When the Texas Longhorns take on the Rice Owls, youth will be served.
The Longhorns released their depth chart for the season opener Monday, with freshmen making up nearly one-third of the players listed. Out of the 60 players listed on the depth chart, 18 were freshmen, including 13 true freshmen. And the chart didn’t even include two other true freshmen who will likely play Saturday in receiver Darius White and defensive tackle Taylor Bible, nor did it include Demarco Cobbs, a possible early player who is fighting off a hamstring injury.
The lack of experienced depth is especially apparent on both lines. Texas listed six backups on the offensive line, two sophomores and four freshmen. Right guard is in an especially precarious position thanks to the injury to projected starter Tray Allen. Mason Walters, a redshirt freshman, is listed as Allen’s replacement, but he has the experience of a true freshman. He missed all of his redshirt year with an injury, one that kept him out of spring practice as well. Walters’s backup is Trey Hopkins, who has similar experience because he actually is a true freshman.
Four of the five players listed as backups on the defensive line are also freshmen (Alex Okafor, a sophomore defensive tackle, is the exception), with three of those players — Jackson Jeffcoat, Reggie Wilson and Ashton Dorsey — fresh out of high school.
Still, there’s no real need to panic yet. For one thing, only Walters and true freshman receiver Mike Davis are listed as starters (Davis is listed as an “OR” with senior John Chiles). Redshirt freshman defensive tackle Calvin Howell is in a battle for the defensive tackle spot with junior Tyrell Higgins and Okafor as well. That means that the rest of the freshmen will be able to play their way into shape as part of a rotation.
It’s also worth noting that this is arguably Texas’s most prepared freshman class, according to Brown. That talent was apparent at open practices earlier this month, when players like Davis, Wilson, Jeffcoat and linebacker Jordan Hicks showed why they were considered five-star prospects by Scout.com. In addition, Hopkins has earned rave reviews for his talent, mobility and intelligence on the offensive line.
Brown said Monday that former Texas coach and current UT legend Darrell Royal said playing freshmen was only a problem if the freshmen were bad. That doesn’t appear to be the case here. Still, as the season progresses, and as the veterans get banged up, several players just months removed from senior prom might have to play a major role.
* In perhaps the most publicized battle between true freshmen, Case McCoy, younger brother of former Longhorn quarterback Colt, won the backup quarterback job over Connor Wood in what Brown called a close race. Offensive coordinator Greg Davis said he wanted to pick the quarterback with the most control of the huddle and the one who took care of the ball the best. That fits McCoy well, who has earned praise for his presence, accuracy and throwing ability on the run.
* All fall, Texas coaches praised 250-pound running back Cody Johnson for dropping body fat and making himself into an every down back, though they were quick to note that his emergence didn’t indicate that Fozzy Whittaker and Tre’ Newton were having any problems. That statement was reiterated Monday for a different reason — Johnson was named as the starting running back. Whittaker and Newton were listed together as the backups. All three will play.
* Texas will be missing five players when the Longhorns travel to Houston on Saturday. Allen (left foot), D.J. Grant (left knee), Tevin Jackson (right wrist), Tevin Mims (right shoulder) and Blaine Irby will be out of action.
In addition, receiver Greg Timmons (neck) is listed as doubtful and Cobbs (right hamstring) is listed as questionable.