No surprises here. Garrett Gilbert assumes the starting job after a strong performance in the spring, followed by an exceptional one in the fall. His teammates already consider him to be one of the league's top signal-callers, and the 6-foot-4 sophomore threw just two interceptions in three fall scrimmages, one of which came on a pass tipped at the line.
Gilbert's arm strength and ability to throw the deep ball will come in handy this season, as the Longhorns will attempt to stretch the field a bit more on play-action. The strategy could be highly successful, as Gilbert's accuracy will team up nicely with a strong and deep group of receivers that boasts several deep threats.
Gilbert also showed in the national championship game -- when he brought Texas back to within 24-21 after a rough start -- that he has the poise to respond to adversity.
Case McCoy will assume the backup role after winning a close battle over fellow true freshman Connor Wood. McCoy showed both accuracy and mobility in winning the job, but most importantly showed strong command of the huddle.
Junior Cody Johnson (5-11 251) assumes the starting role after dropping weight and adding quickness. Texas coach Mack Brown said that the staff felt Johnson could be a special player coming out of Waller (Texas) High School. But after redshirting his first year, Johnson's weight pigeon-holed him into a short-yardage role. He was successful there, rushing for 24 touchdowns. He also ran for 673 yards on 163 carries over those two seasons, averaging 4.1 yards per carry. Offensive coordinator Greg Davis lauded Johnson's quick feet for his size, and running backs coach Major Applewhite said that Johnson was able to turn negative plays into positive ones with his size.
Fozzy Whittaker (5-10 195) and Tre' Newton (6-0 200) will also play, depending on the situation. Newton is a good all-round back, while Whittaker brings more of a home-run element. Whittaker also said he feels as healthy as he's been since putting on a Longhorn uniform, more good news for a running game expecting to improve its production from a year ago. The duo combined to rush for 764 yards on 169 carries (4.5 per carry) and 10 touchdowns a year ago.
This position could be the strength of the offense. Five players were listed on the two-deep: James Kirkendoll, John Chiles, Malcolm Williams, Marquise Goodwin and Mike Davis. All are listed as co-starters, meaning that Texas won't be forced to alter its offense depending on which players are playing.
Kirkendoll has developed into the leader of the unit and its most consistent player. He has quick feet, can stretch a defense deep and is playing with a swell of confidence. He showed flashes of his ability a year ago, starting 12 games and coming alive at the end of the regular season. In season-ending games against Kansas and Texas A&M, he grabbed 12 passes for 149 yards and four touchdowns. He's listed as a co-starter at both split end (X) and in the slot (Sub B).
Chiles is another player who emerged through the spring and summer. He started seven games a year ago, catching 34 passes for 319 yards and three touchdowns, but appears poised for a stronger year this year. He's splitting time at the flanker (Z) spot with true freshman Mike Davis, a playmaker out of Dallas Skyline High School. A prep All-American, Davis caught 48 passes for 1,157 yards and 19 touchdowns, averaging a whopping 24.1 yards per catch as a senior.
Malcolm Williams is the co-starter with Kirkendoll at split end. One of the best combinations of size (6-3 225) and speed in the Big 12, Williams will be protected a bit at receiver because he is an exceptional special teams player who spends time on most of the units. Greg Davis said Williams is a master of the "wow play", but needs to continue to develop consistency.
Marquise Goodwin is the Longhorns' fastest player, a track star who won the NCAA Long Jump Championship. But he's more than just a track athlete – the coaches have insisted that he's a football player. He made an early splash as a Longhorn a year ago, blocking a punt that was recovered for a touchdown against Colorado, scoring on a reception to help beat Oklahoma and returning a kick for a touchdown to put away Texas A&M. Coaches feel that he could be the type of player to catch 80+ passes at some point in his career – he caught 30 a year ago as a true freshman – but he likely won't do so with such a deep group.
Brown said that freshman Darius White, a physical presence on the outside, and slippery sophomore DeSean Hales could also play.
Barrett Matthews has impressed the coaches with his speed and ability to test the defense down the seams. He's largely a receiving threat. Backing up Matthews will be Greg Smith, a 6-5 250-pound senior who also serves as the slated starter at H-back. He has the versatility and blocking ability to play both well. Ahmard Howard (6-4 245) assumes the third spot after impressing the coaches with a strong fall camp. Chris Whaley is backing up Greg Smith at H-back. Whaley has size, strength, can run and catch. He could be a star at the position in the future.
Walk-on Jamison Berryhill (5-11 225) and Ryan Roberson (5-10 235) will play fullback, a position the Longhorns largely intend to use in short yardage situations.
Hix (6-7 325) and Huey (6-5 310) moved to the left side from the right side, with Hix slated as the starter at tackle and Huey at guard. Hix's size, reach and athleticism allows him to protect the blind side, while both he and Huey are excellent downhill run blockers.
David Snow (6-4 300) is the starter at center. He's also in the middle in terms of experience, having appeared in all 14 games a year ago, but earning just five starts.
The right side will be made up largely of new players. Senior Britt Mitchell will get the start at right tackle, where he hasn't played much to this point, playing mostly on special teams. Right guard is the biggest question mark because of the injury to Tray Allen. Redshirt freshman Mason Walters will fill in for Allen.
After the starting lineup, this is a young group – the backups are made up of two sophomores and four freshmen, including two right out of high school. True freshman Trey Hopkins has stood out for his versatility, as he can play both tackle and guard, his athleticism and his intelligence.