Head Coach: Mack Brown
Coaching Changes: Lots of them. But the one all Texas fans can rejoice about is the departure of offensive coordinator, Greg Davis. He's replaced by the combo platter of Bryan Harsin (formerly the OC at Boise State) and Major Applewhite (he of Texas legend, and former stints leading the offenses at Rice and Alabama). There are others, but these are obviously the big ones.
2010 Record: 5-7 (2-6 Big XII)
They return a lot of starters on both sides of the ball. The losses are minimal. And the recruiting class, led by running back Malcolm Brown, is unsurprisingly fantastic - I seem to remember Rivals ranking it #1 in the country. And if memory serves again, I'm pretty sure they only had to go out of state for a single player to assemble such a class. Must be nice. Let's just move on.Last season, Texas had one of the single most disappointing seasons we've witnessed. Much worse than what we saw in Lawrence even, given the vast superiority in every facet of the program. It all started with the failures of Garrett Gilbert, much of which can probably be traced back to Greg Davis, who had been terrible for years, but was repeatedly bailed out by phenomenal quarterback play. Gilbert couldn't compensate for him, and thus, he finally got the hook he'd deserved for so long. Now it's up to Major Applewhite and Bryan Harsin to turn Gilbert in to the QB Texas thought he'd be and get the offense back on track towards respectability.
Since it will all stop and start with the Quarterback, let's get right to the position. Garrett Gilbert - otherwise known as Todd Reesing's successor - came in with all of the hype and tools a Texas quarterback could want. And heading into his junior year, he sits in just about the same seat. He has very little football intelligence or field awareness of any kind (things Todd Reesing oozed), but he's got all the measurables. Basically, he's Blaine Gabbert without the well designed offensive system. Or at least that's what he's been - maybe Harsin and Applewhite can change the latter.
Running Back has been a mixed bag of nothingness since Jamal Charles departed. And much of that blame should again go to Greg Davis, who has never shown an ability to devise a competent running game absent an absolutely elite talent. Because they're Texas, they've got the backs in stable. Fozzy Whitaker can do anything you want him to, except of course, stay on the field. If for some reason he stays healthy - highly doubtful - he has all-league talent. Cody Johnson is the short yardage guy and there aren't many better at said skill. And finally, freshman stud Malcolm Brown should get a big number of carries. He's probably the best back of the bunch, and since he'll never have to work behind Greg Davis' blocking schemes, he may be the first back since Charles to have a real career at Texas.
Gilbert had his struggles, and much of them were his own doing. But the aforementioned Davis, his OL and of course his Wide Receivers deserved plenty of blame as well. Kirkendoll is gone, Goodwin is doing track and Malcolm Williams never quite figured things out between the ears. The #1 target is unquestionably Mike Davis. Davis isn't huge and isn't a true burner, but he's a pure receiver that can do a little bit of everything. Behind him is a bunch of unproven talent, led by Jordan's younger brother, Jaxon Shipley. And since he's white, most will compliment his route running ability and his heart. And none of that is wrong, but he's actually a pretty pure talent himself that should thrive at this level, just as his brother did. The two of them combined should be chain movers. The last guy I'll mention is Darius White, who Texas is counting on as a deep threat, something they did not have a year ago. He's not as tall as they'd like him to be (6'2"), but he can and will need to be their game breaker, because no one else at the wideout spot has the ability to do so.
Last but not least, I'll touch on the big uglies up front. However, I have little to say about them, since I don't even know who will be starting on the offensive line. What I do know is that if they've studied their playbooks, they'll look much better than in the past, because they're likely to be executing real, live blocking schemes under Harsin and Applewhite. You and I may not pay enough attention to Texas to notice, but if they have a dramatic improvement this season, you can bet this played an enormous role.
I'm still not sure how to characterize Texas' defense from a season ago. They should have been otherworldly and at times, they were. But they were put in a bad spot by their offense about twenty times too many, and they finally snapped and ultimately, quit. And since then, they lost their fearless leader, Will Muschamp, to Florida. But again, being Texas, they were able to replace him with a potential coaching star in the making, Manny Diaz. There's a lot of unknown here - Diaz included - but there's a TON of potential.
It all starts up front. Defensive Tackle has been made out to be a big concern, because apparently everyone forgot that Kheeston Randall is on the roster for one final year. Randall might be the best DT in the league and he will play on Sundays. I know very little about their other DTs, but if they can even get competent play that can occupy a blocker, he can take care of the rest. Outside, they're young but immensely talented at Defensive End. I'm starting with Jackson Jeffcoat, because if you don't know the name yet, you will. His dad, Jim, was a phenomenal DE for years in the NFL, and he taught Jackson everything he knows and somehow found a way to also give him all the physical gifts Jim was lacking. Opposite Jeffcoat is Alex Okafor, who played undersized on the inside a year ago. Getting out to his natural spot will be a great move for Okafor, who should be great in the run game, but still plenty capable in disrupting the opposing quarterback.
It's imperative that this young line tie up blockers, because if they do, the Linebacking unit is as good as they come. And I truly mean, "as good as they come." Make them shed blockers and they become a bit more ordinary. There's some depth here, but the three guys you should and will know are: Keenan Robinson, Emmanuel Acho, and Jordan Hicks. Acho and Robinson have shown you what they can do, but Hicks soon will, and he may actually be the best of the bunch. None are huge and will struggle a bit getting off a second level lineman blocking right at them, but let them run downhill and sideline to sideline and they will take care of business.
Keeping with the youth them, if Texas has one defensive struggle this year, it may very well be at the Corner position. They could be great for all I know, but it's pure speculation, because none of them have proven much of anything. In line to start are Carrington Byndom and Adrian Phillips. Both are physical, for corners, but young corners can be awfully vulnerable, particularly against some of the great receivers in this conference. There's some playmaking ability, but they'll take some lumps and need some Safety help. Which should be available, to a degree, in the form of Blake Gideon (still there!) and Kenny Vaccaro (their best guy in the secondary). They don't come any more experienced than Blake Gideon, though they do come much more talented. He is smart, which you want in a safety, but he's not going to be utilized in an array of different ways, so what you see is what you get. That's not ideal, but it should be sufficient. Vaccaro has the potential to play at the next level and I expect him to do so at some point. He can run, he can hit and he can cover. There's little else you need out of a safety.
Projecting Texas this year is a fool's errand. They're ranked in the top 25 because they're Texas and the media is lazy. But in actuality, it seems pretty accurate. Last season's collapse was a ridiculous and shameful downward spiral. But it shouldn't be repeated, considering the changes made and talent that's in place.