FROM THE STANDS: Summer Wish List

First things first, From the Stands is going away. Sort of.

Starting August 6th, From the Stands will be leaving the Co-op and striking out on its own. The University Co-op will still be the title sponsor for From the Stands, but the host will be different. Your email addresses will be transferred over to the new site … and everything should be seamless. SHOULD is the operative word, because I’m doing this myself and, you know, I’m doing this myself. We might have some bumps in the road, but I’ll get them smoothed out as quickly as possible.

We will keep the same format: one email a week (Wednesday) most of the year and two per week during the football season (reviews on Monday, previews on Thursday), and additional content will go up on the site throughout the week.

I’ll have more details in two weeks, including the name of the site (it’s not quite ready yet).

I’m excited about this and hope you all come with me.

 

Summer Wish List

We are half way through the summer conditioning program and reports are promising. But they are just that, reports. It’s second- and third-hand information from sources, and you never know, exactly, what the sources saw or what they think they saw. Are they looking for only good things? Only bad things? Totally objective? That all factors into what they see and what they report. Still, lots of good information out there.

From what I can gather, everyone is working and grinding away and staying cool. There aren’t any stories floating around like last summer about pending arrests or suspensions. (Hopefully I didn’t just jinx it all.) It seems the team has gotten the message. Be cool, everyone, camp is almost here. Guys are emotional and fighting, both literally and figuratively, for jobs and playing time. I love it.

I’d also love it if a few other things happened this summer. Let’s jump into the summer wish list for the Texas Longhorns, shall we?

We shall. As I write this I am singing Pearl Jam’s “Wish List” in my head. I wish I were the full moon shining off your Camaro’s hood …

Anyway, this is what I want…


Momentum

2016 quarterback commit Shane Buechele owned The Opening. The super exclusive event for the best of the best of the best in Oregon was dominated by Buechele, who was the best quarterback on the field. His play was the buzz of the week and now Charlie Strong’s second annual Under the Lights event begins. This is THE big recruiting event of the summer for Texas and the Horns are bringing everyone they think is elite to town. Last year Texas impressed a lot of their soon-to-be impact freshmen with the event, and this year they want to do it again. The one thing they didn’t have already in the bag last year was a quarterback, but now the hottest qb around has opened some eyes and Texas is a name people are talking about. I think Texas could make some serious waves this weekend if it all goes right. I hope it does.


Everyone Here

Barring something DeAndre Jordan-level extraordinary, don’t expect to see defensive tackle DuVonta Lampkin at Texas. Ever. He’s currently seeking an exit.  That ship has sailed, but what about our other missing recruits? Texas is still waiting for offensive lineman Buck Major, wide out Gilbert Johnson and tight end Devonaire Clarington. The last official news on Clarington and Major were they needed to wait until the second session of summer school to get here. Monday, July 13th is the first day of classes for the second summer session. I haven’t heard, either way, much about their status. Are they here? Are they coming? Why don’t we know anything yet? I want them both here. Texas needs all the offensive linemen they can get, and I think Clarington is a difference maker at tight end as soon as he gets here. Whenever that is. Major and Johnson are purely academic issues where Clarington is a clearinghouse issue. His can be cleared up pretty quickly, or it could be Aaron Ross 2.0. I don’t want Aaron Ross 2.0, I want him here now. As for wide out Gilbert Johnson, he’s got higher hurdles to clear than the other two and we’ll see soon enough if they are too high to clear. I hope he does, I hope they all do. Texas needs these guys. Get here, fellas.


Stay Cool

As I said earlier, so far so good in the “everyone is staying cool” department. None of the nonsense from 2014, and I desperately hope we don’t have anything pop up this year. About this time last year I was ridiculing the Aggies about yet another arrest when the news of Montrel Meander and Kendall Sanders broke. And then it carried over into the fall, where every week we had the non-updates on Daje Johnson and Desmond Harrison. I would love to have none of that this year. We are ~4 weeks away from the start of camp and everyone seems to be keeping their heads. Please keep it up and stay cool.


One

I don’t really have a side in the quarterback fight. I don’t care if it’s Jerrod Heard or Tyrone Swoopes, as long as the guy that wins it is the clear winner. I want one of them to explode over the next month and separate from the other guy. Ideally, they both explode and get better — Heard in progressing through his reads and seeing coverage, Swoopes in owning the huddle and accuracy on the deep balls — but one moves decidedly ahead of the other, taking the first team snaps in practice and getting all the prep needed for the upcoming season. I’ve said this a lot, so one more time won’t hurt: you don’t need a superstar at quarterback to be successful in college. You need a consistent, steady guy that everyone trusts, doesn’t turn the ball over and gets the ball out to the playmakers. Of course, a superstar doesn’t hurt, either. Don’t for a second think that the idea of either one of these guys becoming a superstar is silly. Far more unrealistic things have happened: Trevone Boykin was TERRIBLE in 2013. Awful. And now look at him. Anyone even know who Cardale Jones was before the season finale against Michigan last year? Doubtful. It could just as easily happen for Texas. But first things first, one of the two qbs for Texas needs to take off and run with the job the second half of summer and establish himself as the starter.


Playmakers

Part of not needing a superstar at quarterback is “getting the ball out to the playmakers.” Texas needs to stack the field with those playmakers. Last year they just didn’t have enough. Marcus Johnson was in a funk, Daje Johnson was suspended for half the season, several starters were kicked off the team right before the season started … lots of issues. With lots of lettermen back and lots of talent coming in, the opportunity for Texas to have some playmakers on the field is much higher than last year. But I don’t really care about the opportunity. I want to SEE it. I saw flashes last year from Armanti Foreman, but outside of him there wasn’t much playmaking that we’ll see again (John Harris is gone). My wish is the new guys on the roster step up and become playmakers. Dorian Leonard and Lorenzo Joe are fighting for a spot and both have made some noise, and the potential for Daje Johnson to explode on the scene is always there. What has me the most excited, though, is the reports about the freshmen. John Burt seems to be taking hold of one of the slot receiver spots and doing work. If he can keep that up, Texas will have a playmaker to go alongside Foreman. In the backfield, Jonathan Gray has a year plus removed from that Achilles injury and he should resemble the 2013 player much more this fall. With all the talent at running back coming in, Texas will have a pack led by Gray and Duke Catalon and could open things up even more for guys like Foreman, Burt and tight end Devonaire Clarington.


5 Bad ***es Up Front

Pardon the language. Nothing else really needs to be said, does it? I’ve begged and pleaded for years for the offensive line to find a common theme to bond them: tattoos, Civil War beards, blonde Mohawks … whatever. Something that ties them together as one. I am repeating myself again, I know: an offensive line is like a hand. The five fingers individually are not much of a threat, but when working together as a fist it becomes a formidable weapon. That’s what I want. I want five (quote on Samuel L. Jackson’s wallet in Pulp Fiction) that will take over a game, impose their will on a defense and let that No.1 quarterback get the ball to the playmakers and the running backs. I haven’t seen that unit I want since 2006, nearly a decade ago. Until I do, I am going to keep wishing for it. The good news is Texas has the right coaches (Joe Wickline and Pat Moorer) in place to make that happen. Please, make it happen.


Youth Gone Wild

Texas is SICK with talent across the defensive front seven, but it’s all very young. Anchoring the front is the known commodity defensive tackle Hassan Ridgeway. This is a contract year for the junior and if he progresses as he should, expect to see him be the next Longhorn D.T. taken in the first round of the NFL Draft in the spring. With Desmond Jackson back to hold down the other side and a solid group to provide depth, Texas looks stout inside. Outside and at linebacker things aren’t as solidified. Naashon Hughes is solidly entrenched at one end, but the other side isn’t. Shiro Davis will likely get the first crack, but coming on strong is junior college defensive end Quincy Vasser. I think, eventually, he takes over at the spot. Also, a healthy Derick Roberson is back. I was sure in 2014 that Roberson was going to be the breakout star of the defense, but a knee injury derailed his freshman year before it started. He was also out for spring ball, but he’s working with no restrictions right now and he should be ready to go when two-a-days start. He’s as quick off the edge rushing the passer as anyone on the team, and now heathy he’s going to be a terrific sub for either Vasser or Hughes, or as a third end on 3rd & long. Expect big things. I hope.

The incumbents at linebacker are Tim Cole, Peter Jinkens and Dalton Santos (rehabbing an ankle injury), but they are having to fight off some very, very, very talented freshmen this summer. Malik Jefferson, Anthony Wheeler and Cecil Cherry are all making a name for themselves with their terrific play in 7-on-7 work. Not to be forgotten or overlooked, redshirt freshman Ed Freeman is looking the part at linebacker after spinning down from the secondary in 2014. I don’t think you’ll see an all freshmen lineup at linebacker in week one, but you’ll see plenty of them playing. I hope. Cherry oozes confidence and intensity and has shown so far he’s just as comfortable in coverage as he is in defending the run, which will make it harder to get him off the field. Every day Dalton Santos is not playing is another day Cherry gets reps, meaning Cherry is growing, learning and developing each practice. I want to see these kids on the field this fall making plays, which means they need to keep up their great summer work the next few weeks.


DBU

Texas lost two starters to the NFL, but returns two full-time starters and a third that started occasionally. Dylan Haines and Jason Hall are the starters at safety and Duke Thomas is back at one corner. The only spot open right now (on paper) is the cornerback opposite Thomas, where injuries cost Texas Jermaine Roberts and Sheroid Evans last spring. It looked like both had locked up that job, but it’s open again after they both went down. Bryson Echols, Antwuan Davis and the freshmen (Kris Boyd and Holton Hill) are all battling for that spot and if I had to guess right now, it’s Boyd or Hill because of their size. At the nickel will be redshirt freshman John Bonney, whose former high school teammates were sitting next to me at the Texas Bowl and called their shot. They told me back in December, “Look out, Bonney’s about to blow up.” After his spring and summer work, that seems dead-on. He’s big, athletic and physical and is equally adept in coverage and run support. Back to the “on paper” comment: There is experience in three of the five positions (nickel being the fifth) but no one is immune to being replaced. Freshman safety Deshon Elliott is pushing hard for playing time and Jason Hall has spent a lot of time in “The Pit”, which is where the injured rehab — The Pit is intentionally brutal to encourage everyone to get back into the rotation as quickly as possible. — opening the door for Elliott. He’s definitely going to play this fall, the question will be at whose expense? We will see that soon enough. I want to see Texas proving that DBU monicker on the field this fall. To do that, they have to prove it this summer.

 

Good Special Teams

Please get better. I want to see Michael Dixon and Mitchell Becker pushing each other for the punting job, the Nicks pushing each other for the points job and someone lighting a fuse in the return game I’ll settle for non-horrifical, but successful is the actual wish.

 

So …

One thing I forgot on this summer wish list — please come with me to the new site. This is going to be a fun year and I hope you’ll join me. Back in two weeks with more details on the move and a look at the Big 12.

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