Texas Football: Strengths, Weaknesses and Secret Weapons

Taylor Gaspar@Taylor_GasparFeatured ColumnistJune 26, 2014

Apr 19, 2014; Austin, TX, USA; The Texas Longhorns raise their helmets prior to the Spring Game at Texas Memorial Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brendan Maloney-USA TODAY Sports

The Texas Longhorns have a lot to prove under first-year head coach Charlie Strong. 

Every college football coach has to deal with the annual changing of rosters, but Strong has a more difficult task than many other coaches due to the number of question marks that are on the roster he inherited.

When Strong took over for former head coach Mack Brown, he inherited a talented roster complete with some strengths and some weaknesses.

Now is the time for Strong and his staff to determine where the pieces of the mixed-up Texas football puzzle can fit into place. And that task will not be simple.



Michael Thomas/Associated Press

The Texas offense does not have many strengths, but one area that should not be a concern is the running backs. The Longhorns have a trio of strong running backs in Malcolm Brown, Joe Bergeron and Johnathan Gray, all of whom are capable of leading the team.

Currently, Gray's status is up in the air, as he is recovering from a torn Achilles tendon he suffered in November. His return to the field has not been determined, but there should not be much of a concern with Brown and Bergeron behind him.

When Gray went down during the 2013 season, Brown took over the majority of the carries and finished the season leading the team with 904 yards rushing and nine touchdowns. 

Bergeron did not receive many carries in 2013, but he has proven he can handle being the guy. Between 2011 and 2013, Bergeron has averaged 5.1 yards per carry and leads the running backs with 25 touchdowns.

Texas Running Backs Career Stats
Joe BergeronSenior37/72721,3925.125
Malcolm BrownSenior31/124471,9704.418
Johnathan GrayJunior22/133081,4814.87

Texas has many more strengths on defense, but one of the strongest areas for Texas is on its defensive line.

Strong has one of the highest-projected defensive ends for the 2015 NFL draft in Cedric Reed, according to ESPN's Mel Kiper.

Aside from Reed, Texas has two solid defensive tackles in Malcom Brown and Desmond Jackson and a group of defensive ends who are eager to compete for a starting role. 

The Texas defense has been an area of concern for the past two seasons, but as it appears at this moment, the defense should not be the issue for the Longhorns in 2014.



AUSTIN, TX - SEPTEMBER 21:  David Ash #14 of the Texas Longhorns is tackled by Blake Slaughter #53 of the Kansas State Wildcats at Darrell K Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium on September 21, 2013 in Austin, Texas.  (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

There are a variety of weaknesses currently on the Texas roster, but the majority of those weaknesses are on offense.

The issue on the minds of Longhorn fans is the quarterback position.

Offensive coordinator Shawn Watson has three options to run the Longhorns offense: junior David Ash, sophomore Tyrone Swoopes and true freshman Jerrod Heard.

The quarterbacks are all talented in different ways, but all have a lot to prove.

Ash is the most experienced of the group and would be the likely candidate to lead the team in 2014, but he has suffered a variety of injuries during his time at Texas, which hurts his ability to be a reliable option.

Ash missed the majority of the 2013 season with recurring concussion symptoms. He was finally cleared to return to the team for spring practice but faced another setback when he suffered a Jones fracture in his left foot and missed half of spring.

If Ash can return to his healthy self, then the quarterback position should not be of much concern. If the injuries continue, Watson will need to rely on either Swoopes—who did not have the best showing in the annual Orange-White Spring Game and lacks significant playing time—or Heard, a true freshman who could benefit from a redshirt season, since he was not an early enrollee.

In addition to the quarterbacks, the offensive line is a complete question mark heading into 2014.

Offensive line coach Joe Wickline is widely regarded as one of the best O-line coaches in college football. But Wickline's talents will be put to the test during his first season coaching the Longhorns.

Aside from veteran starting center Dominic Espinosa, the Longhorns have a large group of inexperienced linemen—and the inexperience was visible in the spring game.

The offensive line gave up eight sacks to the first- and second-team defenses and allowed 13 tackles for loss, for a total loss of 68 yards. Wickline's offensive line has a long way to go before it can protect whichever quarterback is chosen to lead the offense.


Secret Weapons

Apr 19, 2014; Austin, TX, USA; Texas Longhorns head coach Charlie Strong reacts during the Spring Game at Texas Memorial Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brendan Maloney-USA TODAY Sports

A lot of uncertainty will follow Texas into the 2014 season, but a secret weapon the Longhorns have is a group of coaches who have a proven track record of putting a great product on the field.

Defensive coordinator Vance Bedford has worked alongside Strong for many years. The duo is responsible for putting together the nation's top defense at Louisville last season.

Combine the stellar defensive minds with a quarterbacks coach who helped mold former true freshman quarterback Teddy Bridgewater into one of the nation's best and the Longhorns have a secret weapon in talent development.

The Longhorns have a lot of talent on the roster, but some of the talent did not perform to its true potential under the previous staff.

Strong and his assistant coaches have proven to be some of the top talent developers in the country. The new regime could be the solution to getting the current players to perform to their potential.


Unless otherwise noted, all quotes were obtained firsthand.

Taylor Gaspar is Bleacher Report's featured columnist covering the Texas Longhorns. Follow Taylor on Twitter: @Taylor_Gaspar.


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