Freshman Standouts

Here's five true freshmen who have caught attention in their first years on campus.

1) Naashon Hughes, linebacker

That Hughes is up this high is fascinating … not only was he not one of the more highly regarded recruits in the 2013 Texas class, but he didn't even have a full Texas offer until December of his senior year, instead opting to accept a grayshirt from Texas over full offers from LSU and Oklahoma. But the offer came, and the Harker Heights product and younger brother of offensive tackle Camrhon Hughes has made the most of it. Hughes was always a fantastic athlete — in the Texas camp before his senior year, he claimed to run a 4.44 40-yard dash at 6-foot-4 and 217 pounds. But he didn't have the on-field chops that many of his classmates did, thanks to his evolving body that had him playing several different positions. He was a running back and quarterback as a freshman, a receiver and tight end as a sophomore, a safety as a junior and a linebacker/safety as a senior. That makes it tough to develop at one particular spot. He's now up over 230 pounds, and team sources have raved about his ability to fly around the field with his fantastic athleticism. When the Longhorns report for spring ball, don't be surprised if Hughes mounts a serious challenge for a starting outside linebacker spot. Certainly, Hughes getting to work with a technician like Greg Robinson this year had to be a boon for his developing skill set.

2) Kent Perkins, offensive lineman

The lone five star landed by the Longhorns in the Class of 2013, Perkins hasn't done anything to make anybody think he'll be headed toward bust status. In fact, the mauling tackle (6-5 310) showed enough promise early on that the coaching staff plugged him into the two deep, albeit at guard, to see if they could get him on the field early. Long term, expect Perkins to stick at tackle, as he'll likely jump into a three-man fight (depending on what happens with Josh Cochran) for a tackle spot this spring with Desmond Harrison and Kennedy Estelle. Even if Harrison (the expected left tackle starter) and Estelle lock those jobs down, Perkins will likely rotate through and have an outstanding chance to start at right tackle, with Estelle moving to left tackle, when Harrison leaves after the 2014 season.

3) Montrel Meander, wide receiver

A late find for Darrell Wyatt and the Texas coaching staff, Meander may yet prove to be the crown jewel of what was considered to be a pretty good wide receiver class. At 6-3 185, Meander still needs to grow into his body a bit. But he also has big-time track speed, and is potentially the second-fastest wide receiver on the team, behind only Daje Johnson (Marcus Johnson is in that conversation as well). Had Meander not started out a bit more raw, and if he didn't have the obstacles to playing time in front of him, he might have played this year. As it is, expect him to catch some of the receiver snaps that will open up when Mike Davis leaves following this season.

4) Chevoski Collins, safety

Duane Akina loves taking offensive playmakers and turning them into players in his defensive secondary. The reasoning makes sense — former quarterbacks and wide receivers have outstanding ball skills, and often have advanced instincts or an understanding of what the offense is trying to accomplish. In Collins, Akina landed the best of both worlds: a quarterback at Livingston who averaged a whopping 14.3 yards per carry as a senior and one who played a bunch in the defensive secondary, displaying the requisite nastiness and hitting ability that Akina often has to coax out of more offensive-minded players. Collins (5-11 190) is still adjusting a bit to his spot at safety — he even started his Longhorn career at wide receiver — but he's impressed onlookers with his athleticism and tools at the position. Once he figures things out, he could be an outstanding player.

5) Darius James, offensive lineman

The second part of an offensive line class that fed some much-needed young talent into the system, and also part two on this list from Harker Heights, James has made the most of his redshirt season. What does that mean? It means James could well open the spring with the No. 1s on the offensive line at right guard. With Perkins likely moving out to tackle, and Rami Hammad recovering from injury, James figures to get the early nod over Curtis Riser at the position, with Sedrick Flowers likely starting the spring as the top left guard. James was a fantastic center prospect coming out of high school, but his size (6-5 320, when he's in shape) and his astounding athleticism for that size gives him a chance to play any of four spots on the line (he probably wouldn't play left tackle at this level). James had an injury as a senior, and he came into fall camp out of shape. Give him a full offseason to change his body, and the Longhorns could find themselves with a four-year starter on their hands.

Horns Digest Top Stories