Juniors return to Texas for chance to end their careers strong

Drew Lieberman

On Jan. 8, 1998, Ricky Williams announced he would return to UT for his senior season. Williams’ return to Texas, despite being a probable top-five pick, is still seen as one of the biggest recruiting feats of the Mack Brown era. Thanks to his leadership and play on the field, the Longhorns bounced back from a disastrous 1997 campaign.

In similar fashion, the return of running back Malcolm Brown, defensive back Quandre Diggs and defensive end Cedric Reed, who were all draft eligible after their junior seasons, are the first major recruiting victories of the Charlie Strong era.

Brown came to Texas as the top running back recruit in 2011 but was hindered by injuries throughout his first two seasons. In both years, Brown started the season strong before injuries forced him to miss games and affected his play. After struggling to find touches early in 2013, Brown pounded out 841 rushing yards and eight touchdowns in the final eight contests. 

Diggs returns to Texas for his senior season following a disappointing 2013. Diggs led the team in pass breakups (9) for the third consecutive year, but failed to record an interception after picking off four passes in each of his first two seasons. He was quiet for long stretches of 2013, rotating between playing corner and nickel. A move to safety is a possibility in 2014 since Diggs is small for an NFL corner and Texas will be looking to replace Adrian Phillips.

Reed returns to Texas — after showing great improvement in 2013 — as arguably the defense’s top player. Reed led the team in forced fumbles (5), while finishing second in sacks (10) and tackles for loss (18.5). Despite being a probable second-day draft selection this year, Reed could shoot up the draft boards with a successful 2014 campaign. He could learn under the defensive-minded Strong and could be to the Texas defense what Williams was to the offense in 1998.

“Coach Strong is a very passionate guy who knows a lot about football and knows a lot about the game,” Reed said. “He wants to build on everything we have here, and I want to be a part of that as a senior.”

Offensive tackle Josh Cochran, who made 23 starts from 2011 to 2013 and started his final 19 contests, has given up football because of a recurring shoulder injury.

Defensive tackle Paul Boyette Jr., receiver Bryant Jackson and linebackers Tim Cole and Dalton Santos all underwent surgery over the break.

Cole and Santos should be back for spring practice, while Boyette and Jackson will miss the spring. Defensive back Sheroid Evans, running back Johnathan Gray and linebackers Jordan Hicks and Tevin Jackson — who are all recovering from injuries suffered in 2013 — will also miss spring practice.