Big 12 Sports.com Correspondent
2011: 8-5 overall, 4-5 in Big 12, won Holiday Bowl.
Starters returning: Offense 9, defense 7.
Texas won a national championship with Vince Young in 2005 and nearly won a national title with Colt McCoy in 2009. Since McCoy's departure, the Longhorns are 13-12 and the quarterback position has been a problem.
Spring practice didn't resolve the issue. Coach Mack Brown kept the competition open heading into preseason practice. Sophomore David Ash and junior Case McCoy shared the duties last year and Ash might have a slight edge on Colt McCoy's younger brother.
"You come in, there is an expectation of a UT quarterback, you've got to be a Vince Young or a Colt McCoy," Ash said. "But you don't have to be that. The biggest thing I learned is be yourself."
Both quarterbacks learned that turnovers lead to losses.
"I think we all know that to be on the field and run that position, you can't turn the ball over," McCoy said. "That was part of the problem last year, each one of us would turn the ball at some point."
Brown says Texas needs more explosive plays (runs of 10 or more yards, pass completions of 20 or more yards). Last season, the Longhorns had 81 runs of 10 or more yards but just 28 passes of 20 or more yards. The lack of big passing plays was one reason UT finished 8th in the Big 12 in scoring.
If Ash or McCoy can be productive and limit mistakes, the pieces are in place for Texas to increase its victory total from last season. The offense should rely on a deep and talented group of running backs. Mike Davis and Jaxon Shipley are the top pass catchers but there's not a lot of depth at receiver.
The defense has a number of talented play makers. Defensive ends Alex Okafor and Jackson Jeffcoat might be the best defensive end duo in the Big 12 while the secondary is led by veteran safety Kenny Vacarro and talented sophomores Quandre Diggs and Carrington Byndom.
Running back Fozzy Whittaker, linebacker Emmanuel Acho, linebacker Keenan Robinson, defensive tackle Kheeston Randall and safety Blake Gideon, kicker/punter Justin Tucker.
Running back Johnathan Gray, offensive tackle Donald Hawkins, corner back Orlando "Duke" Thomas, corner back Bryson Echols, linebacker Steve Edmond, linebacker Demarco Cobbs.
The Orange-White spring game was little more than a glorified scrimmage but there were several big hits, particularly when it came to downfield blocking. Offensive coordinator Bryan Harsin said, "We put an emphasis (on being more physical) on both sides of the ball.'' And Mack Brown said, "We tested our entire team about toughness."
Senior D.J. Monroe has been moved to wide receiver. One of the fastest players on the Texas roster, the offensive coaching staff has struggled to put him in position to use his speed. With a glut of running backs and a lack of depth at wide receiver, the 5-9, 175-pound Monroe is a better fit as a receiver. "He can do things in space," Brown said. "He needs to be outside. That's who he is."
Defensive end Jackson Jeffcoat missed spring practice because of shoulder surgery. Wide receiver Marquise Goodwin was competing for the school's track and field team. Sophomore receiver Miles Onyegbule, who had four receptions for 51 yards last season, had surgery for a torn left pectoral muscle and will likely be unable to participate in preseason practices. Wide receiver Bryant Jackson had foot surgery after spring practice.
"Quandre was tough. He got knocked around a lot. Carrington has gotten tougher every minute he's been here. Both of them are both very bright. They made an easy transition to the field. Both of them were in very good high school programs."
- Brown on sophomore corner backs Quandre Diggs and Carrington Byndom
"To me, what a great defense does is win games. A great defense serves its offense. It creates field position for the offense because that's what the game is really about. It's about where you get the ball, how far do you have to go to score and how many points do you have to score to win. A great defense takes what is easy for an offense to do and makes it hard."
- defensive coordinator Manny Diaz on his definition of a great defense
"We're putting a tremendous amount of emphasis on who is out there every day, who is consistent every day, who gets ready to practice every day and who is excited about playing every day. We've tried to make some analogies to the NCAA tournament. It is one and done. That's why I like it so much. If you go flat, you don't get it back. ... That's the attitude we're trying to get to this team. You can't be a great team and have a bad day. If you are, you're probably going to get beat."
- Brown on how he wants his team to play this fall.
|Sept. 8||New Mexico|
|Sept. 15||at Mississippi|
|Sept. 29||at Oklahoma State*|
|Oct. 6||West Virginia*|
|Oct. 13||Oklahoma* (at Dallas)|
|Oct. 27||at Kansas*|
|Nov. 3||at Texas Tech*|
|Nov. 10||Iowa State*|
|Dec. 1||at Kansas State*|