2011 was another year of ups and downs for Texas.
The Longhorns won their first four games before dropping five of their last eight matches.
A Holiday Bowl win against California eased the pain from a disappointing season, but the folks in Austin are still hungry for something better.
The Longhorns lost three key defensive players in the 2012 NFL draft including linebacker Keenan Robinson (119th pick, Washington Redskins), linebacker Emmanual Acho (204th pick, Cleaveland Browns) and defensive tackle Kheeston Randall (215th pick, Miami Dolphins).
Senior running back Foswhitt Whittaker will graduate after playing four years for the Longhorns and rushing for 1233 career yards and 12 career touchdowns.
Senior kicker Justin Tucker will graduate after making 40 field goals out of 48 attempts in his career. The Longhorns will need to look for a solid replacement for Tucker in 2012.
The good news for the longhorns is they have loads of returning talent on the offensive side of the ball.
Freshman Malcolm Brown rushed for 742 yards and five touchdowns in 2011 and looks to improve those numbers in 2012. Incoming five-star running back Jonathan Gray (Aledo, TX) will provide another threat on the ground for Texas in 2012. With power in Brown and speed in Gray, this could be a nightmare duo for opposing defenses in the Big 12 next year.
Freshman wide receiver Jaxon Shipley had a solid rookie year last year as he went for 607 yards and three touchdowns. Texas will need him to improve as the Longhorns are yet to find a viable quarterback to balance out their offense.
Both freshman David Ash and sophomore Case McCoy saw playing time last year, but neither was very impressive through the air. It will be interesting to see if the Longhorns stick with either of these options, or go with incoming freshman four-star quarterback Connor Brewer (Scottsdale, AZ).
Other notable 2012 recruits for the Longhorns include five-star offensive tackle Kennedy Estelle (Pearland, TX), five-star defensive tackle Malcolm Brown (Brenham, TX), five-star wide receiver Cayleb Jones (Austin, TX) and five-star offensive guard Curtis Riser (Desoto, TX).
Although the 2012 Longhorns have lost key players on the defensive side of the ball and are still considered a young team on both sides of the ball, they have a lot of returning talent at the running back and receiver position. As a team that went 5-7 in 2010 and then 8-5 in 2011, you can expect the Longhorns to improve on a moderately successful 2011 campaign in 2012.
The biggest mystery to the Longhorns successes in 2012 should be if they can establish a decent passing attack to balance out their offense and give their highly touted running backs some breathing room. Improving their passing game could be the difference in a mediocre and a successful 2012 campaign.
Big 12 season record predictions:
My prediction: 8-4