No 5 - Texas Longhorns 2010 Preview
Saturday, September 04, 2010
by Aengus Moorehead
The 2009 season was one of the most fulfilling yet disappointing seasons in the history of Texas football. Under the guidance of the NCAA’s all-time leader in wins, QB Colt McCoy, the Texas Longhorns completed the regular season 13-0 and played for their 2nd BCS Championship in five years. However, the season took a heartbreaking turn when McCoy got hurt on the first series of the championship game and Texas Longhorns found themselves in the unenviable position of playing a true freshman quarterback (Garrett Gilbert) with the National Title on the line. Despite a brutal first half, Garrett Gilbert led the ‘Horns back to within a touchdown with less than five minutes left before falling short. Texas Longhorns fans have a very strong argument that the outcome would have been completely different had Colt McCoy played the entire game and that loss will stick with the Horn faithful for a very long time.
But the new season brings new hope to the Longhorns. While there are significant losses, especially on offense, this is a program that alwaysreloads. With a great head coach in Mack Brown and an elite staff led by Head Coach in Waiting Will Muschamp, expectations are just as high as ever.
2009 Results: 13-1, Lost National Championship vs. Alabama
Head Coach: Mack Brown (13th year, 128-27 @ UT, 208-96-1 Overall)
Home Venue: Darrell K. Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium (93,553), Austin, Texas
Texas had the most productive offense in the conference last season, averaging over 39 points per contest. The biggest reason for their greatness was McCoy’s excellent passing as the running game has been disappointing in the last two seasons. However, Colt McCoy is gone, so can the ‘Horns maintain their excellent production with a large group of new faces?
Replacing McCoy will be sophomore Garrett Gilbert, who only played extensively in the championship game last season. However, he was the #2 rated quarterback in the country in his recruiting class and was clearly the starter coming out of spring. With his obvious physical talents, expect Gilbert to immediately become one of the league’s best quarterbacks. While he will make some mistakes due to inexperience, there is little doubt that he will be a very good player in 2010.
He also has a lot of talent returning in the passing game. At wideout, seniors James Kirkendoll (48 catches, 461 yards, 6 TDs) and John Chiles (34 catches, 319 yards, 3 TDs) and junior Malcolm Williams (39 catches, 550 yards, 2 TDs) are a talented trio. However, they will miss the production of 1st Team All-American Jordan Shipley and there is no doubt that the other wide receivers need to step up their play this fall. If a true #1 target can emerge from this group, the Longhorn passing game might not miss a beat.
Gilbert is far less mobile than McCoy, so the running load will fall to a deep but inexperienced group of tailbacks. Sophomore Tre' Newton (552 yard, 6 TDs) led the team in rushing as a freshman last season, senior Vondrell McGee (300 yards, 2 TDs) should be solid backup and junior fullback Cody Johnson (335 yards, 12 TDs) established himself as the go-to-guy on short yardage. With a shift to more running plays out of the I Formation, expect this group to see big increase in production this fall after underwhelming the last two years.
Finally, the O-Line is going to be retooled this season. Texas Longhorns loses three multi-year starters from 2009, though none were NFL draft picks. In all honesty, that makes me wonder exactly how much the Longhorns will miss them considering the weak state of their rushing game since 2007. As always, talent is not the concern, it is the inexperience of the new starters. The good news is that seniors Kyle Hix and Michael Huey should provide plenty of veteran leadership this fall and don’t be surprised if the new generation of talented Texas linemen didn’t come through with a more productive campaign than the unit that protected McCoy en route to the National Championship Game.
The Texas Longhorns are far more experienced across the board on defense. While the four departed starters from last season’s team were all drafted, three in the first two rounds, there is a great deal of experience and elite talent remaining. Last season (16.7 points per game allowed) produced the best defense in Austin since the 2005 National Championship campaign and future boss Muschamp is widely credited for improving a Texas Longhorns defense that was quite average in the season before his arrival.
Amazingly, the position that Texas Longhorns loses two 2nd round draft picks is also a position that will be a major strength this season: The defensive line. Senior D-Tackle Sam Acho (63 tackles, 10 sacks) will pair with massive Kheeston Randall (23 tackles, 2 sacks) to form a vicious tandem inside and they will be stalwarts against the run. While the DE position is a bit up in the air, the Longhorns have recruited some of the best linemen in the country and they will reload quickly. Keep an eye on sophomore Alex Okafor (22 tackles), who played extensively as a true freshman last fall.
The linebackers also look to be an elite unit. Juniors Keenan Robinson (74 tackles, 1.5) and Emmanuel Acho (49 tackles, 2 sacks, 1 INT) are both excellent players that should make a lot of plays behind a great line. While the production of 4th round pick Robert Muckelroy will be missed, senior Jared Norton was granted a 6th season after missing 2009 due to injury and should make plenty of tackles this fall after playing lengthily from 2006-2008.
But Texas Longhorns is also loaded at defensive back. While Earl Thomas was a 1st Team All-American and 1st round draft pick last year, the other three starters and numerous depth players return in 2010. First of all, junior safety Blake Gideon (62 tackles, 6 INT) is a ball hawk in his own right and should be one of the best in the country. Second, Texas returns three excellent corners as seniors Curtis Brown (53 tackles, 1 INT) and Chykie Brown (48 tackles, 2 INT) will pair with junior Aaron Williams (44 tackles, 3 INT) to form a shut down aerial defense.
In short, this is one of the country’s best defenses. The D-Line is full of beasts that will absolutely choke opposing running games, the linebackers are experienced and savvy and the secondary is so talented that it is almost unfair. Texas Longhorns has the best defense in the entire conference and should finish among the national leaders in virtually every defensive category this fall.
The schedule isn’t particularly difficult for the Longhorns this season. Outside of Big 12 play, they host Wyoming, Florida Atlantic and UCLA while playing Rice at Reliant Stadium in Houston. Needless to say, Texas Longhorns will be heavily favored in every one of those games and it would be shocking if they didn’t emerge 4-0.
As for the Big 12, the ‘Horns only have three true conference road games and host rival Texas A&M this season. They also have a much easier lead up to the Red River Shootout than Oklahoma as the Sooners’ non-league schedule is significantly tougher. On the other hand, their three road games won’t be cake walks as they go to Texas Tech, Kansas State and mortal enemy Nebraska. After the offseason of expansion and dissention in the league ranks, the game against the departing Huskers might be the most charged atmosphere of any game in the country this fall. Overall, this is not a significantly challenging schedule but there are a few games that will go down among the biggest in the nation in 2010.
The Texas Longhorns are one of the elite few in the country that never rebuild: They simply take their elite talent and reload. That exceptional talent level combined with an excellent coaching staff is why they are riding a nine season streak of winning ten or more games heading into this season. With a loaded defense and a talented offense, it seems very likely that this streak will continue in 2010.
However, one is less optimistic when it comes to Texas repeating as Big 12 Champions. First off, the Texas Longhorns have the misfortune of drawing the only elite team from the North, Nebraska, while rival Oklahoma avoids the Huskers this time around. As Nebraska’s long-simmering anger towards Texas Longhorns burst through this past summer as they jumped ship to the Big Ten, many expect that the ‘Horns will be walking into a lion’s den when they head up to Lincoln this fall. That will be a really tough game for UT to win.
That means that the Red River Shootout will mean more than usual this season, because a loss virtually eliminates the Longhorns from the division chase. After all, Oklahoma doesn’t have to go to Nebraska this year. The Sooners are also significantly improved from last season and their offense is going to be one of the best in the country.
PREDICTED RESULT: 10-2 (6-2 Big 12) - Bodog NCAA College Football Futures Lines
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