Five Guys to Watch – Offense

Spring ball is a time for a lot of new faces to shine. With eight true freshmen already on campus and some seniors that have moved on, there will be a lot of jockeying for playing time on what should be a national contender. Burnt Orange Beat takes a look at the five guys on offense with the best chance to push for playing time or a starting spot.

Texas Longhorn spring practice – also known as the second season - starts on Friday. On an offense that returns nine starters, you would think there is not a lot to learn, but several positions have interesting dynamics.

Malcolm Williams - The Garland High School product spent the majority of the 2008 season as the a key reserve wide receiver for the Longhorns, but caught only 17 passes for 304 yards (17.9 ypc). The good news is that 60% of that yardage production occurred in the Texas Tech game while Quan Cosby was out with a back injury. Williams was integral to the comeback. The bad news is that Williams appeared in all 13 games (6 starts) but only logged 142 yards in the other 12 games as a reserve receiver. Williams and his deep threat ability allows him a chance to be a key guy behind Shipley and really provide the Longhorn offense a down-the-field weapon to loosen up the safeties for the short passing and running game.

Tre' Newton - The Southlake Carroll product has already logged a full year under his belt in the program as an early enrollee while never taking a snap in a ballgame so his second spring looks to be a big one for Newton. The coaching staff raved about Newton in the bowl preparations in Arizona and he has been compared favorably to departing senior Chris Ogbonnaya in his receiving ability and blitz pickups. If Newton can provide production anywhere near Ogbonnaya's senior season in a third down back role, that has to be considered a very big win. Newton brings pass-catching ability out of the backfield, a complete understanding of blitz pick-up and instincts for running the ball in between the tackles.

Johnson posted some big touchdowns
Cody Johnson - In what seems like an annual rite of passage in the spring, the talk of a power running game has resurfaced and the Waller running back has to prove he can be more than a short yardage back. If the 2009 season does feature a return to a power back, it will have to come from Johnson (5-11, 250) or incoming freshman Chris Whaley (6-3, 235). Johnson showed flashes late in games and in goal line situations with an ideal body lean combined with the feet in the hole and vision to excel in between the tackles. Now, Johnson needs only to keep his weight in check and ideally around 236-240 pounds.

Ian Harris - With Blaine Irby still recovering from injury and Peter Ullman out of eligibility, the tight end position falls into the hands of Ian Harris, unless you count part timers Britt Mitchell and Greg Smith. The San Antonio Churchill product blends size (6-4, 250) and catching ability and will get as many repetitions as he can handle at the spot. Wide out D.J. Grant is going to be tested at TE during the spring but his blocking ability is a question mark, leaving the reality of a power running game in Harris' hands at tight end.

DeSean Hales - The Klein Oak product did everything while in high school tallying over 5500 yards and 50 touchdowns in three seasons. Many think Hales should contribute returning kicks and punts (and he has an opportunity there with Cosby gone) in addition to adding to the depth at wide out. The top three wide receivers not named Cosby and Shipley only caught 73 balls as a trio (21% of total receptions) and none came close to equaling running back Chris Ogbonnaya's 46 catches for 540 yards, so it is tough to say any are proven commodities. Hales' ability to take any ball the distance will be fun to see during the spring.

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