As long as a team can make it through spring without injury (tough break, Miami), coaches and fans should be pretty happy with that outcome for a Spring Practice season. Since “don’t get hurt” makes for an awful article, here are four players with plenty to gain from their performances this spring.
Senior Left Tackle Desmond Harrison
The big left tackle isn’t exactly fighting for his job as the starting blind-side tackle, but he could really use any positive momentum he can get heading into the season. He’s on the radar of NFL scouts just 13 months out from the 2015 NFL draft, and has a careers worth of things to prove this season. If he can shut down Big XII pass rushers this season, he can presume a large payday from an NFL team.
Harrison had to battle for his job at the end of last season, but returns to the lineup this season as the second most experienced offensive lineman on the roster.
Texas signed Harrison last January from Contra Costa Community College, and was in and out of the lineup over 13 games in 2013.
Junior Defensive End Shiro Davis
Shiro Davis can lock up a position in the starting defense this spring, but will have to hold off freshman Derick Roberson in order to win it. Davis is long on athleticism, and would fit nicely as a weak-side end, but lacks ideal size to play elsewhere in the defense. He was great in a part time role last season, but finding a replacement for Jackson Jeffcoat is a much more serious task.
In situations like this, it is invaluable to get the first crack at a starting job, and Davis is going to be largely unchallenged this spring. If he can take an anticipated step forward, Texas likely picks up a two year starter at defensive end, an asset they really need.
In 2013, Davis recorded 15 tackles, 3.5 tackles for loss, and a sack.
Senior Tight End Geoff Swaim
Swaim, another signing out of JUCO by Mack Brown, started at tight end last year for the Longhorns. Although the Longhorns will stick with spread concepts in their offensive scheme, the additional emphasis placed on the tight end position could create more opportunities for Swaim to improve his own stock, and perhaps even work his way into the late rounds of the 2015 NFL draft.
He was an afterthought as a receiving target in 2013, catching just three passes for 14 yards and no touchdowns in a blocking intensive role. With the ability to play on close to 80% of the team’s snaps this year, there’s a lot of potential for the tight end position to add receptions this season.
He will have to hold off fellow senior Greg Daniels and junior M.J. McFarland to remain in the offense, as one of the issues with catching three balls in a full season at tight end is that level of production makes you fairly replaceable in the offense. This is a high-leverage spring for Swaim in a new offensive scheme.
Sophomore Defensive Back Bryson Echols
With the nickel defensive back spot absolutely wide open, Echols has a shot this spring to win that role and in doing so, would give himself the inside track to start from day one in 2015.
Echols was signed in 2012 as a four-star rercuit from DeSoto. He redshirted that season, then split time last year on special teams and as the sixth defensive back. He made 11 tackles in the secondary a year ago.
A strong spring performance from Echols would mitigate the need to put a true freshman in the defensive back rotation come August, and it would put Bryson Echols not only on track to start for the Longhorns in the future, but potentially for an NFL team, someday.