Typically, Saturday is when we'll unveil five matchups to watch in the Longhorns' upcoming game. But with it being the season opener, and with the Longhorns taking on a team they should defeat without much fanfare in New Mexico State, I decided to instead look at five important Longhorns.
1) David Ash
It's a no-brainer here. David Ash doesn't have to be perfect for the Longhorns to have a great season. Shoot, last season Texas averaged just under 36 points per game with an Ash that many people (incorrectly) labeled as poor. More importantly, I want to see how he manages the Longhorns' up-tempo attack. When he checks, does Texas put itself into a successful situation? And how collected and accurate is he? Ash showed flashes of being a truly big-time quarterback a year ago. Can he take that next step forward?
2) Daje Johnson
For so many years, it seems like Texas fans have been disillusioned with the Longhorns' inability to get the ball to their fastest players. But it doesn't look like that will be the case with Johnson, who, by all reports, has settled nicely into a more conventional role as a slot receiver, one that will allow him a bigger package of plays and along with that, more chances to touch the ball. Johnson would be an easy choice for offensive breakout player this season.
3) Malcom Brown
One defensive truism always seems to hold true: an elite-level man in the middle can make up for all manner of mistakes. And Brown has the potential to be that guy. His movement skills for a player who is 315 pounds is astounding, and Trey Hopkins said earlier this fall that Brown had made major strides in using his hands like weapons to knock opposing blockers off. Texas is down a spot in key depth with the transfer of Ashton Dorsey, but Brown could help significantly if he could be a consistent force.
While linebacker was arguably the position that struggled the most a year ago, safety wasn't far off. And part of that was because Phillips, whether because of a serious shoulder injury or otherwise, didn't play up to his expected level. For his part, Phillips has refused to make any excuses, which is admirable. But his teammates tell a different story, one of a player who not only was struggling physically, but somebody who couldn't lift up his arms enough to wrap players up because of his bulky shoulder brace a year ago.
This might be the most obvious selection. Harrison isn't expected to start on Saturday, though the Longhorn coaches will throw him out onto the field early and often to try and help him play into shape. Texas should be very good on the offensive line without Harrison this year, but a 100-percent Harrison gives the line the chance to be among the country's best. But how quickly can Harrison, who was held out of most of fall camp until his academic issues were solved, get there? And will he be ready to go for BYU or Ole Miss? Stay tuned.
Texas — 41
New Mexico State — 10