Texas Football: 5 Biggest Question Marks of Training Camp
Is this the season that the Texas Longhorns turn things around? After two sub-par seasons in a row, fans in Austin sure hope so.
Texas returns a total of 17 starters from a year ago, which could be one of the more talented teams Mack Brown has ever coached. The youth remains a problem, but when you are coaching the Longhorns, excuses aren't something you are allowed to have.
This is the year that many expect this team to turn things around or it could get ugly for this program.
With an extremely talented roster returning, here are five questions the Longhorns still have to answer before the season begins.
Is the Kicking Situation Fixed?
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One of the main concerns for Texas was the special teams, as two inexperienced players were likely going to handle both the field goal and punting duties. That was until former Penn State kicker, Anthony Fera, decided to transfer and became a Longhorn. He will be eligible to play right away with the NCAA sanctions that are in place.
Fera was the kicker and punter for the Nittany Lions last season, which could solve both of the Longhorns' questions immediately. He made 82.4 percent of his field goals, including all 20 of his extra points, and averaged 41.9 yards per attempt on his punts.
Is this concern no longer an issue now that a reliable player is available, or is there still a little bit of panic on special teams?
Where Is the Leadership?
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Leadership is needed on college football teams, especially if you want to be successful and compete for BCS bowls. Texas returns the majority of its starters from a year ago, but only has 10 scholarship seniors, many of which are on the defensive side of the ball.
Players such as Alex Okafor and Kenny Vaccaro are the leaders of the bunch, with Jordan Hicks expected to develop as well according to head coach Mack Brown (via Randy Riggs of statesman.com):
"Jordan is smart, he's confident, he's stronger than he's ever been," head coach Mack Brown said. "He just needs to stay healthy. They all can see him make athletic play after athletic play. I think he could be a real leader."
But who is going to step up and become the voice on the offensive side of the ball?
Naturally it would be the quarterback's job, but the Longhorns don't even know who that is yet, and those players are still extremely young as well. There has to be a player during fall camp that decides he will take charge on offense for this Texas team.
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Texas put together arguably the best recruiting class in 2012 that included 28 players, with at least five of them being 5-star players. Several of those talented guys will hit the field for the first time this fall and begin competing for playing time right away.
Running back Johnathan Gray is the most popular Texas commit, but with Malcolm Brown and Joe Bergeron already receiving the bulk of the carries, you wonder just how much he will see the field this season.
We haven't heard much about 5-star receiver Cayleb Jones since he committed, but with the lack of playmakers at the position, he is certain to make an impact on the offensive side of the ball.
Defensive linemen Torshiro Davis and Malcom Brown could see playing time as well.
Which Wide Receivers Will Step Up?
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Texas has a lot of potential at the receiver position, but none of the players were consistent enough last year to be considered a true threat.
Jaxon Shipley is great at picking up yards after the catch, but went quiet at times throughout the year, finishing the season with only two 100-yard receiving games. Mike Davis has been consistent the last two seasons, catching at least 40 passes, but has to take that next step if he wants to be considered the true No. 1 guy. He certainly has the speed and size at 6'2" to really become that go-to receiver.
Marquise Goodwin also has a bunch of speed and has caught at least 30 passes the last three years, but has only scored four touchdowns out of his 94 career receptions. With his play-making ability, that production has to increase this year. It will be interesting to see how Cayleb Jones fits into this offense and how much of a factor he will be in his first year.
The Longhorns have talent at the receiver position; certain players just need to become more consistent.
Who Is the Quarterback?
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Texas was 86th in passing yards last year, which is simply not going to get it done in the pass-happy Big 12. There is currently a quarterback battle going on between Case McCoy and David Ash, two players who shared playing time last season, but neither really stood out at all.
Head coach Mack Brown says he is confident somebody will begin to shine in the fall (via Patrick Southern of CBSSports.com):
[Using] two [quarterbacks] is more difficult if the chemistry isn't working well. Right now David and Case are getting along really well. They're worried more, from what I hear, about winning than they are playing, and I feel like that one of those guys will separate himself some in preseason and it will give us the other guy to come off the bench and play if need be.
Many believe it will be Ash that wins the starting job. He seems to be the more polished quarterback right now, makes the better throws and is capable of hurting you with his feet. Although, McCoy shouldn't be counted out just yet, as he did complete over 61 percent of his passes last year.
Don't expect a decision until about a week before game day.