Head coach: Charlie Strong
2013 Record: 8-5 overall, 7-2 Big 12
2013 Bowl Result: Lost to Oregon 30-7 in the Alamo Bowl
2014 returning starters: 7 offense, 8 defense
Odds to Win 2015 College Football Championship game: 66/1
Odds to win 2014 Big 12 Championship: 13/2
Regular Season Wins: over 7.5 -115 / under 7.5 -115
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After a disappointing season last year, Texas Longhorns’ coach Mack Brown retired. Texas brought in former Louisville coach Charlie Strong to take over the program. Longhorns fans hope Strong can restore Texas to the glory days after several lackluster seasons. Texas had 5 losses last season, all by 19 points or more to bowl teams, including in 3 of their last 4 games.
Texas’s chances of being able to contend for the Big 12 title took a hit when Strong dismissed four players from the team including running back Jalen Overstreet, defensive back Chevoski Collins, and receivers Kendall Sanders and Montrel Meander. Overstreet and Collins were dismissed for violating unspecified team rules. Sanders and Meander were arrested for second degree felony sexual assault.
Let’s take a look at Texas on offense, defense, and special teams and also at their schedule.
Last season, quarterback David Ash missed the last 9 games after a severe concussion. He was unable to recover. He missed some of spring practice after undergoing foot surgery in the offseason. However, he was cleared by team doctors for fall camp and Strong has said he will start. USC transfer Max Wittek was supposed to compete for the starting job but he won’t graduate until December and will not be eligible. Sophomore Tyrone Swoopes or freshman Jerrod Heard could step in if Ash isn’t healthy. The passing game struggled last year without Ash under Case McCoy averaging just 212.5 yards per game. The Longhorns only averaged 29.3 points per game.
Texas depended more on the run last season averaging 196 yards per game on the ground. The top three running backs return in seniors Malcolm Brown and Joe Bergeron, along with junior Johnathan Gray. Brown had 214 carries, 904 yards and 9 touchdowns, along with 17 catches, 195 yards and 2 touchdowns. Gray had 159 carries, 780 yards and 4 touchdowns, along with 15 catches for 61 yards. Bergeron had 73 carries, 362 yards and 4 touchdowns, plus 12 catches for 116 yards.
While Texas must replace leading receiver Mike Davis (51 catches, 727 yards and 8 touchdowns), they still have talent returning at receiver. Senior Jaxon Shipley had 56 catches, 589 yards and a touchdown. Marcus Johnson and Daje Johnson will also get plenty of targets, especially without Davis and Sanders. The unit will miss the deep threat of Sanders who had 37 catches, 361 yards and a touchdown. Tight end Geoff Swaim could be a dangerous weapon.
The offensive line gave up only 16 sacks in 2013, but must replace 3 starters. Center Dom Espinosa has started all 39 games of his college career. Right tackle Kennedy Estelle also returns.
The defense underachieved last season and gave up over 400 yards and almost 26 points a game. That isn’t terrible in the Big 12 which is loaded with high octane offenses, but they must play better in 2014 if the Longhorns are going to be successful.
The defensive line must replace Hendricks award winner Jackson Jeffcoat now with the Seattle Seahawks. still, there is a ton of talent returning. End Cedric Reed had 10 sacks in 2013. Tackles Malcom Brown and Desmond “Tank” Jackson are both very talented as well. Caleb Blulett and Shiro Davis will battle to replace Jeffcoat.
Linebacker Jordan Hicks is one of the best linebackers in college football when healthy but he has missed 19 games in the last two seasons. If he can remain healthy, the linebackers will be a strong unit. Steve Edmond and Peter Jinkins are also key parts of the unit.
The secondary has plenty of talent of speed, led by senior cornerback Quandre Diggs. Still, cornerback Carrington Byndom and safety Adrian Phillips will be difficult to replace though.
Texas must replace Lou Groza award finalist kicker/punter Anthony Fera. Fera made 20 of 22 field goals last year. Nick Rose and Nick Jordan will battle in fall camp for the kicker job. There is also a battle for the punting job between William Russ and Michael Davidson. Daje Johnson will be the primary kick and punt returner. He averaged 10.1 yards per punt return with an 85 yard return for a touchdown, and 19 yards per kick return last season.
Texas opens with three non-conference home games against 2013 bowl teams, North Texas, BYU and UCLA. Texas should have little trouble with North Texas, but the other two will be tough games. BYU rushed for over 500 yards last year in Provo against Texas in a Cougar rout. UCLA is expected to be one of the top teams in the Pac 12. Texas opens Big 12 play at Kansas before back to back games against conference favorites Baylor in Austin and Oklahoma in Dallas. After that tough games at Kansas State and Oklahoma State await later in the season. I think Texas finishes 8-4 with another mid-tier bowl game.
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