2015 Longhorns Depth Chart: Defense/ST

HornsDigest's William Wilkerson and Chip Brown each break down what they believe the defensive depth chart will look like for the Longhorns heading into their season opener at Notre Dame.

William Wilkerson's Depth Chart

Strongside DE

Starter: Quincy Vasser -

The former Georgia commitment will make an instant impact for the Longhorns in replace of Cedric Reed.

Backup: Shiro Davis -

Davis will look to finally put it all together as a senior.

DT

Starter: Hassan Ridgeway -

In line for a monster, All-Big 12 type of season if he stays healthy and plays with the fire the coaching staff wants him to on a consistent basis.

Backup: Poona Ford -

The sophomore will have to play much better as his roll increases in 2015. Chris Nelson’s name will be called upon too.

NT

Starter: Desmond Jackson -

One of the most passionate players on the roster, Tank will come back from a broken foot and try to anchor the interior of Texas’ defensive front.

Backup: Du’Vonta Lampkin -

I’ll give Lampkin the slight edge over Paul Boyette only because I think Lampkin’s size is going to be exactly the type of change-of-pace the Longhorns will want to sub in for Tank.

Fox DE

Starter: Naashon Hughes -

Could really blossom into one of the better players on Texas’ defense if he stays on his proper reads. A unique blend of size and speed.

Backup: Derick Roberson -

Roberson, like Hughes, is known for his speed more than anything . He’s extremely athletic and could be a future star. Let’s see how he carries the added weight he’s put on since getting to Texas’ weight program.

Strongside LB

Starter: Peter Jinkens -

He plays with an edge that you want at his position, but needs to make more plays – more consistently - to warrant that talk. Will be relied on heavily as UT’s freshmen LB’s warm up to the college game.

Backup: Cameron Townsend -

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To me, he’s one of the biggest sleepers in this class. Sounds funny saying that for a four-star All-American. But don’t let his calm persona fool you. He’s a play maker in every sense of the word.

Middle LB

Starter: Dalton Santos -

Will have his work cut out for him if he wants to hold off Anthony Wheeler and the ever-hungry Cecil Cherry. Might not have the job all season, but he’ll have it heading into South Bend.

Backup: Anthony Wheeler -

Physically speaking, he’s as ready as any freshman coming in across the country. He’s a beast. The quicker he can grasp his responsibilities, the quicker he’ll take over for Santos. Could be a head-hunter on special teams too.

Weakside LB

Starter: Malik Jefferson -

Everything that we’ve heard about Jefferson so far suggests that he’ll be one of Texas’ leading tacklers this season.

Backup: Edwin Freeman -

The former high school safety has simply gotten too big to stay in the secondary. Played close to the line in high school more often than not, and seeks contact. He’ll feel right at home at MLB.

CB

Starter: Duke Thomas -

The most experienced cornerback on the roster will have to play like it.

Backup: Kris Boyd -

Talented freshman is a playmaking machine. He’ll have some competition in Bryson Echols and Jermaine Roberts, but should hold them off for back up duties early on.

FS

Starter: Jason Hall -

Hard-hitting sophomore showed flashes of a bright future last season. Don’t expect a sophomore slump from this one.

Backup: John Bonney -

P.J. Locke will make this tough for Bonney, and more than likely steal some PT from him too. But Bonney, a highly sought-after DB in his own right, will keep the true freshman at bay for backup duty heading into Game 1.

SS

Starter: DeShon Elliott -

”The Kraken” should come in right away and crack heads regularly. He’s precisely the type of player Chris Vaughn wants/needs patrolling the back end of the secondary.

Backup: Dylan Haines -

The former walk-on will still contribute in a big way for the defense, just not in a starting capacity.

CB

Starter: Holton Hill -

The star true freshman will make an instant impact in fall camp and get the nod at South Bend. His length and speed will make him a lockdown corner as his career progresses.

Backup: Sheroid Evans -

Needs to prove he can stay healthy. If he does he’ll be a valuable asset for Texas’ defense. You can’t teach speed like his.

Nickel

Starter: Jason Hall -

The perfect guy for the job.

Backup: P.J. Locke -

Quick enough and physical enough for this position. This could be where he earns his scholarship.

*****

SPECIAL TEAMS

K

Starter: Nick Rose -

Was entirely too inconsistent last season. Have to imagine his room for error is slim.

Backup: Nick Jordan -

Needs to be ready at a moment’s notice.

P

Starter: Nick Jordan -

No punter returns. Someone needs to step up.

Backup: Walk-on -

Bueller? Bueller? Anybody?

KR

Starter: Armanti Foreman -

I’d go with Roderick Bernard here if he weren’t coming off his torn ACL. Foreman isn’t a bad alternative. He needs to make some things happen.

Backup: Daje Johnson or Ryan Newsome -

Both are burners. Both will likely have opportunites here.

PR

Starter: Ryan Newsome -

Punt return was virtually non-existent for Texas last season. That won’t be the case with Newsome back there. He was one of the best in the country as a senior.

Backup: Daje Johnson or Armanti Foreman -

Their ability to make people miss makes both viable candidates here .

*****

Chip Brown's Depth Chart

Strongside DE

Starter: Shiro Davis -

Plays the run and the pass well. Love his intensity. Physical player.

Backup: Bryce Cottrell -

Cottrell seems to make plays every time he’s in the game. So if Davis falters, Cottrell could move into the starting lineup.

DT

Starter: Hassan Ridgeway -

The light went on for Ridgeway in 2014. Now, it needs to stay on under a new DL coach.

Backup: Paul Boyette -

Boyette showed he has a motor and the ability to make some plays (see the fumble caused vs UCLA in the 4Q).

NT

Starter: Desmond Jackson -

As long as he recovers from the Lis franc injury, Tank is a heart and soul player on this defense – and one hell of a run stopper.

Backup: Du’Vonta Lampkin -

Ford and Chris Nelson will be battling for this backup position, and I’ll give Ford the slight edge.

Fox DE

Starter: Caleb Bluiett -

Plays the run and the pass well. Love his intensity. Physical player.

Backup: Naashon Hughes -

Sideline to sideline player who has the speed to rush the passer.

Strongside LB

Starter: Peter Jinkens -

Jinkens was disappointing in the Texas Bowl, getting benched. If he’s not notably improved, he won’t be starting long.

Backup: Cameron Townsend -

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The heir apparent to the outside LB position opposite Malik Jefferson. Great head on his shoulders and great athleticism.

Middle LB

Starter: Cecil Cherry -

This kid is so determined to make it, I’ll give the 244-pound MLB the benefit of the doubt.

Backup: Anthony Wheeler -

Wheeler could win the MLB job, but he needs to know who he’s up against in Cherry, a desperate warrior.

Weakside LB

Starter: Malik Jefferson -

Texas needed Jefferson to walk in and take over for Jordan Hicks. Being an early enrollee gives him a chance to do it.

Backup: Edwin Freeman -

Great speed at the LB position. Let’s see if he has LB instincts.

CB

Starter: Duke Thomas -

Thomas now has a bunch of competition at the CB position, thanks to Holton Hill, Kris Body and Davante Davis … and, oh yeah, Jermaine Roberts.

Backup: Jermaine Roberts -

A year inside the program already gives Roberts a chance of getting on the field early and often.

FS

Starter: Jason Hall -

Hall made big plays – and even bigger plays before he hurt his knee late in the season.

Backup: P.J. Locke -

Cut from the same cloth as Jason Hall. Downhill player with the ability to cover.

SS

Starter: Dylan Haines -

Team leader in INTs in 2014 (4) and just a heady player who always seems to be near the ball.

Backup: DeShon Elliott -

The Kraken will be pushing Haines from Day 1, and it might just be a matter of time before the Kraken knifes his way into the starting lineup.

CB

Starter: Holton Hill -

Hill is Texas’ next big thing at corner – literally.

Backup: DaVante Davis -

If Davis is out of this world, he could end up pushing Duke Thomas for playing time.

Nickel

Starter: Bryson Echols -

Scrappy, physical cover guy who has been waiting his turn.

Backup: Kris Boyd -

If Boyd is as good on the field as he is on Twitter, he’ll be in the starting lineup in no-time.

*****

SPECIAL TEAMS

K

Starter: Nick Rose -

Rose has to be better in 2015 than his 14-of-21 on field goals last season.

P

Starter: Mitchell Becker -

Sophomore walk-on currently listed as the only punter on the team.

KR

Starter: Ryan Newsome -

The kid is a pinball, capable of going sideways, and backward for 10 yards, only to take the distance.

PR

Starter: Jermaine Roberts -

Coaches are excited to see what the electric Roberts can do with the ball in his hands.

*****



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