Most Important Players: Offense

These five players need to have big seasons for the Longhorn offense to take off this year.

1) Malcolm Brown and Joe Bergeron, running backs

So sue me, this isn't a single player. But last year showed that Texas was strong with Brown OR Bergeron at their best. The performance by Jeremy Hills in the spring was an indicator that maybe Texas won't be in as bad a spot as they were last year beyond Brown and Bergeron, but it would obviously be a much better situation if the Longhorns never had to find out. Texas coach Mack Brown said the first part to being a star is being healthy. And if either Brown or Bergeron can pull that off this year, they'll have a chance at 1,000 yards and the offense will roll.

2) David Ash, quarterback

Ash falls into this place for two reasons. First, it's important that one of the two quarterbacks seize the job. And second, once that player wins the job, he'll have to take care of the ball and direct the offense. The coaches can call it an even competition if they want, but three of the 15 practices were open, and at all three, Ash outplayed Case McCoy, often by a sizable margin. Texas has the running backs and the offensive line to get the job done on that side of the ball, but if the Longhorns are going to have a great season, they need the quarterback to hit the occasional deep ball to keep teams from loading up the box.

3) Donald Hawkins, left tackle

Hawkins looked the part this spring, but needs to carry that over into the fall. If Hawkins can hold down the left tackle spot, he upgrades no fewer than three spots on the offensive line. That may sound like a lot, but hear me out. Left tackle is obviously improved if Hawkins wins the job. Right tackle gets better because Josh Cochran moves from left tackle to right tackle. And Cochran's shift moves Trey Hopkins down to guard, his more natural position. That's three spots. Hawkins is big, strong and athletic, and could serve to give Texas a left tackle that can both protect the quarterback, or that the team can line up and run behind.

4) Mike Davis, wide receiver

Marquise Goodwin is going to be able to get open deep because of the running game. Jaxon Shipley is going to get open because, well, he's Jaxon Shipley and that's what he does. The one thing missing is a legitimate threat at the X receiver spot, effectively the No. 1 receiver in the Texas offense. Davis can certainly be that guy. He looked like that guy in the spring. But he'll need to do more than just show flashes. If Davis becomes an All-Big 12 receiver type, as he's capable of being, that ratchets this offense up another level.

5) M.J. McFarland, tight end

Texas practiced Luke Poehlmann exclusively on the offensive line this spring, because the Longhorns wanted to cultivate an actual tight end capable of serving the same blocking role. Could McFarland be that player? He certainly has the physical dimensions at 260 pounds, and in the spring game, he displayed plenty of (at times misplaced) aggression. If McFarland can play that role, Texas will be significantly better at the position, because McFarland is capable of testing defenses down the seams as a receiver as well, so the Longhorns wouldn't be tipping their hands.

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