Every year heading into a new season there is talk about which players are primed for a breakout season. Last year D’Onta Foreman came out of nowhere to rush for 2,000 yards for the Longhorns. A couple years ago it was largely unknown John Harris who exceeded his career receiving production in his senior season alone.
So who are the top candidates we could see have a breakout season in 2017? Let’s take a look.
I’m throwing Foreman on this list simply because of what his twin brother did last year. Armanti was always the better player growing up and was more highly recruited than D’Onta. Seeing his brother leave school early to be a third round pick in the NFL draft should light a fire under him.
He’s basically experienced the entire NFL draft process now and knows what he has to do to get there. It also helps that Tom Herman supposedly told him and a couple other players to work their tails off this offseason and he would find ways to feed them the ball. If Armanti doesn’t have a good season, he will only have himself to blame.
The true sophomore Johnson already has an NFL frame and talent. He just has to be put in a position to succeed, which he wasn’t for the most part in 2016. It was clear later in the year that Johnson was Shane Buechele’s go-to receiver. Another year of work in the offseason should make them a dangerous combination for Big 12 opponents.
I’m going to go out on a limb with this pick. Vahe is a right guard who lost his starting job a year ago, after starting almost every game as a true freshman. Due to some attrition in the offseason and an apparently rejuvenated Vahe, I feel like he’s going to be an asset at the guard position. It’s not a position that gets a lot of the glory, but it will be evident if there are running lanes on the right side of the line throughout the season.
The obvious choice for a breakout player is sophomore quarterback Shane Buechele. He had a solid freshman season but was really overshadowed by a 5-win season and a 2,000-yard rusher. Herman is known for developing quarterbacks and running an offense that fits their skill set, so that should bode well for Buechele’s development. Since it appears Texas isn’t going to land a viable graduate transfer to compete for the job, it’s Buechele’s to lose, and it’s really not even close.
A notable name I didn’t put on my list is running back Chris Warren. He’s got the potential to be a 1,000 yard rusher, but I don’t think he can stay healthy long enough to become one. He will end up splitting his carries with Kyle Porter and other backup running backs, so the yards and statistics won’t be there. Of course, this likely changes if he does put together an injury-free season for the first time in his Longhorn career. I expect Warren to contribute heavily in Herman’s offense, but the question is how long he will be able to.
We all notice breakout players when the season is going on, but what we don’t see is the work those players are putting in now to achieve that. These four players are the ones that I consider to have had the best work ethic this offseason and in their careers, so it will show up in the fall if the work is going on now behind the scenes.
Who am I missing, Longhorns fans?
E-mail Chase at chase [dot] holik [at] campuspressbox [dot] com and follow him on Twitter @chaseholik88.