Some might argue with Davis's placement on this list, but he was an absolute playmaker last year, averaging 16.5 yards per catch and helping to swing at least three games — Oklahoma State, Kansas and Texas Tech — with huge catches. With another small step forward, and the Longhorns running more plays in 2013, don't be shocked when he tops the 1,000-yard mark … at least. Jeffcoat has been considered a first-round draft pick for each of the past two seasons after earning first-team All-Big 12 honors as a sophomore. Despite playing only six games last year, he still made 31 tackles, 11 tackles for loss and four sacks.
Hicks appeared to put it all together before getting injured in game three, with 23 tackles and three tackles for loss. Multiplied out, that would have been a 100-tackle, 13-TFL season. And that's if you count him playing a full game in the third contest (he went down in the first half). But perhaps the best indicator of Hicks's ability was how far the run defense fell off without him. Shipley has shone brightly since arriving on campus, catching 44 passes as a freshman and following that up with a 59-catch, 737-yard season as a sophomore. Most impressively, he closed the year on a high note, averaging 93.25 receiving yards per game over his last four contests.
Both of these guys are slated to be in the starting lineup, with the group below. But at the same time, they appear to have some serious upward mobility that could push them into the "Burgeoning Star" or "Star" category over this next season. Gray had a huge spring and appears to be ready to show fans the back who set all kinds of high school records. And Brown jumped to the front of an absolutely loaded defensive tackle group this spring, leaping highly ranked players with more experience to do so. He could be an absolute playmaker this season.
It's hard to find too much fault with Walters, who has started each of the past three seasons. Still, as Texas coach Mack Brown said this spring, it's time for him to stop being a good player and take the leap into greatness. Brown appeared to be headed for greatness early last year, but once again had his season derailed by injuries. He'll share carries with Gray, and likely a few with Joe Bergeron, but Brown's biggest issue is just staying on the field. Edmond had a rough go of it at times last year when, through Hicks's injury, he was left as the most experienced linebacker in a green group. Now, he'll have to fight off Dalton Santos to keep his starting job, though he should play plenty regardless. And Jackson is in the thick of the defensive tackle rotation, if only slightly behind Brown and Chris Whaley. With Whaley set to graduate after this year, Jackson's time in the spotlight could be coming a year from now.
Cobbs hasn't had much of a chance to make an impact with an absolute cavalcade of injuries, one after another. Couple that with multiple position changes — running back to safety to linebacker — and Cobbs hasn't really even had a shot to learn his position or develop the necessary instincts. When he's healthy, he's tremendously fast and athletic. But that doesn't help him much when 1) he's often not in the right spot and 2) he isn't on the field that often in the first place. Wilson was one of the more interesting five-star cases of the past several years. Because he didn't redshirt as a freshman, Wilson was destined to spend the first three years of his career behind players who were not only fellow five-star prospects, but also more highly ranked five-stars. So the entire case for Wilson came/would come down to how he played when either Jeffcoat or Alex Okafor weren't in front of him. But when Jeffcoat was hurt a year ago, Texas went instead to Cedric Reed, and Reed is slated to start opposite Jeffcoat this year. So while Wilson spent most of his career buried beneath higher ranked players (thus not making him a bust at that time), he wasn't able to find the field even when they weren't above him.
Simply put, we haven't seen enough of these guys yet. Riser and Estelle had nice springs, with Estelle working with the first team because of injuries ahead of him. But unless the Longhorns get hammered with injuries in the fall, both will likely keep up residence on the second team this year. Jones has a chance to start, and will most certainly be in the rotation, so he should jump up a few spots if he can hold that spot down. Perkins — considered by many to be the top tackle inked by the Longhorns in recent years — isn't on campus yet.