August 18, 2009

Countdown to kickoff: No. 13 Emmanuel Acho

Name: Emmanuel Acho

Position: Linebacker

Classification: Sophomore

Prep credentials: The former Dallas St. Mark's star was a three-star prospect (5.7) who was ranked as the nation's No.38 outside linebacker by Rivals. Acho was also ranked as the state's No.44 overall prospect by Lone Star Recruiting, while Rivals ranked him as the state's No.60 player.

Click here to see Acho's high school film

2008 stats: The true freshman played in 10 games as a reserve linebacker/special teams ace, recording 11 tackles and a forced fumble.

2008 Honors: None

Best game in 2008: When you only make 11 tackles in a season, it's often hard to have a stand alone game, but Acho showed some playmaking flash with a five-tackle performance in El Paso early in the season.

Scouting Report: Acho is one of a handful of young players expected to play an important role on the Texas defense this year after a relatively quiet 2008 campaign, which means that he's flying completely under most radars.

At 6-2, 235 pounds, the sophomore linebacker has the kind of athleticism and playmaking skill to emerge as an impact player at the collegiate level. The interesting thing about Acho is that he was never truly a dominant player while playing in the private school ranks in high school, despite all of the physical tools. Perhaps he was simply bored by the competition because he's looked like a different player from the moment that he arrived on the 40 Acres.

From an athletic skill standpoint, there's not much that Acho can't do. He's a legit high 4.5/low 4.6 guy in the 40 that moves well laterally and can play sideline-to-sideline. He's currently getting a lot of snaps at the strong-side linebacker position and there's no question that he has some pass rush potential off the edge. Look for the Longhorns to use him as a stand-up rusher/blitzer quite a bit this season because he has the type of burst and closing speed to create big plays for the defense.

Of course, one of the things that the coaching staff loves about Acho is that he's versatile enough to be able to drop back into pass coverage with relative ease. Although he's at his best when he's playing forward, Acho is one of the team's top linebackers in pass coverage and that's a trait that will earn him favor with Will Muschamp, who is always looking to disguise his scheme with versatile personnel.

All of the pieces are in place for Acho to become a major piece of the Texas defense for the next three years. Perhaps the only question now is whether he'll be able to deliver the goods? The talent and athletic ability aren't a question -those are strengths. On paper he should be an All-Big 12 caliber linebacker before his career ends, but he's been a player that's always looked good on paper. The Longhorns are hoping to learn in 2009 that he cashes in some of that potential that everyone always talks about.

The big hope… Acho was originally projected as qa bit of a project that might take as many as three years to develop, but he proven to be much further ahead of the curve than anyone first realized and he emerges as a playmaking piece for the defense at SAM linebacker, while becoming a cornerstone for the position in 2010.

The big worry… The three-year project in theory turns out to be a three-year project in reality, as Acho proves to be a good special teams player, but is still another year of development away from being an impact player on a Top 10 team.

Did you know? Each summer Acho takes mission trips to Nigeria, performing mission work and providing medical care.

NFL Scouting report:"That's No.18, right? I remember him from their special teams units. He's a good looking kid in his uniform, I know that. He just looks like the kind of kid that Will Muschamp can do great things with. I can't tell you a lot about him, but I'd bet lunch that we'll be talking about him in the future. He is a guy that I remember."

The bottom line: Acho has been getting a lot of reps with the first-team defensive packages with senior Jared Norton still taking it easy as he recovers from a shoulder procedure in the spring. Through the first week of practice, Acho has looked very strong. Like all young players, it's all about consistency with him. However, if he continues to improve throughout camp, he could prove to be an important player in this defense. All that's left now is for him to prove his legitimacy in an actual game.

No.14 John Chiles
No.15 Kheeston Randall
No.16 - David Snow
No.17 - Curtis Brown
No.18 - Malcolm Williams
No.19 - Keenan Robinson
No.20 - Vondrell McGee
No.21 - Blake Gideon
No.22 - Adam Ulatoski
No.23 - Ben Alexander
No.24 - James Kirkendoll
No.25 - Jared Norton

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