2009 Preview: Texas Longhorns

Thomas CasteloneContributor IJune 21, 2009

GLENDALE, AZ - JANUARY 05:  Quarterback Colt McCoy #12 of the Texas Longhorns drops back to pass during the Tostitos Fiesta Bowl Game against the Ohio State Buckeyes on January 5, 2009 at University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale, Arizona.  (Photo by Jeff Gross/Getty Images)

Over the next couple of months, I am going to try and preview roughly 20 teams for the upcoming college football season. Because of time constraints and the fact that there are so many teams in CFB, I simply can’t do them all, so I will pick 20 teams that I find intriguing heading into the fall.

Some will be title contenders, while others could be up-and-comers looking to secure a bowl bid for the first time in years (SMU, perhaps?).

So let’s get things started with a squad that thought they should have been playing for a National Championship last season and is gearing up for another title run once again in 2009.


Texas Longhorns


The Good

Some teams in the Big 12 will come back to earth this season and won’t be quite as proficient on offense as they were a year ago. The Longhorns won’t be one of those teams.

Led by the precision passing of Colt McCoy, Texas will put up points-a-plenty once again this fall.

McCoy’s ability to find the open receiver and make plays when the pocket breaks down will once again make him a legit Heisman Trophy contender and the leader of one of the most prolific offenses in the nation.

McCoy has shown he’s a multi-threat weapon as well. He led the Longhorns in rushing last season but that’s something Texas would like to see change.

The Longhorns averaged 4.3 yards per carry in 2008, which ranked sixth in the Big 12. Texas is hoping someone from the group of Cody Johnson, Vondrell McGee, or Foswhitt Whitaker can step up and become a star. That remains to be seen.

Also keep an eye on highly recruited freshman Chris Whaley. If none of the other backs are getting the job done early in the season, Mack Brown could turn the reins over to Whaley.

Brown and the Longhorns coaches believe the running game won’t be a liability and with the way Texas throws the ball all over the field, it probably won’t be.

Although, the main goal remains that someone other than McCoy lead the team in rushing at the end of the year.

Luckily for McCoy, the NCAA granted Jordan Shipley a sixth year of eligibility, allowing the Texas signal caller’s favorite receiver to return for a final title run.

Shipley leads a deep group of pass catchers that includes Brandon Collins, Malcolm Williams and James Kirkendoll. Needless to say, McCoy will have a plethora of targets to choose from this season.

The offensive line was inconsistent at times last season but was bailed out thanks to McCoy’s ability run away from the rush. However, left tackle Adam Ulatoski is a stud and he anchors a unit that the Texas coaching staff expects to be much improved this fall.


The Bad


As good as Texas’ offense was last season the Longhorns still didn’t win a National Title. That’s because Texas had to play defense too.

The Longhorns’ defense bordered on laughable at times last year. They finished 104th against the pass, allowing 259 yards per game.

Texas finished 113th in interceptions, recording just six all season. Longhorn fans know if that number was seven their team would have been playing for it all against Florida.

Even when Texas’ defense did rank high in a category the numbers were inflated.

Because teams were so busy passing all over the Longhorns they ranked third in the nation against the run. However, any time a team wanted to run against the Longhorns they did just that.

Baylor, Oklahoma State, and Ohio State—all power based running teams—racked up over 200 yards on the ground against Texas. So basically the Longhorns were an equal opportunity defense.

As bad as the secondary was at times in 2008, the coaching staff expects it to be an area of strength this season with all four starters returning.

Corners Aaron Williams and Chykie Brown, along with safeties Earl Thomas Blake Gideon, have had good individual performances but now the foursome needs to put it all together and play well as a unit.

The next defensive star for the Longhorns is OLB Sergio Kindle. The speed rusher had 10 sacks last year and defensive coordinator Will Muschamp said he’s going to line up Kindle all over the place to try and confuse offenses.

Kindle will need to have a big year because the Longhorns must replace three starting defensive linemen, including first-round NFL draft pick Brian Orakpo.

The key to the defense is going to be the play interior of the line. The Horns got pushed around too often last season and Muschamp wants his unit to become more physical at the point of attack and that starts up front with the two tackles.

Lamarr Houston is moving over to the nose and Kheeston Randle will step into his spot at defensive tackle. Ben Alexander looked good in the spring and he’s expected to be in the rotation as well but the Horns aren’t very deep at tackle should one of these guys go down.

The bottom line is this side of the ball must step up and avoid getting pushed around by the Oklahoma’s and Oklahoma State’s of the world because those teams can score with the Longhorns, so defensive stops will be crucial.


Schedule


Barring an upset of monumental proportions, the Longhorns are a lead-pipe lock to start the year off 5-0. Then things get a bit more challenging.

There is the tussle with OU, followed by road tests at Missouri, Oklahoma State, Baylor, and Texas A@M. Kansas also visits Austin on Nov. 21.

Still, this is as good as it gets for a title contender, especially considering there are no serious challenges outside of the conference.


Bottom Line


There is no question that the Longhorns have the talent on offense to compete for a National Championship but I see too many question marks to believe Texas is the No. 2 team in the country heading into the regular season.

While today’s brand of CFB is a little different and teams can win it all with a great offense and some defense, you still need to play SOME defense.

Texas showed last year against Texas Tech that no lead is safe against them so as long as Colt McCoy is healthy, they will always be in games.

The Horns also have an excellent special teams unit, as Shipley is a game-changing return man and punter Justin Tucker averaged 45.2 yards a kick in 2008.

However, the game against Oklahoma and a trip to Stillwater are going to be too much in my opinion if this defense doesn’t get a lot better in a hurry.

This is a very talented team but coming into the year I think they are a little overrated due to question marks surrounding the defense and running game.