Big 12: Fozzy Whitaker

Texas spring wrap

May, 14, 2009
5/14/09
9:10
AM ET
Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin

Texas Longhorns
2008 overall record: 12-1

2008 conference record: 7-1

Returning starters

Offense: 8, defense: 6, kicker/punter: 2

Top returners

QB Colt McCoy, WR Jordan Shipley, C Chris Hall, T Adam Ulastoski, S Earl Thomas, DT Lamarr Houston, DE/LB Sergio Kindle, LB Roddrick Muckelroy

Key losses

DE Brian Orakpo, WR Quan Cosby, G Cedric Dockery, RB Chris Ogbonnaya, DT Roy Miller, LB Rashad Bobino

2008 statistical leaders (* returners)

Rushing: Colt McCoy* (561 yards)
Passing: Colt McCoy* (3,859 yards)
Receiving: Quan Cosby (1,123 yards)
Tackles: Rodrick Muckelroy* (112)
Sacks: Brian Orakpo (11.5)
Interceptions: Ryan Palmer (3)

Spring answers

2009 Schedule
Sept. 5 Louisiana-Monroe
Sept. 12 at Wyoming
Sept. 19 Texas Tech
Sept. 26 UTEP
Oct. 10 Colorado
Oct. 17 Oklahoma (at Dallas)
Oct. 24 at Missouri
Oct. 31 at Oklahoma State
Nov. 7 Central Florida
Nov. 14 at Baylor
Nov. 21 Kansas
Nov. 26 at Texas A&M

1. Secondary depth: Texas coach Mack Brown believes the Longhorns might have the best depth at defensive back of any team he's ever had. The group made Colt McCoy look ordinary in the spring game, continuing its strong performance from earlier in practice. It was a big turnaround from last season, when Texas produced a Big 12-low six interceptions and generated only 16 turnovers. But strong play this spring from safeties Earl Thomas, Christian Scott, Nolan Brewster and Blake Gideon make the position seem set. Cornerbacks Chykie Brown and Aaron Williams appear to have emerged as two of the most physical players to have lined up at the position for Texas in several years. And Curtis Brown and Deon Beasley add solid depth at the position.

2. Speed pass-rushers: Sergio Kindle was switched to defensive end and dominated early practices like Texas defensive coordinator Will Muschamp had hoped. Kindle is being counted on to fill the featured pass-rusher role so ably played by Brian Orakpo last season. But just as much of a revelation was the play of freshman Alex Okafor. Brown traditionally has been hesitant to give true freshmen significant playing time. He might not be able to avoid it with Okafor, who tore up early practices. Speed pass-rushers are vitally important in the Big 12 and Okafor combines with Kindle to give the Longhorns two of the fastest in the conference.

3. McCoy back for more: So much for any thoughts about complacency after McCoy nearly won the Heisman last season. McCoy has come back driven and appears ready to take another step during his senior season. He's returned 10 pounds heavier and appears to be the Longhorns' obvious leader on a team of talented young players desperately seeking one.

Fall questions

1. Running back: Cody Johnson appeared to be close to winning the job midway through camp at tailback before he was sidelined with a left hamstring pull. He needs to report to camp this summer in better shape. The Longhorns tinkered with their power running game with Vondrell McGee and Fozzy Whitaker and all three of the touchdowns in the spring game came from the I-formation. It was a start, although the Longhorns failed to average 3 yards per carry in the
spring game. Someone needs to emerge since the Longhorns can't realistically expect McCoy to be the team's leading rusher again this season. One hope could be Chris Whaley, a bruising 235-pounder who arrives this summer as the team's most highly touted freshman offensive player.

2. Defensive tackle: Texas' depth inside was hit hard by attrition after Roy Miller left. One of the best stories of the spring was the emergence of Ben Alexander, who has struggled finding the field against spread teams in the past. But Texas' depth is perilous behind him, starter Lamarr Houston and Kheeston Randall. And it got worse last week when heralded redshirt freshman Jarvis Humphrey had to quit football because of a kidney ailment. The Longhorns will need some help this summer when incoming players like heralded recruits Derek Johnson and Calvin Howell arrive.

3. Leadership: The Longhorns clearly have one of the most talented teams in the nation. But one concern that won't be answered before the season is how the team responds to adversity. Last year's team received strong direction from players like Miller, Quan Cosby and Orakpo and had a knack for responding when challenged -- such as in comeback victories against Ohio State and Oklahoma and their near comeback against Texas Tech. Brown openly questioned the makeup of this team in the spring. He won't have any answers until the season starts.

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