Texas returns 17 starters (8 offense, 7 defense, 2 specialists) from last seasons 10-3 team. Butkus Award Finalist Derrick Johnson will anchor what should be the most hard-hitting group of Longhorn linebackers (along with juniors Aaron Harris and Garnet Smith) while the fiercest competition will be waged for playing time on the defensive front (defensive tackle, defensive end and defensive back).
The offensive spotlight will be on the RS-freshman receivers and improving QB Vince Youngs passing game. Limas Sweed will not make you forget about Roy Williams but will likely remind you of him in both style and stature. Sweed is a true 6-5, 210-pounder while coaches concede they may have fudged a bit in listing Roy at 6-4 these past four seasons.
Texas trio of tight ends should be second to none. Starter David Thomas is back for his junior year, while Bo Scaife is returning for a medical-RS sixth season. Meanwhile, RS-freshman Tony Hills (the Parade All-American was considered the jewel of the 2003 recruiting class) will be on campus to participate in spring drills, although he could see action at more than one spot after recovering from surgery.
It was interesting to read in this weeks issue of The Sporting News that RB Selvin Young is expected to emerge now that Cedric Benson is no longer with us. (I guess they guessed wrong!) Like Johnson and QB Chance Mock, Benson announced earlier this week that he would return for his senior season. If Benson produces the kind of numbers in 2004 that he did during the last five games of the 2003 regular season, he will break Ricky Williams school record for rushing yards in a single season (2,124).
Keep in mind that transfer PK/P Greg Johnson, a 2002 Freshman All-American at Vanderbilt, is now eligible after sitting out last season.
Already, the earliest of the pre-season picks are on the newsstands. Sports Illustrated projects Texas as a No. 7 team (speculating that maybe this is the year) while The Sporting News tabs Texas as No. 8 (based on the assumption that there is too much talent wearing Burnt Orange for the team to finish any lower).