Head coach: Charlie Strong
2015 Record: 5-7 overall, 4-5 Big 12
2015 Bowl Result: None
2015 returning starters: 7 offense, 8 defense
Odds to Win 2017 College Football Championship Game: 115/1
Odds to Win 2016 Big 12 Championship: 37/4
Regular Season Wins: over 7 -125 / under 7 +105
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After a combined 11 wins in his first two seasons, Texas head coach Charlie Strong could be on the hot seat and needs a strong season in 2016 (forgive the pun). Two losing seasons in a row will not cut it for Longhorn nation. Last year, the Longhorns had a forgettable 5-7 campaign but did have upsets over rivals Oklahoma and Baylor.
The Longhorns return 17 starters in 2016 and could be a dark horse contender in the Big 12. Let’s take a look at the Longhorns on offense, defense, and special teams plus an analysis of the schedule.
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Texas was pretty bad on offense last year averaging 371 yards per game and 26 points per game. The rushing attack was in the top 20 nationally at 225 yards per game. However, only 10 teams were worse at passing in the country than the Longhorns in 2015. Strong brought in former Tulsa offensive coordinator Sterlin Gilbert as the new coordinator to punch up the offense. Seven starters are back on offense for the Longhorns.
Jerrod Heard and Tyrone Swoopes split time at quarterback last season but neither set the world on fire in the passing game. Heard threw for 1,214 yards with 5 touchdowns and 5 interceptions and rushed for 556 yards and 3 touchdowns. Swoopes threw for 537 yards with 4 touchdowns and an interception, and rushed for 451 yards with 12 touchdowns. He started the first and last games of the season, while Heard started the other 10 games. They were expected to be part of a three way battle for the starting quarterback with dual-threat freshman Shane Buechele. However, Buechele clearly separated himself from the veterans and will most likely start. Heard moved to wide receiver. Swoopes will likely take a few snaps a game like he did last year.
Texas has a dynamic pair of bruising running backs. D’Onta Foreman had 95 carries for 681 yards and 5 touchdowns. Chris Warren III had 71 carries for 470 yards and 4 touchdowns. Foreman and Warren each weigh at least 255 pounds. Texas does lose Jonathan Gray who rushed for 489 yards with 3 touchdowns. The quarterbacks will continue to get plenty of carries as well.
Receiver John Burt made 28 catches for 457 yards and 2 touchdowns last year in his freshman year. Freshman Collin Johnson will provide speed on the other side. Slot receiver Armanti Foreman had 11 catches and 2 touchdowns last year. Tight end Andrew Beck could play a larger part in the offense after making 8 catches last year.
The Longhorns return three starters on the offensive line including tackles Connor Williams and Kent Perkins. Guard Patrick Vahe will also return.
If you have a really strong defense, you can overcome a mediocre offense. Look not further than the defending Super Bowl Champion Denver Broncos for an example. However, the Texas Longhorns were bad on defense allowing 453 yards per game and 30 points per game. The Longhorns were especially terrible against the run allowing just under 220 yards per game. Coordinator Vance Bedford gets 8 starters back plus Texas had one of the top recruiting classes in the country especially on defense.
Freshmen Jordan Elliott, Chris Daniels, Marcel Southall, D’Andre Christmas-Giles, and Gerald Wilbon could see a ton of action at the tackles. The first three are four star recruits and the latter two are three star recruits. Ends Charles Omenihu and Breckyn Hager are back for their sophomore years.
Linebacker Malik Jefferson is the heart of the defense. He made 61 tackles last year and was the Big 12 defensive freshman of the year. Anthony Wheeler and Timothy Cole will flank Jefferson on the outside.
The secondary might be the best part of the defense led by corners Davante Davis and Holton Hill. Safety DeShon Elliott had two interceptions last year.
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Kicker Nick Rose is now with the Atlanta Falcons. There was an open tryout to replace him, but in late July former LSU kicker Trent Dominique transferred as a graduate and will be eligible to play immediately. He is on the Lou Groza watch list for the nation’s best kicker but LSU revoked his scholarship. Sophomore punter Michael Dickson averaged 41.7 yards per punt and landed 19 inside the 20. It isn’t clear who will return kicks and punts.
Schedule and Outlook
Texas opens the season with a nationally televised showdown with Notre Dame on Sunday night of Labor Day Weekend in Austin. Then comes a home game against UTEP before a road trip to California. The conference schedule opens with a road game at Oklahoma State before the Red River Rivalry in Dallas against Oklahoma. The Longhorns alternate home and road games for the rest of the season. Iowa State, Baylor, West Virginia and TCU come to Austin, while the Longhorns travel to Kansas State, Texas Tech and Kansas.
The first half of the season is brutal and the Longhorns could easily be 1-4 despite having more talent this season. The second half of the schedule lightens up though and Texas could still make a bowl game even with a poor start. Still anything more than eight wins would be a surprise and I don’t know if that will be enough to save Strong’s job.
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