Texas Top-Five Newcomers: Defense

Texas has a stacked defense heading into 2012. Which newcomers have the best chance to see the field?

1) Alex King, punter

I know, I know. I put the kicker in the top spot on offense, then a punter on defense? But on a defense that is stacked with talent, King is the player with the clearest route to a starting position. He's a proven punter who averaged better than 42 yards per punt, pinned the other team inside its own 20 on 34 percent of his punts (Justin Tucker was at 39.2 yards per punt and 23.8 percent last year). With all due respect to William Russ, who had a nice spring game, you don't bring in a second-team All-ACC punter and sit him, especially when he's even an upgrade over the guy you had the year before.

2) Brandon Moore, defensive tackle

As we saw in the spring, Moore provides an absolutely massive presence in the middle, and is the perfect addition to a group that largely features quick, penetrating guys. Moore has the quickness to play that role as well. He flashed the ability to come off the ball low and hard, and while beating out Ashton Dorsey and Desmond Jackson, both of whom had an outstanding spring, might be too much to ask, he'll certainly be in the rotation and get plenty of plays per game.

3) Malcom Brown, defensive tackle

With how stacked the defensive tackle spot is, it says a lot that Brown is on this list. But here's my rationale: in my opinion, Malcom Brown was THE top player in the Texas recruiting class. Johnathan Gray might have finished at the top in most rankings, but after seeing both in person, it was my opinion that Brown was the top talent Texas landed in the nation's top group. And so while Texas would appear to have a top four in place at tackle — Dorsey, Jackson, Moore and Chris Whaley — it's not a huge leap to assume that Brown will find a place in that mix.

4) Orlando Thomas, cornerback

Bryson Echols might have been the best cover corner in the state (maybe the country) last year, but Thomas enrolled in the spring and shocked everybody with just how good he was. When facing spread teams, Texas may need to go deep into its cornerback group, and while the spots ahead of him appear to be set — Carrington Byndom and Quandre Diggs as the corners, Josh Turner as the third corner or nickel back —Thomas is just on the outside of that group. He'll certainly see the field on special teams, and I wouldn't be a bit surprised to see him get some defensive time either. If either Byndom or Diggs gets hurt, Thomas is in the rotation.

5) Torshiro Davis, defensive end

Call this one a hunch. Yes, defensive end might be the most stacked position on the roster. And yes, it's hard to believe that Texas would pull either Alex Okafor or Jackson Jeffcoat on third-down plays, or to believe that they would jump over Reggie Wilson if they pull in an extra pass-rusher. But Davis is an elite pass-rusher who could pressure the quarterback from either end spot, or from outside linebacker. He's already physically developed; bench pressing 400 pounds and running in the 4.5s, so it wouldn't be shocking to see him get some chances to get after the passer.

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