Chip Brown’s take
I'm sure I'm not alone in saying the most impressive player I've seen on the Texas roster is junior DT Malcom Brown, and the guy who has not met my expectations plays on the defensive line with Brown - DE Ced Reed.
Right now, Brown is commanding double teams on almost every play, and he's still splitting them and finding his way into the backfield, where he has 8 TFLs, including 3.5 sacks. Reed, meanwhile, is not taking advantage of the single blocking he's getting.
Through three games, Reed has just 1/2 sack and just 1 TFL. Of Reed's 16 tackles, only 5 have been solo. The other 11 were assists. (More on Reed in a minute.)
Brown is the best kind of disruptive force, because he's collapsing the pocket, making it hard for quarterbacks to extend plays by stepping up.
Brown is the bad cop leader on the defense, meaning he's the one who will get in people's faces if the effort and energy is in question. Because he's commanding a double team on almost every play, it's on the linebackers like Jordan Hicks to fill gaps behind him and shut down the running game.
That became a problem in the second half of the UCLA game, when the Bruins ran 29 times for 182 yards (6.3 ypc) and nullified UT's pass rush because UCLA only faced one third-and-long on its three, second-half scoring drives (and that third-and-9 resulted in a pass interference flag on Jordan Hicks).
Reed is undoubtedly the player I thought we'd see more from up to this point. Reed is playing a lot of DE on the left side, where he has responsibilities to stop the run. But that's nothing new. Reed played there last year, too, and still posted 10 sacks, 19 tackles for loss, 16 QB hurries and led the team in forced fumbles (5).
I know, it's only been three games. And Reed was a slow starter last year, posting 7 of his 10 sacks in the last six games vs. Kansas (2), at WVU (2), Oklahoma State, Texas Tech (2), Baylor and Oregon (1). But this year Reed is a senior. The time is now. Reed needs to share Malcom Brown's sense of urgency ... and destruction.
William Wilkerson’s take
The most impressive player for Charlie Strong to me has been Malcom Brown, and I don’t think it’s been close.
If there’s a better defensive tackle in the country, or at least one that means more to his team, I’d like to see him. I think he’s having a first-team All-American type of season.
He’s flat impossible to block with one man and teams aren’t having very much success putting two guys in front of him. It’s almost gotten to the point where nothing he does surprises me anymore.
What’s that you say? Brown with another TFL? Should I be surprised? He has 8 TFLs so far this season, including 3.5 sacks. He should be able to shoulder the load in Desmond Jackson’s absence and make life much easier for Hassan Ridgeway and Paul Boyette Jr.
As for the most disappointing player, I’ve got a few in mind but am going to go with Cedric Reed.
This was supposed to be the season that Reed jumped to 1st or 2nd round NFL Draft status, building off a 10-sack junior campaign. But right now I’m just not seeing it.
He has just 1/2 a sack and just one TFL. He only has five solo tackles out of the 16 stops he’s made. I’d imagine Chris Rumph is asking his coveted senior to make much more of an impact.
That said, Reed did start off a little slow last year too before surging as the season grew long. I think he’ll get there. But he’s got to do so quickly with Baylor and Oklahoma coming up in two of the next three weeks.
Jason Higdon’s take
I have not had the pleasure of covering the Texas football team until recently. Having said that I will stick to the recruiting aspect of this topic.
This is my first year covering the Texas Longhorn recruiting so my subject group is very small. For me, I am going with the top ranked player in the state of Texas outside linebacker Malik Jefferson.
Jefferson checks in at 6-foot-3, 215-pounds from Mesquite (TX) Ralph H Poteet High School. He is a five-star player and the No 1 ranked OLB in America for 2015.
He makes plays all over the field including the opponents backfield. He has a narrow frame that could easily hold another 20-pounds. He plays fast, physical and is aggressive to the ball. Jefferson could excel at multiple positions at the next level and for this reason he gets my vote.
Nick Castillo’s take
Most Impressive Player
DT Malcom Brown
If there was ever any hope that junior defensive tackle Malcom Brown might stay for his senior season, he might proving why he’s ready to forego his final season and jump straight into the NFL.
With a quarter of the season complete, Brown has been the anchor of an already stout defensive line. The junior from Brenham, Texas has already amassed 18 total tackles (11 solo and 7 assisted) and 3.5 sacks. Brown had only one tackle in the Longhorns’ season opener but has since been on a tear.
Over the past two games, Brown has been the most impressive Texas player and looks to be NFL ready. The Longhorn faithful should enjoy watching Brown’s season as it might be his last in the burnt orange and white.
Least Impressive Player
I’ve been really hard on junior wide receiver Marcus Johnson throughout the season. While the offense may be hamstrung by a makeshift offensive line and a quarterback who has only made two collegiate starts, Johnson has been relatively non-existent.
While Johnson has his best performance of the season against UCLA, catching the ball four times for forty yards; Johnson has only recorded 66 receiving yards this season. Texas is desperate for big plays, especially without its speedster Daje Johnson. Johnson has also had a bad season returning kicks for the Longhorns. Johnson had an ill-timed fumble against BYU that helped fuel the Cougars blowout victory.
Texas has used John Harris and Jaxon Shipley to make plays this season but it’s time Johnson to step up. The Longhorns need Johnson’s deep-threat ability despite the offense’s shortcomings.
Annabel Stephan’s take
It's much harder for me to think of someone who has been the most impressive than it is someone who has not met my expectations.
Beginning with the latter, my vote has to be true freshman receiver Armanti Foreman. It's not even that he's failing to meet my expectations, but more so that I expected that we would have seen much more of him three games in.
Throughout fall camp we heard coaches and players rave about his progress, and with the lack of depth at receiver with Kendall Sanders' dismissal and Jaxon Shipley's injury, I'm waiting to see what we keep hearing he can do (i.e. speed).
That being said, fellow receiver John Harris has probably been the biggest (good) surprise for Texas fans thus far this season. I don't believe anyone could have predicted that Harris would be Texas' leading receiver with 247 yards and three touchdowns at this point - or really, any point - in the season, considering that in just three games he already has more receiving yards and the same amount of touchdowns as he did in the 2011, 2012, and 2013 seasons combined.
Greg Powers’ take
The most impressive UT target I have seen so far this year is probably Malik Jefferson, but the most impressive Texas commit I have seen is South Oak Cliff (Texas) High running back Jordan Stevenson, who holds the edge over Euless (Texas) Trinity offensive lineman Patrick Vahe.
Stevenson has some of the best feet that I have seen on a running back since Trey Williams inked with Texas A&M a few years ago. He is also one of those guys who plays with 100 percent focus and determination on each snap.
He goes hard.
He is not the biggest of backs, but is well put together and strong.