These Texas football players have the most to prove in winter workouts

The winter strength and conditioning program gets underway on Jan. 22 for the Texas football program and S&C coach Torre Becton. Who can emerge as the leaders for the Longhorns in the next few weeks with many new faces on campus for the start of winter S&C?
Sydir Mitchell, Texas football
Sydir Mitchell, Texas football / Kevin C. Cox/GettyImages
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Tre Wisner, Jelani McDonald, Texas football
Tre Wisner, Jelani McDonald, Texas football / Ricardo B. Brazziell/American-Statesman

Jelani McDonald, S

Another young and talented defensive back for the Longhorns who could breakout in 2024 is rising sophomore safety Jelani McDonald. The former high-four-star athlete recruit from Waco (TX) Connally High School in Central Texas has emerged as a breakout candidate to watch for the Longhorns early this offseason.

McDonald is one of the most athletic and scheme-versatile players on the Longhorns' defense in 2024. The 6-foot-2 and 198-pound McDonald could be a fast riser on the two-deep to watch entering the spring if he continues to develop in his second year on campus.

McDonald was already showing the signs of a developing future star for the Longhorns in practice late last fall. He made tremendous progress in camp as a hybrid linebacker/safety. McDonald also made an impact on special teams in 2023.

He was actually Texas's highest-graded player on the special teams coverage units during the 2023 season. McDonald registered two solo tackles on special teams with the coverage units last season.

The next step for McDonald is to show he's ready to fill a bigger role on Pete Kwiatkowski's defense in 2024, either at nickel or safety. He could also play that hybrid/sam linebacker role to add more versatility to PK's looks up front on defense this upcoming season.

If McDonald shows out during winter workouts and spring ball, he is likely to earn a spot on the two-deep since he will be too versatile and athletic for Texas to keep him off the field on defense and special teams consistently in 2024.