Impact Newcomers: Defense

With fall practice starting up, we take a look at the freshmen most likely to impact the Texas defense this season.

1) Quandre Diggs, cornerback

Diggs is the no-brainer pick here. Despite mostly demonstrating his offensive gifts at Angleton High School, Diggs showed natural ability at cornerback in the spring after enrolling early. He played well enough, in fact, that most people felt he was a strong No. 3 after projected starters Adrian Phillips and Carrington Byndom, with some feeling that he had a shot to unseat one of those two players as a starter. Diggs is thickly built, like a safety, but demonstrates the burst, recovery speed and instincts of an ideal cornerback. And with an older brother like Quentin Jammer, that comes as no surprise. At this point, the only shock involving Diggs would be if he somehow managed to redshirt.

2) Desmond Jackson, defensive tackle

Nicknamed "Tank", with good reason. Jackson holds a squat 280 pounds on his 6-foot-1 frame, and he's already tested as one of the strongest players on the team. But it's his ability to jump the ball and create havoc in the backfield that could make him an impact player at a defensive tackle position looking for answers opposite All-America candidate Kheeston Randall. Jackson is an ideal fit in defensive coordinator Manny Diaz's attacking scheme, and in a group that features more space fillers than playmakers, Jackson's talents make him unique.

3) Chet Moss, linebacker

Enrolling early can be a huge boon to players who can pull it off, and Moss did just that in the spring. Spending that added time in the defense meant that Moss was able to work his way into the backup spot behind Keenan Robinson in the middle. And his early enrollment gave him an advantage over five-star linebacker Steve Edmond. Edmond may close in the race, due to his prodigious physical talents, but he'll be playing from behind because Moss came in early and acted as a sponge, sucking up all the information he could about the new defense. He's a throwback middle linebacker, instinctive and tough against the run, and he had a sack in the spring game.

4) Tevin Jackson, linebacker

Jackson's eligibility issues meant that he hit campus a year later than he was expected to. But apparently that didn't keep him out of the weight room, with Jackson listed at 230 pounds on the most recent Texas roster, up 10 pounds from his senior year of high school. When last we saw him, Jackson was a thick-framed athlete with long arms and a great first step and natural pass rushing ability. Those latter two attributes will help him find a spot as a blitzed under Diaz, potentially as early as this season.

5) Mykkele Thompson, safety

Whether it's as a kick returner, part-time wide receiver, Wildcat quarterback or his listed position at safety, Thompson might be too good an athlete to keep off the field. A high school quarterback, Thompson has earned kudos for his ability to pick up concepts quickly. And that's just as helpful as his ability to make quick decisions on the football field, where he's an elite combination of speed and cutting ability. With Texas looking to add some athleticism to its safety group, it's hard to look past Thompson.

Others to keep an eye on:

* Steve Edmond, linebacker — Edmond already has the ideal size and speed for a middle linebacker, and he's a potential game changer at the position eventually. This year, he'll have to get past Moss's early start to backup Robinson, an All-Big 12 candidate.

* Josh Turner, cornerback — Turner was the best pure cover corner in the Longhorns' deep corner class. Though he needs to fill out, he'll have a chance to joint Diggs on the two-deep.

* Kendall Thompson, linebacker — Linebacker is among the team's best positions, so it seems strange that four of the eight players listed play those positions. But there are openings on the two-deep, especially for versatile players like Thompson, who could play multiple spots.

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