By Matt Green
For 2 years now, Texas has been floundering in the Big 12, despite back-to-back top recruiting classes. 2012 is the year that many expect Mack Brown and his staff to get the Horns back to the top of the mountain and into a solid bowl game and compete for the Big 12 title, but can they do it? I'm not so sure.
Extremely successful football teams almost always have one thing in common: great Quarterback play. Obviously, there are exceptions to the rule (2011 LSU, 2009 Bama), but for the most part, I think we can all agree that quarterbacks win games and championships for the team. Unfortunately for the 2012 version of the Texas Longhorns, they are quarterback-less. Now, I know they have a few QBs on the roster but trust me, they don't count. In 2011, David Ash, Texas most likely starting QB, had a less-than-average 56.9% completion rate, and averaged a measly 6.2 yards per attempt. O, yeah, and he threw twice as many picks(8) as he did TDs(4). Case McCoy, who split the QB duties with Ash in 2011, wasn't a whole lot better. He completed just 61% of his passes while throwing just 7 TDs to 4 INTs. So, to summarize, Texas' QBs threw a grand total of 11 TDs to a grand total of 12 INTs. For those scoring at home, that isn't great.
Obviously, with such miserable QB play, they need talent on the rest of the field, which they have. Their defense was one of the best in the land in 2011, and quite a bit of that defense returns. Almost the entire D-line returns, led by Jackson Jeffcoat, a former top recruit who seems poised to have his breakout year. Linebacker is where they are very inexperience and really don't have a guy that they can depend on fully, a huge transition from a year ago when Emmanuel Acho and Keenan Robinson anchored the middle of the defense and provided some much-needed leadership on a young defensive unit.
But the secondary, oh, the secondary. This is why I believe this team could have some success. With teams like West Virginia and TCU now on the schedule regularly, the secondary is going to be as important as any on the field. Quandre Diggs and Carrington Byndom as well as Adrian Phillips provide one of the deepest CB corps in America, and Brewster and Vaccaro jump in with prototypical safety size and solid speed. Passing will be a challenge against this secondary all season.
The offensive line doesn't have a whole lot of turnover either, and for a line that did a great job of protecting two inexperienced QBs in 2011, it's good news for the Horns, who have added a few weapons, including top RB-recruit Jonathan Gray from Aledo. Not to mention that RBs Malcolm Brown and DJ Monroe, WRs Malcolm Williams, Mike Davis and TE DJ Grant all return to give the QBs some nice toys to play with. The skill players, paired with the defense and the help of the offensive line may be able to make up for average QB play, especially in a weak Big 12. Let's take a look at the schedule:
vs New Mexico
@ Ole Miss
@ Oklahoma State
vs West Virginia
@ Texas Tech
vs Iowa State
@ Kansas State
I would say that the Horns can expect about an 8-4 season, with 6-6 being the worst, and 9-3 probably being the best. I just don't see how this team can get over the QB play enough to get to double-digit wins, especially with solid teams like West Virginia and TCU entering the schedule this year. Nonetheless, it will be an interesting and entertaining season in Austin as the Horns try to make it back to the elite level of college football.
Here's our Preview of the NCAA 2012 College Football Season and Bowls.
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