Texas Football: 7 Reasons the Longhorns Will Improve over Last Year
The Texas Longhorns aren't exactly used to what has gone on the last couple of seasons. A program that has won four national championships, 32 conference championships and produced two Heisman Trophy winners has finished with a 13-12 combined record the last two seasons.
Everyone is hoping that this is the season that the Longhorns are able to turn things around, as they return 17 starters, bring in a loaded recruiting class and have a great coaching staff. Fans in Austin are getting a little impatient and want this team to begin competing for a Big 12 title once again.
With the college football season inching closer, here are a few reasons why the Texas Longhorns will be better in 2012.
David Ash Should Be More Consistent
Erich Schlegel/Getty Images
Texas had the eighth best passing game in the Big 12 last season, as this team kept flip flopping between freshman David Ash and sophomore Case McCoy. It isn't yet clear who this year's starter will be, but many believe that it is going to be Ash.
Neither played well enough last season or in the spring game to have an edge, but Ash still seems like the more polished quarterback at the moment. He played extremely well in the bowl victory over California, can hurt you with his legs and seems to make less boneheaded decisions than McCoy does with the football.
The Longhorns don't need somebody to sling the ball 30 times a game and pass for 300-plus yards. They just need somebody to manage the game, not turn the ball over and make enough throws to win the game. With a year of experience and not having to look over his shoulder every quarter, Ash should be a better quarterback than we saw in 2011.
Defensive Line Will Do Damage
Erich Schlegel/Getty Images
Texas finished last season with 29 sacks, which was good for fourth in the conference. This year, that production should continue to improve, with the Longhorns returning the key members up front. Alex Okafor is a monster, who finished the year with six sacks and 12.5 tackles for loss. He is one of the best at his position and should have his best season yet.
Jackson Jeffcoat is the other defensive end, who will also likely be a first-round pick in next year's NFL draft. He led the team with eight sacks a year ago and added 63 tackles and 17 tackles for loss for good measure. The combination of those two players coming off the edge will keep offensive coordinators up all night long.
This should also be the year that defensive end Reggie Wilson has a breakout season. He has seen limited action his first two seasons, but is a former 5-star recruit from the 2010 class and is a pass rush specialist. He gets off the ball extremely quick, has a high motor and can make plays in the backfield.
The Longhorns are also deep in the middle of the line, returning junior Calvin Howell and senior Kheeston Randall. Desmond Tank also returns, along with upperclassmen Ashton Dorsey and Chris Whaley.
This is a defensive front that should be feared across the country.
Wide Receiver Corps Is Underrated
Christian Petersen/Getty Images
There may not be many big names on this Texas offense, but at the receiver position, there is a lot of potential to go around. Mike Davis returns after being the leading receiver last season, hauling in 45 receptions for over 600 yards. He has great size at 6'2" and has shown big-play ability at times throughout last season.
Jaxon Shipley is a versatile player who can help the offense in both receiving and rushing. As a freshman last year, he caught 44 passes for 607 yards and three touchdowns. With a year under his belt, the sure-handed wideout should continue to be a productive player.
Marquise Goodwin (who is headed to the London Olympics) is one of the fastest players in the entire country. He has been a consistent wide receiver, finishing each season with at least 30 receptions, but with his speed, the coaching staff must find more creative ways to get him the football. Only four career touchdowns simply isn't good enough for somebody who can stretch the field like he can.
Texas also has big targets in players like Miles Onyegbule and John Harris, both of whom are at least 6'3".
Photo via: sports.espn.go.com
Texas once again had one of the best recruiting classes in the country in 2012, landing 28 top recruits, many who will see the field their freshman year. Jonathan Gray is a 5-star running back, who has terrific speed and field vision. The Longhorns already have solid depth at the running back position, but he is somebody who could be a nice change-of-pace player.
Wide receiver Cayleb Jones is another player on the offensive side of the ball who can give this team a spark. He has great size at 6'2", 200 pounds and catches everything in sight. He can go deep or make those tough catches across the middle. I expect to see him on the field quite a bit this season and help give these young quarterbacks another offensive weapon.
Other players who should see playing time this season include wide receiver Marcus Johnson, cornerback/wide receiver Kendall Sanders, defensive tackle Malcolm Brown and defensive end Torshiro Davis.
Ronald Martinez/Getty Images
The Big 12 just got a lot more difficult with two great programs in TCU and West Virginia joining the gang. But Texas could have had it a lot worse this season. Instead, the Longhorns will get Baylor, West Virginia, TCU and Iowa State in Austin.
And of course the Oklahoma game is in Dallas, meaning that the only tough road game all season is the last matchup of the year at Kansas State and possibly Stillwater.
The Longhorns could have ended up with a much tougher road, but getting many of the top teams in the conference to travel to Austin is something this team must take advantage of.
1-2 Punch at Running Back
Erich Schlegel/Getty Images
Texas is one of the deepest teams in the offensive backfield heading into 2012. Malcolm Brown rushed for 742 yards and scored five touchdowns as a freshman, and that's with missing three games.
Joe Bergeron was also a freshman last season, averaging over six yards a carry and scoring five touchdowns on only 72 touches. He also bulked up a bit, so he can carry more of the load his sophomore season.
Both Brown and Bergeron create one of the best one-two punches in the country, but adding the top running back in the 2012 class, Jonathan Gray, makes this backfield even that much more special.
Texas had the 21st-ranked rushing attack in the country a year ago, averaging 202 yards on the ground a game. This year's squad should put up similar numbers, especially with the young players now a little more experienced.
Mack Brown Is the Head Coach
Jamie Squire/Getty Images
The last two seasons haven't exactly gone as planned for Texas, barely getting by and missing a bowl game all together in 2010. Many are wondering if Mack Brown has lost it as a head coach or if it is time for a change in Austin. The bottom line is that this is still one of the better coaches in the country and he should turn things around sooner than later.
We are talking about a coach that has won 67 percent of his games, has had only one losing season since 1989, has been named the Big 12 coach of the year, has 12 bowl victories and a national championship under his belt.
I highly doubt that you go from putting together a resume like that to falling off the face of the Earth and forgetting how to coach a team loaded with talent on both sides of the ball. The Longhorns will be alright in 2012 and it all starts with coach Brown.