Maryland Football: Who impressed this spring for Texas?

Oct 15, 2016; Austin, TX, USA; The Texas Longhorns take the field prior to kickoff against the Iowa State Cyclones at Darrell K Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium. The Longhorns won 27-6. Mandatory Credit: Brendan Maloney-USA TODAY Sports
Oct 15, 2016; Austin, TX, USA; The Texas Longhorns take the field prior to kickoff against the Iowa State Cyclones at Darrell K Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium. The Longhorns won 27-6. Mandatory Credit: Brendan Maloney-USA TODAY Sports /

The Maryland football program has one of the toughest schedules in college football this coming fall.

It starts off with a very tough challenge in the form of facing Texas in Austin in the season opener.

The Longhorns were one of the most storied programs in all of college football in the early 2000s. Quarterback Vince Young led the team to a national championship in 2005 when Texas upset USC in the Rose Bowl.

Mack Brown accumulated a 158-48 record during his time in Austin. He coached the Longhorns to a bowl game in all but one of his 16 seasons with the school.

Brown resigned following the 2013 season and hasn’t returned to coaching.

Former Louisville coach Charlie Strong followed Brown beginning in 2014, but had one of the bleaker three-year periods that Texas has seen in quite some time. Following the 2016 season, Strong was relieved of his duties and Houston coach Tom Herman was hired as the successor.

Herman only has two years of head coaching experience, but he led Houston to a 22-4 record during that time. He also spent time as the quarterback coach and offensive coordinator at Ohio State from 2012 to 2014.

The former Cougars head coach has had a track record of being a great recruiter, so Texas could see a rise back to prominence under Herman. The only question mark is how soon that could occur.

Herman has gone through his first spring as the Longhorns head coach, so we decided to take a look at a few players that have performed well.

Poona Ford (junior, defensive tackle)

  • 2016 stats: 54 tackles (40 solo & 5.5 for loss)/four quarterback hurries
  • What they’re saying: “Though it struggled at times last season, this Texas defensive line is one of the most talented units in the league. Malcolm Roach is growing into a standout and Poona Ford is All-Big 12 caliber. As part of its three-man front, Texas has plenty of depth and versatility, too. This should be a dominant group.” – Jake Trotter who covers the Big 12 Conference for ESPN
  • Outlook: Ford is one of the main reasons why Texas’ defensive line could be the top unit in the Big 12. The senior defensive tackle is a stout run stuffer that has accumulated 11.5 tackles-for-loss over the past two seasons. He’s a very strong athlete and will be someone that Maryland will have to account for on every play.

Shane Buechele (sophomore, quarterback)

  • 2016 stats: 236-of-391 (60.7 percent)/21 touchdowns & 11 interceptions/
  • What they’re saying: “I saw growth in him,” Beck said. “The things we require our quarterback to do and to be is different for him and for what he was asked to do and to be last year. It’s a process, and he’s in that process right now. He hasn’t arrived by any means, but he is growing.” – Texas offensive coordinator Tim Beck (quote via ESPN’s Max Olson)
  • Outlook: Buechele had a pretty impressive season as a true freshman in 2016. He displayed great arm strength and tremendous pocket presence. The Longhorns have a large portion of their skill position players returning aside from star running back D’Onta Foreman, so the weapons will be at Buechele’s disposal. Herman hasn’t set in stone that Buechele will be his starting quarterback, but it would be a big surprise if he wasn’t.

Devin Duvernay (sophomore, wide receiver)

  • 2016 stats: 20 receptions for 412 yards & three touchdowns
  • What they’re saying: “Duvernay’s role as the slot receiver is one of the most pivotal on offense for the Longhorns. Demarcus Ayers in 2015 and Linell Bonner in 2016 caught 97 and 98 passes, respectively, for Herman’s Houston outfit, and Duvernay is the closest thing Herman has to a player like Ayers in terms of possessing a versatile skill set with the ability to stretch the defense vertically, work underneath and handle the ball in the running game.” – Jeff Howe of Horns247
  • Outlook: If the defensive line is the biggest position of strength, wide receiver could be classified as a close second. Senior Armanti Foreman led the way in 2016, but Duvernay wasn’t too far behind. Duvernay had just eight less yards on 14 fewer receptions for Texas. The Sachse (Tx.) native is a true deep threat for the Longhorns and caught all three of his touchdowns in 2016 from 63 yards or deeper. If Duvernay gets behind the defense, he’s as good as gone.

PJ Locke (junior cornerback)

  • 2016 stats: 33 tackles (25 solo & 2.0 for loss)/six pass breakups/two interceptions
  • What they’re saying: “Locke is primed to be one of the leaders in the secondary, already taking a captain’s mentality and building off the successful second half of last season he had. Locke is up 15 pounds from the end of the fall and has secured his spot on the No. 1 defense. As 247Sports’ Jeff Howe points out, he’ll be “one of the more valuable” members of the defense next season.” – Horns247
  • Outlook: Locke looks to be the stabilizing force in the Texas secondary entering the 2017 season. If you watch tape, it’s clear that he has very active hands and also is a strong tackler. Locke plays well against the run, which is partially due to his closing speed. It wouldn’t be surprising if Locke drew the assignment of covering star wideout D.J. Moore in September.

Collin Johnson (sophomore, wide receiver)

  • 2016 stats: 28 receptions for 315 yards & three touchdowns
  • What they’re saying: “Johnson will play into the boundary and be counted on to win one-on-one battles on the outside. The rapport he’s been able to build with Shane Buechele going back to last spring could pay huge dividends for the Longhorns now that both are being counted on to be focal points of the offense.” – Jeff Howe of Horns247
  • Outlook: Johnson is another wideout that could rise up the depth chart this fall. He has a very large frame at 6’6 and should be a huge asset in the red zone. In a win over Texas Tech last November, Johnson hauled in an 11-yard touchdown pass in the corner of the end zone with a defender draped all over him. It’s safe to say that Buechele is going to have a ton of options, so the Maryland secondary will have to be on their toes.

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