Texas Football: Breaking Down Texas' 2014 Early Enrolles
By enrolling early, three Texas Longhorns have given themselves an extra offseason to get a head start on their college careers. In doing so, at least one of them has increased his chances of contributing as a freshman.
Blake Whiteley, Alex Anderson and Andrew Beck are Texas' lone freshmen participants in spring practice. Whiteley is the most anticipated after being rated as the nation's top junior college tight end, while Anderson and Beck each possess the talent to become impact players before their time is up.
By participating in the first offseason under the new regime, each has shown the commitment to advance that timeline.
TE Blake Whiteley
Of Texas' three early enrollees, Blake Whiteley has the best shot of immediately breaking into the rotation.
First off, Whiteley arrives on campus already built with the frame of a college tight end. The JUCO transfer from Butte College stands 6'5" and weighs 242 pounds, which has allowed him to run with the first-team as an edge blocker (wears No. 80).
But just as important as his readiness to play is the ample opportunity for Whiteley to contribute in his first year on campus. Charlie Strong has already stated that he wants his tight ends to be more involved in the offense, and no traditional Longhorn tight end caught more than three passes in 2013.
Whiteley doesn't have to be the next Jermichael Finley. He just has to be reliable enough to reel in check-downs when needed.
OG Alex Anderson
As he begins his college career, guard Alex Anderson has high expectations for himself, telling ESPN's Max Olson, "I'll come in and be a high-impact player right off the bat." While that may be a bit presumptuous, given Rami Hammad's development, Anderson certainly fits Joe Wickline's mold for an offensive lineman.
One of the most successful position coaches in the game, Wickline covets versatility across his offensive lines (subscription required). If you're a guard that can play either side or moonlight at tackle in a pinch, then you're right up his alley.
This is why Wickline recruited the 6'5" Anderson to play at Oklahoma State before both decided to take their services to Texas. At that size, he fits anywhere he is needed so long as he can grasp the system.
That said, it could be take another year before Anderson can make meet the standards he has set for himself. We've already mentioned Hammad's emergence, while junior Sedrick Flowers' claim to left guard can be written in ink. As far as backups, both Curtis Riser and Darius James will be difficult to jump.
Barring injury, that makes Anderson a redshirt candidate.
LB Andrew Beck
Joining a group with a lot of depth and returning experience, inside linebacker Andrew Beck is headed for a redshirt next season.
The 'Horns return all of their starters from last season, including three that can play middle linebacker. Coming off of breakout seasons, Dalton Santos and Steve Edmond will be fixtures in the rotation, while a healthy(?) Jordan Hicks is always part of the discussion.
For Beck, that depth and experience means plenty of learning between this spring and the next. SB Nation's Bud Elliott likes his size and sure tackling, and 247Sports.com has him as an above average talent across the board. However, coverage is an area of concern, which limits his ability to play outside in the Big 12.
Unless Texas decides to use him on special teams, expect Beck to redshirt before making a push for backup duty in 2015.