Players to Watch – Texas Longhorns
One of the most scrutinized coaches in all of college football is Mack Brown at Texas. He is at a recruiting mecca, a school with tradition, has a national title, but always seems to find a way to be put under the microscope and deservedly so with the lack luster teams put on the field with NFL talent. The 2013 campaign will be no different especially on the defensive side of the ball for the Longhorns. A perennial favorite to win the Big 12, the Longhorns are looking to make a move back to the top and meet the expectations set by the players on their roster.
#6 – Quandre Diggs – CB
5’10” – 200 lbs. – JR
I typically try to find the players under the spotlight during this series but it is hard to look past a player that has been on the field since arriving on campus as such a highly recruited player and produced for a team. Quandre Diggs has played in all 26 games during his career and started 24 of them at cornerback. A second team All Big 12 selection last year by various publications backed up his unanimous Freshman All American season in the 2011 campaign.
Strengths – Diggs has been an impact player at the cornerback position since he walked on campus for the Longhorns. He possesses great instincts and recognition of receivers while in his back pedal and is aggressive at attacking the ball down the field or the man. Diggs is smooth in transition when changing direction with sharp cuts and hard breaks allowing him to attack downhill. He has a strong upper body and hands which allows him to control receivers down the field or off the line when asked to do so.
Weaknesses – As physical as Diggs is once the ball is in the air down the field, he is the complete opposite when coming up in run support. He avoids contact with the blockers or gives up too easy and lunges when making a tackle at an oncoming ball carrier. In his back pedal, he tends to stand up too high which allows receivers to get space on quick hitter or quick running routes.
Overall – Diggs is entering his true junior year so he has two years of eligibility left but with another good season, he will look very hard at entering the draft as the NFL is a cornerback needy league. Diggs comes from great genetics as he is the brother of Quinten Jammer a 10 year NFL veteran. Diggs needs to improve his help in run support and become a better tackler inside the 10 yard frame work this year. He is solid in an off man or zone coverage scheme where he utilizes the bail technique which allows him to see the ball and man in front of him. Diggs will be defending the oppositions best receiver game in and game out so the spotlight will be directly on him to make plays in a passing conference. The added element that Diggs will bring to the next level is a lethal return man with the ability to take a return the distance.
#8 – Jaxon Shipley – WR
6’1” – 195 lbs. – JR
Shipley’s bar was set high once he committed to Texas after his brother’s All American career concluded but Jaxon has produced at a high level since stepping on the field for the Longhorns. He is a two time Honorable Mention WR in the Big 12 and is only 18 receptions from joining the Top Ten list in Longhorn history after only two seasons. If the Longhorns quarterback play can become more consistent, look for Shipley to have a big year from the slot position.
Strengths – It isn’t a surprise that Shipley is polished in the fundamentals as a wide receiver with a father as a coach and his brother an NFL wide receiver. Shipley is understands spacing when running routes from the slot or split out wide which allows him to set up the defender and use sharp cuts to create space creating a throwing lane. Once the ball is in the air, Shipley is aggressive in going after the ball and is a “hands” catcher and not a “body” catcher.
Weakness – Shipley has a thin frame and will need to add some upper body strength to compete at the next level versus press coverage. As a blocker on the edge, his lack of strength allows defenders to push him back into the play or shed and make the play when coming his way.
Overall – Shipley is a joy to watch due to being a technician when running routes and on the football field with a non-stop motor. His upper body strength will come with filling out only being a true junior but has the ability to be an effective slot receiver at the next level. With the running game emphasis at Texas this next year, Shipley will get plenty of one on one match ups with safeties coming down in the box which should lead to plenty of big plays for the junior wide receiver.
You can see Diggs and Shipley begin the year on August 31st at Darrell K Royal Memorial Stadium.