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Texas junior quarterback David Ash
Prediction: 9-3, 6-3 (Tied-third in Big 12)
There has been improvement since uncharacteristically going 5-7 in 2010. This is the year where Mack Brown and company need to finally compete at the national level and contend for a Big 12 title. There are no more excuses in Austin with 19 returning starters and the most experienced quarterback in the conference coming back.
The Longhorn offense averaged 35.7 points per game last season and was just average in a score heavy Big 12. Texas lost co-offensive coordinator Bryan Harsin to Arkansas State, so former Texas quarterback Major Applewhite will now take over and implement a no-huddle, fast-paced, spread offense.
This is junior quarterback David Ash's year to finally shine.
Ash is 10-3 as a starter, but has shown inconsistency. He struggled in three games last season, which included games against Oklahoma, Kansas and TCU. Ash still had a decent season, though, as he passed for 2,699 yards and led his team to a comeback win in the Alamo Bowl against Oregon State.
With high expectations from Ash this season, a receiving corps consisting of Mike Davis and Jaxon Shipley should thrive. The running game returns sophomore Johnathan Gray, who rushed for 701 yards and three touchdowns last season, and junior Malcolm Brown. The best part of the offense may be its offensive line, where all five starters are back, including senior left guard Trey Hopkins.
Words can’t even describe how awful the Longhorns were on defense last season. They gave up more yards per game than any Texas Longhorn defense ever had—5,244 yards to be exact. You can assume defensive coordinator Manny Diez will have his troops improved and ready to go this season.
The line lost defensive end Alex Okafor to the NFL, but will have Jackson Jeffcoat back from a torn pectoral muscle injury, which forced him to miss the last seven games of last season.
The linebacking unit will benefit with All-Big 12 candidate Jordan Hicks returning after going down with an injury just three games into the 2012 season. The linebacking unit will also have last year’s second leading team tackler Steve Edmond, who recorded 103 tackles and five tackles for loss last season.
The secondary will miss Kenny Vaccaro, but have Quandre Diggs, Carrington Byndom and Adrian Phillips back.
The Longhorns' non-conference games in September against BYU and Ole Miss could be difficult.
The conference opener at home against Kansas State is a biggie. The ‘Horns are 0-5 against the Cats since 2006.
Other critical midseason games will be against Oklahoma, who have beaten Texas in the past three meetings, and TCU, who upset the team at home last November.
If the Longhorns can somehow be 5-1 in Big 12 play when they host Oklahoma State on Nov. 16, they could have a chance to win the Big 12 for the first time since 2009.