CFN Preview 2013 - Texas Longhorns
Texas QB David Ash
CollegeFootballNews.com 2013 Preview & Analysis - Texas Longhorns
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How many coaches in college football would be an a flaming hot seat after winning nine games and beating a strong Oregon State team in the Alamo Bowl?
Head coach: Mack Brown
16th year: 150-43
29th year: 231-112-1
Returning Lettermen: 53
Off. 24, Def. 23, ST 6
Lettermen Lost: 12
Ten Best Texas Players
1. DE Jackson Jeffcoat, Sr.
2. LB Jordan Hicks, Jr.
3. CB Quandre Diggs, Jr.
4. RB Johnathan Gray, Soph.
5. OG Mason Walters, Sr.
6. RB Malcolm Brown, Jr.
7. QB David Ash, Jr.
8. WR Mike Davis, Sr.
9. DT Malcom Brown, Soph.
10. WR Jaxon Shipley, Jr.
8/31 New Mexico State
9/7 at BYU
9/14 Ole Miss
9/21 Kansas State
9/28 OPEN DATE
10/5 at Iowa State
10/12 Oklahoma (in Dallas)
10/19 OPEN DATE
10/26 at TCU
11/9 at West Virginia
11/16 Oklahoma State
11/23 OPEN DATE
11/28 Texas Tech
12/7 at Baylor
At the end of the day, after all the problems, all the inconsistencies, and all the disastrous moments from a squishy-soft defense and puzzling offense, 9-4 is 9-4 is 9-4.
Okay, so 9-4 isn't 9-4 if you're Texas and you have more than enough talent to be challenging for the national title, and 9-4 really is a big problem when one of the four is a 63-21 embarrassment against a mediocre Oklahoma team, but after a miserable 2010 and a bad 2011, a nine-win campaign is still a step in the right direction.
On pure four-and-five-star, NFL-caliber, looks-the-part talent, Texas takes a backseat to no one. Alabama, maybe, has more skill, and other SEC teams are close and Ohio State is getting there, but Texas under Mack Brown became Texas again because recruiting was never an issue. When the Longhorn coaches apply themselves – like they did getting the No. 1 class in 2012 and they appear to be doing with a whopper coming in for 2014 – it's fish in a barrel time. But no one is doing less with more, and this year's there's absolutely no excuse whatsoever to not win the Big 12 and be deep in the heart of the BCS championship mix.
The miscalculation of Garrett Gilbert as a franchise quarterback could be partly to blame for the problems in 2010, and 2011 was a true rebuilding year with an epic recruiting class trying to find its legs, but last season was supposed to be when everything started to come together again. Would 10-3 have changed the offseason narrative as opposed to 9-4? Maybe, but more than anything else going into 2013, Texas has to start dominating.
This year, yes, 9-4 really would be a complete and utter failure, and as unfair as that might seem, and as unreasonable as that might appear to the sane and rational fan, that's the deal considering 20 starters return and the schedule just isn't all that bad.
No one is doing less with more than the Longhorn coaching staff, but the distance between being among the mortals and thinking about confetti flying around in Pasadena isn't all that great. A new look for the offense might be just the kick in the pants the program needed, and no way, no how does a Texas defense with this much talent play that soft again.
But enough of looking for what the Longhorns should do. The expectations are fair, and no, 9-4 just isn't good enough.
What to watch for on offense: Speed, speed, speed. Faster pace, higher tempo, and speed, speed, speed. Offensive coordinator Major Applewhite wants the veteran defense to start making defenses backpedal with a no-huddle attack that starts pushing the ball more with an Oregon-style of hurry-up attitude. But is this really the right fit? With all five starters returning to the line, and with an NFL-caliber stable of backs to go along with a veteran quarterback in David Ash and a good receiving corps, do the Longhorns have to go gimmicky? Considering consistency was a huge problem, especially for the ground game, apparently so.
What to watch for on defense: Will the run defense show up again? In 2010, when everything seemed to go wrong in the disastrous 5-7 season, Texas finished sixth in the nation in total defense, but the sky was falling when the run D allowed 139 yards per game and 21 scores. In 2011, with a commitment to improve, the run defense gave up just 96 yards per outing and 15 touchdowns. Last season, a soft breeze seemed to blow over the Longhorn front four and the back seven couldn't consistently tackle. Everyone got fat off the UT D that allowed a whopping 192 rushing yards per game – and that came even though the defense led the Big 12 in sacks and tackles for loss. The defense gave up home run after home run to Oklahoma, and was lit up by Kansas State at the end of the regular season. The bulk and athleticism is there up front, and there's speed to burn at linebacker. Expect a night-and-day change and for Texas to go back to being Texas again against the run.
The team will be far better if … the running game works. Texas failed to gain 100 yards rushing three times last season – Oklahoma, TCU, Kansas State. Loss, loss, loss. The 135 rushing yards against a West Virginia tissue paper defense that got ripped up by everyone were embarrassingly low. That was the fifth-worst rushing day of the season, with No. 4 coming with 117 yards and two scores against Oregon State in the bowl win. David Ash and the passing game can and should be more effective, but with Malcolm Brown, Johnathan Gray and Joe Bergeron in the backfield working behind a veteran line, there's no reason the Longhorns can't line up and bang away on anyone and any time.
The schedule: The Longhorns can't take a favorable schedule for granted. Just when it seemed like things should've worked out over the last few seasons, they didn't. This time around, the first month should provide a few good non-conference tests with a road date at BYU and a home game against Ole Miss. Fortunately, the season opener against New Mexico State should help the team get ready. Unlike several other Big 12 teams, there's no off week to prepare for the conference opener - Kansas State comes to Austin right after the date with the Rebels.
It's not like Texas needs a bye week to prepare for the road trip to Iowa State, and it's going to be tough not to look ahead to the showdown against Oklahoma. The second of three off weeks comes before the trip to TCU to try to get revenge after last year's clunker. That's followed up by Kansas, at West Virginia and Oklahoma State for a not-that-bad run before getting a week to prepare for Texas Tech and the regular season finale at Baylor. Again, Texas can't assume wins like it used to, but the slate should be broken up enough to have a big year.
Best offensive player: Sophomore RB Johnathan Gray – but this might rotate by the game. It's hard to get too excited about a right guard, but Mason Walters might turn out to be the best O lineman on the Longhorn lot. Ash should have a monster year, and running backs Malcolm Brown and Joe Bergeron will have their games, but it's Gray who could be the catalyst if he can stay healthy and handle the ball 15 or more times per game. He'll be on a pitch count with all the other running backs helping the cause, but unless Brown starts to play a bit more up to his prep hype and breaks out, Gray should turn into the main man yardage-wise to set up Bergeron around the goal line.
Best defensive player: Senior DE Jackson Jeffcoat. Back from a hip injury, linebacker Jordan Hicks will be a mortal lock for All-Big 12 honors if he plays a full season, but it's Jeffcoat with the special, next-level star ability as a bit of a tweener pass rusher. He has the frame and he has the burst off the ball, but a pectoral muscle was a problem last year derailing a great-looking campaign. If he's 100%, he's the difference maker on a defense full of difference makers.
Key player to a successful season: Junior QB David Ash. The defense needs to be more physical and needs more players to step up and play up to their potential, but if Texas is going to be more than just a decent bowl team, it's going to take Ash being fantastic game in and game out. He seems to come up with the one big game when he absolutely needs it to keep his job, but with the responsibilities of the new offense will come a chance to show off his decision-making skills. He has to be whip-smart and even more of a leader under the pressure.
The season will be a success if … Texas wins the Big 12 title. The national championship might be a wee bit out of reach for a team still trying to get back to the elite of the elite level, but with all the advantages and all the talent and all the experience, the Longhorns have to at least win the Big 12.
Key game: Oct. 12 vs. Oklahoma. It's always big for obvious reasons, but if everything goes according to plan, this is the one big problem for the Longhorns with almost all the key games at home. The toughest Big 12 road game is at TCU, but Texas gets two weeks to prepare after the showdown with the Sooners. After last season's 63-21 embarrassment, this is when UT has to show that things have changed in the last year. Win this, and the Big 12 championship might come down to the home game against Oklahoma State on November 16th.
2012 Fun Stats:
- 4th Down Conversions: Opponents 17-of-24 (71%) – Texas 13-of-23 (57%)
- Sacks: Texas 35 for 232 yards – Opponents 16 for 123 yards
- Rushing Yards Per Game: Opponents 192.2 – Texas 171.5
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