CFT Preseason Top 25: No. 13 Texas

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2011 record: 8-5 overall, 4-5 in Big 12 (6th-tie)

2011 postseason: Holiday Bowl (21-10 win over California)

2011 final AP/coaches’ ranking: unranked/unranked

Head coach: Mack Brown (227-113-1 overall, 141-39 in 14 seasons at Texas)

Offensive coordinator: Major Applewhite (fourth season at Texas, second as co-OC); Bryan Harsin (second season at UT, second as co-OC)

2011 offensive rankings: 21st rushing offense (202.6 ypg); 86th passing offense (189.9 ypg); 54th total offense (392.5 ypg); 55th scoring offense (28.1 ppg)

Returning offensive starters: 10

Defensive coordinator: Manny Diaz (second season at Texas, second as DC)

2011 defensive rankings: 6th rushing defense (96.2 ypg); 42nd passing defense (209.8 ypg); 11th total defense (306.8 ypg); 33rd scoring defense (22.2 ppg)

Returning defensive starters: seven

Location: Austin, Texas

Stadium:  Darrell K Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium (100,119; FieldTurf)

Last league title: 2009

Schedule: [view]

Roster: [view]

2011 statistics: [view]

The Good
The Longhorns certainly couldn’t be any worse than they have been the past two seasons, right?  Coming off a stretch in which it won 10-plus games for nine straight seasons, Texas proceeded to win just 13 games total in 2010 and 2011 — the same number they had during their title-winning 2005 season.  With a total of 17 returning starters — tied for 20th in the country according to the esteemed Phil Steele — from a team that “rebounded” with an eight-win season in 2011, it appears the ‘Horns are ready to emerge from its inexplicable two-year sabbatical from meaningful football.

The Bad
A four-game stretch of the schedule beginning in late September that features road games against Oklahoma State and Oklahoma, and home contests with West Virginia and Baylor, combined to go with uncertainty (still) at quarterback to go along with a defense that’s ill-equipped to withstand attrition in any form.  In other words, yes, this ranking could very well — hell, may very well — be such a stretch that I’m pulling a muscle/muscles as I type this.

The Unknown
The quarterback position, of course.  After seven straight seasons of Vince Young/Colt McCoy under center, the Longhorns the past two seasons have had, well, the exact opposite at the position.  And, no, it’s no coincidence the worst two-year stretch under Brown coincides with abysmal play at quarterback.  David Ash, who rotated in and out of the starting lineup with Colt McCoy’s brother Case last season, showed flashes that he could be the guy, although not enough for Brown to name him the starter entering camp.  If either Ash or McCoy can emerge as even an average player at the position, the Longhorns are positioned defensively and with the running game to get back to Texas normalcy record-wise.  That’s a huge, huge if, however.

Make-or-break game: vs. Oklahoma at Dallas, Oct. 6
While the preceding two games against Oklahoma State and West Virginia were tempting to slot here, the annual (warning: political incorrectness ahead!!!) Red River Shootout warrants the spot.  With the Sooners once again expected to be at or near the head of the class in the Big 12, the annual rivalry game will serve as a very solid midseason litmus test of where the Longhorns stand in the conference — and how far they may still have to go to get back to where they were just a couple of years ago.

Heisman hopeful: running back Malcolm Brown
If we have to put anyone here for Texas, it has to be the talented sophomore.  As a true freshman last season, Brown led the Longhorns in both rushing yards (742) while adding five touchdowns on the ground.  It’s a stretch to put Brown in the Heisman mix in the first place; add in incoming freshman Jonathan Gray and the return of Joe Bergeron (2nd in rushing with 463 yards) and it morphs into merely a pipe dream as there may simply not be enough carries for Brown, as talented as he is, to shine on a stage as bright as the Heisman.

Return to CFT’s preseason Top 25

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Oklahoma State’s Jordan Brailford undergoes shoulder surgery, may be back before opener

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The injury-plagued career of Jordan Brailford (pictured, right) in Stillwater is apparently showing no signs of slowing down.

While the football program has yet to confirm it, Oklahoma State’s student newspaper, the Daily O’Collegian, has reported that Brailford has undergone a surgical procedure to repair unspecified damage in his shoulder. The Oklahoman subsequently confirmed the initial report.

It’s expected that the surgery will sideline the redshirt junior defensive lineman for up to four months, which would put him back in time to participate in the latter portions of summer camp. The Oklahoman notes that, via a team source, “Brailford’s availability for the opener depends on how quickly he heals and strengthens the shoulder.”

OU opens the 2017 season against Tulsa Sept. 2, although that game could be moved to Aug. 31.

A three-star 2014 signee, Brailford took a redshirt his true freshman season after suffering a fractured tibia. After playing in 10 games the following season, he missed all of 2016 because of a stress fracture in his foot.

He’s already received a medical hardship waiver for one of those seasons.

Alabama QB Jalen Hurts uses photo of Clemson celebrating title win as motivational phone background

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Nick Saban said last week that the loss to Clemson in the the national championship game earlier this year is one that he’ll never get over, although he didn’t go so far as to compare it to a death in the family. One playing member of Saban’s Alabama Crimson Tide team is taking to steps to ensure that he never forgets, either.

Jalen Hurts was the Tide’s talented true freshman starting quarterback who helped lead ‘Bama into the title game and, with a 30-yard touchdown run with just over two minutes left, gave his team a 31-28 lead. That lead was short-lived, however, as Deshaun Watson led his Tigers on an epic 88-yard drive that was capped by his two-yard touchdown pass with just one tick left on the clock for the 35-31 win.

The stunning last-second loss is something that Hurts makes a conscious effort to remind himself of daily as the rising sophomore, as the background on his smartphone, has a picture of Clemson players celebrating their win.

“We’re obviously all on our phones all the time,” Hurts said according to al.com after this past weekend’s spring game. “Every time I unlock it, it’s kind of a reminder. It kind of humbles me and keeps me motivated. …

“It’s not a grudge at all. It’s just something that keeps it on the back of your shoulder like, yeah, it’s still there. Remember why you’re doing it because at the end of the day, the goal for this team is to win the national championship.

Father of former Florida State WR Travis Rudolph killed in accidental shooting

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The father of Florida State wide receiver Travis Rudolph was killed Friday in an accidental shooting, the Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office said in a statement on Monday.

According to the Sheriff’s Office, Darryl Rudolph was working on repairs inside a West Palm Beach, Fla., when a gun accidentally fired in an adjacent room, hitting him in the back/neck area. He was transported to a local hospital, where he was pronounced dead at 55 years old.

The younger Rudolph was Florida State’s leading receiver over the past two seasons before becoming an early-entrant into this week’s NFL Draft. He gained viral notoriety after a photo snapped of him sitting at lunch with an autistic elementary school student hit Facebook.

“When I used to coach and help other kids with football, basketball and sports, Travis was small but he used to pay attention to what I was doing,” the elder Rudolph said in an interview with ESPN last year. “I told them get your education. You can be the best athlete in the world, but without an education, you’re not going very far. That’s what Travis followed through on.”

LSU QB Danny Etling undergoes back surgery

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LSU quarterback Danny Etling has undergone surgery to relieve back pain, the program announced Monday.

“Danny had a minor back procedure this morning and everything went alright,” head coach Ed Orgeron said in a statement (and not in an Arrested Development way).

Etling has played through back pain for months, according to Ross Dellenger from The Advocate, and this procedure should remove that pain.

In a possibly related story, Etling went 4-of-11 for 53 yards in LSU’s spring game.

A transfer from Purdue, Etling appeared in 11 games for the Tigers last season, completing 160-of-269 passes (59.5 percent) for 2,123 yards (7.9 yards per attempt) with 11 touchdowns against five interceptions.

Etling’s recovery from Monday’s procedure is expected to be a short one.