2013 Preview: Texas Longhorns

2012 Texas linebackers Emmanuel Acho (18) and Keenan Robinson (1) (Harry How, Getty Images)

2012 Review: The 2012 season for the Texas Longhorns was about process; it was about improvement and development. Following a dismal 5-7 campaign in 2010/2011, UT proved that failure was only a temporary setback for this historically esteemed program. The Longhorns finished 8-5 in 2012 and carried some positive momentum going into the offseason with a 21-10 Holiday Bowl victory over Cal. The Texas defense improved drastically; only giving up around 315 yards per game, good for 14th in the country. Many key cogs from this unit return in 2013, setting up the Longhorns for a potential return to the national spotlight.

Sophomore running back Malcolm Brown returns to lead the Texas ground attack (Edward A. Ornelas, San Antonio Express-News)

Offense: Quarterback shuffling was commonplace for the second straight year in Austin, as freshman David Ash and sophomore Case McCoy split time and finished with very similar stats. Ash emerged atop the depth chart following spring camp, but only time will tell if he can hold on to this title. Whoever plays quarterback will have a number of talented running backs lined up behind him. Sophomore Malcolm Brown (742 yards) will be the starter, but Joe Bergeron, Jeremy Hills, and DJ Monroe are too talented to keep off the field. Sophomore Jaxon Shipley (607 yards) will be the top receiving target for Texas this year and is a bonafide playmaker on the outside. The second and third options at receiver are still being fought over, with Mike Davis (609 yards) and Marquise Goodwin (421 yards) being the early favorites. Four starters return along the Texas offensive line next season, led by junior guard Mason Walters.

Weakside end Alex Okafor is one of many defensive playmakers for the Longhorns (Robert Backman, Cal Sports Media)

Defense: Although four multi-year starters must be replaced on the Longhorn defense, there is a plethora of talent returning for coordinator Manny Diaz. The 2013 unit will be characterized by a dominant pair of defensive ends and a lockdown secondary. The ends, Jackson Jeffcoat and Alex Okafor, combined for 14.5 sacks a season ago. Three starters return in the secondary, them being cornerbacks Carrington Byndom (2 int’s) and Quandre Diggs (4 int’s) and safety Kenny Vaccaro (2 int’s). Vaccaro is a stud and should be regarded as the best player on the Texas defense regardless of position. Junior Jordan Hicks is the lone returning starter at linebacker after a 51 tackle season in 2012. A pair of sophomores, Steve Edmond and Kendall Thompson, should step in as the other linebacker starters. Calvin Howell returns to his starting nose tackle spot this year, and sophomore Desmond Jackson should replace Kheeston Randall as the 3-technique tackle.

Impact Newcomer: Few players have had as prolific a high school career as Aledo, Texas running back Johnathan Gray. In his four years of high school football, the 5’11 190 pound back ran for 10,881 yards. In Gray’s senior season, the five-star prospect ran for 3,891 yards and accumulated an 11.2 yards per carry average; these are simply ridiculous statistics. The Texas Longhorn backfield is loaded with talent in 2013, but there’s no reason to believe that Gray won’t make a big impact as a freshman.

X Factor: A few things could be considered here, such as quarterback play, health of the offensive line, and the emergence of another receiver, but I’m going to pick something on the other side of the ball. When analyzing the Texas roster, defensive depth is surprisingly thin. If a key player such as Vaccaro or Jeffcoat were to suffer an injury, an inexperienced youngster would be forced to make a big contribution at an important position. The play of the Longhorn defense will make or break UT’s 2013 season, and a big-time injury would be devastating.

2012 Texas Longhorns Football Schedule

Date Opponent Time/TV Tickets
Saturday
09/01/12
Cowboys Wyoming Cowboys 
Darrell K. Royal – TX Mem. Stadium, Austin, TX
TBA Buy
Tickets
Saturday
09/08/12
Lobos New Mexico Lobos
Darrell K. Royal – TX Mem. Stadium, Austin, TX
TBA Buy
Tickets
Saturday
09/15/12
Rebels at Ole Miss Rebels 
Vaught-Hemingway Stadium, Oxford, MS
TBA Buy
Tickets
Saturday
09/22/12
Open Date
Saturday
09/29/12
Cowboys at Oklahoma State Cowboys 
Boone Pickens Stadium, Stillwater, OK
TBA Buy
Tickets
Saturday
10/06/12
Mountaineers West Virginia Mountaineers 
Darrell K. Royal – TX Mem. Stadium, Austin, TX
TBA Buy
Tickets
Saturday
10/13/12
Sooners Oklahoma Sooners 
Cotton Bowl, Dallas, TX
TBA Buy
Tickets
Saturday
10/20/12
Bears Baylor Bears 
Darrell K. Royal – TX Mem. Stadium, Austin, TX
TBA Buy
Tickets
Saturday
10/27/12
Jayhawks at Kansas Jayhawks 
Memorial Stadium, Lawrence, KS
TBA Buy
Tickets
Saturday
11/03/12
Red Raiders at Texas Tech Red Raiders 
Jones AT&T Stadium, Lubbock, TX
TBA Buy
Tickets
Saturday
11/10/12
Cyclones Iowa State Cyclones 
Darrell K. Royal – TX Mem. Stadium, Austin, TX
TBA Buy
Tickets
Saturday
11/17/12
Open Date
Saturday
11/24/12
Horned Frogs TCU Horned Frogs 
Darrell K. Royal – TX Mem. Stadium, Austin, TX
TBA Buy
Tickets
Saturday
12/01/12
Wildcats at Kansas State Wildcats 
Bill Snyder Family FB Stadium, Manhattan, KS
TBA Buy
Tickets

The Cotton Bowl will be divided once again as the Longhorns take on the Sooners on October 13th (Bleacher Report)

Schedule Outlook: For some reason, (I’m weird), the first word that popped into my head when looking at this schedule was “fun”. Texas gets to play in some legitimately fun games in some of college football’s most electric environments. The Longhorns have September road matchups in front of hostile crowds at Ole Miss and at Oklahoma State, and end the year in Manhattan, Kansas to play K-State in what is sure to be a packed Bill Snyder Stadium. UT welcomes West Virginia and TCU to the Big 12 with games in Austin, and plays Oklahoma in Dallas for the annual Red River Rivalry showdown. Despite all the fun, this schedule still is no slouch. However, this Texas team has some impressive pieces that could very easily guide the Longhorns to a 9 or 10 win season. UT is ranked at 14 in Gridiron Digest’s Inaugural Preseason Top 25 Poll, and if the defense holds up and the offense improves only slightly, 2013 will be very fun indeed for the Texas Longhorns.

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