2010 College Football Predictions: Texas Longhorns Skill Positions
The winningest quarterback in college football history has left us, along with one of the top receivers in the Big 12 for the last four years. No doubt, Jordan Shipley and Colt McCoy won't be easy to replace.
While the defense looks to be almost as strong as it did last year, the offense may experience some growing pains as young players try to learn a new system.
Despite what one might think, quarterback isn't the biggest issue for concern at this point. The biggest skill position question is at running back.
The announced starter for Texas' Saturday game against Rice is Cody Johnson, who won the starting job over the likes of Vondrell McGee, Tre' Newton, and Fozzy Whittaker. After having a great offseason and replacing body fat with muscle weight, Cody will provide some much-needed power running in the newly instituted pro-style offense.
If Texas is to have any offensive success this year, CJ will have to rack up yards in order to give opposing linebackers reason to bite on the run fake during play-action passes.
At fullback, Jamison Berryhill will be a major part of the power running offense. In order for Cody Johnson to be able to produce, especially up the middle, Berryhill will have to provide lead blocking to open up some running room. Fullback may be the most important skill position spot on the roster.
How will Cody Johnson do at runningback?
At wide receiver, senior James Kirkendoll steals the split end spot from Malcolm Williams and attempts to replace one of the best receivers in Longhorns history. Originally thought to be the starting flanker, Kirkendoll won the more important wide receiver spot despite not catching a pass in either the Big 12 title game or the national championship game.
Taking over the flanker spot will be former quarterback John Chiles, who dominated camp and won the starting job over the likes of Marquise Goodwin and Mike Davis.
Although not nearly as fast as Goodwin, Chiles will provide more consistency and better hands. Although speed is nice, which Goodwin definitely has, a young quarterback like Garrett Gilbert needs strong-handed, consistent receivers more so than he needs speedy, downfield playmakers.
At tight end, Barrett Matthews will have to add a lot on the blocking front. While he may catch some passes, his primary responsibility is blocking, especially for the run game.
At the other tight end spot (Texas will run many two-tight end sets in their new offense) will be Ahmard Howard, a blocking tight end who should also provide good run blocking off the end. Outside running will depend on the blocking of these guys as much as it will depend on the blocking of the tackles.
Replacing one of Texas' top three all-time quarterbacks is the task that lies ahead of Garrett Gilbert. Although in the biggest game of the year he threw four picks and completed less than 50 percent of his passes, Grapes (awful nickname, by the way) also threw for two touchdowns and nearly led the Longhorns to one of the biggest upsets in national championship game history as only a freshman.
Gilbert's playing style will actually fit the new offensive system better than Colt's style did. While Colt was a pretty good runner who specialized in the short passing game, Gilbert's game parallels that of a prototypical NFL player, meaning that he can hit receivers deep downfield.
While Texas definitely has some offensive talent, don't expect 35 points a game. The Longhorns will put up big numbers on the cupcakes of the schedule, but against a great defense at Oklahoma and a good defense at Nebraska, expect Texas to have some difficulty putting points on the board.
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