Monday, March 18, 2013
Weak and Strong: Texas Longhorns
By David Ubben
Turnover is an annual tradition in college football, but with that, teams' strengths and weaknesses constantly shift, too. Today, we'll continue our look at the biggest strengths and weaknesses for each Big 12 team.
Next up: Texas.
Strongest position: Running backs
You simply could not ask for anything more from one position, and I might make the case that this is the strongest unit in the Big 12 in terms of pure skill. The Longhorns lost D.J. Monroe from this unit last year, but they run four deep and each brings something special to the table. Johnathan Gray has the best balance of the quartet, and the rising sophomore looks like a favorite to win the starting job on the back of his strong first step. The starting position is a bit pointless ultimately, considering all four will get touches, especially Malcolm Brown, a balanced back with a great feel for space between the tackles who leans a bit more toward being a power runner.
The other two backs are pure specialty, but every backfield can use those. Joe Bergeron is a 240-pound bowling ball who rolled his way to 16 touchdowns a year ago, more than anyone else in the Big 12 except Collin Klein, who finished third in the Heisman voting. On the other end of the spectrum is Daje Johnson, a sophomore speedster who averaged 11.5 yards a touch last season. He had touchdown runs of 45 yards (New Mexico) and 84 yards (Baylor) that showcased his speed. This is a solid group with elite talent and tons of depth and versatility. Texas has recruited running backs so well lately, and it's showing up on the field. What more could you ask for?
Weakest position: Specialists
Texas has solid talent in the return game with Quandre Diggs and Jaxon Shipley, but the kicking game was a disaster last season and the Longhorns are trying to find an answer at punter to fill in for Alex King, who graduated after averaging better than 45 yards a kick on his 43 punts last year. The big problem that carried over from last season is at place-kicker. Texas finished last season just 11-of-19 on field goals, tied for the worst mark in the Big 12 and 107th nationally.
Penn State transfer Anthony Fera was the biggest hope at the position, but he was nagged with a persistent groin injury and has been working mostly at punter this spring after making 2-of-4 field goals last year. Freshman Nick Jordan made 9-of-15 kicks last season and has to be better to hold onto his spot.
Texas has recruited well all over the field and doesn't lose much from last year's team, but when I survey the depth chart, kicker and punter are clearly the biggest weaknesses for the Longhorns. The players currently on the roster are long on potential but short on real accomplishments.