Five surprises on Texas' depth chart

AUSTIN, Texas -- You knew Texas’ first depth chart for the 2012 season would give the world an answer about the quarterback battle.

Here’s five more things you need to know about the rest of the Longhorns’ two-deep:

1. Defensive tackle

All camp long, Texas coaches have confidently said they have four defensive tackles capable of starting and earning serious playing time.

That’s still true. But the two slated to earn starts against Wyoming aren’t the ones most expected.

Junior Chris Whaley and juco transfer Brandon Moore are Texas’ first-string defensive tackles. Desmond Jackson and Ashton Dorsey, the presumed starters by many, are currently backing them up.

“All four of them are like starters,” Texas coach Mack Brown said. “That’s the most depth we’ve had in a number of years at defensive tackle.”

Whaley is the real surprise, and landing a starting gig is the culmination of a stunning transformation.

When he signed with Texas in 2009, he was a 235-pound running back. Now he’s a 292-pound lineman who can still run a 4.7 40-yard dash.

Whaley appeared in all 12 games last season and earned one start but primarily carved out a role as a situational pass rusher.

“He is most powerful and most effective, to me, on third down because he’s so quick and hard to block,” Brown said. “He can put a lot of pressure on the passer.”

Behind Whaley, Dorsey is the second-string tackle and junior Kyle Kriegel is No. 3.

Moore has impressed since joining the program in January and is in better physical shape than ever in Brown’s estimation.

Jackson and touted freshman Malcom Brown are backing him up. Don’t be surprised if all six play against Wyoming.

2. Tight end

A major question mark from as far back as the start of spring ball remains unanswered.

Texas just hasn’t found a solid No. 1 tight end, but there has been a revelation in camp.

Converted defensive end Greg Daniels is still competing with senior D.J. Grant for the starting job. The depth chart lists Grant “or” Daniels as the top guy.

That Daniels is even in the conversation is impressive by itself. It’s not easy to make a position switch while missing all of spring ball to recover from shoulder surgery.

At 6-foot-5 and 258 pounds -- down from around 280 -- Daniels has a big frame and has shown flashes in his new role.

“We think that we’re seeing some progress,” Brown said. “He’s not near ready to be anointed ‘the answer’ yet. But we’re seeing enough progress, especially in the blocking area. He’s big and strong and we feel like he can help us there.”

The No. 3 tight end is blocker Barrett Matthews, and M.J. McFarland was left off the depth chart.

Why? There were big expectations for the redshirt freshman entering fall camp, particularly as a pass-catcher. There still are, but he’s not there yet as a blocker.

“I talked to [McFarland] a long time yesterday when we were deciding on these positions,” Brown said. “I told him he’s a wide receiver who gained a whole lot of weight and moved into tight end. Sometimes it takes you longer to get the pads low and learn how to block in there.”

3. Kicking game

For the time being, Texas will split its kicking duties between three players. None of them were members of the program at the end of spring ball.

True freshman Nick Jordan is currently the Longhorns’ starting placekicker. True freshman walk-on Nick Rose will handle kickoffs. Newcomer Alex King, a Duke transfer, is in charge of punting.

As for Anthony Fera, the recent Penn State transfer? Brown didn’t have much to say about his injury status other than that his return date remains questionable. The coaching staff won’t get him back on the field and on the depth chart until his groin is 100 percent healed.

Arguably the most impressive newcomer so far, then, has been Rose. Brown said the Dallas Highland Park grad could end up being the best kickoffs guy he’s had in 15 years at Texas.

When UT wrapped up spring practices on April 1, Ben Pruitt and Will Russ were competing for starting jobs. Russ is listed as King’s backup at punter.

Brown wants to have the nation’s best kicking game. He certainly has enough option to work with now.

“We’ve probably got more quality people -- after Anthony gets well -- in our punting and kicking than we’ve ever had,” Brown said. “And that’s amazing from where we were last spring.”

4. Offensive line

Texas’ five starting offensive lineman are no surprise. Those jobs have been locked up since the spring.

But the five players slated to back them up are still a work in progress.

Brown acknowledged that one -- right guard Thomas Ashcraft -- has established himself in fall camp. The other four need work.

That includes right tackle Luke Poehlmann, center Garrett Porter, left guard Sedrick Flowers and left tackle Kennedy Estelle, a true freshman.

“You’re only one snap away from putting one of them into the starting lineup,” Brown said.

5. The new kid

When Major Applewhite began holding summer special teams camps a year ago, it was to find guys like Kyle Ashby.

A 6-foot-1, 235-pound freshman from Brazoswood High in Clute, Texas, Ashby is the Longhorns’ new starting deep snapper for both kicking and punting situations.

He replaces departed senior Alex Zumberge, who snapped in 33 career games for Texas.

Ashby converted a big showing at Texas’ camp into a chance to become a Longhorn.

“He was just unbelievable with his speed and his accuracy,” Brown said. “We felt like he was a guy we wanted to come to Texas, and he wanted to come. It’s worked really well.”