Five reasons for Texas Longhorns fans to be optimistic about next season

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Five Reasons for Texas Longhorns fans to be optimistic about the upcoming season

Brendan Maloney: USA TODAY Sports

As the Texas Longhorns prepare for the upcoming season, fans are ready for their team to make their way back to the top of the college football rankings after suffering through a few years that those fans are desperate to forget.

Most of the fan base will jokingly, or not so jokingly, tell you that since Colt McCoy was knocked out of the 2009 BCS National Championship game vs. the Alabama Crimson Tide, their team has been cursed. Their three seasons since that heartbreaking loss have been sub-standard for the Longhorn football program and fans are growing more and more impatient with each passing, mediocre year.

Over the last three seasons, the Longhorns have posted an overall record of 22-16 and a Big 12 record of 11-15 (including two sixth place conference finishes and a tie for third place). While that may be acceptable for some programs, for the flagship university in a state where football is considered a religion, it’s enough to have a much of the entitled fan base stepping towards ledges and calling for an entirely new coaching staff.

Fortunately, however, there are many reasons for Texas Longhorns fans to be encouraged as the team prepares for the upcoming season.

Could this finally be the year that they manage to turn things back around, compete for the conference crown, and play their way back into the national picture?

Here are five reasons for Texas fans to feel optimistic about their team’s chances to do all those things as they look ahead to the fall.

To scroll through the slideshow, click "next" above each image.

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The return of Jackson Jeffcoat and Jordan Hicks

Tim Heltman: USA TODAY Sports

Last season, the Texas defense posted--statistically--their worst defense in the program's history. A large part of that was due to the season ending injuries of two of their star defensive players: linebacker Jordan Hicks and defensive end Jackson Jeffcoat. There is no doubt the young defensive squad under second year coach Manny Diaz missed these two guys last season--both for their play and their leadership--and having them back on the field this year should help strengthen the overall play of the defense. Their presence will be particularly helpful to the young talent the Longhorns have on that side of the ball.

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They boast one of the best stable of running backs in college football

Brett Davis: USA TODAY Sports

With guys like Johnathan Gray, Malcolm Brown, Joe Bergeron and Daje Johnson carrying the ball, the Texas running game is certainly the team's biggest strength. If these guys stay healthy and continue to play the way they have been playing, the Longhorns should be one of the top rushing teams in the country.

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Major Applewhite moving back to the up-tempo, spread offense

Brendan Maloney: USA TODAY Sports

Three seasons ago, Mack Brown decided that he wanted to move from the spread offense to an "SEC style" offense that focused more on a traditional power running game and less on slinging the ball all over the field. Needless to say, in a conference that lives by the spread, it simply didn't work. Now, under new offensive coordinator and playcaller Major Applewhite, the Horns have stated they are moving back to the up-tempo, spread offense in which they've thrived before. Look for David Ash to run the ball more and spread the ball around the field. We saw a glimpse of this in the second half of this year's Alamo Bowl, and it was the best the offense has looked in three years--leaving fans wondering why they ever moved away from it in the first place.

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David Ash will have another year under his belt

Brett Davis: USA TODAY Sports

Last season may not have been perfect for Ash, but he showed glimpses that he has what it takes to be a effectively lead the Longhorn offense, and if he shows the improvement this season that he did last, he could end up being the next great Texas quarterback. Heading into his junior year as the undisputed starter, Ash is the most experienced quarterback in the conference. Reports are that he's looking good this spring and that he's been working with Vince Young on becoming a more vocal leader. All Ash needs is confidence. We saw what it did for him in the Alamo Bowl, and in Applewhite's new offense, Ash should thrive.

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Most of the other Big 12 teams will be rebuilding

Brendan Maloney

It seems unbelievable to finally say, but the Longhorns are the most experienced team in the Big 12 heading into the fall. While other programs are entering their rebuilding stages, the Longhorns are finally coming out of theirs. In a year that should be a down one for most teams in the conference, experience is finally in the Longhorns' favor.

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