Texas Football: 5 Most Important Takeaways from September
The Texas Longhorns went 1-2 in the month of September, stirring up the rumors concerning Mack Brown's future in Austin.
But while the 'Horns ended the month on a strong note with a win in their Big 12 opener against Kansas State, there are some lingering uncertainties as Texas enters the second quarter of its schedule.
Injuries and bad defense have been at the forefront of the conversation, but there are some positives that have come with the negatives in the past 30 days.
David Ash Is the Most Important Piece for This Offense
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It became brutally clear, once again, when David Ash left the BYU game with a concussion that the Longhorns offense is very limited without its starting quarterback.
Sure, Case McCoy has a strong short game, but he looks lost if the first read isn't there.
Ash brings his big arm and a good brand of shiftiness on the ground. And with the Texas receivers lining up, guys like Mike Davis, Kendall Sanders and Marcus Johnson can benefit greatly.
Ash has become the undeniable leader of the team from spring and into the summer and fall. But without their quarterback, the Longhorns are simply cut short of their full potential on offense.
Daje Johnson's Presence Cannot Be Replaced
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Daje Johnson burst onto the scene during his freshman season, and he continued to show great promise early this year.
But an ankle injury has kept Johnson away from the practice field for nearly a month, and he is just now returning to workouts.
Johnson's explosiveness cannot be replaced by anyone Texas has on its roster, and with the offense needing some desperate help with the early struggles along the line, Johnson's pace could be a patch fix that can create some big plays on offense.
The sophomore could play against Iowa State on Thursday, and even though David Ash is questionable, the Longhorns could very much use Johnson's skill set.
Greg Robinson Did Show Improvement
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For most intents and purposes, let's give Texas defensive coordinator Greg Robinson as pass for the Ole Miss game.
He had three practices with a defense that had just come off of giving up 550 yards on the ground to BYU. Although Texas would wind up getting dismantled by Ole Miss' running game, the group showed some determined improvement against Kansas State.
The Longhorns allowed just 115 rushing yards to the Wildcats, this coming after giving up more than 800 yards on the ground between the Cougars and the Rebels.
The Big 12 gauntlet has only just begun, but it is important to note that the Texas defense did show some progress in Robinson's second game.
Texas will end up playing just once over a 20-day span, which means Robinson has that much more time to develop some camaraderie with his players.
Texas Is Far from a Championship Product
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However much you want to talk about Texas' experience and veteran presence, it doesn't mean much after the first four weeks that the Longhorns have had.
Defensively, Texas has had a strong pulse on any front. Although improvements do seem to be coming, the Longhorns have hardly gone through the toughest part of their schedule.
On offense, the Longhorns are battling a rash of injuries that has really handcuffed the offense.
The Big 12 is still a real possibility for the Longhorns, but several things will have to fall in place in the coming weeks. If Texas can get through Oklahoma and TCU unscathed, then two late-season matchups with Oklahoma State and Baylor could be huge determinants of this season's conference champ.
Mack Brown Is Firmly on the Hot Seat
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No news here, but Mack Brown's future at Texas is as volatile as it has ever been in his 16-year tenure in Austin.
The defensive issues that have carried over from a season ago may haunt Brown this entire season, as he very well could have let Manny Diaz go during the offseason and opt for a home run candidate to restore the quality in Texas' defense.
The injuries on offense are obviously out of his control, but Texas simply has not been a championship-caliber program since 2010.
And at Texas, that is the bar.
Lane Kiffin was just let go at USC, according to the athletic department's Twitter account, and it would be unprecedented to fire Brown midway through the season, but if the Longhorns do struggle in Big 12 play, Texas could be moving in a new direction come January. And that all started with a pretty weak September.