2) Kheeston Randall, defensive tackle
No matter how good, players can always get better. That was the preseason message from Texas coach Mack Brown to Randall, via the media. Sure, Randall was good a year ago. Brown said he thought Randall was an even better player as a sophomore. And even then, he wasn't an "elite" player at that time.
And that's where Texas needs Randall to get to if the Longhorns are going to field an elite level defense this year. It speaks volumes that a position with a player considered an All-America candidate — as Randall is — is also believed to be one of the team's weak spots. But with a collection of young bodies vying to fill the spot opposite Randall, and nobody specifically standing out, Randall's job becomes even more vital.
It's important to note that last year, Randall played somewhat out of position. He played nose tackle, but he's more natural as a one-gap penetrator, somebody who can come off the ball hard and fast, get into the backfield and make plays. The problem with trying to do that as a nose tackle is that you can get caught up in the wash, take yourself out of the play, and subsequently take the linebackers out of the play because you didn't hold up the offensive line properly.
That's just one area where Randall could stand to get better, particularly if he's asked to play the nose spot yet again. But while now-Florida coach Will Muschamp's idea of run defense was built more around holding your gap, current defensive coordinator Manny Diaz's scheme thrives on Randall's skill set — getting into the backfield and creating havoc.
The Longhorns will rely on Randall's skill to help solidify a position that seems to serve as one of the few weak spots on what could be a stellar defense.