2013 record: 8-5 overall, 7-2 in the Big 12 Conference (4th in the Big 12)
2013 postseason: Alamo Bowl vs. Oregon Ducks (30-7 loss)
2013 final AP/coaches’ ranking: Not ranked
Head coach: Charlie Strong (37-16 overall; 1st year at Texas)
Offensive coordinator: Joe Wickline (1st year at Texas)
2013 offensive rankings: 36th rushing offense (196.2 ypg); 79th passing offense (212.5 ypg); 64th total offense (408.7 ypg); 65th scoring offense (29.3 ppg)
Returning offensive starters: seven
Defensive coordinator: Vance Bedford (1st year at Texas)
2013 defensive rankings: 83th rushing defense (183.1 ypg); 53rd passing defense (224.2 ypg); 68th total defense (407.2 ypg); 57th scoring defense (25.8 ppg)
Returning defensive starters: eight
Location: Austin, Texas
Stadium: Darrell K. Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium (100,119 capacity; FieldTurf)
Last conference title: 2009
Texas is absolutely loaded with talent from the top of the roster to the bottom. It’s only been two years since the Longhorns were putting together Top 5 recruiting classes. And Texas should benefit from those top recruits becoming upperclassmen. Running back Malcolm Brown, linebacker Steve Edmond, cornerback Quandre Diggs and defensive tackle Malcom Brown were elite recruits now expected to be leaders of the team. The talent on the roster is there to mold. It simply comes down to finding the right scheme and place said talent in the position to succeed. That’s where a new coaching staff can come in, have instant success and win at a high level even with the same team that’s struggled to win more than eight games the past four seasons.
Last season, the Louisville Cardinals finished as the top defense in college football. The Cardinals staff is now taking over at Texas, and they inherit a Texas defense that played far below expectations in recent seasons. The argument can be made that Texas plays in the wide-open Big 12 conference, which features some of the most explosive offenses in college football and skews the stats. Yet, Texas’ defense last year was substandard even for the Big 12. The Longhorns didn’t finish better than fifth in the conference in any of the major defensive statistics. The one area on defense the team excelled in 2013 was getting to the quarterback. Unfortunately, the team’s top sack artist from a year ago, Jackson Jeffcoat, has departed for the NFL and will be replaced by junior Shiro Davis. Bookend Cedric Reed returns as does the ultra-talented Malcom Brown. The Longhorns’ new head coach, Charlie Strong, hangs his newly fashioned 10-gallon hat on playing tough and fundamentally sound defense. The talent is there for the new staff to exploit. The coaches must simply develop the available talent to play at a much higher level than they’ve grown to expect in recent years.
There is a new sheriff in town and his last name is Strong. A multitude of questions comes along with the departure of Mack Brown after 16 seasons as the Longhorns’ head coach. Strong has already begun to answer some of those questions. The new coach immediately displayed strong leadership when he either dismissed or suspended multiple players, which included four projected starters. Recruiting appears to be picking up in recent weeks. These moves, however, are merely the first indications of Strong’s performance. Strong and his staff will need to build off their current momentum and ride it into the season. Strong proved to be a highly successful head coach at Louisville. But can he improve the Longhorns’ stagnant offense? Can Texas’ defense play to Strong’s standards? Will the young talent on the roster develop and reach their potential? As Strong answers questions, more will continue to come until he quiets the rabble with strong team performances each and every Saturday.
MAKE-OR-BREAK GAME: vs. Oklahoma
The Red River Rivalry is important every year, but it’s exponentially so this season. When the Longhorns meet the Oklahoma Sooners on Oct. 11, it’s a chance for Strong to make a statement. Mack Brown won his last game against the Sooners, and the team did so in an impressive fashion. If Strong falls short, the negative comparisons will automatically commence. While Brown’s Longhorns upset the 12th ranked Sooners a year ago, Oklahoma is regarded as Top 5 program this fall. Strong can set the tone during this game and prove he was the right choice for the job by taking out Texas’ bitter rival.
HEISMAN HOPEFUL: RB Malcolm Brown
While Texas’ roster is supremely talented, potential Heisman candidates are limited (to put it kindly). None of the players currently on the roster have lived up to their lofty status coming into Austin as recruits. Malcolm Brown is the closest of the bunch. The running back has shown the ability to take over games for stretches and be a dynamic runner. Last season, Malcolm Brown led the team with 904 rushing yards and nine rushing touchdowns. He was at his best late in the season with three straight games of 128 yards or more. If quarterback David Ash can play at a higher level and consistently threaten defenses in the passing game, Brown could explode for massive rushing totals. And the University of Texas could have its first Heisman Trophy winner since Ricky Williams.
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