Despite Texas’ 5–7 record last season, there wasn’t exactly a dearth of talent on the 40 Acres. The Longhorns sported top-20 recruiting classes each year from 2014–16 according to 247Sports, totaling 30 four-or-five-star prospects. Here is who the burnt orange need to replace — and who will take their place — heading into 2017.
The biggest hole in the Longhorns’ roster will be left by consensus All-American and Doak Walker Award winner D’Onta Foreman. The running back bulldozed his way to 2,028 rushing yards and 15 touchdowns last season prior to being drafted by the Houston Texans in the third round.
In his place stands a pair of backs who look to shoulder a majority of the load in the backfield. Junior Chris Warren sprinted nearly 400 yards in the first four games of 2016, but saw his season cut short with a knee injury. And his woes continued in early July when Warren was diagnosed with the mumps along with four other Longhorns, missing roughly a week of summer workouts.
Alongside Warren will be sophomore Kyle Porter. The Katy product saw little playing time last season behind Foreman and Warren, but has shined during offseason workouts. He earned the coveted “Freak of the Week” award from head coach Tom Herman in the first week of April, and projects to be the top running back on the depth chart at the beginning of fall practice.
“Congrats to (Porter) for playing with tremendous effort and toughness,” Herman tweeted in April. “If you lead like that every day, they will follow.”
On the defensive side of the ball, Texas will see significant losses on the defensive line. Both defensive linemen Paul Boyette Jr. and Bryce Cottrell graduated in the spring, leaving a sizable hole in the interior of the Longhorns’ D-line. Both Boyette and Cottrell tallied 10 or more contests in 2016, with Boyette finishing the year with 5.5 tackles for loss.
Filling in for Boyette and Cottrell will be a rotating cast of lineman, most notably sophomore Malcolm Roach – who earned praise from Herman during spring workouts – and senior Poona Ford. Expect plenty of guys to get playing time next year, as Herman stressed the need for numerous bodies at the position at Big 12 Media Days.
“You can’t play your linemen 80 plays a game,” Herman said. “You just can’t. We need depth.”
Two former junior college players will make their way to Austin in 2017, and each have the chance to make an immediate impact. Gary Johnson, a linebacker from Dodge City Community College, compiled 82 tackles last season and made a name for himself as one of the top players in JuCo.
“(Johnson) is a sideline-to-sideline, blitz-the-quarterback type of guy,” Herman said. “He’ll find a role for us because he will hit you and he can run.”
Joining him will be Jamari Chisholm, a towering defensive tackle who had 57 tackles this past season for Northeastern Oklahoma A&M. Expect both Chisholm and Johnson to contribute heavily to Texas’ defensive front early in the year.
The losses of Foreman and much of Texas’ defensive line depth will create a vacuum for playing time during fall camp. And now, Herman looks to have a crowded depth chart to sort out prior to kickoff against Maryland on Sept. 2.