Texas Football: 10 Things to Work on over the Summer
Will this truly be the year that the Longhorns are back on top of college football after two subpar seasons?
This is a team that returns 17 combined starters and has a lot of pieces in place to make some serious noise in the Big 12 this season. They return a 1,000 yard rusher in Malcolm Brown, have a loaded recruiting class coming in and maintain a defense that returns eight quality starters.
But when your team is as young as the Longhorns are, you have many questions that need answers. Spring ball provides limited time, which means that fall camp is the opportunity to address any issues the team may have left.
Here are a few things the Longhorns have to continue to work on to have a successful 2012 season.
The Longhorns remain one of the younger teams in the country, with very few seniors on this roster. The two-deep depth chart could be a lot deeper at some of the positions. That's why a loaded recruiting class coming in will help this team immediately.
How many touches will running back Johnathan Gray receive in a crowed backfield? Can wide receiver Cayleb Jones provide a playmaker to this Longhorns offense? Is defensive lineman Malcom Brown ready to step in and contribute right away?
The true-freshman will arrive soon on campus, and it's going to be interesting to see who will play a big part in this year's season.
Where Are the Wide Receivers?
We know the Longhorns need to decide on a starting quarterback, but the weapons at the wide receiver position are lacking. Sure, Jaxon Shipley, Marquise Goodwin and Mike Davis are returning, but besides those three players, the depth just isn't there.
DeSean Hales had a great spring, but has often went missing when the regular season arrives, catching just 13 passes in three years. D.J. Monroe caught eight passes last season, but he's a converted running back, who had serious issues with dropping passes last year.
Looks like true-freshman Cayleb Jones will have to play a big role after all.
How to Split the Backfield
Running back Malcolm Brown had one of the better freshman seasons, rushing for over 1,000 yards and scoring five touchdowns. But there is another young player that goes by the name of Joe Bergeron who did well for himself last season and has impressed even more throughout the spring. (Via Texas Football)
He's really good. He's big. He's strong. He can catch. Both backs need to improve their blocking. That's still pass protection because that's an area in high school that gets slighted because they carry the ball so much. But he's 200 [lbs]. His weight has fluctuated between 238 and 241, and he hasn't lost one ounce of speed. Head coach Mack Brown said.
Bergeron is in much better shape and looks to make an even bigger impact his sophomore season. He touched the ball 72 times last year, scoring five touchdowns and averaging over six yards a touch. Injuries really slowed him down at the end of the season, but if he can remain healthy, Texas could have one of the better backfields in the country this year.
Who Will Run the Wildcat?
Last season the Longhorns were very successful running the wildcat formation under offensive coordinator Bryan Harsin. The problem is that running back Fozzy Whittaker has graduated, leaving Texas searching for a trigger man.
The Longhorns did not run the formation at all throughout the spring and will likely wait until true-freshman Johnathan Gray arrives. The former 5-star player has excellent vision of the field and game-changing acceleration.
He will likely be given the first shot at running the formation, along with other freshmen Daje Johnson and Jalen Overstreet.
Who Will Step Up on Defense?
Texas had a defense that was ranked 11th in the country last season but lost a few key players, including five seniors that helped this defense out in a big way last year. (Emmanuel Acho and Keenan Robinson were the two biggest losses on the defensive side of the ball).
Now of course Texas has the talent to replace those guys, especially with a loaded recruiting class coming in. But players like Steve Edmond and Demarco Cobbs lack experience, which will force both of them to learn on the fly.
Where Will the Leadership Come From?
Now that we've talked about many seniors leaving this team, it's critical to see who decides to step up and provide some of that leadership. There simply aren't a lot of upperclassmen on this roster, practically on the offensive side of the ball.
Wide receiver Mike Davis is entering his junior season, as well as offensive linemen Mason Walters and Trey Hopkins. Maybe one of them steps up and helps guide such a young team.
Talent and great coaching can only take you so far, every great football team has veterans that provide leadership to the team. Texas needs to find some of that to be successful this season.
What Will the Punishment Be?
Senior safety Kenny Vaccaro, defensive end Alex Okafor and tight end Barrett Matthews were all cited by police last week after refusing to leave a pizza parlor. ESPN reports that they were asked to leave when a man complained that somebody in the group had threatened him.
Head coach Mack Brown said that these players will be disciplined enough to where they learn their lesson.
Question is, just what type of discipline are we talking about, how will it affect fall camp and could it effect this team early in the season? All three of these players are projected to be starters next season.
Who Will Be the Kicker?
Last season, Justin Tucker handled both the punting duties and the field goal kicking for Texas. Now that he is no longer on the roster, it's up to someone to fill that role. Walk-on Ben Pruitt is the front-runner for the starting job, but hasn't quite shown his ability in the field goal department. (Field goals weren't included in the spring game)
He remains the favorite heading into the fall, but true-freshman Nick Jordan will provide some tough competition.
Last season the Longhorns were fourth in the Big-12, making 81 percent of their field goals.
Who Plays QB?
This has been the question all offseason for the Longhorns.
They have the playmakers around the quarterback to succeed; now they just need somebody to throw the football. Many believe David Ash will be named the starter, but Case McCoy has a solid shot at that title as well.
Ash is the better football player at this point; he has the great size at 6'2", 200 pounds, runs well and has a strong arm to get the ball down field. McCoy on the other hand, struggles to throw the football but does provide leadership and toughness that could go a long way with such a young team.
Getting off to a Fast Start
Texas has struggled the last couple of seasons, but this could possibly be the year it climbs back atop the Big 12. The most important thing is that the Longhorns get off to a fast start against teams like Wyoming, New Mexico and Ole Miss.
It's easy in the Big 12, and with teams like Oklahoma State, West Virginia, Oklahoma, Texas Tech, TCU and Kansas State on the schedule, a quick start will help this team moving forward.