Tag Archives: Malik Jefferson

Can You Blame Texas Players For Leaving Early For The NFL?

There’s been a lot of attrition around the Texas football program for several years. But this is the first time that I can remember where a good chunk of the attrition is coming from players leaving after their junior season to enter the NFL draft. Let’s take a look at who’s gone so far:

  • OT Connor Williams announced almost immediately following the Texas Tech game that he would forego his senior season and not participate in the upcoming bowl game. Williams is projected as a first-round draft pick, and potentially a top-10 pick overall. His decision should have been a no-brainer, and it appears that it was to him as well.
  • DB Holton Hill made a similar announcement recently. Hill’s situation is different because he was suspended for the last few games of the season. His stock was soaring as he was having the best year of his career. Most people expected him to bolt to the NFL anyway, but his suspension pretty much solidified the decision.
  • DB Deshon Elliott’s decision to enter the NFL draft came as somewhat of a surprise to me. Yes, he had a great year and was a Jim Thorpe Award finalist, but I don’t believe his stock is very high. He could potentially improve his stock with another solid year next year, but I guess you can’t blame him for striking while the iron is hot.

Other potential departures we are waiting on announcements from are Malik Jefferson, Kris Boyd, and Michael Dickson.

I fully expect Jefferson to leave, since he has the potential to be a first-round draft pick.

Boyd needs another year, plain and simple. He showed some good signs when he replaced Hill for the final three games, but has plenty of room to improve.

Dickson is a wild card. As a punter, you may not get drafted at all. However, being the Ray Guy award winner as the nation’s top punter will help his stock out. This decision likely just depends on whether Dickson is tired of school or not.

So now that we have the main list of candidates to think about, it’s time to have the discussion of whether they should leave or not.

In my opinion, Williams, Hill, and Jefferson should go. They have a chance to be first or second round picks, and it’s not worth coming back to Texas to risk injury. The only reason why they should even remotely consider coming back is if they have a chance to win a championship. Even the optimistic Longhorns fan knows that isn’t realistic at this point.

As for the rest of the players, can you actually blame them if they decide to leave? I mean, they can make the league minimum salary and still be in better shape than playing for free in college. Could they get better and make more money by being a higher draft pick after next season? Yes. Could they get hurt next season and end their career without making a dime playing football? Absolutely.

As a fan, you always want your best players to stick around for four years. But with the landscape of college football and the NFL changing, it’s hard for me to blame them for making money while they can.

The worst case scenario for them is they go undrafted, get signed as an undrafted free agent to a practice squad and then work their tails off to make the team. The best investment you can make is in yourself, so if you have the talent to play in the NFL, then go after it. These guys can always come back to school if the NFL doesn’t work out, but there’s only so many healthy years they have to play in the NFL.

With that being said, I hope this doesn’t become a trend where players skip out on bowl games if they are entering the NFL draft. The college bowl season is already losing the interest of fans enough as it is, so not having the best players on the field will diminish the relevance of each game even more. If the trend continues, college football as we know it will be changed drastically.

As for Texas players specifically, there’s really no reason for guys to play in the bowl game if they’re going to pursue a career in the NFL. There’s absolutely no value in playing in a mediocre bowl game as a 6-6 team. Yes, the team loyalty factor comes into play, but there are times when you have to look out for yourself as well. The chance to make hundreds of thousands of dollars at a minimum is one of those times, in my opinion.

Photo: Pixabay

E-mail Chase at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter @chaseholik88.

Breakout Defensive Players for Texas to Watch For This Year

A couple weeks ago I told you about the offensive players to look for to have a breakout season in 2017. Honestly, I’m not too worried about the offense this year under Tom Herman, but I do have plenty of concerns about the defense.

The sad thing is the defense won’t have to improve much to be light years better than they’ve been the last two years. But if Texas is going to get back to playing a championship level of defense this year, these are the guys who need to have a breakout year.

PJ Locke

Locke showed glimpses of being a star in the defensive backfield last year. And by all accounts, Herman loves the guy for what he does on and off the field. He’s simply a ball-hawk, and now he’s supposedly taking a leadership role. With a defense severely lacking leadership the last several years, Locke’s name must be called a lot this year if the defense will be greatly improved.

Naashon Hughes

Naashon Hughes is the only senior on my list. He’s always been a guy with great potential in my eyes, but just lacks confidence and consistency. He looked like a force at first under Charlie Strong, but then took steps backward the last couple of years. If Herman puts Hughes in a spot where he can succeed, I expect him to have a great year. As of now, I don’t see Hughes being a guy that gets drafted in next year’s NFL draft, but Herman could change that for him.

Charles Omenihu

Omenihu was one of the prized recruits in Strong’s first full recruiting class. He’s a monster defensive end from a size perspective, but we just haven’t seen a lot from him from a physicality standpoint. With Malcolm Roach likely garnering more double teams, the door could be open for Omenihu to have a big year. With the defensive line potentially being one of the strongest units on the defensive side of the ball, Omenihu may not be the only breakout player. But based on his talent and skills, and the fact that he’s underwhelmed fans under Strong, I feel like he’s ready to breakout.

Holton Hill/Davante Davis/Kris Boyd

I’m throwing all three of these guys together because they are all in the defensive backfield and any one of them could be a big-time contributor. Boyd saw the most action last year, but Hill and Davis are widely believed to have more talent. The problem with Hill and Davis last year was their confidence level. NFL scouts believe all three of them could play in the league in a couple years, but they will have to show more in college. With Herman’s ability to instill confidence in his players, it wouldn’t surprise me if all three of these guys make significant contributions in 2017. And if they do, this defense could be a force for even the best Big 12 offenses.

Not named on my list that most Texas fans were probably looking for is Malik Jefferson. I intentionally omitted him because I really don’t know what to make of his situation. He was the top recruit in the 2015 class, had a great freshman year, but ended up benched the second half of the 2016 season.

It wouldn’t surprise me if Jefferson had a breakout year, but at this point I think the Texas defense has other issues to worry about. Jefferson is one of the most athletic players on the field no matter who Texas plays against, but he doesn’t have the strength to get off blocks most of the time. I’m just not sure if he can put on enough of that strength in one offseason to make a huge jump.

Defense could be the difference between winning six games and ten games for the Longhorns in 2017. If these players have the big breakout years that I’m hoping for, then Texas could be closer to ten wins when it’s all said and done.

E-mail Chase at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter @chaseholik88.

Photo: Pixabay

Leadership for Texas Football Starts Now

Aside from National Signing Day, there isn’t anything to look forward to in the college football world in February for fans. But now is exactly when new leaders are born for football programs.

This is especially true when you’ve got new leadership at the top, which is where Texas is at with Tom Herman as the new head coach. Herman has said he hasn’t watched a second of game film from last season, so everyone has a chance to prove themselves on a clean slate. Now I know most of that is just coach speak. I would hope with his $5 million salary that he would watch film of the team he inherited.

But the point is he’s giving everyone the chance to become a leader. So let’s look back at 2016 for a bit. Does anyone really know who the true leaders were on either side of the ball?

Shane Buechele?

D’Onta Foreman?

Malik Jefferson?

These are the names you heard the most last year, but I really don’t believe players rallied around them and viewed them as true leaders. Buechele was an incoming freshman, so he wasn’t the leader everyone respected at first. Foreman came out of nowhere to have a superb season, so he didn’t have respect early on. Jefferson was the honorary leader of the entire team, mainly because the media handed him the title because of his five-star status in high school.

As with many highly touted players, Jefferson learned the hard way that the stars earned in high school get erased when you get to college. And as a result, the so-called “leader” of the team found himself on the bench halfway through the season because of ineffective play.

With Herman in the fold now, anyone has the chance to step up. The overwhelming majority of the two-deep roster is back in 2017, meaning this will be one of the most experienced teams in the country. Youth is no longer an excuse.

So why is a strong leader necessary for this team? Because every player on the roster needs someone to turn to when things are going badly.

If there were a true leader in 2016, Texas could have won 2-3 more games. Instead, when things went wrong, everyone had their heads down and had no one to turn to. They stood no chance at getting out of a hole when the air went out of the balloon at times.

Early indications are the players are buying in to Herman’s winter workouts and are hungry to do whatever it takes to win. We’ve heard plenty of that chatter in the past, but it always proved to just be chatter.

Leaders are being born on the field at DKR every morning at 6am for winter workouts. The fans don’t know who is stepping up. The media thinks they know, but they don’t. The only ones who know are the players and the coaches. The fans will find out in September.

One thing for sure is leadership will be organic instead of forced based on how Herman operates his winter program. Players are divided into different groups and compete against each other in a handful of drills. The winners of the drills get to walk down a red carpet, get cold Gatorade handed to them by the losing teams, then head inside to have their selection of omelets, eggs, pancakes and a variety of other items.

The losers? Not only do they have to serve the winners, but they are served burnt biscuits, plain yogurt, watery eggs and have to drink from a water hose.

Now I understand these players could easily go out afterward and get a good breakfast from the dorms or anywhere else, but that has been exactly the type of attitude the players have had in recent years. Instead of working hard, they think they can just get whatever they want another way. If the players are truly buying in, then they’ll work harder to walk the red carpet and get served Gatorade. It’s the little things that will add up.

For a team lacking leadership the last half-decade or so, we can only hope one emerges. Will it be Breckyn Hager? Jefferson? John Burt? Kris Boyd? Maybe a freshman early-enrollee?

At this point, it doesn’t matter who the guy is. If everyone truly is working with a clean slate, then classification shouldn’t matter. The number of stars in high school shouldn’t matter. And the minutes played in college up to this point shouldn’t matter.

In theory, Herman shouldn’t have to watch film of his new team to find out who his leaders are. If he does, he will likely learn there wasn’t one last year.

I have no doubt we will hear about a handful of players stepping up this winter and spring and inserting themselves into the leadership role. I won’t buy it until I see it happening on the field and on the sideline.

The media has to write stories, so they are going to run with whatever they hear during the offseason. And for a fan base itching to get back to winning, we will clamor on to any positivity we can.

Unfortunately, the players clamor onto it as well and believe it themselves. That’s where the main problem has been. When they read a story about themselves online, they believe it as being true and don’t think they have to continue working.

Unless Herman can find his leader in February, there won’t be one again in September. And if he doesn’t discover his leader until August or September, Texas will be in big trouble on the field yet again.

E-mail Chase at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter @chaseholik88.

Photo: Wikimedia