- One of the main reasons for why Texas has gone 6-11 in conference play the last two seasons is the lack of offensive firepower. Last year, the quarterback position was uncertain as Garrett Gilbert, Case McCoy, David Ash and Connor Wood all competed for the spot during the spring. Ash and McCoy split the duties for most of the season, but Ash ultimately won the position and started in the Holiday Bowl. Ash, who threw for 1,068 yards (56.6%) with a 4-8 ratio last year, is expected to be vastly improved and poses a dual threat with his legs. If Texas can get decent production from Ash, the Longhorns are a legitimate National Title contender.
- I am optimistic about Ash’s development and overall production for two reasons. First, he is supported by an outstanding backfield consisting of Malcolm Brown, Joe Bergeron and Jonathan Gray, all of whom make up one of the best backfields in college football. Second, Ash lines up behind one of the most powerful offensive lines in the nation as the Longhorns have four returning starters (63 career starts) who paved the way for 4.5 yards per rush attempt last season. Texas head coach Mack Brown has praised the offensive line during the spring and suggested that it’s his best unit since 2009.
- Texas also takes the field with a outstanding wide receiving corp. consisting of Jaxon Shipley, who averaged 13.8 yards per catch last year and Mike Davis, who averaged 13.5 yards per catch in 2011. I expect huge improvements with this unit now that Ash and the entire Texas offense is familiar with the offense implemented by coordinator Bryan Harsin, who was the offensive coordinator at Boise State from 2006-2010.
- From a defensive standpoint, Texas boasts the best secondary in college football as three starters return, while four others are back who started five or more games last season. Cornerback Quandre Diggs was the Big Twelve Conference Defensive Player of the Year and should have another solid season alongside Kenny Vaccaro, who turned down the NFL and will likely be a First Round Draft Choice in 2013. In short, teams will not be able to pass against the Longhorns’ secondary this season.
While I certainly believe that Texas is a legitimate National Title contender, I am concerned about the Longhorns’ special teams and head coach. Mack Brown is one of the most overrated and over-paid coaches in college football, and I still cannot understand why the school would give him a contract extension through January, 2020. If Mack Brown can stay out of his own way and if Texas can somehow beat Oklahoma State on the road, the Longhorns could win it all. With fifteen returning starters, hope has returned to Austin, Texas.