GOAT: Vince Young (QB)
Key Losses: James Kirkendoll (WR), Sam Acho (DE), Aaron Williams (CB), Curtis Brown (CB)
Key Additions: Bryan Harsin (OC), Manny Diaz (DC), Malcolm Brown (RB)
Normally there is a lively debate about which team was the most underachieving in any given year. 2010 is the exception to that rule. Everyone knows Texas owns that title after finishing 5-7 (at TEXAS!!) in a weak Big 12. All Mack Brown (usually) does at Texas is win 10+ games. In the nine years leading up to the 2010 season, the Longhorns won 10 or more games every single year. In 6 of those 9 years they won 11 or more. After losing to Alabama in the championship game in 2009, Texas was expected to take a step back with the departure of Colt McCoy. You don’t lose a quarterback like McCoy and get better (unless of course you’re Tennessee in 1998). Of course no one expected Texas to fall flat on their face, least of all Brown.
Brown has accrued so much good will in his 13 years at Texas that one bad season isn’t much to worry about; though losing 7 games with Texas is a bit mind-numbing. The 2010 off-season was a busy one for the Longhorns as Brown went out and plucked two of the hottest assistant coaches in the country away from Mississippi State (defensive coordinator Manny Diaz) and Boise State (offensive coordinator Bryan Harsin). Texas will surely win the national title now that Greg Davis is no longer the head coach as Texas fans have blamed him for everything wrong with Texas for several years now.
With a revamped staff and a new found sense of urgency after a dismal 2010, Texas looks to rebound and get back to winning 10 games annually. But do they have the talent? I’m not so sure.
Texas, like Notre Dame or USC, will always have a highly touted quarterback on the roster. It’s just one of those college football facts of life. Garret Gilbert is currently the “next greatest thing ever” on the roster…only he isn’t very good; or at least he hasn’t been up to this point. The junior was handed the keys to the Longhorn machine last season and promptly drove the car into the ditch. He then got out of the car and set it on fire for good measure. The former 5-star recruit threw an NCAA-high 17 interceptions and completed less than 60% of his passes, accounting for only 10 passing touchdowns. He now has to win the job after having it handed to him a year ago. Gilbert has the arm to make every throw in any playbook, but that is also the problem. He thinks he can fit the ball into tiny windows that, frankly, he can’t hit. Gilbert’s accuracy must improve or McCoy’s younger brother, Case, may be the next McCoy to unseat an all-world recruit.
While Gilbert deserves plenty of the blame for Texas’ nightmare season, the piss-poor (putting it kindly) rushing attack is the biggest issue facing Harsin and the Longhorns. Leading up to the 2010 season, all of the talk surrounding Texas was a re-dedication to the power rushing attack. While that sounds all well and good, if you have nothing but 7v7 passing camp warriors littering the roster, going from the spread passing attack of the McCoy era to a pound-the-rock approach in one off-season is a recipe for disaster. Texas’s leading rusher was Cody Johnson, now a fullback, and he only finished with 592 yards. That’s right, the leading rusher for the University of Texas was a fullback and had less than 600 yards on the ground. That’s pathetic. What does Texas do to rectify this situation? They go out and land the nation’s best running back in Malcolm Brown. The 6-foot-0, 215-pound true freshman is a total beast, and if Texas is serious about pounding the rock, Brown is the perfect piece for Harsin’s system (this one touchdown run is a perfect example of how badass he is). Texas brings back 2 starters from last year’s offensive line, but new starters Trey Hopkins and Tray Allen were each highly recruited out of high school (4- and 5-star respectively).
One thing Texas desperately needs to find is a go-to wide receiver. For three years Malcolm Williams has teased Longhorns fans with his talent, but he’s yet to be anything other than a track guy playing receiver. He needs to step his game up following a pedestrian 2010 that saw him catch 24 balls for 334 yards. Mike Davis returns after finishing second in yards and catches, but neither he nor Williams feel like true No. 1 receivers.
Assuming Brown is as legit as people say he is, Gilbert should have a large burden lifted from his shoulders and he can perhaps settle down and settle in to being the star many thought he’d become.
It must be nice to be Texas. For three years Will Muschamp was the defensive coordinator for the Longhorns and for three years Texas had a nasty defense. Then Florida called and Muschamp left to take over for Urban Meyer. What does Texas do? They go out and pilfer arguably the hottest young defensive coach in football in Manny Diaz. The new defense will blitz more often and from different slots compared to Muschamp’s base set, and Texas will have just the guy to come off of the edge in sophomore Jackson Jeffcoat. The 6-foot-5, 253-pound tank will be the next big defensive player to bust in the NFL from Texas (I kid, Longhorn fans). Jeffcoat is perfectly suited to be the rush end in a 4-3 defense, so expect to hear his name often, especially when he’s getting slobbered over on the new Longhorn Network.
Blake Gideon returns as the ball-hawking free safety, but Aaron Williams and Curtis Brown must be replaced at the corner spots. Adrian Phillips and Carrington Byndom will get first crack at filling in for the two NFL draft selections. All-world recruit Jordan Hicks should slide into a starting role in 2011 as the weak side linebacker. At 6-foot-2, 228-pounds, Hicks should be all over the field in Diaz’s scheme. If either Hicks or Jeffcoat live up to the hype, Texas should have another stout defense.
Justin Tucker returns as the team’s kicker and punter. Tucker was money as a kicker, hitting 23/27 last season while hitting on all 27 PATs. His 36.5 net-average was solid as a punter, and he pinned opponents inside their 20-yard line 17 times. Curtis Brown is gone to the NFL, so Texas will have to find another punt returner. Brown averaged a stellar 14.9 yards per return in 2010, so filling that void will be paramount for the Texas special teams. DJ Monroe returns from a solid-but-not-spectacular KO return campaign (20.5 per return).