And that’s just fine for both Austin Lake Travis quarterback Hudson Card — the aforementioned “face” — and coach Tom Herman. This is Ehlinger’s team to lead and Thompson is poised to step up in a pinch.
Though Card will likely be relegated to promising understudy, the rest of the Longhorns’ eight early enrollees have a chance to earn some playing time.
“We recruit the skill and combo guys, so we’re talking about non-lineman and non -quarterbacks, and if we’re doing a good job we expect them to come in and play and contribute, certainly on special teams at the very least,” Herman said last month. “With all those young guys, we want them to come in, especially those early guys, and be able to contribute in the fall.”
Here’s a look at a few freshmen already on campus who could make an impact come September.
DB Xavion Alford, Shadow Creek
The 2019 campaign was brutal for the Texas secondary. Decimated by injuries and weakened by inexperience, the Longhorns allowed 292.5 passing yards per game, more than all but three FBS teams.
There remains a tremendous amount of talent for defensive coordinator Chris Ash and cornerbacks coach Jay Valai to work with, but Alford should at least benefit from playing under a pair of new coaches who arrive without any preconceived notions.
A knee injury suffered in last year’s season opener cost Alford his senior season. But his performance as a junior — 70 tackles, six interceptions, 21 passes defended for the 15-1 Sharks — was good enough that he was No. 9 in the 247Sports composite rankings.
“Physical, athletic,” Herman said of Alford. “He was hurt most of his senior year but his rehab has gone well. We expect him to be cleared when he gets here.”
Alford’s versatility is key, as Texas can throw him out just about anywhere if needed. With senior safety Brandon Jones gone there’s an opportunity for Alford to earn some reps at safety or nickel.
DL Vernon Broughton, Cypress Ridge
Texas needs playmakers in the trenches.
Malcolm Roach, Ta’Quon Graham and Keondre Coburn, last year’s starters, combined for just 8½ sacks. The Alamo Bowl rout of Utah provided some cause for optimism though, as Texas recorded five sacks and 13 tackles for loss, with linebacker and edge-rusher Joseph Ossai racking up three and six, respectively.
Ash prefers a four-man front, meaning Texas will likely pivot away from the three-man configuration it used under Todd Orlando. Coburn, Graham, Ossai and Moro Ojomo could receive the lion’s share of reps, but four-star All-American Broughton is capable of putting some pressure on the backups.
Broughton is an imposing freshman at 6-foot-5, 285 pounds, and he’s still extremely raw, having only made the full-time transition football as a sophomore.
“Really athletic, basketball background,” Herman said. “The kid keeps getting bigger and bigger every time I see him and he has a great motor.”
WR Troy Omeire, Fort Bend Austin
The departure of seniors Devin Duvernay and Collin Johnson means there will be plenty of potential-laden wideouts jockeying for targets.
Junior Brennan Eagles led all returning receivers with 32 receptions for 522 yards and six touchdowns, though he tailed off following a blistering start. And Malcolm Epps, Marcus Washington, Kennedy Lewis and Al’vonte Woodard will all be in front of Omeire on the depth chart when spring ball begins in March.
But there’s a chance for Omeire to rise fast. He cuts a Johnson-like figure at 6-5, 202 pounds, and will battle the team’s other slew of big-bodied receivers for reps on the outside.
“Great ball skills, great toughness,” Herman said.
His versatility could be the key to playing time. As a senior Omeire recorded 65 catches for 906 yards and 10 touchdowns, rushed for 364 yards and five touchdowns and completed six passes for 38 yards.