Texas Football: Each New Coach's Top Priority
The Texas Longhorns football staff has been revitalized, but the Texas football program is still under construction.
It is no secret the Longhorns have performed below the standard since 2009, and the new staff has a lot of changes that need to be addressed on both sides of the ball.
Offensively, the Longhorns have lacked solid quarterback play, have not had a dominant offensive lineman and only had one offensive player drafted in the NFL draft since 2010.
The Longhorns defense was the worst statistical defense in 2012, had injuries in key positions and let's not forget gave up a school record 550 yards rushing to BYU in 2013.
Can the new faces on staff bring a new culture to a desperate Texas Longhorn football program? Here's a look at seven position coaches' top priorities to change the Longhorns' future.
Quarterback Coach Shawn Watson
The Problem: Texas has not been able to develop quarterbacks. (See Garrett Gilbert.)
One could make a solid argument that the quarterback is the most important piece of any college football team's puzzle. It's no coincidence eight of the last 10 Heisman trophy winners were quarterbacks. And Texas has not had a viable quarterback option since Colt McCoy in 2009.
Quarterbacks and assistant head coach Shawn Watson knows offense. His most recent coaching accolade is Louisville quarterback Teddy Bridgewater, who built a special bond with Watson during his time playing for the Cardinals. Said Bridgewater, per Pat Forde of Yahoo! Sports:
He understands me and I understand him. I grew up without my father really being there for me throughout sports. Coach Watson arrived on campus around the same time I arrived, and ever since our relationship has been tight. He took me in, and I trust everything he tells me. In our situation, it goes beyond football.
Watson played a key role in developing Bridgewater into a projected first-round NFL draft pick, but can he develop one of the Longhorns quarterbacks into an elite football player?
Barring any transfers or decommitments, Watson will have a trio of quarterbacks to work with in Austin. Junior David Ash, who was recently cleared to return to team workouts following a season-long concussion battle, Sophomore Tyrone Swoopes and incoming freshman Jerrod Heard.
Watson's Top Priority: Find a quarterback who has the "it" factor that can lead the Longhorns.
Offensive Line Coach Joe Wickline
The Problem: When was the last time someone said, "Man, that UT offensive line is nasty?"
Here's a stat that will sum up the state of the Texas offensive line: The Longhorns have not had a single offensive lineman drafted since Tony Hills in 2008.
To say the Longhorns offensive line has struggled recently is an understatement. The struggles were present even when Colt McCoy was still on campus, but his talents hid the deficiencies that were on the offensive line.
Offensive coordinator and offensive line coach Joe Wickline will be faced with one of the tougher roles managing the Longhorns line.
But Wickline is no amateur when it comes to building solid offensive lines.
Wickline—whose offensive line at Oklahoma State helped the Cowboys rank in the top 20 in total offense six times in the past eight seasons—will have a handful of returning Longhorns who have the potential of turning around the unit.
Wickline's Top Priority: Build the offensive line into a nasty unit.
Wide Receivers Coach Les Koenning
The Problem: The Longhorns' inconsistent quarterback play has made the wide receivers more of a non-factor.
The Texas wide receivers have not really had the opportunity to shine due to the inconsistent quarterback play. In 2013, the Texas wide receivers accounted for 11 touchdowns against Big 12 opponents.
Unfortunately for the Longhorns wide receivers, their success is determined on the Texas quarterback's success, and the Texas quarterbacks did not have much success in 2013.
Wide receivers coach Les Koenning will need to find a way to incorporate the receivers in the game plan when the opportunity presents itself.
Koenning's Top Priority: Coach the wide receivers to make big plays.
Running Backs Coach Tommie Robinson
The Problem: The Longhorns have way too much talent at running back not getting the ball.
Let's not beat around the bush here: The Texas running game was the offense in 2013. Period.
And the issue for the Texas running backs is one most teams would love to have. The Longhorns have a solid running back unit with Joe Bergeron, Malcolm Brown and Johnathan Gray.
Running back coach Tommie Robinson is no stranger to coaching talented running backs in college and in the NFL. The challenge Robinson will immediately face is how to divide up the carries between Bergeron, Brown and Gray without leaving talent on the bench.
Robinson's Top Priority: Find a way to balance the reps in order to utilize all of the talent on the roster.
Linebackers Coach Brian Jean-Mary
The Problem: Texas has been forced to rely on backup linebackers due to injury.
If it seemed like Texas had a constant circulation of starting linebackers in 2013, that's because it did. Junior linebacker Jordan Hicks was expected to be a huge contributor and leader for the Longhorns last season, but he suffered a season-ending injury when he tore his Achilles tendon in the Longhorns' game against Kansas State.
When Hicks went down, Steve Edmond stepped up his game and showed vast improvement from 2012. But Edmond eventually suffered a lacerated liver and was sidelined for the final two games of the season.
In addition to Edmond and Hicks, linebackers Kendall Thompson and Tevin Jackson also missed playing time due to injuries throughout 2013.
Linebackers coach Brian Jean-Mary will need to be best buds with strength and conditioning coach Pat Moorer, and the two of them have to find a way to keep the Texas linebackers in working condition.
Jean-Mary's Top Priority: Keep the linebackers healthy.
Defensive Line Coach Chris Rumph
The Problem: Stopping the run.
One of the few bright spots on the Longhorns 2013 two-deep was the defensive line. After giving up 550 yards rushing to BYU in Week 2 of the season, the defensive line turned things around, and would eventually finish No. 4 in the Big 12 against the run.
But you cannot just gaze over the Longhorns' out-of-conference defensive performances. The Longhorns gave up an average six yards per carry against nonconference opponents in 2013.
Defensive line coach Chris Rumph will need to get the line focused on continuing the progress during 2013. And with first team All-Big 12 defensive end Cedric Reed returning for his senior season, he could have the tools to continue the progression.
Rumph's Top Priority: Continue the progress from 2013 and stop the run.
Secondary Coaches Vance Bedford and Chris Vaughn
The Problem: The Texas secondary has struggled to make tackles in the open field.
Similar to the defensive line, the Texas secondary had early-season struggles but showed significant progress throughout the 2013 season.
One area of concern was the secondary's lack of open-field tackling and missed tackles. But when defensive coordinator Greg Robinson took over following the Longhorns' loss to BYU, the secondary made strides in the tackling department.
Secondary and defensive backs coaches Vance Bedford and Chris Vaughn will need to make sure that tackling in space is no longer an issue for the Longhorns secondary.
Bedford/Vaughn's top priority: Tackling in open field.
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