July 22, 2008

Five freshmen that might play right away

It's the question that gets asked on a daily basis in the early months of training camp - which of the true freshmen have a chance to make an early impact on the Longhorn program?

With less than two weeks to go before the start of fall drills, Orangebloods.com takes a look at five freshmen that could have a big say in whether the Texas Longhorns can make a run at a Big 12 championship in 2008.

After talking with numerous people inside the program in recent weeks, here's a look at five members of the 2008 class that are already turning heads with their work in off-season workouts with the rest of the team.

1. Kheeston Randall - Defensive Tackle

This one is probably the easiest to call because the need for immediate help at defensive tackles. Outside of UT's starters (Roy Miller and Lamarr Houston), not much is known about what kind of depth the Longhorns will have at defensive tackle, so there's a very real need for someone to step up. Of the two defensive tackles signed in the 2008 class, Randall appears the most physically ready to play. The bigger issue is whether he'll be ready to play at this level and that's not a question that we'll know for sure until the pads come on. One thing appears very clear and that's the fact that he'll definitely get a chance to compete for very real playing time, which isn't necessarily the case at all positions because of the better depth.

2. Blake Gideon - Safety

Who would have thought that the lowest-rated player in the 2008 class would end up so high on this particular list? After arriving on the 40 Acres in January, Gideon has picked up new defensive coordinator Will Muschamp's scheme very quickly and his knowledge and comfort of the scheme will give him a leg over anyone that can't be relied on to be in the right place at the right time. Gideon will likely start out on the second-team on the two-deep when camp opens, so he's going to play. His goal from there will simply be to be the most consistent player at his position because that could mean a lot when Muschamp and Duane Akina make their ultimate personnel decisions.

3. D.J. Grant - Wide Receiver

This one might be a bit of a long-shot, but the biggest need for the offense heading into the regular season is for someone to emerge as a legitimate threat in the vertical passing game. While second-year player Malcolm Williams is working with the first-team offense in the summer drills, he's yet to play a snap and the players behind him also lack experience and consistency. If there's one thing that's already been acknowledged by those around the team when it comes to Grant, it's that he has some special physical tools. His combination of size, speed and playmaking ability is something this team could use right away.

4. Emmanuel Acho - Linebacker

If you look at the Texas two-deep at linebacker at the moment, there are only five linebackers on campus that have appeared to settle in, so there's still an outside linebacker job out there that's open for the taking. If you ask anyone that's been near the team this summer, you'll learn that Acho has made a really big impression because of his size and athleticism. From an athletic standpoint, he's probably better than anyone that he'll be competing against for playing time, so it'll be interesting to see how quickly the Longhorns look to bring him along. The whispers behind the Texas curtain have indicated that many believe this kid has genuine star potential.

5. Aaron Williams - Cornerback

Williams struggled when he first participated in the summer workouts, but he's already started to make huge improvements and one source told me this week that the transformation he's seen in Williams in the last few weeks reminds him of the progress former Longhorn Nate Vasher made after the light switch came on for him. It's going to be tough sledding for Williams this year to get a lot of playing time at cornerback, but Chykie Brown and Curtis Brown are still having consistency issues, so it's not impossible to think he could climb that ladder. However, if you're looking for a place where Williams might be able to make a big impact, look no further than special teams. In fact, don't be surprised if both Gideon and Williams become major factors on those units in year one.

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