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: Shiro Davis -

Davis will look to finally put it all together as a senior. Reports are it’s looking like he will.

Backup: Quincy Vasser -

The former Georgia commitment will make an instant impact for the Longhorns in replace of Cedric Reed as long as he can stay healthy.

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: Paul Boyette -

I’ll give Boyette the slight edge over Du’Vonta Lampkin because of his experience playing at this level, and the reports that he is one of the leaders on defense right now.

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: 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 OLB.

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: 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.

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: P.J. Locke -

Hard-hitting safety will be the second UT free safety in two years to see playing time as a freshman.

SS

Starter: Dylan Haines -

The former walk-on is a play-maker, plain and simple. He’ll hold on to his starting spot for Week 1.

Backup: 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.

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: John Bonney -

This is where he’ll make a name for himself.

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 opportunities 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 -

Coaches love Davis against the run, but would like to see him improve his pass rush.

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 -

If Ridgeway has a big junior year, he could have a decision to make after the season.

Backup: Poona Ford -

NT

Starter: Desmond Jackson -

Tank comes back with a vengeance after the lis franc injury.

Backup: Paul Boyette -

Fox DE

Starter: Caleb Bluiett -

Give me Bluiett, who is more physical than Hughes.

Backup: Naashon Hughes -

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

Strongside LB

Starter: Ed Freeman -

Freeman is fast and physical - two words used to describe Jinkens when he arrived. But Jinkens was benched in the Texas Bowl for missing tackles.

Backup: Peter Jinkens -

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

Middle LB

Starter: Tim Cole -

Cole may not have the lateral quickness to be a sideline to sideline guy, but he's smart and could be able to diagnose plays well enough to play faster than his 40 time.

Backup: Cecil Cherry -

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

Weakside LB

Starter: Malik Jefferson -

Jefferson is big, strong, fast and smart and plays at a position of need with Jordan Hicks moving on.

Backup: Cameron Townsend-

Great head on his shoulders and great athleticism.

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: Holton Hill -

Holton Hill could end up winning this battle if Thomas isn't careful. This will be a good position battle.

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 -

Locke should provide good competition to push Hall.

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 -

Charlie Strong loves him some Dylan "White Lightning" Haines, who led the team in INTs last season. Will "The Kraken" be able to unseat him?

CB

Starter: Sheroid Evans -

Evans has all the physical tools to be a top corner - speed, size and long arms.

Backup: John Bonney -

Bonney will likely be the team's nickel back.

Nickel

Starter: John Bonney -

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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