Longhorn Freshmen: Who Are The ‘Big 12'?

Now that the focus has shifted to preparing for North Texas, decisions remain about which members of Texas&#146;s heralded freshman class will redshirt and who will see action this season. The collection is considered not only the consensus No. 1 recruiting class in the country (it is the second such class in <B>Mack Brown&#146;s</B> tenure) but perhaps the most eye-opening, title-chasing accumulation of talent of the past five years.

And the youngsters have made their presence known during the preseason.

However, looking good in shorts at Frank Denius Field in August is not the same as being productive at the Cotton Bowl on Oct. 12. That’s part of why Brown said the final verdict won’t be in until midseason. If a freshman can contribute his first season, a redshirt year will not be wasted on him, Brown said (with the possible exception of QB Vincent Young, considered the jewel of this year’s signees).

"We’re looking at a possible 14 games this year and that’s a long year," Brown said, "so we need to be three-deep at every position."

Coaches are hesitant to identify the full slate of youngsters who will be (figuratively speaking) wearing orange-and-white jerseys rather than redshirts this season. That would be premature, they say, and ill-informed until they can see the bunch in action, starting Aug. 31.

Still, Brown estimates that about a dozen freshmen (and possibly a few more) will see considerable playing time this year.

"It’s harder on some of the guys who get redshirted when they see half their class is playing this year," Brown said. "Most of them (redshirts) start to ask themselves, ‘Why didn’t I get picked?’"

Brown had this advice for them: "I wish they would start talking to the older guys (Chris Simms, Rod Babers, etc.) because these older guys wish they had redshirted today."

Now that the dust has settled on Denius Field, these are the 'Big 12' freshmen that should log significant snaps on the playing field in the fall:

RB Selvin Young: If you are surprised by this one, then thank you for your recent subscription to IT. Brown said the 6-0, 19-pound Houston Jersey Village speedster is the one freshman who "has really jumped out at us and impressed us" during two-a-days. In three scrimmages, Young rushed for 201 yards on 21 carries (a mere 9.5 yards-per-carry). Look for Young to back up Benson and, although rare, stand beside FB Ivan Williams on the first-team KO return squad. And then don’t blink. Young returned the opening kick-off at the Aug. 17 scrimmage 90 yards for a touchdown.

RG Justin Blalock: At 64, 340, Blalock is a mere wisp of a lad who has entrenched himself at right guard as a backup to Derrick Dockery. Did I say trench? Ho-ly cow!, Blalock is more like a mountain in shoulder pads. Although senior Beau Baker will have something to do with it, look for the first-team USA Today All-American from Plano East to get ample snaps during the non-conference slate.

DT Larry Dibbles: Remember just four or five years ago when Texas couldn’t stop the run? Dibbles could have started on those teams. For now, Dibbles is just another USA Today All-American who backs up more experienced studs like Marcus Tubbs and Miguel McKay on the D-line. At 6-4, 280, little Larry Dibbles from Lancaster sat out most of the second week of two-a-days with a minor injury. He recorded three tackles and one QB sack in Texas’ first scrimmage, Aug. 14.

RDT Rodrique Wright: The only new face on the D-line who could possibly outshine and out-size Dibbles is this 6-5, 300-pound prototype of a defensive tackle who garnered first-team All-American honors from both USA Today and Parade magazine for his work at Houston Alief Hastings. Coaches couldn’t stop talking about him if they tried. Wright was the defensive standout in Texas’ first scrimmage (8 tackles, 1 sack, 1 pass-broken-up) and added three more tackles for good measure in the Aug. 21 scrimmage. Memo to Mack Brown: please do not hesitate to play this freshman against Oklahoma.

TE David Thomas: When TE Bo Scaife went down, someone had to step up. Experienced senior Chad Stevens is running with the first-team O. But nagging injuries that temporarily kept both Stevens and Brock Edwards out of the line-up allowed Thomas to make his move. From our binoculars, Thomas has pulled ahead of O.J. McClintock in the rotation. The first-team 4-A all state selection while at Wolfforth Frenship is the only TE who comes close to match Scaife’s speed, according to Brown.

FL Robert Timmons: A new kid on the block would have to make an impression to share snaps with the likes of B.J. Johnson, Tony Jeffery and Kyle Shanahan. But Shanahan’s ankle injury has allowed the 6-2, 205-pound Flower Mound Marcus product to shine. In Texas’ Aug. 17 scrimmage, Timmons snagged three passes for 28 yards, including a one-yard TD toss from QB Vince Young.

NOTE: This list is biased toward linebackers, since that is where Texas is the thinnest this season. So, look out for:

SLB Mike Williams: Guys from smaller schools like Lindale usually don’t get the press clippings to which their big-city cousins are accustomed. But Williams could have fired his press agent considering the preseason he has had. At 6-4, 225, Williams may be the biggest and fastest of the new LBs. A first-team all-East Texas selection, Williams should see substantial quality minutes as Lee Jackson’s backup.

MLB Brian Robison: Here’s to you, Brain Robison, for getting into the mix early and often as backup to Reed Boyd. The 6-4, 240-pound Splendora product has seen plenty of preseason snaps, as has redshirt freshman Eric Hall. Robison was a second-team 3A all-state honoree his senior year.

Both Garnet Smith and Marcus Myers are pushing each other for playing time behind WLB Derrick Johnson, who was only the Big 12 Freshman Co-Defensive Player of the Year and Holiday Bowl MVP last fall. But with Brown stressing that a national champion contender must be three-deep at every spot, look for the names Smith and Myers to be called out from the Royal-Memorial Stadium PA system before the season is over. Smith (6-3, 222) was a first-team all-area selection at Forth Worth Arlington Lamar while Myers was a three-year team captain at Plugerville Connally.

RCB Edorian McCullough: The guy Defensive Coordinator Carl Reese dubbed "the fastest guy in the world" saw extensive playing time in Wednesday's scrimmage, logging tackles on the first and third series against the first team offense. A more frequent use of a nickel package this fall probably means McCullough’s contribution will not be limited to special teams. The North Garland lightning bolt is a two-time Texas 5A 500 meters champ with a career best of 10.02.

LCB Matthew Melton: The folks who attended Texas’ first scrimmage in pads Aug. 14 may not remember Melton’s name but they won’t soon forget the shot heard ‘round Royal-Memorial Stadium. On the first play from scrimmage, Melton absolutely leveled Benson as he tried to turn the corner. The Tyler John Tyler first-team All-East Texas pick had four tackles on the day.

Ok, let’s make it a baker’s dozen. I can’t bring myself to leave FB/RB Albert Hardy off the list. The buzz around the practice field is, because of the wealth of talent in the backfield, Hardy may be redshirted or moved to defense. But there is also a motherload of riches in the secondary, and Hardy staked his claim to playing time by contributing 30 hard-running yards on four carries in the final scrimmage of the preseason. Hardy is a mighty-mite (5-11, 215) from Houston Galena Park who should get some carries when the game’s outcome has been determined.

SE Dustin Miksch and MLB Aaron Harris may see some playing time this year. But the wealth of talent at SE may mean a redshirt season for the Round Rock Westwood graduate, while Harris’ mild concussion in the early going meant he missed valuable playing time during most of the preseason.

Horns Digest Top Stories