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Four Downs: News around Texas football

5/9/2012

Here is a quick look around the college football world and the things that are affecting Texas.

1st down: Nobody knows what to think about the 2012 Longhorns

Texas was 5 – 7 in 2010 and made a turnaround to 8 – 5 with a bowl win in 2011. While Texas did not finished the 2011 season ranked, most Longhorns fans believe that Texas is on track to return to the top 10.

Even a cross-section of media polls done this spring can’t agree on where Texas should start the season:

ESPN College Football Live's 2012 preseason Top 25: 22

College Football News Post-Spring Rankings: 5

Fox Sports: 8

Bleacher Report: 19

Athlon Magazine: 12

Sports Illustrated: 21

There are obvious questions around the quarterback position and the possible level of success. There are questions about the growth and development of the offensive line and the wide receiver position. The Texas defense lost three NFL draft picks and a 52-game starter at safety. While questions abound, the infrastructure is in place. There is talent everywhere, Texas should be better on both lines, there are All-American candidates scattered throughout the starting lineup, the coaching staff is primed for their second year and the schedule is friendly.

The variances in the ranking should only add to the excitement about the 2012 season. Let’s just say they will end up somewhere between No. 5 and No. 22.

2nd Down: Clean Summer for the Longhorns

When Texas defensive end Alex Okafor, safety Kenny Vaccaro and tight end Barrett Matthews were arrested at 1:30 am Monday morning on Sixth Street, the whole football program got a wake-up call. While those three will individually have consequences for their actions, the Longhorns collectively should have a good summer. Everyone on the team is being served notice on how their behavior not only affects the football program but can plainly see the consequences and downside of seemingly simple decision-making issues.

It is like track and field. Okafor, Vaccaro and Matthews got the first false start. Anyone that jumps the gun now will get disqualified. If it has not already been communicated, it will be in short order.

3rd Down: A Duo is not enough

A fan recently commented that Malcolm Brown was third among the Texas running backs and unless he develops better skills over the summer, he would have a hard time seeing the field.

In modern offenses, there are so many variables that the running back position has to manage. There is an inside guy, an outside guy, a short yardage guy, a home run guy, a trick play guy, a blocker, a pass catcher, a wildcat formation guy, etc.

The best advantage is that the Longhorns have enough quality running backs that they can always have fresh legs on the field and allow guys that do get nicked up to heal properly without being rushed back. The luxury of having healing time for injured players is not a commodity most programs have. Texas does at the running back position.

Malcolm Brown, Joe Bergeron, Jeremy Hills and incoming freshmen Johnathan Gray will form one of the best running back groups in the country by the close of the 2012 football season.

4th Down: Big 12 is just fine

The Big 12 Conference has been through a lot in the last 24 months with Nebraska, Colorado, Texas A&M and Missouri leaving for new conferences. The conference has still produced a great crop of diverse and quality football programs even when down to 10 teams on 2011. It will be no different in 2012 with West Virginia and TCU making their home in the conference.

On ESPN’s College Football Live’s Top 25 for 2012 the Big 12 is well represented:

5. Oklahoma

11. West Virginia

13. Kansas State

14. TCU

21. Oklahoma State

22. Texas

Whether you agree with the order or not is really not the issue. Six of the 10 schools in the Big 12 will likely start the season ranked in the Top 25.

With the SEC having the No. 2 (LSU), No.3 (Alabama), No. 6 (Georgia), No. 8 (South Carolina), No. 9 (Arkansas) and No. 25 (Florida) ranked teams on that same list, it will take the prize again as America’s premier conference but the Big 12 will be a solid second place.