Big 12 Preview: Texas

In conjunction with the Big 12 Football Media Days being held this week in Houston, Go Pokes will be publishing previews on each of the conference's schools.

Texas Longhorns
vs. OSU, Oct. 29, at Boone Pickens Stadium
Head Coach: Mack Brown (8th year)
2004 Record: 11-1, 7-1 Big 12

Texas returns seven offensive starters from last year's 11-1 Rose Bowl champion team. It's no secret the Longhorn offense will be built around four returning linemen and quarterback Vince Young, the Rose Bowl MVP. Young was the nation's leading rushing quarterback (89.9 ypg), while directing college football's No. 2 ground game (299.2 ypg) last season.

The zone read will remain Texas' bread-and-butter play and Young runs the scheme like he invented it. The Heisman Trophy candidate has run circles around opponents on the way to a 17-2 mark as a starter. The question remains: Can he beat top-notch defenses with his arm?

The passing game was an emphasis during spring, with Young focusing on intermediate routes and getting on the same page with unproven receivers, including sophomore Limas Sweed, who is poised for a breakout year. Flanker Jordan Shipley, held out of contact this spring after tearing an ACL last August, is expected to compete with starter Nate Jones as a deep-ball threat. Senior David Thomas is the most versatile tight end that head coach Mack Brown has ever coached.

Sophomore speedster Ramonce Taylor looks to be Cedric Benson's heir apparent. Taylor is the fastest player (4.23) that Brown has ever recruited, but at 5-11 and 197 pounds, is not the prototypical power back that Brown prefers in his offense. With nine returning starters, the strength of this year's team should be its defense. Texas is breaking in its third defensive coordinator in as many seasons after Brown hired Gene Chizik in January. Chizik replaces Greg Robinson who took the head coaching job at Syracuse.

Defensive tackle Rod Wright anchors a loaded defensive front. Coaches are determined to manufacture an honest pass rush from the front four. Depth at defensive end is key.

The only place where Texas boasts more depth than along its D-line is in its secondary. The old man of the bunch is fifth-year senior Michael Huff. Chizik has the luxury of building his defense around the versatile Huff, who took snaps at cornerback during the spring just so coaches could get the best four DBs on the field. That would include veteran senior cornerback Cedric Griffin, who led all D-backs with 73 tackles last season.

You don't replace a once-in-a-lifetime talent like Butkus Award winning outside linebacker Derrick Johnson, but senior middle linebacker Aaron Harris registered more tackles (118) last season than anyone wearing burnt orange.

GoPokes Top Stories