Monday Thoughts, 8/29

This week's Monday Thoughts focus on the pending depth chart release Monday morning and what to watch out for.


By now, you've probably heard that everyone expects Garrett Gilbert to be named the starting quarterback. Shoot, we've been saying that here on Longhorn Digest since last spring. And the good news is: he appears to have earned it.

By all accounts, he was outperformed by freshman David Ash (and likely sophomore Case McCoy) at the first scrimmage. And those same people indicated that Gilbert bounced back with a vengeance, putting together an excellent second scrimmage. Even beyond that, his play continued to elevate through last week, with him putting together arguably his best set of practices as a Longhorn.

The coaching staff said all along that they wanted a quarterback to make the decision for them on who to start. And it appears that not only has Gilbert done that, but he did so with near-perfect timing leading into the Rice game.

Still, if you're a Ash fan, don't despair. Word is that the Longhorns have been working with him on a package specifically tailored to his talents, and that he could also play situationally.

Running backs

Fozzy Whittaker is a fairly safe bet to find a place on top of the running back depth chart. So the question is: who's next?

If the Longhorns list Cody Johnson at fullback, the next players up could be a pair of true freshmen in Malcolm Brown and Joe Bergeron. Bergeron earned a lot of notice from the beginning thanks to his physical running style and ability to run people over. Brown, after an injury, has also been impressing, especially since he's now moving and cutting like he did his junior year of high school, when he was considered the top back in the country.

The staff probably won't separate them on the depth chart, so expect that to be an 'OR' situation.

And don't freak out if D.J. Monroe is listed as the No. 4 or 5 back in that scenario. The depth chart isn't really built to indicate playing time for a player like Monroe, who will have such a specialized role. Don't worry: if everything we've heard from camp is true, he'll definitely have more of a role in this year's offense.

Offensive linemen

With all of the mixing and matching employed by offensive line coach Stacy Searels, one has to ask: does a depth chart even matter?

Take, for instance, right tackle. The position has been largely manned by two players: Trey Hopkins and Mason Walters. So it's safe to assume that one of the two will be listed as the starter at that position. But the player who isn't a starter there won't be a backup. Instead, if Hopkins wins the right tackle spot, Walters will simply bump down to start at guard. The emergence of Dominic Espinosa at center will likely move David Snow to guard, though he could certainly play center, as he has the past few years. Tray Allen can also play multiple spots, and most of the backups have also been cross-training at various positions on the line.

So just because you see a player's name at a specific spot on the offensive line depth chart, don't expect that to be where the player plays for the entire season. On a side note (especially with all of the injuries that the Longhorns had on the line a year ago), a development plan like this works to ensure that the Longhorns will have more depth to turn to in case of disaster.

Defensive ends

Probably no position on the roster is as stacked as the defensive end spot.

Forget projected starters Alex Okafor and Jackson Jeffcoat, one of the Big 12's top duos, for a minute. Instead, look at the players behind those two. Reggie Wilson might start for any other school in the Big 12. If he played for an Iowa State or a Kansas, he'd be touted as an All-Big 12 candidate. Instead, he's the third-best end in a crowded group, and that's even debatable. Because while Wilson *could* start at other schools, Dravannti Johnson *did* start at times for Texas a year ago. Defensive coordinator Manny Diaz has singled out Johnson as a player who "changed his body" in a positive way from a year ago, and he'll certainly be a member of the rotation.

But that leaves out Chris Whaley, who has added weight to nearly 280 pounds and could rotate around at all of the defensive line positions. And it doesn't account for big-time recruit Cedric Reed, who raised some eyebrows with an interception off a tipped pass in the Longhorns' first scrimmage. He has the wingspan of a condor and considerable upside.

So while the depth chart might look somewhat simple and list Wilson and Johnson behind Okafor and Jeffcoat, a depth chart wouldn't showcase the kind of quality depth that the Longhorns have at the position.

Defensive specialists

The one thing that's tough to tell from a depth chart is how exactly players will be utilized. Take defensive back nomads Kenny Vaccaro and Adrian Phillips. Both could play any of the positions in the secondary, and Phillips probably will over the course of a game. But the chart simply lists starters and backups. So while Phillips might be listed as a backup cornerback, he'll actually play some safety in pure nickel situations, while Vaccaro, probably listed as a starting safety, would bump down to nickel back.

Two other "specialists" to watch out for include linebackers Demarco Cobbs and Steve Edmond.

The former has been a standout player in a "jumbo nickel" role, where he can enter on passing situations and wreck shop either as a blitzer or as someone who can shadow tight ends and running backs. Fellow linebacker Emmanuel Acho has tapped Cobbs as "the fastest linebacker in the country," and you better believe that Diaz will find a way to utilize that athleticism.

Edmond is the exact opposite. He reported to camp at a burly 255 pounds and has shown all the requisite physicality to be a run-stuffing middle linebacker. That distinction is important, as all of the other linebackers on roster more pursuit-and-chase types who don't hold up as well at the point of attack. Edmond played in high school at 235 pounds, and when he's fit, he's athletic enough to make plays downfield in the passing game as well. But at this point, his added bulk could help him find a specialized role in running situations, particularly if Texas doesn't get the defensive tackle spots ironed out.

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