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Contact Go Lake Travis

Several newcomers already set to play for Texas in 2017

Posted: Mon, 7 Aug 2017 02:11 PM - 820 Readers

By: Wescott Eberts

Toneil Carter during the Orange-White game (photo credit 247Sports)

Following the first scrimmage of preseason camp for the Texas Longhorns on Saturday, head coach Tom Herman said on Monday that a number of freshmen and junior college transfer Jamari Chisholm are among the members of the 2017 recruiting class expected to play this season.

Here’s a look at the newcomers who are already set to take the field and several more players who could quickly emerge in the rotation:

Running Back Toneil Carter - Texas Longhorns
Running back Toneil Carter

The Houston Langham Creek product enrolled early at Texas and benefited from a rash of injuries to other players at the position. In fact, by the time the Orange-White game came around in the middle of April, Carter was the only healthy scholarship running back.

The leading rusher in the spring-ending scrimmage, Carter racked up 60 yards on 10 carries against the second-team defense and added two catches for nine yards after showing well as a receiver at the Under Armour game.

In fact, Herman believes that Carter is already the “most fluid ball catcher” among the group, with sophomore Kyle Porter, junior Chris Warren III, and freshman Daniel Young rounding out the list.

Running Back Daniel Young - Texas Longhorns
Running back Daniel Young

Formerly committed to Houston, Young joined the class after Herman’s arrival in Austin and hasn’t received a lot of public buzz through the early portion of preseason camp, but is clearly making an impact behind the scenes.

Since Young played linebacker early in his high school career, he’s one of the rare running backs to emerge from the prep ranks as a relative newcomer to the position. And that means that he could significantly benefit from the tutelage of running backs coach Stan Drayton, who is widely considered one of the best in the business.

Tight end Cade Brewer

When Herman noted during the spring that Brewer needed to add a significant amount of strength before he was ready to play college football, it seemed as if a redshirt season was likely for the Lake Travis standout, who was listed at 210 pounds when he signed in February.

However, Brewer is now up to 230 pounds, according to the official roster, but he may find a role as a receiver during his first season as he adjusts to the blocking demands of the college game. Last week, Herman gushed about Brewer’s ability to catch the ball.

“I think it was the Westlake-Lake Travis game where we went out there to evaluate him,” Herman said on Thursday. “He was running down the seam, caught a ball behind the defender's back and I turned to our recruiting guys and said, ‘Yeah, we should probably offer that kid.’”

Herman also noted that Brewer is a “conscientious kid” who is dedicated to success, but added that Brewer may have to be patient when it comes to his development.

Tight end Reese Leitao - Texas Longhorns
Tight end Reese Leitao

If Brewer may still need a year to develop as a blocker, Leitao has the size and strength at 245 pounds to make an impact this season. In fact, Herman was impressed with the Oklahoma product’s ability to throw his body around during the inside drill on Friday.

And Leitao also impressed observers during the summer in 7-on-7 workouts, according to multiple reports, so he also has some significant upside as a receiver.

Unfortunately, Leitao’s late February arrest and subsequent plea resulted in a two-game suspension, so his Longhorns career won’t begin until Texas plays USC.

Defensive lineman Jamari Chisholm — Despite missing the first two practices after completing summer coursework at Northeastern Oklahoma A&M, Chisholm has apparently made an impression despite the brief delay in his enrollment.

The 6’4, 300-pounder has the length that coordinator Todd Orlando covets from the defensive ends in his odd front and showed some penetrating ability as a sophomore — he recorded 8.5 tackles for loss and 4.5 sacks in the junior college ranks.

Depending on whether Orlando decides to use a more experienced player like junior Charles Omenihu as the back up to junior Chris Nelson, the former defensive tackle, it’s possible that Chisholm could crack the two-deep depth chart at that position.

Defensive Lineman - Ta'Quon Graham - Texas Longhorns
Defensive end Ta’Quon Graham

The Temple product has been one of the early standouts among all the freshmen, even though Herman didn’t mention Graham by name on Monday.

On Friday, Herman praised Graham’s maturity and development for his age, giving a significant amount of credit to his Wildcat coaches.

“Well, he comes from a great high school program,” Herman said. “When you're trained the way that he's been trained, you're physically and mentally able to adapt.”

So while there will be a development curve for Graham, as there is with any freshman going against much older players in the trenches, he is likely to contribute this season.

“He's one of those true freshmen that, god's blessed him with some really, really advanced physical tools for a guy his age, and then he was developed really well in high school,” Herman said.

On Monday, Orlando praised Graham’s athleticism, maturity, and physicality, which also drew positive buzz early in fall camp from multiple reports. Graham is also the first newcomer to have his orange helmet stripe removed, according to Orlando.

Now up to 280 pounds, Graham is rapidly proving himself as a prototypical four-technique defensive lineman and demonstrating why it was so important for position coach Oscar Giles to keep him in the class late in the 2017 recruiting cycle.

Linebacker Gary Johnson - Texas Longhorns
Linebacker Gary Johnson

Currently a back up to junior Malik Jefferson at the Rover position, Johnson is another junior college product who will likely have a role in the Texas defense this year.

Earning a starting role may have to wait until next season, when Johnson is able to get to the weight that Herman and Orlando and take over Jefferson’s role if the state’s former No. 1 prospect opts to leave a year early for the NFL. Now up in the low 220s, according to Herman, Johnson has put on around 10 pounds since he arrived, in large part because his nutrition was lacking when he was at Dodge City — he just wasn’t able to eat enough to gain weight.

But even if Johnson currently lacks ideal mass and will always lack ideal size for the position at around 6’0, his athleticism and striking ability should allow him to have a role in the defense this season.

“He can really run; I think he's a sideline-to-sideline, blitz the quarterback kind of guy. His practice endurance is not where it needs to be and that's to be expected.”

Finding a role as a situational blitzer may not be easy with back ups like junior middle linebacker Breckyn Hager and sophomore B-backer Jeffrey McCulloch, but Johnson could still occupy that role at the Rover position.

Defensive Back Josh Thompson - Texas Longhorns
Cornerback Josh Thompson

The former teammate of sophomore safety Brandon Jones at Nacogdoches, Thompson is one of the physical freaks from Herman’s first recruiting class at Texas, having registered a 40.4-inch vertical leap in high school.

Already nicknamed “three-and-out” by his coaches because he’s expected to make a significant impact with the Longhorns before leaving early for the NFL, Thompson has already flashed with a big play in Saturday’s scrimmage.

Capable of playing any position in the secondary because of his versatility, Thompson is one of the leading candidates to emerge as the fourth cornerback behind juniors Kris Boyd, Holton Hill, and Davante Davis.

Given the pressing need for depth at those positions, Orlando wants the 6’0, 200-pounder to improve quickly before the season begins. Don’t be surprised if that happens.

*  Story Contributed by: Wescott Eberts


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