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Monday, March 22, 2010
Weak & Strong: Texas

By ESPN.com staff
ESPN.com

Here, we’ll take a look at one area where each team in the Big 12 can expect to succeed, and another that needs improvement.

Weak: Playmakers

Jordan Shipley is gone, and Texas must find at least one running back or receiver who is capable of making a consistent impact on the Longhorns offense. Texas' leading returning receiver, James Kirkendoll, caught 48 passes for 461 yards and six touchdowns. The team's second-leading receiver, Dan Buckner, transferred to Arizona.

Now, they'll rely on a handful of receivers like Marquise Goodwin, John Chiles and Malcolm Williams, to emerge as quarterback Garrett Gilbert's primary targets. No current Texas receiver has ever had both 40 receptions or more and 500 receiving yards in a season. If the current receivers can't prove they're reliable, incoming freshmen Darius White, DeMarco Cobbs and Mike Davis could see plenty of early playing time.

Texas will likely practice a running back-by-committee approach in 2010, with Tre' Newton, Cody Johnson, Vondrell McGee and Fozzy Whittaker jockeying throughout the spring and fall for carries.

Strong: Secondary

Cornerback Curtis Brown and safety Blake Gideon return after having All-Big 12 honorable mention performances in 2009. Gideon intercepted six passes in 2009 and made 62 tackles. Brown broke up 15 passes and also made 53 tackles.

Starters Chykie Brown and Aaron Williams also return from a defense that ranked second in the Big 12 in pass defense and had a nation-best 25 interceptions. Though Texas' safeties collected most of the Longhorns interceptions in 2009, Brown and Williams combined to pick off five passes. They also broke up 16 passes, had 92 tackles and collected four sacks.

The Longhorns lost Earl Thomas to the NFL draft, leaving the second safety spot up for grabs this spring. Christian Scott missed last season, and Nolan Brewster isn't practicing this spring after shoulder surgery, but both could line up across from Gideon in the fall. Ben Wells and Kenny Vaccaro could also compete for the spot.

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