- Max Olson, ESPN Staff Writer
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Today we continue our Big 12 preview by taking a look at Texas, which is gearing up to make another run at a Big 12 title.
Coach: Mack Brown (237-117-1, 150-43 at Texas)
2012 record: 9-4 (5-4 Big 12)
Newcomer to watch: OT Desmond Harrison
Biggest games in 2013: Oct. 12 vs. Oklahoma (in Dallas), Nov. 16 vs. Oklahoma State, Oct. 26 at TCU, Nov. 21 vs. Kansas State
Biggest question mark heading into 2013: Can Manny Diaz fix the Longhorns' defense? Texas might be the Big 12 preseason favorite had its defense in 2012 lived up to the standard set by Diaz’s first unit in 2011. Instead, injuries to Hicks and then Jeffcoat rendered the third-year coach’s D slow-reacting and ineffective. Basic tackling was a serious issue on a near-weekly basis. Diaz gets nine starters back from that unit, but that’s not necessarily a good thing if the same problems hit just in time for the Big 12 slate.
Let’s talk about the floor and the ceiling for the potential of this particular Texas team.
Make no mistake, this Longhorns team has all the parts necessary to emerge as one of the nation’s 10 best. There is just way too much returning experience and talent at each position to dispute that.
The ceiling is a Big 12 championship and a BCS bowl game appearance, especially if Ash takes the next step and becomes one of the Big 12’s best QBs. If he’s good and healthy, Brown is confident this team can accomplish more than most expect.
The issue is the floor. Another blowout loss to Oklahoma or an early-season stumble against Ole Miss or Kansas State could send this Texas train off the rails. One serious injury to Ash, and it’s a whole different season.
What Texas is trying to avoid is falling right in the middle of that floor and ceiling, as it has the past two years. An eight- or nine-win season with losses to UT’s toughest opponents just won’t cut it this time, not with all that experience, talent and leadership on board.
That falls on Brown, who has plenty to prove this fall. He has a compelling roster of talent. What’ll he do to raise everyone’s game and make that jump from fourth place to first in the Big 12?
On paper, the offense looks loaded, and having Gray, Malcolm Brown and Joe Bergeron at running back is a luxury. The defense has plenty of veterans back at all three levels. Texas’ special teams should be solid if former Penn State transfer Anthony Fera gets past his injury issues.
All the pieces are there for another big run for the Horns, and the Big 12 is wide-open. It will be on Brown and his staff to put all those pieces together.