and runs a Texas focused site called Bevo’s Corner.