The Texas Longhorns have not been in BCS National Championship talks for a couple years now.
In 2010, a year after their BCS National Championship game appearance, the Longhorns finished 5-7. To top that, Texas lost to bitter rival Texas A&M in the final week of the season, which kept it out of bowl season for the first time in over a decade.
After a coaching overhaul, the 2011 season proved to be somewhat of an improvement, finishing 8-5 with a bowl win over California.
While the Longhorns have progressed since the ugly 2010 season, the program is nowhere near where fans are accustomed to. With high expectations heading into 2012, the Longhorns must first improve these five key areas before continuing their climb back to the top.
You saw this one coming.
The inconsistent quarterback play has been at the root of all the problems in Austin. Fans had false hopes for Garrett Gilbert after he led the Longhorns to only a three-point deficit in the fourth quarter against Alabama in the 2009 National Championship game.
Gilbert finished the next season with seven more interceptions (17) than touchdowns (10).
After Gilbert decided to transfer, the David Ash and Case McCoy duo stepped in. In their first year as co-starters, they proved to be better than Gilbert, but they definitely did not produce at the level needed to retake their place atop of the Big 12.
Going forward, the Longhorn faithful once again await the decision of head coach Mack Brown on who will be the starter come fall. No announcement has been made, although it appears as though David Ash has a slight edge after bettering McCoy's performance in the spring game.
For the Longhorns to get anywhere near a BCS bowl in 2012, the two-quarterback system must be abandoned. The focus must be solely directed towards developing one great quarterback and not two good quarterbacks. Only then will the Longhorns return to the national stage.
With the inconsistent quarterback play over the last couple years, the burden of moving the chains has often rested on the running game.
The Longhorns return a good part of this running game, and fans are salivating over the potential of incoming freshman Johnathan Gray. He has already been compared to Ricky Williams and Earl Cambell and has Mack Brown designing specific Wildcat packages before he has even arrived on campus.
However, you can have the best backfield in America, and it still won't be productive without solid blocking from the offensive line.
Sophomore offensive linemen Josh Cochran and Dominic Espinosa must step up in their second year. An improved offensive line will mean an even more productive run game, but more importantly, solid protection for a developing quarterback.
The Texas Longhorns defense has by far been the better unit of the past two years, and it will likely make it three in a row in 2012.
The Longhorns return seven defensive starters, but the four non-returning players leave big holes to fill. Both strong safeties, Blake Gideon and Christian Scott, will be especially missed.
The two combined for 90 total tackles and two interceptions last year. Likely replacements include Sheroid Evans and Michael Huff, neither of which are currently at the same level of Gideon or Scott.
The pass defense will be a make-or-break point for a defense which will likely be called upon to carry the team in 2012.
While Blake Gideon and Christian Scott leave holes to be filled, there are more pressing issues in the linebackers unit.
The Longhons lose Keenan Robinson and Emmanuel Acho, two of the most productive defensive players from last year. The two combined fo 215 total tackles and 25 tackles for loss.
Stepping in to fill the holes will likely be Kendall Thompson and Steve Edmond, two sophomores.
The Longhorns defense is getting much younger in 2012, and they are going to have to prove themselves at a young age for the Longhorns to make a push for the Big 12 title.
Justin Tucker did it all for the Longhorns last year. He averaged over 38 yards on 64 punts and was 17-of-21 on field goals.
You don't realize how important a kicker really is until you need that last-second field goal.
Just ask Boise State.
The Longhorns tried to find a viable option at kicker through spring practice, but neither Will Russ or Ben Pruitt answered the call. A starting kicker must emerge before fall, as it could mean the difference in some of the closer games in 2012.