Friday, January 25, 2013
Offseason to-do list: Texas Longhorns
By David Ubben
Every year, there's lots of turnover and change for every college program. What do the Big 12 teams need to do before next fall? Let's continue our look with the Longhorns down in Austin.
1. Figure out the offensive identity. Bryan Harsin is gone, and he's probably taking most of his pre-snap shifts with him. Will Major Applewhite still look to run a power offense? Texas has recruited and developed its offensive line really well lately, but David Ash has matured, and even with a wealth of backs in Malcolm Brown, Johnathan Gray, Joe Bergeron and Daje Johnson, Texas hasn't been able to keep them healthy or get consistent production out of one for an entire season. Will Applewhite put more responsibility in Ash's hands? He was good at times last season, but the rising junior was inconsistent. His ceiling is probably a legitimate Heisman campaign. His floor is probably getting benched in favor Connor Brewer or Jalen Overstreet -- or maybe even incoming freshman Tyrone Swoopes. Where will he fall on the spectrum? Will Texas continue to try to pound the trenches?
2. Plug up the middle of the defense. Texas' defense made no sense last season. The personnel is absolutely there to be great up front. The defensive tackles are deep and talented, led by guys like Malcom Brown, Ashton Dorsey, Desmond Jackson and Chris Whaley. The linebackers were solid, even without Jordan Hicks, who should be back next season. Peter Jinkens is a rising star and a few others have potential. Coordinator Manny Diaz didn't take another job, electing to stay in Austin and attempt fix the most underwhelming unit in the Big 12. It all starts with the ability to stop the run, something Texas never did consistently last season. Fix that, and the rest of this defense comes around, I say.
3. Discover and develop leadership. Texas was still a pretty young team last season after rebooting on both sides of the ball after the 2010 season. The freshmen and sophomores who contributed in 2011 are juniors and seniors now, but the team is losing guys like Alex Okafor and Kenny Vaccaro, players who had been around awhile and served as role models for younger guys. Look for Jackson Jeffcoat and David to fill the role this year, but other players, like Malcolm Brown or Jaxon Shipley, might emerge, too. We'll see who steps up in the spring.