Blake Whiteley, tight end
In the 2011 Texas-Oklahoma game, the Longhorn tight ends were conspicuous by their absence. Time after time, Texas attempted to run the ball, only to, time after time be shut down by a linebacker or defensive end powering past a tight end to make a negative play. When Texas's Pro Day came around, and the Longhorn tight ends were all shown to be sub-6-foot-2, it was easy to see that Texas had to bulk up at the position and get some guys who could set the edge in the running game.
Fast forward to 2013, when Longhorn fans were spoiled in that area. With JUCO transfer Geoff Swaim (6-4 252) and converted defensive lineman Greg Daniels (6-5 252), Texas wasn't just big at the position, but the Longhorns had players whose primary talent was washing out defenders in the run game.
But then, like in 2011, the position was a bit too one-sided. M.J. McFarland, who showed flashes of being a pass-catcher in 2012, found himself in the doghouse in 2013, and overall, the team's tight ends combined to catch six passes for 42 yards on the season.
That's where Whiteley comes in. More of a receiving threat, the Canadian caught 68 passes for 1,118 yards and 16 touchdowns as a high school senior. He didn't get those kinds of opportunities in junior college, but Whiteley (6-5 240) has the size and the hands to get a real look as a pass-catching threat, starting this spring. With Daniels out for the spring with an injury, look for Whiteley to jump right into the mix at tight end, and, if he can show the ability to block better than Swaim can catch, could find a role in the starting lineup.
Andrew Beck, linebacker
At one point, four high-school Longhorns commitments were expected to have a chance to enroll early — Beck, Jerrod Heard, Roderick Bernard and Donald Catalon — but of the four, only Beck followed through. A good-sized linebacker with underrated athleticism and high football IQ, Beck doesn't figure to get much time with Texas returning a number of linebackers from 2013 and adding in a few others who were injured or redshirted a year ago.
But this spring could be important for Beck nonetheless. If he shows the ability to play linebacker at a high level, he could stick at the position. If not, Beck could potentially slide across the line to the tight end position if needed. If he does so, Beck will draw comparisons to Alex De La Torre and Chet Moss, both of whom moved early on from linebacker to offensive positions (though they went to fullback), but Beck is a better athlete than either of those players, and may have a better frame to add quality weight as well.
Alex Anderson, offensive lineman
The most recent addition to the Texas recruiting class, Anderson was an Arizona State commitment up until this week, when he swapped to the Longhorns and enrolled immediately on campus. Originally targeted by current Texas offensive coordinator and offensive line coach Joe Wickline when Wickline was at Oklahoma State, Anderson shows a lot of the traits that Wickline likes in his linemen, including nice feet and a nasty streak.
In an interview with LonghornDigest.com, Anderson said that he wanted to become a true freshman All-American, and he suggested that the fact that Texas had a new staff and a new system meant that everyone would start from the same level. That may be true from a 'learning the playbook' perspective, though it's hard to see him fighting through linemen who have had a year or more in a college weight room at a college training table.
If Anderson starts off as a tackle — Wickline told him that he sees him as a guard/tackle swing guy — he'll probably have to beat out Kent Perkins for a starting job on the right, as Anderson isn't a natural left tackle. He might also have to beat out Kennedy Estelle, who started most of the season, but missed the Valero Alamo Bowl because of academics.
Things get even tougher at guard, where Texas has Sedrick Flowers returning as an experienced rotational piece and will likely feature a battle between Darius James, Rami Hammad and Curtis Riser for the other guard spot. If Estelle is back and beats out Perkins, Perkins could also drop down to guard if Wickline wants to put his best players on the field.
So if Anderson somehow comes out with a starting job, he certainly will have earned it.