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CollegeFootballNews.com 2012 Preview & Analysis - Texas Longhorns
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Texas, it's okay to start playing up to your talent level again.
Head coach: Mack Brown
15th year: 141-39
28th year overall: 222-108-1
Off: 23, Def. 19, ST 1
Lettermen Lost: 20
Ten Best Texas Players
1. DE Jackson Jeffcoat, Jr.
2. DE Alex Okafor, Sr.
3. FS Kenny Vaccaro, Sr.
4. RB Malcolm Brown, Soph.
5. LB Jordan Hicks, Jr.
6. OG Mason Walters, Jr.
7. LB Steve Edmond, Soph.
8. CB Quandre Diggs, Soph.
9. LB Demarco Cobbs, Jr.
10. RB Joe Bergeron, Soph.
Sep. 1 Wyoming
Sep. 8 New Mexico
Sep. 15 at Ole Miss
Sep. 22 OPEN DATE
Sep. 29 at Oklahoma St
Oct. 6 West Virginia
Oct. 13 Oklahoma (Dallas)
Oct. 20 Baylor
Oct. 27 at Kansas
Nov. 3 at Texas Tech
Nov. 10 Iowa State
Nov. 17 OPEN DATE
Nov. 24 TCU
Dec. 1 at Kansas State
In 14 years as the Texas head coach, Mack Brown has lost a grand total of 39 games with 12 of them coming over the last two seasons. To put this in perspective, Texas lost 12 games from 2003 to 2009, a span of seven straight seasons going a phenomenal 79-12.
And after a bit of a hiccup, now there's absolutely no excuse to not be back at a national title level again.
It wasn't all Garrett Gilbert's fault, but he came to represent the problems that knocked the Longhorns down from their elite status. The current SMU Mustang came to Texas as an All-World quarterback prospect, but the coaching staff was used to mobile options like Vince Young and Colt McCoy and didn't seem to be able to get the most out of the star prospect. Gilbert struggled, didn't get any help from the rest of the offense, was replaced, and then all of a sudden Texas became very, very mediocre against the better teams.
The defense was tremendous last season – finishing first in total defense, run defense and pass defense while finishing second in scoring D – but if you can't put up points in the high-powered Big 12, you can't win. Gilbert was quickly pushed aside for young options David Ash and Case McCoy, and while they weren't miserable, the offense simply couldn't score with just five points coming against Missouri, 13 against Kansas State, and failing to hit 28 points in six of the last eight games. Texas brought a knife to gun fights against Oklahoma, Oklahoma State and Baylor, with those three losses turning out to be the only games the D allowed more than 25 points.
But enough is enough. There's too much talent, too much experience, too much athleticism and too many outstanding recruiting classes in a row for 2012 to not be a special season. So now it comes down to this for Brown after his two straight duds; either Texas wins at least ten games and gets back to a BCS game, or else no coaching staff in America will have gotten less out of its team.
Where's the glaring weakness? Outside of quarterback, Texas is as good or better talent and athletic-wise than at least 120 other FBS teams.
Running back? Check. Malcolm Brown was an all-everything recruit with franchise pro back skills, and thumping Joe Bergeron might be every bit as productive when he gets his chances.
Wide receiver? Check. The tight end situation might be a little iffy, but Mike Davis, Jaxon Shipley, Marquise Goodwin, Miles Onyegbuie and a cast of seemingly thousands will blow up if the quarterback play is merely competent.
Offensive line? Check. It might be a year away from truly being special, but three good starters are back from a line that wasn't all that bad in a rebuilding year and gets an upgrade from the JUCO ranks at left tackle with the addition of Donald Hawkins.
And then there's the defense that will replace five starters with five better athletes. Unofficially, there won't be a faster back seven in America now that Demarco Cobbs will take on a full-time linebacking job to go along with warp speed all across the board in the secondary.
The defensive line will boast a pair of NFL defensive ends in Alex Okafor and Jackson Jeffcoat, while freak-of-nature JUCO talent Brandon Moore is about to anchor things on the inside for a run defense that's a mortal lock to finish in the top five.
The kicking game is a major concern with true freshman Nick Jordan needing to step up and become an instant star at placekicker, and the quarterback situation is still a question mark – more on that in a moment – this team is so good, so talented and so deep that it should roll out of bed and come up with double-digit victories.
The players are in place. The coaching staff is tremendous. The schedule isn't all that bad with just two road games against teams that went bowling last season. In other words, there's no excuse.
The hangover from the 2010 BCS championship loss to Alabama is officially gone. Texas, go out and be a national title contender again.
What to watch for on offense: Quarterback, quarterback, quarterback. Mack Brown appears to still be spooked by the loss to Alabama in the national championship two years ago, with the team and the dream going down the tubes after losing Colt McCoy early on. However, the idea that it's a good thing to keep up the competition between David Ash and Case McCoy might be a negative. Ash appears to be the better of the two options, but he needs to have the No. 1 job to become the leader the offense needs. Still a sophomore, Ash needs to time to grow into his potential and he has to be able to learn from his mistakes. However, the coaching staff isn't going to be patient if he isn't getting the job done.
What to watch for on defense: Speed. Texas always has a vast array of athletic speedsters and athletic marvels, but even for a Mack Brown team this year's back seven should take on a whole other level. It's not that former linebackers Emmanuel Acho and Keenan Robinson were bad in any way, but they were better football players than athletes. Once Steve Edmond gets a little more time in the middle, and after Demarco Cobbs establishes himself a bit more on the weakside, look out. Veteran Jordan Hicks is a tremendous talent, but he might look like he's running in sand compared to Cobbs. The secondary takes speed and quickness to a whole other level.
The team will be far better if … the team could score on a consistent basis. How many times did Texas score fewer than 28 points in 2009? Three times, but those were forgivable beating Oklahoma 16-13, slipping by Nebraska 13-12 for the Big 12 title and losing to Alabama 37-21 in the national championship. How about 2008? Once, beating Ohio State 24-21 in the Fiesta Bowl. After losing to Oregon 35-30 in the 2000 Holiday Bowl, Texas went 83-6 from 2001 to 2009 when scoring 28 points or more. Over the last two years, Texas is 8-0 when scoring 28 points or more and is 4-12 when scoring fewer. Basically, as good as the defense has been, it hasn't been able to pitch the shutouts needed to overcome the inconsistent play of the offense. This year, with this defense, scoring 28 should be an automatic win, but just getting to 20 might be more than enough.
The schedule: The schedule won't be a barrier to getting back to superpower status, but there are a few key landmines to sidestep.
The non-conference slate is a walk in the park with Wyoming, New Mexico, and Ole Miss all layups if the Longhorns are focused, and then comes a nicely timed week off before going to Oklahoma State to kick off the most important three game stretch of the season. OSU, West Virginia and Oklahoma are likely going to be the three toughest teams on the schedule, and they all come in a row. If Texas gets to 6-0, it'll be on the fast track to 12-0. However, don't sleep on the road trip to Texas Tech, who'll be experienced on defense and improved on offense. It could be the big curveball of the 2012 Big 12 season. A week off before facing TCU is a godsend, and closing out at Kansas State shouldn't be too bad if Texas is back to being Texas.
Best offensive player: Sophomore RB Malcolm Brown … maybe. Thumping fullback Joe Bergeron was good enough this offseason to take carries away and potentially push Brown for the starting job. It's a good problem for the coaching staff to have, looking to keep both players fresh in a rotation that should take the heat off the passing game. But on pure talent and upside, Brown has all the skills and all abilities to carry the offense and be a special runner. However, this year's super-recruit, Johnathan Gray, might be every bit as good when he gets his chances.
Best defensive player: Senior D Alex Okafor and Junior DE Jackson Jeffcoat. There will be all-stars galore in the back seven, but everything starts with the defensive front that boasts an outstanding array of prospects on the outside. Okafor is a big, tough pass rusher who's always working to make things happen, while Jeffcoat is a next-level talent who should be one of the Big 12's most dangerous pass rushers once he gets past a torn pectoral muscle. The two should combine to be among the nation's best end tandems.
Key player to a successful season: Freshman PK Nick Jordan. It's not like Texas plays a slew of close games, but the difference between a great season and a special one could come down to a few key kicks. Since losing to Kansas State 45-42 in 2006, Texas is 9-0 in games decided by three points or fewer. The Longhorns beat BYU 17-16 and snuck by Texas A&M 27-25 thanks to a 40-yard Justin Tucker field goal as time ran out. There weren't any games decided by a field goal in 2010, but it took an all-timer of a Hunter Lawrence bomb to get by Nebraska for the 2009 Big 12 championship and the Oklahoma game was decided by a field goal, too. Can Jordan come through with the really, really big kick if needed? It's asking a lot for a true freshman to come through in the clutch.
The season will be a success if … Texas wins the Big 12 title. You're not Texas if you're shooting for anything less than a national championship, but considering the quarterbacks might not be up to BCS snuff, and with too many concerns on special teams, winning the conference championship would be a huge success after the problems over the last two seasons. Even if the Longhorns play up to their abilities it's not going to be easy with road games at Oklahoma State, Texas Tech and Kansas State to go along with home dates against West Virginia and TCU and the annual shootout against Oklahoma, however, they should be better than everyone except, maybe, the Sooners.
Key game: Sept. 29 at Oklahoma State. Of course the Oklahoma game is huge, and there are several other key battles, but beating Oklahoma State on the road to kick of the Big 12 season is a must to show that this season and this team will be different. The Longhorns will get a week off to prepare, and with West Virginia and Oklahoma to follow it could be a must win to potentially avoid a disastrous start to the conference slate. Texas had won 12 straight against the Cowboys, often in heart-wrenching fashion, before losing the last two seasons. If Oklahoma State makes it three in a row, it might be officially time to signify a shift in conference power.
2011 Fun Stats:
- Red-Zone Scores: Opponents 37-of-43 (86%) – Texas 36-of-49 (73%)
- Punt Return Average: Texas 14.9 yards – Opponents 8.5 yards
- Texas 1st Quarter Scoring: 60 – Texas 2nd Quarter Scoring: 129
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2012 Texas Defense |
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