Texas will name outgoing coach Mack Brown’s replacement within the coming weeks. Whoever gets the job will inherit plenty of talent.
All the potential leading national prognosticators to think the Longhorns could be a Top 10 team this year didn’t vanish.
Brown’s successor might even feel so inclined to send a thank-you card to the newest Texas administrator over the 2014 holidays.
Texas must replace three of five offensive linemen and leading receiver Mike Davis. It does, however, return the bulk of its offensive skill players—including RBs Malcolm Brown and Joe Bergeron and WR Jaxon Shipley—plus returns eight defensive starters.
Furthermore, Rivals ranked the recruiting classes Brown signed from 2010-2012 as third, third and second nationally.
Even Brown’s worst signing class—which incidentally came in February—ranked 24th nationally and second in the Big 12.
As of Wednesday, this year’s Texas class ranked 11th in the country on Rivals.com.
More importantly, Brown might actually leave behind a better quarterback situation than he had over his final four seasons.
Whoever takes the reins of the Texas program could have a decision to make at quarterback as well. If QB David Ash can return, as expected from the aftermath of concussions he suffered through the first four games of the season, the new coach will have a talented senior quarterback.
In the event Ash cannot come back, the yet-unnamed coach will likely turn to QB Tyrone Swoopes—a true sophomore who signed with Texas as a 4-star recruit. Rivals.com says, on Swoopes’ prospect page, the Whitewright native reminds scouts of former Texas QB Vince Young.
The irony, of course, lies in the fact that part of the pressure on Brown comes from his inability to field an elite quarterback since Colt McCoy.
Brown passed on Heisman Trophy winners Robert Griffin III and Johnny Manziel as quarterbacks, offering them only as safeties. The 2013 Heisman Trophy winner, Florida state QB Jameis Winston, made matters worse when he said he would be at Texas if Brown offered him a scholarship.
In other words, Brown failed to recruit the last three Heisman Trophy winners as quarterbacks. During their Heisman-winning seasons, Griffin, Manziel and Winston combined to throw for 11,819 yards with 101 touchdowns against 25 interceptions. They also rushed for a cumulative 2,302 yards and 35 more touchdowns.
Meanwhile, Longhorns signal-callers—Ash, Garrett Gilbert and Case McCoy—threw for 8,487 yards, 59 touchdowns and 39 interceptions with 463 rushing yards and six rushing touchdowns.
The comparison sat poorly with Texas fans and boosters alike. Not coincidentally, now the program searches for its next coach.
Ash will be a senior next season. He seemed to take steps forward in 2012 and had high hopes for this season before concussions derailed his campaign.
Swoopes represents arguably the top quarterback to sign with the Longhorns since Gilbert—the No. 2 quarterback recruit in 2009.
If all else fails, Brown also obtained a commitment from QB Jerrod Heard—the fourth-highest rated quarterback in the nation.
The memorandums about the Mack Brown era at Texas have widely included his raising expectations within the program. Those same stories haven’t included the talent he leaves behind.
Even with a disastrous defensive start and the loss of his starting quarterback, Brown managed to guide the Longhorns to eight regular-season wins.
If the new coach can drive top production from the quarterback situation and inspire more consistent effort on defense, Texas could be a Top 10 team in 2014.