Texas Longhorns Football: 10 Training Camp Priorities
Football is right on our doorstep and schools around the country begin their two-a-day workouts.
For the Texas Longhorns, the 2011 season should be about proving to the college football world that 2010 was a fluke.
The offensive line needs some wrenching, a solid quarterback option has to be found and youth at multiple positions will be a reliance this season.
There is much to learn about this young and talented Texas team, and only time will tell how good it can be.
Here are 10 training camp priorities for the Horns in 2011.
Finding a No. 1 Quarterback
Most of the reports coming out of summer and spring camps say that Texas is still without a no. 1 signal caller.
Garrett Gilbert figures to be the odds-on favorite to maintain that position, but Mack Brown has been adamant about leaving the spot officially (or unofficially) vacant, allowing Case McCoy, Connor Wood and true freshman David Ash battle for placement on the two-deep.
Brown has compared his quarterback philosophy this preseason to the 2006 campaign when he opened the doors for both Colt McCoy and Jevan Snead to fight for the top position. We all know the end result of that affair, and Texas fans hope the 2011 version can yield similar, if not better, results.
Although there were numerous other circumstances that led to Texas' 5-7 in 2010, Gilbert's inconsistencies over the course of the season raised many eyebrows about his future as the Longhorns' franchise quarterback.
Shoring Up the Offensive Line
All of college football saw how poorly Texas' offensive line performed last year. The offensive play calling did not match up with the strengths and abilities of the linemen.
Now under new offensive minds, the Longhorns are expected to transform into an offense that will capitalize on every players strengths, not limited to just offensive linemen.
In order to create a successful offensive strategy, finding the right combination of linemen will be crucial.
Reports from two-a-days are promising, but there is still much work to be done given depth issues and youth all over the unit.
Real Answers at Tailback
Running back may be the one position that benefits the most from Bryan Harsin's offense.
Texas has a bevy of tailbacks with very different and individual talents, and some reports claim that many of them will see time on the field.
Fozzy Whittaker is a returning senior who is having a great preseason, but has battled injuries throughout his career. Jeremy Hills has drawn some reviews, as well as D.J. Monroe.
New in the mix, however, will be freshmen backs Joe Bergeron and Malcolm Brown.
There are talent and numbers for the Longhorns. At least one will provide some answers.
Reliability at Defensive Tackle
Texas went the entire 2010 season without a solid combo on the interior defensive line.
Kheeston Randall was the only standout at defensive tackle, and the Longhorns have searched high and low for another option to play alongside the senior.
True freshman Desmond Jackson has fully impressed the coaching staff with his athleticism and explosiveness and will press for playing time this season.
Calvin Howell has also regained some confidence after some concussion issues in previous years. The other names in the mix are Ashton Dorsey, Calvin Howell, DeAires Cotton and Greg Daniels.
Much like running back, there has always been promise at defensive tackle. Now it's time to see it on the field.
Fighting Past Youth at Cornerback
Texas lost a slew of prized cornerbacks to the NFL this year with Aaron Williams, Chykie Brown and Curtis Brown all hitting the top level via the NFL Draft.
Their departure has left the cornerback position wide open with a flurry of young and talented underclassmen.
Carrington Byndom, A.J. White and Adrian Phillips have all been mentioned on a rotation for the position. True freshman Quandre Diggs, the younger brother of former Longhorn Quentin Jammer, has performed his way into the conversation as well.
The Horns will have to live with the mistakes from this young group of corners. But there is talent, and there is Duane Akina.
Texas' offense relied heavily on its linemen's abilities to get out into space to set up blocks, but when that failed, drives stalled.
The Horns never acquired a sense of identity on offense. The downhill running game that was promised to be a showstopper during the offseason in 2010 never came into fruition. Garrett Gilbert struggled mightily.
With Harsin and Applewhite running the show now, the offense will provide a secure idea of how plays will be called, executed and for what purpose. The system will match players and packages rather than making players tailor themselves to certain executions.
The Players at Tight End
Tight end has been a trouble position for the Longhorns pretty much since Jermichael Finley darted for the NFL, and Texas has struggled to find a producer.
Texas will lean on its tight ends to run a successful offense under Harsin and Applewhite, but the Horns will need consistency and contribution.
Blaine Irby returns from a two year stint away from football after a freak injury. D.J. Grant and Barrett Matthews are also in the mix, though each has battled their own shortcomings.
The Longhorns have some depth at the position, but nobody has separated from the pack just yet.
The one thing about Harsin's offensive approach that has proven to be successful is personnel groupings.
In this philosophy, Harsin will have packages of plays that are tailored to the skills of specific players. This way, many more players will see the field, capitalizing on those strengths as well as providing rest for others.
Finding the right pieces for different plays will be critical in determining how Harsin and Applewhite use the offensive scheme to score points and move the chains.
One area that was lacking for the Texas Longhorns in 2010 was leadership. Accountability was low, and execution suffered.
This season, however, finding those vocal, mental, emotional and physical leaders will be critical in acquiring that collective energy to reach the team's goals for this season.
Keenan Robinson, Emmanuel Acho and Blake Gideon have already emerged as leaders on the defensive side of the ball, but someone on the offensive side has yet to grab the unit by the reins.
Freshmen to Play
The freshmen class for the Longhorns is stacked, and only time will uncover how advantageous early playing time will morph Texas' youth.
With the fresh start and the new coaching staff, virtually every position has been open for the competition, pitting some of the underclassmen and freshmen against the veterans on campus.
Some newcomers have already put their names out there for early playing time.
Jaxon Shipley has really impressed coaches at receiver. Desmond Jackson should crack early time at defensive tackle. David Ash is a hidden gem at quarterback waiting to be unleashed. Quandre Diggs at cornerback will contribute early as well. At running back, Joe Bergeron and Malcolm Brown will have to fit somewhere given the offensive packaging by Harsin and Applewhite.
Texas is loaded with youth and talent, but finding that right situations for the young players ultimately will help the Horns in the long run.