HD Roundtable

Question: What highly-regarded UT player that has yet to live up to his expectations will have a breakout season in 2014?

Chip Brown

I came this close to saying LB Jordan Hicks, who is probably getting a lot of votes in this week's HD Roundtable.

But I'm going to say QB David Ash.

After missing 10 games last year with a head injury, I'm going to climb out on that limb and say Ash ends up being able to take a hit and prospers in the offense of Shawn Watson and Joe Wickline.

He said Friday he's had no concussion-like symptoms.

He added that his head injury last year was one of the hardest to recover from but is one of the least likely to recur. Now, that may be wishful thinking.

But if he believes it, that's all that matters. He's the one who wants to keep playing football and has told his family as much.

Ash just looks confident. He doesn't have that hang-dog look he had in between plays or on the sidelines in years' past. From play-to-play in practice, he looks engaged. And then when he takes the snap, he seems decisive.

Granted, it was a practice on Sunday that didn't include full pads. So he wasn't exactly facing a blitzing defense. But those are all things I noticed and things I consider important steps in the right direction.

Ash is a fourth-year QB. Even though he's learning a new offense, his experience should mean he'll have a full grasp of it by Aug. 30.

I expect to see an Ash closer to the quarterback who threw for 11 TDs and 1 INT in the first five games of 2012 than the Ash who looked indecisive in a 40-21 loss at BYU, when his initial head injury occurred.

By all accounts, Ash is in the best mindset he's been in as a QB at Texas. The mental game with Ash is enormous. If he's ready to take the next step as a guy who is always engaged with the game, his coaches and teammates, Texas could see a big improvement at the QB position. And that may be enough to help Texas become a surprise team this season.

Greg Powers

To me this is a tough question, because Texas has as much high end prep talent on its roster and I think there are few guys who could really step up – or not.

I would have to say the guy I am on the look out for this year is Marcus Johnson at wide receiver, because there is a clear-cut opportunity there to be the guy and Johnson has so many great tools in his repertoire. Scout had him rated the highest as the No. 157 prospect in the country and a 4-star prospect.

I also have high expectations for Kent Perkins.

Gabe Brooks

Judging a player who had 103 tackles in his sophomore season as one who has yet to live up to his expectations may be a bit overly harsh, but Steve Edmond is a player for whom I had extremely high hopes he arrived in Austin.

His junior year was a step back after that promising 2012 campaign. He still had 73 tackles, two interceptions, and five pass breakups, fairly impressive pass-coverage stats for a big, hulking middle linebacker. But Edmond came to Texas as one of the top linebacker prospects in the nation and is personally the best high school linebacker I've covered.

Edmond was a Scout five-star ranked as the nation's No. 2 middle linebacker and No. 12 overall recruit in the 2011 class. While his 192 tackles are third among active Texas players through 2013, you would expect a guy with that type of hype and expectations to have made a more noticeable impact during his first three seasons in Austin.

Part of the enigmatic nature of Edmond's tenure to date likely involves the uncertainty and turnover involving Texas' defensive staff. While Edmond will have yet another new defensive coordinator this season, a defensive-minded head coach and a new system -- one that incorporates some 3-3-5 philosophy, which is the scheme he played in high school -- could help Edmond have that dominant season that everyone knew he could produce when he arrived on campus as one of the nation's top recruits.

William Wilkerson’s take

Shiro Davis is finally going to live up to the hype that he arrived to Austin with back in 2012.

One thing that Chris Rumph will not ever let you do is slack off. He’ll get the most out of Davis this season and help turn him into a pretty lethal defensive end.

He can really only go up from here, right? I mean he only had 15 tackles – seven solo tackles – in 2013. He’s going to triple that at the very least this season, and Texas needs him to.

If he doesn’t the Longhorns won’t blink to put Caleb Bluiett in to let Bluiett’s non-stop motor loose. He’ll push Davis as much as Rumph will. That’s a good thing for Texas.

If Davis can buy into what Rumph is preaching he should benefit greatly from Texas’ defensive front, which I believe is the unquestioned strength of this team. There will be plenty of attention on guys like Cedric Reed, Malcom Brown, Tank Johnson and Hassan Ridgeway. Davis should use that to his advantage.

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