- Carter Strickland, Reporter, HornsNation
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2011 overall record: 8-4
2011 conference record: 4-5 (6th)
Offense: 9; defense: 8; kicker/punter: 0
LB Emmanuel Acho, LB Keenan Robinson, K/P Justin Tucker
2011 statistical leaders (*returners)
Rushing: Malcolm Brown* (742 yards)
Passing: David Ash* (1,068 yards)
Receiving: Mike Davis* (609 yards)
Tackles: Emmanuel Acho (131)
Sacks: Jackson Jeffcoat (8)
Interceptions: Quandre Diggs* (4)
Quarterbacks maturing: While Texas refuses to name an outright starter before the season, it is clear that both Case McCoy and David Ash have taken strides toward becoming more complete quarterbacks. Ash, who was plagued by indecision and interceptions, matured throughout the spring and has started to become the leader Texas needs him to be. McCoy is still having problems with picks, but has increased the velocity on his throws and, as a result, can make more down the field throws.
Replacements fit: Texas did not have to replace much on the defensive side of the ball -- only three players. But two of those three were the leading tacklers from 2011, linebackers Emmanuel Acho and Keenan Robinson. Still, it appears as if the Longhorns have upgraded at the linebacker with Steve Edmond and Demarco Cobbs. Edmond is bigger and faster than Robinson. Cobbs is faster and more agile than Acho. What neither has is experience and that will be tested early in the 2012 season.
Bergeron pushes Brown: Backup running back Joe Bergeron made his case for more carries in the spring. Despite playing in 11 of 13 games, the sophomore only received consistent snaps in two games as a freshman. During those two games, Bergeron rushed for 327 yards. An injury hampered him the rest of the season, but he was healthy over the spring and showed the coaching staff that he is ready to challenge Malcolm Brown for the starting spot at running back.
Who is going wild? Texas deployed the wild formation to great success under first year co-offensive coordinator Bryan Harsin in 2011. But headed into 2012, the Longhorns have yet to figure out who will be running that formation. There are several candidates, many of which are freshmen. Johnathan Gray, the most heralded recruit of the 2012 class, should get the first shot. The running back has great speed and instincts but has to prove he can read the linebackers and make the right decisions. Texas also will try two other freshmen, Daje Johnson and Jalen Overstreet. Overstreet was a high school quarterback so he could bring the option of throwing out of the wild as well.
Rotating quarterbacks: Texas could not make up its mind until the last game of the season last year when it came to quarterbacks. In that game Ash took every snap. Whether or not he continues to take the significant snaps for Texas is the largest question surrounding this team. If Ash is at all shaky under center, the Longhorns have no qualms about going with McCoy. But if both finally prove inadequate, Texas might have to make a decision on freshman Connor Brewer. Texas would prefer to redshirt Brewer, but the Longhorns have suffered through two years of poor quarterback play and a third may not be tolerated by fans.
Wide receiver: Mike Davis, Jaxon Shipley and Marquise Goodwin are all back at wide receiver, but beyond those three players, Teas is severely lacking experienced depth. D.J. Monroe has been converted from running back to wide receiver to take advantage of his speed and shiftiness on bubble screens. But Monroe has had problems catching the ball consistently. DeSean Hales showed up in the spring. But the senior has shown up in the spring before and disappeared in the fall. He had two catches in 2011.
That means freshmen Cayleb Jones, Daje Johnson, Kendall Sanders and Marcus Johnson are all going to get a shot. Additionally, Texas will be working with a redshirt freshman M.J. McFarland at tight end.
Texas2011 overall record: 8-42011 conference record: 4-5 (6th)Returning starters:Offense: 9; defense: 8; kicker/punter: 0 Top returnersRB: Malcolm Brown, C Dominic Espinosa, WR Jaxon Shipley, QB David Ash, LB Jordan Hicks, S Kenny Vaccaro, DE Alex Okafor, CB Carrington ByndomKey lossesLB Emmanuel Acho, LB Keenan Robinson, K/P Justin Tucker2011 statistical leaders (*returners)Rushing: Malcolm Brown* (742 yards)Passing: David Ash* (1,068 yards)Receiving: Mike Davis* (609 yards)Tackles: Emmanuel Acho (131)Sacks: Jackson Jeffcoat (8)Interceptions: Quandre Diggs* (4)Spring answersQuarterbacks maturing: While Texas refuses to name an outright starter before the season, it is clear that both Case McCoy and David Ash have taken strides toward becoming more complete quarterbacks.