Spring football inches closer on the 2023 calendar as February trickles towards March. The state of Texas is primed for another memorable year at the FBS level with UTSA coming off another C-USA title and TCU becoming the first team from Texas to reach a national championship game since Colt McCoy’s Longhorns. There are 13 FBS teams in Texas now with Sam Houston moving up. Houston is now in the Big 12, while UTSA, North Texas, and Rice move to the AAC.
Dave Campbell’s Texas Football will look at the 10 best players at each position on the football field continuing with cornerbacks and nickelbacks. Incoming transfers are not eligible.
- Running backs
- Wide receivers
- Tight ends
- Offensive line
- Defensive tackles
- Edge rushers
1. JOSH NEWTON, TCU
2022 review: 35 tackles, 2.5 TFL, 3 INT, 12 PBU
Newton was first-team All-Big 12 and All-Texas in his first season on campus at TCU after transferring from Louisiana-Monroe. Newton started each of TCU’s 15 games in 2022 finishing second on the team in pass breakups and interceptions. He returned one of those interceptions for a touchdown in a win over Iowa State. Newton is the clear-cut No. 1 cornerback for the Horned Frogs with Thorpe Award winner Tre-Vius Hodges-Tomlinson off to the NFL.
2. JAHDAE BARRON, TEXAS
2022 review: 78 tackles, 11.5 TFL, 1 sack, 2 INT, 3 PBU, 1 FR
Barron is the best nickelback in Texas and the most productive defensive back in Texas. The fourth-year defensive back from Pflugerville Connally started nine games in 2022 and recorded a statistic in nearly every defensive category. He led the Longhorns in tackles for loss and was fourth in tackles. The former three-star prospect was honorable All-Big 12. Barron returned his lone fumble recovery 48 yards for a touchdown in a loss to TCU.
3. RIDGE TEXADA, NORTH TEXAS
2022 review: 43 tackles, 3 TFL, 3 INT, 15 PBU
Texada was a first-team All-Conference USA selection after a strong sophomore year. His 15 pass breakups were the most in the conference and in the Lone Star State during the 2022 season. Texada earned C-USA Defensive Player of the Week honors in early October after recording four pass breakups and two interceptions in a win over FAU. He returned one of those picks for a score and totaled 118 return yards in that game.
4. TYREEK CHAPPELL, TEXAS A&M
2022 review: 44 tackles, 2.5 TFL, 8 PBU
Chappell might be a first round NFL draft pick in 2024. He’s that highly regarded by scouts after two stellar seasons at Texas A&M. The Pennsylvania product forced his way into a starting role in a talented secondary as a true freshman. He wasn’t as impactful as a sophomore, in large part because opponents avoided his side of the field. Texas A&M led the nation in pass defense despite struggling to a five-win season. Chappell and North Carolina transfer Tony Grimes provide the Aggies with excellent cover corners in 2023.
5. MALIK DUNLAP, TEXAS TECH
2022 review: 33 tackles, 1 INT, 12 PBU
Dunlap developed into an All-Big 12 performer during his second season in Lubbock. He appeared in 12 of 14 games with 11 starts at cornerback. He was amongst the Big 12 leaders with 12 pass breakups, which was the most by a Texas Tech defender since 2014. It was the fifth highest total for pass breakups at Texas Tech since 2005. Dunlap only allowed 33 completions on 65 targets.
6. RYAN WATTS, TEXAS
2022 review: 51 tackles, 4 TFL, 1 sack, 1 INT, 3 PBU
Watts was an honorable mention All-Big 12 selection in his first season at Texas after beginning his career at Ohio State. The 6-3 Little Elm product was the Longhorns’ best cover man by the end of the season. He’ll patrol the boundary side of the field for Texas as a senior in 2023. Watts played in 19 games over two seasons as a Buckeye.
7. ALEX HOGAN, HOUSTON
2022 review: Injured half the season
Hogan’s return to the lineup is good news for the Cougars defense in 2023. He appeared in six games with five starts before missing the final seven games of the season due to a knee injury. Hogan recorded 10 pass breakups and 20 tackles in those six games. The 10 PBUs were the most through six contests at Houston since 2015.
8. NICKTROY FORTUNE, UTSA
2022 review: 41 tackles, 4 TFL, 5 PBU, 1 FF
Fortune worked himself into the Roadrunners defense as a first-year transfer from West Virginia where he played in 29 games with 19 starts as a cornerback for the Mountaineers. He’ll be asked to cover the opponent’s best receiver in 2023 with Corey Mayfield Jr. out of eligibility. Fortune needs to be a stabilizing force for a Roadrunners secondary that loses a few starters.
9. DENNIS BARNES, UTEP
2022 review: 43 tackles, 3 TFL, 6 PBU
Barnes is a productive nickelback for Dana Dimel’s Miners. The JUCO transfer was an honorable mention All-Conference USA defender for the second year in a row. Barnes’ numbers were down slightly in 2022 while UTEP’s win total dipped from seven in 2021 to five in 2022. He’ll need to be more of a playmaker in 2023 for the Miners to reach bowl eligibility.
10. JORDAN DUNBAR, RICE
2022 review: 25 tackles, 10 PBU
Dunbar was an early contributor for Rice as a redshirt freshman in 2021. The New Yorker was named All-Freshman C-USA by the coaches after recording nine pass breakups. He upped that number by one during a strong sophomore campaign. He hasn’t recorded an interception yet in his career.
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