Head coach: Tom Herman
2016 Record: 5-7 overall, 3-6 Big 12
2016 Bowl Result: None
2017 returning starters: 7 offense, 10 defense
Odds to Win 2018 College Football Championship Game: 50/1
Odds to Win 2017 Big 12 Championship: 5/1
Odds to Reach 2017 Big 12 Championship game: +225
Regular Season Wins: over 7 1/2 -190 / under 7 1/2 +165
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Last year, Texas opened the season 2-0 including a thrilling double overtime 50-47 win over Notre Dame. However, it would go downhill from there, and the Longhorns would only in three more games for the rest of the season. Two straight 5-7 campaigns were more than enough to end the Charlie Strong era in Austin. It didn’t matter that five of the seven losses were by a touchdown or less, including a five point loss to Oklahoma. Strong moved on to become the coach at South Florida. Texas hired Tom Herman away from Houston. He made the Cougars relevant nationally in his short stint in Houston.
Texas fans and boosters hope he can do the same in Austin. While it might be fun for fans in other teams in the Big 12 to kick Texas while they are down, deep down the Big 12 needs Texas be good again. Not just good but a national powerhouse like they were in the last decade. Herman gets 17 starters back and Texas looks to contend for the Big 12 title. Here is a look at Texas on offense, defense, special teams and a look at the schedule and outlook this season.
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Texas averaged 492 yards per game on offense, including 240 rushing yards and 32 points per game. Texas was in the top 50 in all four categories nationally, and was in the top 20 in total offense and rushing. Herman named former Ohio State co-offensive coordinator Tim Beck to be the offensive coordinator for the Longhorns. Seven starters are back on offense.
Sophomore quarterback Shane Buechele completed 60.4% of his passes for 2,958 yards with 21 touchdowns and 11 interceptions. He also rushed for 151 yards on 97 carries with 2 touchdowns. Back-up Tyrone Swoopes has graduated. Last year he only threw for 66 yards and a touchdown, but he did have 7 rushing touchdowns coming in the “18-wheeler” package for Texas. True freshman Sam Ehlinger is the only other scholarship quarterback on the roster.
Running back D’Onta Foreman is now with the he Houston Texans. He had 323 carries for 2,028 yards and 15 touchdowns, plus 7 catches for 75 yards. Chris Warren III takes over as the feature back after rushing for 366 yards on 62 carries with three touchdowns. He suffered a concussion during fall practice and is questionable for the start of the season. If Warren can’t go, Kyle Porter will get most of the carries. He rushed for 206 yards last year on 46 carries.
Most of the top receiving targets are back. Armanti Foreman had 34 catches for 420 yards and 3 touchdowns. Devin Duvernay had 20 catches for 412 yards and 3 touchdowns. Dorian Leonard had 29 catches for 397 yards and 3 touchdowns. Jacorey Warrick and Jake Oliver have graduated. The duo combined for 63 catches, 720 yards and 3 touchdowns. Collin Johnson had 28 catches for 315 yards and 3 touchdowns. Jarrod Heard had 24 catches for 266 yards and 3 touchdowns. John Burt had 18 catches for 201 yards and a touchdown. Tight end Andrew Beck only caught 4 passes last year but two of them went for touchdowns.
The offensive line returns four starters and looks to improve in 2017. The line is anchored by All-American left tackle Connor Williams. Denzel Okafor is the other tackle. Patrick Vahe and Jake McMillon are the guards. Zach Shackleford is the center.
Like most teams in the Big 12, the defense was awful for the Longhorns. Texas allowed 448 yards per game and 32 points per game. Herman brought Todd Orlando with him from Houston to be the defensive coordinator. The good news is they get 10 starters back in 2017, and some improvement is almost guaranteed.
Defensive end Malcolm Roach had 33 tackles last year but eight were for loss. Chris Nelson will start at the other end after making 45 tackles last year, including six for loss. Nose tackle Poona Ford had 54 tackles including 5.5 for loss.
The top three tacklers are back at linebacker. Anthony Wheeler had 65 tackles last year in the middle. Breckyn Hager had 64 tackles, including 13.5 for loss and 6 sacks. Malik Jefferson had 62 tackles including 8.5 for loss and 5.5 sacks.
Strong safety Deshon Elliott had 30 tackles last year. Brandon Jones is the only new starter on the defense at safety. Kris Boyd and Davante Davis are the corners. P.J. Locke III is the nickel back.
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Punter Michael Dickson averaged 47 yards per punt and landed 28 inside the 20. He is one of the best punters in the nation. Junior college transfer Joshua Rowland takes over the kicking duties. Armanti Foreman and Jerrod Heard will return punts and kicks respectively.
Schedule and Outlook
Texas opens with home games against Maryland and San Jose State before a very difficult road game at USC. Texas opens Big 12 play at Iowa State before hosting Kansas Stat. Then comes the Red River game in Dallas against Oklahoma and a home game against Oklahoma State. Road games against Baylor and TCU are next. Home games against Kansas and Texas Tech are sandwiched around a a trip to West Virginia.
The middle portion of the schedule is very difficult. The offense shouldn’t be an issue but can the defense hold up? They will be more aggressive under Orlando but I don’t see more than eight wins for this team.
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