Three Offensive Players to Watch

With Texas reporting for camp on Saturday, and with practices starting next week, here's a look at the three most important offensive players heading into fall practice.

1) Garrett Gilbert

This one was a no-brainer even before Sherrod Harris elected not to return for his fifth-year senior position. But now, Texas's backup plan at quarterback consists of a pair of true freshmen in Connor Wood and Case McCoy. Should Gilbert make it through the season unscathed, he'll still have to make enough plays to keep defenses honest, and could be the deciding factor between a 10-win season and a 12-win one. It's a plus, then, that coaches and players have been raving about the sophomore's maturity, leadership and intangibles, some of which he demonstrated in nearly bringing the Longhorns back from the dead in the National Championship game. It doesn't hurt to be 6-foot-4, have a strong arm or throw a great deep ball either.

2) Malcolm Williams

There should be a heated battle to replace Jordan Shipley in the slot when Texas employs three or more receivers. But the Longhorns have plenty of options at those spots, from James Kirkendoll to athletic former quarterback John Chiles, slippery sophomore DeSean Hales and blistering speedster Marquise Goodwin. The tougher part will be replacing Shipley's role as the Longhorns' go-to-guy. Again, Texas has plenty of options, though none are as good as Williams, arguably the Big 12's most elite combination of size (6-3 225) and speed (in the 4.3s). Williams has shown he can be a devastating matchup — witness his efforts against Kansas (6 catches for 103 yards and a touchdown) and Texas A&M (9-132) last year, or his masterpiece as a freshman against Texas Tech (4-182-2). Williams has averaged more than 15 yards per catch in his career, and could benefit from more shots taken downfield. Williams simply needs a bit more polish and consistency to take his place among the top wideouts in the league.

3) Whoever plays right tackle

Coming out of the spring, that guy was senior Britt Mitchell, a 6-5 300-pound lineman from Kilgore. Mitchell could very well end up at that spot, but his spot remains the only question mark on the offensive line. The left side is manned by returning starters Kyle Hix and Michael Huey, a pair of players used to working together. And reviews on junior center David Snow (the only non-senior slated to start on the line) and right guard Tray Allen have also been tremendously positive. But Mitchell could be tested by a group of talented younger players, most likely redshirt freshmen Thomas Ashcraft or Mason Walters. Whomever wins the job will be the final piece in what could turn out to be a sublime offensive line puzzle.

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