Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) -
2012 SEASON IN REVIEW: Mack Brown's Texas Longhorns experienced yet another in
a long line of winning seasons in 2012, but the prevailing thought among fans
and skeptics alike is that these aren't the same old 'Horns who were among the
best teams in the country just a few years earlier.
Running over non-conference foes Wyoming, New Mexico and Ole Miss in the first
three weeks of the campaign wasn't at all surprising, but winning at Oklahoma
State (41-36) in the Big 12 opener had many thinking UT could be for real.
A 48-45 loss at home to West Virginia was heartbreaking, and Brown's club
followed that up with its most embarrassing effort of the season as it was
rolled by rival Oklahoma in a 63-21 final. The Longhorns weren't about to pack
it in though, as they would go on to win their next four games, albeit against
Baylor, Kansas, Texas Tech and Iowa State.
Back-to-back losses to TCU and Kansas State closed the regular season, and at
8-4 (5-4 in conference) Texas was relegated to second-tier bowl status -- a
date with Oregon State in the Alamo Bowl. The Longhorns got past the Beavers,
31-27, but with a record of 22-16 (11-15 Big 12) over the past three years,
the time is now for Brown to restore the 'Horns to their former glory.
OFFENSE: Texas returns eight starters on offense, including the entire line,
an experienced quarterback, and a talented receiving corps, and that suits
Brown just fine as the team transitions back to a spread formation.
David Ash enters his junior year hoping his becomes a household name, but in
order to do so he will need to improve upon the 2,699 yards, 19 TDs and eight
interceptions he accounted for a season ago. Having receivers Jaxon Shipley
(59 receptions, 737 yards, six TDs) and Mike Davis (57 recs., 939 yards, seven
TDs) back will certainly help, and having a huge target in sophomore tight end
M.J. McFarland will be a bonus as well as the big man (6-foot-6) can expect to
hear his number called quite often.
At the Big 12 media event in late July, Brown remarked about how important it
is to have a veteran quarterback on which to rely.
"When you think about the importance of that player at all levels of our game,
it is really, really key, and that's why we're so excited to have David with
experience, with maturity, with confidence not only in himself but in his
team. He's leading the team much better, and they believe in him right now."
The UT run game will feature last year's top gainer in Johnathan Gray, who
rumbled his way to 701 yards and three TDs, and the 16 rushing scores produced
by Joe Bergeron (127 carries, 567 yards) gave the team a major boost as well.
Also figuring in the backfield mix is Malcolm Brown (61 carries, 324 yards,
DEFENSE: The Longhorns were solid against the pass (212.0 ypg, 36th
nationally) last season, but had a difficult time defending the run (192.2
ypg, 88th nationally, 29 rushing TDs allowed, worst in the Big 12). As a
result, the unit allowed more yards (5,244) than any Texas defense in history.
The hope is that having as many as nine guys back with starting experience
will help with continuity, but plain and simple ... the guys up front need to
do a better job of getting off the ball and clogging holes quickly, while
those in the defensive backfield need to lock down their man with greater
Guys to keep an eye on include senior defensive end Jackson Jeffcoat (11 TFL,
four sacks), junior linebacker Steve Edmond (103 tackles), junior cornerback
Quandre Diggs (club-best four interceptions) and senior corner Carrington
Byndom (three picks). Still others who could make major strides this season
include linebackers Jordan Hicks and Peter Jinkins, the former of whom is
battling his way back from a major hip injury suffered early last season.
Brown acknowledged the need to play better on defense, "We've got to change
who we are across the league defensively. You're just trying to keep them from
scoring more points than you're getting, come up with some turnovers and keep
them out of the end zone."
SPECIAL TEAMS: Former Penn State Nittany Lion Anthony Fera appears to be the
man Brown will turn to as his punter, and while he is also an accomplished
placekicker, a previous groin injury may keep him out of that role for the
most part this season. If that holds true, expect to see a guy like sophomore
Nick Rose handling that chore. With regard to the return game, there is no
shortage on speedsters capable of taking one the distance.
OUTLOOK: This very well could be a make or break season for Brown, and if the
'Horns don't get off to a fast start, the pressure will likely boil over
Opening at home against New Mexico State should certainly result in victory,
but a trip to BYU in week two could be difficult. Playing SEC foe Ole Miss
seven days later won't be a picnic either, and the Big 12 opener versus Kansas
State, whether played in Austin or not, has trouble written all over it.
A visit to Iowa State is next, followed by the annual rivalry matchup with
Oklahoma and a trip to TCU. The remainder of the schedule has the Longhorns
hitting the road to battle West Virginia and Baylor, and back home against
Kansas, Oklahoma State and Texas Tech.
Needless to say, it's anyone's guess as to how well Texas will do this year,
but with a slew of returning talent, and some changes in terms of offensive
schemes, it shouldn't surprise anyone to see the 'Horns playing meaningful
games late into the season.
The Sports Network