Half Of UT's Freshmen Could Lose Their 'Shirts

When Texas coaches release depth charts Monday as part of game week preparation, it will include names of freshmen expected to contribute this season. This year’s bunch has been a pleasant surprise, spotted with playmakers that will not only see action in 2003 but will also take snaps in the August 31 season opener against New Mexico State. The following is an overview of the youngsters who we project will lose their shirts this season.

Bear in mind, nothing is official until Monday’s press luncheon at DKR. And head coach Mack Brown has been more reticent than in recent years to discuss freshmen Longhorns.

"I’ve learned that as soon as you start talking about one," Brown said, "they’ve left the next day because they’re homesick or something."

But all indications are that at least 10 of the 19 newbies will take the field this season, and some as early as the NMSU game.

DE TIM CROWDER

The 6-4, 235-pounder will play against New Mexico State. The explosive Tyler John Tyler product has provided desperately needed depth at DE. Crowder served notice early that he was legit. In Texas’ first scrimmage, the diaper dandy stopped FL Tony Jeffery six-yards behind the LOS when he blew up a reverse. It was one of four tackles during his DKR debut. Also, it was not unusual to see Crowder blow past 6-7, 305 LT Jonathan Scott on a number of occasions during workouts. Crowder earned second-team Texas 5A all-state honors during his senior year when he totaled 55 tackles (12 TFL) and nine sacks.

WR LIMAS SWEED

There is no need to remove sharp objects from the house when SE Roy Williams graduates. An inch taller than Williams, Sweed has turned in some dazzling receptions during the preseason. Sweed has the same stride as does Williams when running his routes (a long, fluid stride that makes it look easy). Sweed showed his stuff early when he snagged a 55-yard TD grab on play-action from QB Matt Nordgren during the first scrimmage. As if to prove it was no fluke, Sweed’s 36-yard reception from QB Chance Mock was the highlight of a 5-play, 69-yard scoring drive on the final series of the Aug. 16 scrimmage. Here’s a crazy stat: nearly half of Sweed’s 73 catches during his final three seasons at Washington Brenham High were for touchdowns.

SLB ROBERT KILLEBREW

The Spring Klein product has taken a lickin’ but has kept on tickin’ during the preseason. The 6-2, 210-pounder practiced with the second team, has looked solid on the blitz and should see action in the home opener. A first-team Texas 5A selection, Killebrew was also a two-time District 15-5A MVP after registering 242 tackles during his final two seasons.

CB/PR AARON ROSS

Ross has been a fearless DB and shown the ability to go eye-to-eye with Texas’ superlative wideouts without blinking. One particular series from the Aug. 16 scrimmage reveals what you’re getting in Ross: on 1st-and-15 from the 27, Mock completed a screen pass to Roy Williams but Ross didn’t bite on play-action. The precocious youngster threw the Legend for an 8-yard loss. (Now when was the last time you saw something like that happen?) But two plays later, Ross was credited with a PBU when he swatted away a Mock pass intended for SE Sloan Thomas. Bear in mind that this is a kid who’s never played a down at Texas, but was out there disrupting Texas’ superlative receiving corps on a series when coaches were determined to give Mock (spotty up to that point) an opportunity to end the scrimmage on a positive note. The speedster is also a backup on punt returns and worked at times with the first team as a nickel back.

SLB ERIC FOREMAN

The last time most folks saw Foreman, he was turning in a solid performance at QB during the annual Texas High School All-Star football game in late July. Recruited as an athlete, and projected initially as a safety, Foreman has found a home at LB. Versatile and mobile, Foreman was particularly impressive in the Aug. 16 scrimmage. Foreman was the blitzing LB that forced QB Vince Young to hurry-up his throw, resulting in CB Cedric Griffin’s 40-yard TD return. The 6-4, 215-pound Foreman was a four-year starter at QB and DB at Corrigan-Camden and led his school to the Texas 2A Division I state championship. Foreman was also a first team all-state selection at DB.

CB TARELL BROWN

A consensus All-American (Parade, USA Today) from North Mesquite, Brown was the defensive jewel of the 2003 recruiting class and will be a gem in the secondary. Like most outstanding DBs, Brown has the prerequisite short-term memory: he was toast on some plays but jammed on the others. Brown has worked with the second-team D and should see action on Aug. 31. He also earned first-team all-state (5A) honors at running back, rushing for 3,011 yards and 42 TDs during his final two seasons.

Because Brown wants to force the depth this year, and because he has said all year that freshmen DBs must step up early, don’t be totally surprised if Brandon Foster, Erick Jackson or Michael Griffin do more than ride the aluminum this fall, although Ross and Brown are the most likely to see the field.

MLB/WLB SCOTT DERRY

At 6-3, 230 pounds, Derry has impressed coaches with his physicality, mobility and work ethic. The Pearland product will help anchor a linebacking corps that will have more depth in 2003 than at any time during the Mack Brown era. Derry was a first-team all-state (5A) selection as a senior after starting three years at MLB.

RB ERIK HARDEMAN

Put an asterisk next to Hardeman. The Pflugerville product could play on any D-I squad and could start tomorrow for most -- but here’s hoping he keeps his ‘shirt on in 2003. The 6-1, 215-pounder doesn’t have the breakaway speed of a Selvin Young, but he hits the hole quick and is a tough, fluid runner. But if I’m Brown, I redshirt Hardeman. Barring injury, Benson, Selvin Young and Brett Robin are pumped up, polished and poised for their best season ever. Hardeman will be dependable if called upon; I just hope Texas doesn’t need to call him until 2004.

Finally, honorable mention goes to RS-Freshman WR Eric Enard. Although not a true freshman, the West Orange-Stark playmaker has been one of the surprises of the preseason. He has clutch hands and has emerged as a genuine deep ball threat. The amazing thing is that so many of the 6-3, 200-pounder’s grabs have come against lockdown CB Nathan Vasher. The average fan has never heard of him, but the prediction is that it won’t be long before folks can’t stop talking about him.


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