After an appearance in the BCS National Championship game just two years ago, the Texas Longhorns have suffered through two straight disappointing seasons.
Now the Horns, stacked with talent, are ready to make their way back to the upper echelon of college football.
Texas enters the season with one of the best defenses in the nation, but if the Longhorns hope to make their way back to the top, their offense needs to find a way to step up their game. The good news? The talent is there; they simply have to find a way to execute effectively.
The entire offense this season will depend on the quarterback position. Though unofficial, it is widely expected that, as of now, the starting job belongs to true sophomore David Ash. Both he and Case McCoy struggled last season, to say the least, but Ash showed a lot of promise in the Horns’ Holiday Bowl victory over the California Golden Bears. The Longhorns don’t need for either of these guys to perform at an All-American level; they do, however, need to limit turnovers and manage the offense effectively.
Thankfully, the QBs are surrounded by amazing talent, particularly at the running back position. The Horns will be led by true sophomores Joe Bergeron and Malcolm Brown, both of whom showed tremendous potential last year, but were hampered with season-long injuries. This year, they are back, healthy, and ready to go.
There are a couple of true freshmen to look out for as well. Johnathan Gray, the Gatorade Player of the Year, hopes to make a name for himself at the RB position as does freshman speedster, Daje Johnson, who is rumored to have made his way into the starting line-up as a slot receiver. This freshman duo has been so spectacular, that they have made it impossible for Mack Brown to keep them on the bench.
Expect sophomore Jaxon Shipley to have another amazing season, and from all reports, this could be a break-out year for junior WR, Mike Davis. The receiving corps has to find a way this season to help out Ash and/or McCoy more so than last year, and expect these two to lead the way.
The Longhorns secondary is simply incredible. They were among the best in the country last year, despite their youth, and many believe they enter into the season as the best group in the nation.
Sophomore Quandre Diggs and juniors Adrian Phillips and Carrington Byndom should have another incredible season shutting down opposing offenses. Kenny Vacarro, who returned for his senior season, is considered the heart of the team , and despite having NFL-caliber talent last year, is rumored to have stepped up his game even more.
Defensive ends Jackson Jeffcoat (junior) and senior Alex Okafor return, both of whom were key to the Horns’ No. 6 national ranking against the run last season. Jeffcoat recorded 71 tackles, 21 for a loss, and 8 sacks last year while Okafor, a consensus first-team All Big 12 player last year, recorded 58 tackles, 14 for a loss, 7.5 sacks.
The Texas Longhorn open the year against the Wyoming Cowboys and the host New Mexico Lobos the following week. Then, they travel to SEC country to face the Ole Miss Rebels in the final out-of-conference match-up.
After a week off, the Horns will then face a big road challenge as they take on the Oklahoma State Cowboys.
They then will play their most anticipated home game of the year against new conference foe, the West Virginia Mountaineers before heading to Dallas to face the arch-rival Oklahoma Sooners in the Red River Rivalry game.
Following games vs. Baylor, @Kansas, @Texas Tech, and vs. Iowa State, the Longhorns will face their new Thanksgiving Day opponent, the TCU Horned Frogs.
The Horns close out the regular season traveling to Kansas State, a team they seem to have had a lot of trouble against of late.
There are certainly a lot of challenges in store for the Longhorns, but they have the talent to beat any team on the schedule. Realistically, however, a 9-win season would go a long way in getting the Horns back where they feel they belong, setting them up for a what should be a remarkable run in 2013. Anything less than 8 wins would be considered a disappointment for the spoiled Longhorn faithful.
The Horns, again, are one of the most talented teams in the country; the question is whether or not the offense will raise their level of play to match their championship-caliber defense.
The answer to that question remains to be seen.
If the answer is yes, the Longhorns very well could find themselves on the road back to the top.