Quarterback

In the mix: Tyrone Swoopes; Jerrod Heard

What to watch: The eyes of Texas will be under center throughout Spring practice – there is no other position on the roster that is under more intense scrutiny than quarterback. Backup quarterbacks have always been one of the most popular guys in Austin, but the fanbase is reluctant to let go of Swoopes’ performance at the end of the season in the TCU and Arkansas games.

Texas coaches, players, and recruits have all mentioned pending changes to the offense and that starts with simplifying quarterback reads and installing options consistent with spread offenses. Those changes are in the interest of taking advantage of both Swoopes’ and Heard’s considerable talents, and should result in both players having a solid Spring season.

Whether or not either player grabs the starting spot remains to be seen. At this point, the safe assumption is that Swoopes will start in the season opener in South Bend unless Heard is simply too good to be denied over the next month. If neither player seizes control of the team, then the door is open for Kai Locksley to arrive this Summer and vault into the mix.

Running back

In the mix: Jonathan Gray; Donald Catalon; D’Onta Foreman

What to watch: Without Malcolm Brown to split carries, this is Jonathan Gray’s chance to shine. After amassing almost 11,000 yards and more than 200 touchdowns at Aledo High School, Gray has been injured or part of a rotation, and has yet to be the feature back that many expected him to become. While the coaching staff has a solid handle on what Gray delivers on game day, this is an important Spring for him to show that he is ready to take his on-field exploits to another level. Equally important, this team needs offensive leadership and the next month represents an opportunity for Gray to prove to the coaches and players that he is capable of that role as well. This is a contract year for Gray, the question is whether he treats it as such.

The battle on the depth chart behind Gray is nearly as intriguing. Donald Catalon and D’Onta Foreman both were injured although Foreman saw some game action. Not only is the second-string spot in the running back rotation important to Gray’s success, both Catalon and Foreman would be well-served to establish themselves as more than “quality depth” given the talent in the incoming recruiting class. And given Gray’s medical history, it’s entirely possible that Catalon or Foreman could be thrust into a prominent role.

Foreman is more of a known quantity, and, surprisingly, the thing that impressed the most during his limited playing time in 2014 was his vision. With an offensive line that was struggling to open holes, Foreman consistently chose the best option possible, even when it looked like there was no room to run.

Both Foreman and Catalon have the talent to succeed at Texas. How the new offensive scheme translates to improved play along the line could make either player, or both, a valuable asset. This is an important Spring for both players.

Offensive line

In the mix
Interior:
Taylor Doyle; Kent Perkins; Jake Raulerson; Alex Anderson; Sedrick Flowers; Darius James; Elijah Rodriguez
Outside: Marcus Hutchins; Camrhon Hughes; Brandon Hodges*; Tristan Nickelson*; Garrett Thomas* Connor Williams*

What to watch: The change in offensive scheme mentioned above will have a tremendous impact on the offensive line. With that in mind, the interior line is safer to project at this point. The triumvirate of Taylor Doyle, Jake Raulerson, and Kent Perkins most likely represents the starters in South Bend. Perkins has NFL-talent when playing at Guard, so the development of credible Tackles is critical to the success of the line’s interior because it allows Perkins to play inside. With a season of experience and an offseason to get bigger, stronger, and in better shape, both Doyle and Raulerson should be improved from 2014.

All four of the early enrollees (denoted by a * above) are listed as “exterior” because that is where Joe Wickline needs the most help. Connor Williams, Brandon Hodges, Tristan Nickelson, and Garrett Thomas will all get a look at Tackle before any of them are given an opportunity to slide inside.

Marcus Hutchins was a fixture on the outside in 2014 – with that experience and another year under Wickline and Moorer, Hutchins should start at Tackle and be capable. Hughes is a wild card that is as likely to find himself buried on the depth chart as he is to be in the starting five in South Bend.

If forced to project September’s starters before the start of practices (L to R): Hutchins, Doyle, Raulerson, Perkins, Nickelson/Hodges.

Wide receiver

In the mix:
Inside (H and Z):
Marcus Johnson; Roderick Bernard; Armanti Foreman; Daje Johnson; Jacorey Warrick
Outside (X): Lorenzo Joe; Dorian Leonard; Garrett Gray

What to watch: With a new position coach in Jay Norvell, the wide receiver corps is starting with a clean slate for the second consecutive Spring. Last year, John Harris took advantage of the opportunity and recreated his collegiate career. Even though none of the above names have lingered on the roster the way Harris did, whether they take control of their chance to establish themselves is the real question.

In 2014 Armanti Foreman tantalized everyone with a few receptions and carries that showcased his elite speed. Playing wide receiver for Norvell requires more than speed, and Foreman needs to prove that he is dependable as an every-down player and isn’t a specialist.

Marcus Johnson is the veteran of the bunch with the most experience. Whether that translates to a productive senior campaign is not based on his on-field ability.

Daje Johnson is an enigma. With fantastic acceleration and a top-end gear that is not matched by many in the conference, Johnson seems to have a massive opportunity in front of him. Reports are that Johnson worked his way out of the doghouse, now his next move is to decide if he wants to be an every down player or a package specialist.

A look at the depth chart says that Jacorey Warrick vs Roderick Bernard, and Lorenzo Joe vs Dorian Leonard are two key battles to watch. The winners will have advantage over a talented group of freshmen in August. The losers risk being buried on the depth chart.

Tight end

In the mix: Andrew Beck; Blake Whiteley

What to watch: Andrew Beck and Blake Whiteley will both play and do so extensively this Spring. Whiteley, who played at Arizona Western Community College, has now been in the program for 12 months. A highly capable pass catcher, if Whiteley proves to be an earnest blocker this Spring, then he could be the player at tight end that fans have longed for during the recent drought at the position.

Beck, an all-state linebacker in Florida during his high school career, was moved to tight end at the start of 2014 due to the lack of options on the roster. Beck took to the position change very well, seeing action in every game last season. The key for Beck is the opposite of Whiteley – he can block, but needs to prove he is dependable with route running and catching the football.

Additionally, what will be important for these two players is to be a credible enough threat in both blocking and receiving that the defense is unable to key on play calls based on personnel. They also both need to be aware that Devonaire Clarington is arriving on the 40 Acres this Summer and is an undeniable talent.