Returning Starters: Gideon, Scott, Vaccaro
What It Looks Like: All the key players return from a unit oft-maligned for its lack of speed in 2010. And that reputation wasn't helped when key up-and-comer Adrian Phillips was moved to cornerback to offset a lack of depth there. Jackson was also moved to corner, though some expect him to be back at safety when the freshmen report, giving the cornerback group more depth. Gideon is a big hitter, and has been lauded for his leadership and on-field instincts. Scott is another tremendous striker, while Vaccaro has been compared to a bag full of rattlesnakes. Vaccaro adds the best blend of the trio of returning starters in terms of speed, coverage and hitting ability. Brewster returns after redshirting a season ago to recover from injury.
Ideal Situation: Vaccaro beats out Scott for one safety spot, while Gideon holds down his position. The Longhorns are still somewhat young and inexperienced at several spots, especially at cornerback, where the top three spots will probably be filled by two sophomores and a freshman. His leadership will be at a premium. Vaccaro is an all-league candidate, while Scott is somebody who could excel on obvious running downs where he could get behind his pads and go to work. Ideally, some of the younger players like Jackson and potentially Mykkele Thompson could get some repetitions to set up for next year when Gideon and Scott graduate.
What We Would Like To See: Phillips get moved back to safety from cornerback. The sophomore has outstanding ball-skills and would make the perfect nickel back and apprentice to Gideon. A 2012 safety group of Phillips and Vaccaro is one that boasts a lot of athleticism and coverage ability, while not lacking anything in terms of hitting ability. Brewster makes a capable backup, but might not be more than that. Jackson is long and rangy, and could do well with increased time.
What Will Probably Happen: Some combination of what happened last year, with Gideon at one safety spot and Vaccaro and Scott filling the other. With the Longhorns bringing back a questionable defense up the middle, that might be the best case scenario in terms of run stoppers. And all three of those players can cause problems on the blitz, an important characteristic in Manny Diaz's defense. Thompson is the only incoming freshman listed as a safety, though one or both of Sheroid Evans and Leroy Scott could bump from corner to safety in a pinch. Evans, one of the fastest players in the class of 2011, shows game-breaking ability there.