There’s plenty of pressure on head coach Tom Herman to get the program back moving in the right direction in 2017. And to do that, Texas will need to see an increase in production from members of the Longhorn roster who didn’t quite live up to their billing last year. Here are five players who need to bounce back for the Longhorns this season:
Most Texas fans probably still remember the jaw-dropping hit Jefferson delivered on Josh Adams, Notre Dame running back, in the 2015 season opener against the Fighting Irish in South Bend. The highly-touted recruit from Poteet had thrust himself onto the national stage in only his first college game and looked to be on his way to stardom. Jefferson no doubt has star potential, but an underwhelming sophomore season in 2016 now leaves the junior linebacker with plenty to prove. Jefferson’s strength is rushing the passer, but he hasn’t played much out on the edge thus far. Look for how defensive coordinator Todd Orlando decides to utilize Jefferson in the Longhorns’ new defense this season.
Chris Warren III
Warren injured his knee in the fourth game of last season against Oklahoma State and missed the rest of the year. The junior running back also injured his hamstring in March and missed the rest of spring practice. But it’s not as if Warren wasn’t a productive player before the knee injury. In just four games, Warren ran for 366 yards and three touchdowns. With D’Onta Foreman now in the NFL, Warren is the leader in the backfield for the Longhorns and must stay healthy if he wants to follow in Foreman’s footsteps.
The Achilles heel of the Texas defense last season was the secondary, in part due to inconsistency from Longhorn cornerbacks. One of the corners who looked poised for a breakout sophomore year was Hill, who was an All-Big 12 Honorable Mention in 2015. But Hill regressed from a promising freshman season and only played in five games in 2016. Similar for many of his fellow junior teammates on the roster, 2017 offers Hill a chance to rebound from an underwhelming sophomore performance and make an impact.
By his own admission, Vahe knows he needs to bounce back in 2017. He lost his starting job for three games after starting the first seven games of the season. And during spring practice in March, Vahe delved into the struggles he had last season.
“My mind’s been on the wrong path,” Vahe said. “My effort really wasn’t there. It really wasn’t what was needed for the team at that moment. But I’m on a different road right now.”
The junior left guard has the physical tools and plenty of potential, but he needs to improve this season to hold down his spot next to All-American Connor Williams in the fall.
Wide receiver may be the Longhorns’ deepest position on the roster. From sophomores Collin Johnson and Devin Duvernay to junior Jerrod Heard, Texas is loaded with talent on the perimeter. Lost in the thick of all this seems to be junior Burt, who shined as a freshman before disappearing his sophomore season. Burt struggled catching the ball in 2016 and ultimately lost his starting job. The track star can still be a factor in a crowded receiver core if he can build on the progress he showed as a freshman.