AUSTIN, Texas – Texas’ biggest area of concern headed into spring, other than the quarterbacks, is the depth at safety.
Well, that depth is going to get tested quickly. That’s because Adrian Phillips, the heir apparent to Blake Gideon, will be out this spring after undergoing shoulder surgery last month. He is one of three players who will be out for the entire spring.
Defensive end Jackson Jeffcoat will miss the spring after having surgery to prepare his pectoral muscle. Defensive tackle Greg Daniels also had shoulder surgery and is out.
Phillips might be the biggest loss for the Longhorns. The junior does have five starts and has played in 24 of a possible 25 games over his career but still needs seasoning as a safety. The coaching staff also needs to see if he is the right person to line up next to Kenny Vaccaro.
Phillips primarily played in nickel and dime back sets and was backup cornerback. His versatility allowed him to flip between the safety and the corner. He started the first game of the year before yielding to Quandre Diggs at corner.
For 2012, the coaches wanted to work him exclusively at safety. That is the thinnest position on the field and with Sheroid Evans, a potential backup, running track this spring, it means Texas is going to be even thinner when it hits the practice field.
Mykkele Thompson will pick up the slack at the safety spot. Duke Thomas, an early enrollee from the 2012 class, came in as an athlete and has some background as a defensive back. But Texas will most likely keep him at cornerback. So that leaves the burden on Thompson.
At the defensive end position, Texas will have to get Cedric Reed more playing time. The thought headed into spring was that Reggie Wilson, the other backup, was going to see some time at tight end. That will most likely still happen. But Wilson might end up playing both ways.
Chris Whaley had been a defensive end but was moved inside to tackle. Texas coach Mack Brown has said he did not want to move Whaley from tackle back to end.
Defensive coordinator Manny Diaz did throw a few three-man lines out on the field from time to time during the season, and given his plethora of defensive tackles and lack of ends, he might have to work some of those packages during the spring.
At defensive tackle, Daniels was a backup and missing spring means he will not have a chance to move up. Texas is loaded at defensive tackle and will gain one more player in the fall, Malcom Brown. Brown is one of the handful in the class of 2012 not expected to redshirt.