A Different Kind of Preview

I've always had a thing for college football preview magazines.

For as long as I can remember, I've looked forward to that June day at the grocery store, when I'd peek into the magazine aisle and come across the crisp new copies of The Sporting News, Athlon, Phil Steele, Lindy's and Street and Smith's. But for a lot of the less magazine inclined, especially for younger people, a new form of preview is telling them how good their team could be … and it's stirring up debate the same way other preseason prognostications previously had.

"Don't worry, we only have like 3 players in the 90s # norespect," read a tweet from former Florida State safety Myron Rolle Tuesday.

Rolle's angst was directed at the Seminoles' individual player rankings in NCAA Football '11, the newest installment of the most popular and well-played video game, which came out Tuesday. I've talked with many players over the past several years, and it seems that more pay attention to the game's forecasts than they do glossy magazines packed with statistics.

For our part, we'll check in occasionally with the game here on LonghornDigest, largely for simulations once the season kicks off.

But for now, let's take a fun look at what the game has to say about the 2010 Longhorns (who, thank goodness, have 11 players rated in the 90s):

* Who's the best Longhorn? Well, according to NCAA Football '11, three Texans were good enough to earn a 92 overall, the highest individual rating on the team. One of the players — junior shut down cornerback Aaron Williams — shouldn't come as a surprise. But the other two players probably do. Texas returns two starters on the offensive line from the 2009 season, but it's actually a newcomer who pulls the second 92 rating, junior center David Snow. Junior receiver Malcolm Williams was the other player to earn a 92. The fastest Longhorn was a tie between senior James Kirkendoll and incoming freshman Carrington Byndom (both have a 97 in that category). There's also a tie for the strongest Longhorn, between linemen Kyle Hix and Michael Huey (94 strength apiece). And Snow earns the mark for the least injury-prone.

* Looking for a surprise breakout player this year? Look no further than sophomore linebacker Dravannti Johnson. Johnson earned a 90 overall rating and one of Texas's three Impact Player spots (Aaron and Malcolm Williams were the other two. Among Johnson's assets are his high speed (90), awareness (92) and tackle (88) ratings. How high is his rating? Well, it's high enough that Johnson is the second-highest rated linebacker in the Big 12, behind only Oklahoma's Travis Lewis, who garnered a 94. If the virtual Johnson is any indication of what everyone can expect this year, Texas should have a heck of a linebacking group.

* Garrett Gilbert could have a virtual chip on his shoulder. Sure, the sophomore's overall rating of 87 was a decent one, especially for a first-year starter, but it was only good enough for the eighth-best mark in the Big 12. Missouri's Blaine Gabbert (93 overall), Texas A&M's Jerrod Johnson (92), Baylor's Robert Griffin, Oklahoma's Landry Jones (90), Texas Tech's Taylor Potts (90) and Steven Sheffield (89) and Nebraska's Zac Lee (88) all had higher overall ratings. Nebraska's backup, sophomore Cody Green, also had an 87 overall rating.

* Fozzy Whittaker is listed as the starting running back, but has the same overall rating as Tre' Newton. Whittaker brings a lot of speed to the party, while Newton is slightly more agile, accelerates to top speed better, is stronger and has better awareness. But Newton's speed (rated as an 83) leaves quite a bit to be desired … it's just three points faster than defensive tackle Calvin Howell. Overall, expect the running game to be a strong one, as all five of Texas's projected starters are rated in the 90s.

* Talent wise, the Longhorns are the second-best team in the Big 12, falling just shy of Oklahoma. Oklahoma's overall rating is an A, with an offense rating of A and a defense rating of A-. Texas earned identical marks on the offense and defense front, but is rated an A- overall. Whoever comes out of the South will likely play Nebraska, the highest rated North team at a B+ overall.

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