Texas football position grades

Michael Shapiro

Quarterback: C
To say that junior Tyrone Swoopes struggled last year is an understatement. In 12 starts for Texas in 2014, Swoopes was the Big 12’s least efficient passer and finished ninth among Big 12 quarterbacks in touchdowns. However, with a new spread offense and a full offseason of first team reps, the former four-star recruit could prove to be an asset in the Longhorns offense. But if Swoopes falters early, look for head coach Charlie Strong to replace him with redshirt freshman Jerrod Heard, who impressed coaches in spring practices with his potential and athleticism.

Running Back: B+
Senior Johnathan Gray looks to be the bellwether of a Texas offense that hasn’t had a 1,000 yard rusher since Jamaal Charles in 2007. Gray has proved talented enough in the past to reach that mark, specifically late last season, when he averaged 93 yards per game over a three game stretch. If he can stay healthy, Gray could prove to be the one of the best running backs in
the Big 12.

Wide Receiver: C-
After losing top receivers John Harris and Jaxon Shipley, there are newcomers abound at the wide receiver spot. Senior Marcus Johnson needs to become a down field threat after hauling in 27 passes in 2014, and Texas must get contributions from sophomore speedster Armanti Foreman and spring game standout sophomore Lorenzo Joe.

Offensive Line: B-
Continuity is key for any offensive line, and, for a Texas line that allowed 28 sacks last year, there will be a lot more of it in 2015. Four of the five projected starting linemen played in over 10 games last year, and look for fifth-year senior Marcus Hutchins to make a leap at left tackle.

Defensive Line: A-
This group is poised to be anchor of the Longhorns defense this year despite losing All-American defensive tackle Malcom Brown. Junior Hassan Ridgeway harassed quarterbacks to the tune of six sacks in 2014 and will look to wreak havoc in opposing backfields alongside a pair of talented defensive tackles, junior Paul Boyette Jr. and sophomore Poona Ford.

Linebacker: B-
At the linebacker spot, all eyes are on freshman Malik Jefferson. Jefferson was the number four ranked recruit in the nation in 2014 and impressed coaches in the spring game with six tackles and a forced fumble. There will be a steep learning curve for Jefferson and the rest of the Texas linebackers, but there is more than enough talent to make up for it.

Defensive Backs: B
The lone Preseason All-Big 12 player on the Texas roster was senior defensive back Duke Thomas. Thomas, along with junior Dylan Haines and sophomore Jason Hall, will make it tough on receivers throughout the Big 12, but a lack of depth will certainly hurt the Longhorns secondary if any starter gets hurt.

Special Teams: C-
Kicker Nick Rose struggled last year, missing 33 percent of his field goal attempts. However, the senior did show promise on kickoffs, racking up 44 touchbacks. At punter, Texas will start sophomore Mitchell Becker, who averaged 38 yards per attempt in the spring game. This is a unit that needs to show more consistency in 2015.