The start of the 2013 college football season is still some five months away, but the work done in the spring can strongly influence how the fall may play out.
Mack Brown and the Texas Longhorns enter a critical season for their program, one that figures to have huge implications whether the 'Horns experience success or not.
Texas' 18 returning starters, coupled with a number of young players who saw significant time last season, should create some optimism moving into next season. But with a transition back to a spread offense, will the buzz outweigh the eventual production?
The Longhorns maintain great speed at the skill positions, an asset that should translate into an explosive offense. Defensively, the pieces are coming together, but who will take the next steps?
In 2012, Johnathan Gray may have been the only player to exceed expectations, a scenario that will have to be realized multiple times over in 2013 for the 'Horns to get back into the BCS picture.
With the move to a spread offense that, allegedly, is more quarterback friendly, David Ash definitely has a chance to excel.
The junior quarterback has demonstrated a multitude of physical attributes that have allowed him to be successful so far in his career, but the mental side and the X's and O's have yet to develop fully for the Belton product.
Ash has the weapons at his disposal, though, he will miss a field stretcher like Marquise Goodwin. If Ash can own the offense, while taking the next step developmentally, Texas could be looking at a star under center.
Up to this point, Ash has been capable. But in his third season in Austin, he will have to be much more than that.
In the absence of D.J. Monroe, Daje Johnson should fulfill the role of explosive playmaker, and even with Monroe around last year, Johnson became the more consistent option down the stretch.
Entering his second season, Johnson is in a position to see his responsibilities expand.
Explosive with the ball in space, Johnson will get plenty of looks with the ball, especially in the flats off of speed sweeps and in the screen game.
And in an offense that will be built around getting the ball quickly into space, Johnson is an ideal candidate to get a significant number of touches. His 11.5 yards per touch as a freshman will be tested early and often this season.
Kenny Vaccaro's departure from the Texas secondary opens up the rotation for a number of unproven defensive backs, but if Quandre Diggs slides into the safety role, the second cornerback spot is up for grabs.
Leroy Scott has put together a strong showing this spring and is right there in terms of earning his spot on the field as a junior.
Call it a gut feeling, but Scott is on the shorter list of candidates ready to make an impact immediately in the secondary, followed closely by Duke Thomas, Josh Turner and Mykkele Thompson.
Checking in this spring 21 pounds lighter than last season, Dalton Santos is on a mission to overtake Steve Edmond at middle linebacker.
Santos has had some mixed reviews so far this spring, but his commitment to improving himself on the field has hardly gone unnoticed.
The sophomore made his biggest impact on special teams last season, and with Edmond struggling more often than not, middle linebacker is there for the taking.
Even if Santos losses out on the starting gig, it may only be by a marginal amount, meaning the 6'3", 230-pound Santos will have ample opportunities to show his worth.
A shot-in-the-dark, redshirt freshman Bryce Cottrell could take the team by storm with a pretty loose rotation going on at defensive end.
Jackson Jeffcoat occupies one starting job, while the other will likely see a rotation between Cedric Reed and Reggie Wilson. Sophomore Shiro Davis will serve as a backup to Jeffcoat, but Cottrell could make a serious push for consideration with a strong second half of spring ball.
In reality, the Longhorns are one injury away at defensive end from having some serious depth issues, and if Cottrell explodes, it would be a welcomed arrival.