Jason Higdon’s Take
Malik Jefferson. Texas was able to not only land one of the top defensive players in America in 2015 they were able to get him to enroll early. The time spent on the practice field, weight room and in the classroom has been a valuable learning experience. Texas will do everything in their powers to bring Malik at the rate of speed in which it takes to learn a Charlie Strong defense. Unfortunately, the linebacker spot has been riddled with injuries so far, and Malik will have every opportunity to earn a starting spot for linebacker coach Brian Jean-Mary.
Malik Jefferson will continue to get bigger, stronger, faster and smarter throughout the spring/summer months under the guidance of the Texas coaching staff. Jefferson has the most to gain by far in my opinion over the next several months.
Annabel Stephan’s Take
I believe that the player with the most to gain this spring/summer is quarterback Jerrod Heard.
There were high expectations for the athlete when he arrived at Texas as part of the 2014 class, but with murmurs that he wasn't living up to expectations, we haven't seen much from him on the field.
There is no question that the talent is definitely there - anyone who has seen him play will agree - but with the quarterback competition wide open with Tyrone Swoopes right now, a strong spring would be huge for Heard. This is the time for him to prove to Charlie Strong and the rest of the staff that he is capable of leading the offense, and the opportunity to clinch the starting spot is his for the taking.
Plus remember that Strong recently said he wasn't opposed to playing a dual-quarterback rotation, upping Heard's chances to see the field even more.
Greg Powers’ Take
I think the obvious answer is Jerrod Heard and I'm sure others will have answered the same.
On the recruiting front I think the most obvious player to watch is Kendell Jones, who is likely at the top of the the UT wants and need priority list.
Don't forget that he is an absolute monster -- 6-foot-4 1/2, 361 pounds.
He's also up the street in Killeen.
The Scout five-star passes all the most important recruiting criteria.
Gabe Brooks’ Take
With HornsDigest.com's recent reporting of early enrollee Connor Williams excelling during spring practices, I'll go in the direction of another early enrollee who may seem like an obvious pick for this subject: Malik Jefferson.
As the fellas have reported, Jefferson has moved around from FOX to Mike 'backer, with the latter occurring in part the last few days because of the injury to veteran Dalton Santos. All that means is the No. 1 player in the Lone Star State's 2015 class will get that many more opportunities to show why he's such a difference-making signee.
It's true that the edge is where Jefferson is most at home and where his talents are usually served best. There's no doubt those are reasons he's been getting so much action at the FOX position. But he's athletic enough, coachable enough, and perhaps above all, smart enough to learn multiple positions in the first spring practice of his college career. All this action should only pay dividends for Jefferson and, ultimately, the Texas defense for the next few years.
William Wilkerson’s Take
One of the obvious answers for me is Jerrod Heard, no question about it. But I’ll go a different route on this one just because we talk about QBs quite a bit on this site already.
This time around I’ll go with Tim Cole at that middle linebacker position. If he is going to make anything out of himself as a Longhorns football player, it’s going to be because he dominates the rest of the spring.
The opportunity is there for him to separate himself as the guy to beat with Dalton Santos out due to injury and Peter Jinkens looking more and more like he could end up at one of the outside LB positions. But he’d better make a great impression on the staff because UT has some monster LB recruits joining the roster this fall and they (Anthony Wheeler and Cecil Cherry in particular) should have a big say in who plays at MLB come the Notre Dame game and beyond.
Cole came to Texas as a highly-touted four-star recruit and a U.S. Army All-American. I remember a coach at Brenham High School tell me he was one of the purest tacklers he’d ever seen because of his ability to run through the ball-carrier.
We haven’t gotten a chance to see him put those abilities on display much in Austin (he only has 12 career tackles and had four DNP’s in 2014). But Strong has been encouraged with what he’s showed so far this spring. He should start the spring game at MLB. He could sure use a great game there to give him some momentum heading into the fall.
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