Texas Longhorns: Dalton Santos
1. No game, no problem
Think back to Sept. 7, when Texas got a late kickoff in Provo, Utah, due to a severe weather delay of 1:50. The defense played flat, Daje Johnson got hurt immediately, David Ash got hurt later, and BYU was flat-out more physical than Texas. This time, Mack Brown, his staff and players faced a game delay of more than three hours and were perfectly fine with the setback. Texas held onto and built upon its lead entering that long break, without giving up any more TCU scores. Players killed time with meetings, listening to music and eating, but once the game resumed it was same old Texas.
2. Front seven setting the tone
To heap all the praise on the defensive line wouldn't be too fair when you recognize how well these Texas linebackers are playing and how far they've come. Dalton Santos and Steve Edmond were both treated like scapegoats for the rest of the defense's troubles but are playing some great football right now. Together, they made life difficult for Casey Pachall in only the second career Big 12 start he's made. That Texas defensive line is playing lights out right now, and that'll need to continue over the final stretch.
3. Here comes Swoopes
Well, here we go. Texas burned the redshirt of the former four-star recruit with less than 5 minutes left against TCU. The results were more than modest -- 29 total yards on the eight plays he ran -- but what this means for the future is significant. We'll delve more into this on Monday, but just believe they wouldn't be taking this step if they didn't think he could help, and that he could use all the bonus snaps he can get. What does this mean for David Ash's long-term health? Brown isn't going into it other than to say Ash won't play against Kansas next week. But one thing is for sure: If that's the only time we see Tyrone Swoopes this season, it's a real shame for all involved, especially those who wholeheartedly believed Swoopes should redshirt.
Linebacker Eddie Lackey, Baylor: Overshadowed by Bryce Hager’s 18-tackle performance, Lackey had a solid game in the Bears’ 35-25 win over Kansas State. He finished with 10 tackles, including eight solo stops, and a forced fumble. His active play is one of the reasons the Bears’ defense is playing better in 2013.
Cornerback JaCorey Shepherd, Kansas: Shepherd did it all in the Jayhawks’ 27-17 loss to TCU. He had seven tackles, one sack, one forced fumble and a 32-yard interception return for a touchdown. It was a terrific performance in his return home for the former Mesquite (Texas) Horn standout.
Running back John Hubert, Kansas State: An overlooked aspect of Daniel Sams’ explosive day was Hubert’s increased production. The senior had 15 carries for 90 yards to provide a solid 1-2 running punch alongside Sams. Hubert clearly becomes a more productive player with a running threat at quarterback.
Linebacker Frank Shannon, Oklahoma: The sophomore had the quietest 16-tackle performance in recent memory. Shannon continued to be a consistent playmaker on OU’s defense, recording those 16 tackles and forcing a fumble in the Sooners’ 36-20 loss to Texas. He’s proving to be a player the Sooners can count on, week in and week out.
Linebacker Dalton Santos, Texas: The Longhorns were stout against the run in their 36-20 win over OU, and Santos played a key role. The sophomore made plays from sideline to sideline and was consistently around the football. He finished with six tackles including 1.5 tackles for loss. Santos has helped offset the loss of Jordan Hicks for the Longhorns’ defense.
Running back B.J. Catalon, TCU: Catalon continues to be a playmaker for the Horned Frogs, accounting for a team-high 122 yards. The sophomore averaged 9.38 yards per touch in TCU’s 27-17 win over Kansas. On an offense searching for playmakers, it seems like the Horned Frogs can’t get the ball in Catalon’s hands enough, particularly if he can take better care of the football.
Running back Sadale Foster, Texas Tech: One of three Red Raiders to rush for more than 80 yards, Foster averaged 9.7 yards per carry in Tech’s 42-35 win over Iowa State. He had nine carries for 87 yards and one touchdown. He averaged 14.8 yards per carry on first down (five carries, 74 yards), including a 38-yard touchdown scamper in the fourth quarter to put the game away.
Note: Oklahoma State and West Virginia did not play in Week 7.
AUSTIN, Texas – Texas is a two-touchdown underdog against a No. 12 Oklahoma outfit with a hard-earned undefeated record and a three-game winning streak in the Red River Rivalry. What must the Longhorns do to change all that?
This is hardly a comprehensive blueprint of what they must achieve on Saturday. It’s sorted more by chronology than priority. There’s plenty that has been left out -- like the coaching matchup, special teams, the possibility of some McCoy magic – and this checklist might mean almost nothing after the clock strikes 11 a.m. at the Cotton Bowl on Saturday.
But if you’re throwing the rivalry’s recent history out the window and are feeling truly optimistic about Texas’ chances, here are 10 things that probably have to happen for this team to emerge victorious.
1. Wake up and start fast
Texas went three-and-out on all three of its first-quarter drives in 2012 and did not have a possession of more than four plays in the first half. It’s easy to fall behind 34 points before halftime when your offense is that inept. The Longhorns have taken 10-0 leads to start each of their games in the last two weeks. Can Texas overcome the fact it hasn’t played a single morning or afternoon game this season and actually begin this one with momentum on its side?
2. Be the physical team
Oklahoma has been the more physical team in its three consecutive Red River victories. Mack Brown admits that. This should start with the Longhorns offensive line, an inconsistent group that needs its finest performance yet on Saturday. This is also about the Texas defensive line, which has NFL-caliber talent and must force the OU offense to go off schedule. It’s going to be a long day if Blake Bell feels no pressure.
3. Run Gray all day
4. Second down and short
The problem isn’t just three-and-outs. It’s putting Case McCoy in third-and-long situations that handcuff Major Applewhite’s play-calling ability. This season, the Longhorns are getting 6 or more yards on 40 percent of their first-down plays. Against OU last year that number was a little more than 20 percent.
5. Minimize mistakes in space
Dalton Santos and Steve Edmond better be ready. Starting two bulkier middle linebacker-types is risky against this stable Oklahoma backs, and gap responsibility is a must. This goes for the entire defense, though. Greg Robinson says the key is minimizing missed tackles. Texas learned the hard way last year -- Damien Williams’ 95-yard run, Trey Millard’s 164 total yards -- that bad things happen when the first tackle gets missed.
6. Win (or survive) the second quarter
Texas’ offense hasn’t produced a second-quarter touchdown against Oklahoma since … 2008. The Sooners won the second quarter 23-0 last year and 28-7 in 2011, all but ensuring victory by halftime. In those quarters, Texas had a combined five first downs and -17 rushing yards (seriously). Dig a hole that deep once again and the results won’t be any different in 2013.
7. Contain Bell, respect his WRs
Texas’ defensive line needs to be smart when playing Bell or he’ll turn well-covered pass plays into first-down scrambles, just as Sam Richardson did for Iowa State a week ago. The more time Bell can buy with his feet, the more dangerous his collection of fast receivers gets. Texas’ safeties must step up.
8. Swing the momentum
There’s not a better indicator of success for the Longhorns in recent years than when they win the turnover battle. They’ve lost that battle against OU by a combined margin of -6 the past two years. To keep this game close, Texas must to create momentum-changing opportunities and capitalize.
9. The wild cards
Expect Applewhite to play every card in his hand this week. That means a lot more Daje Johnson, who can score any time he touches the ball and is healthy again. Don’t overlook Kendall Sanders, either, considering the attention Johnson, Mike Davis and Jaxon Shipley will draw. A defender due for a big game -- perhaps Quandre Diggs or Cedric Reed -- will need to rise to the occasion as well.
10. Play pissed
This is self-explanatory. Embrace the underdog role, take chances and don’t fold when this game gets tough. There’s no question the Sooners have the mental edge in this rivalry right now. The Longhorns will need to do whatever they can to get their groove back.
Do all these things and it will at least be a four-quarter ballgame, which hasn’t been the case the past two years. It’s possible Mack Brown would only have a few of these bullet points on his own version of a top-10 list. But it’s a start.
It’s safe to say the most glaring omission, the No. 11, would be obvious considering how this team has been ravaged by injuries and misfortune through five games. Texas also needs some old fashioned good luck on Saturday.
If the celebrating the trio has done on their Twitter accounts is any indication, it’s safe to say the second-year linebackers are more than up to the challenge Thursday night at Iowa State (6:30 p.m. CT, ESPN). This week, their contributions should be critical.
The Longhorns defense fell apart without Hicks last season during its toughest five-game stretch. His absence opened the door for others, and a total of seven linebackers earned starts in 2012.
Yet Robinson didn’t chose any of the remaining six to take over for Hicks. He picked Cole, a redshirt freshman from Brenham, Texas, who’s spent nearly all of his debut season on special teams.
“Tim did a tremendous job against Kansas State on special teams, and because of that and practice the last four days, Greg Robinson is convinced he wants Tim out there as a starter,” Texas coach Mack Brown said.
There’s the benefit of getting a fresh set of eyes on Texas’ linebackers. Cole wasn’t in line to contribute much to that unit before Robinson took over for Manny Diaz last month.
A four-star prospect who came to Texas last year with best friend Malcom Brown, Cole makes up for non-prototypical size (he’s listed at 6-foot-2, but that’s generous) with a strong football IQ and a knack for leadership.
When Texas was recruiting him, Brenham coach Glen West vowed that Cole would end up being a team captain for Texas. His new coaches don’t doubt that, and teammates recognized what made Cole unique early on.
“Since he got here, he was different than a lot of other guys,” defensive end Jackson Jeffcoat said. “I knew he was a little more mature than other guys. His football game has come a long way since he first got here, but he looks good. He knows he has to step up and play well, and I think he will.”
He’ll team up tonight with Jinkens and Santos, two high-energy sophomores coming off strong finishes in Texas’ win over Kansas State. Steve Edmond will likely have some role in the game, but he can’t play in the first half after receiving a targeting ejection in the second half against KSU.
Juniors Tevin Jackson and Kendall Thompson were the presumptive favorites to step into the lineup in Hicks’ place, but the Longhorns’ young trio won over their new position coach.
They’ll have to reward his faith with a stout showing against the Cyclones, who got a 137-yard rushing performance out of newcomer Aaron Wimberly last week vs. Tulsa.
In their first three game without Hicks last fall, Texas’ defense let opposing running backs produce games of 199, 207 and 167 yards, respectively. That can’t happen again, not if the Longhorns are hoping to turn the season around after a 2-2 start.
What matters more to Brown, though, is the leadership void that Texas must fill now that Hicks won’t be on the field. Jeffcoat said he’ll take on the responsibility along with defensive tackle Chris Whaley and defensive backs Carrington Byndom and Adrian Phillips.
Simply having more seniors to rely on this time around means more accountability across the board.
“That’s a lot of guys who can keep their positions up and make sure guys don’t start slacking off and guys pick up the slack from what was lost with Jordan,” Jeffcoat said.
The sophomores are doing their part, too. Of the 25 members of Texas’ 2012 class still on campus, Cole is about to become the 13th to earn a start.
While others broke into the starting lineup in year one, Cole was patient. He kept working and kept waiting for an opportunity. Here it is.
“He’s upbeat and positive and smart and never makes a mistake,” Brown said. “Greg Robinson said the other day, ‘Don’t tell him something that’s wrong, because he’s going to remember it and he’s going to do it.’ He just plays so hard. It’ll be fun to watch him on Thursday night.”
After reviewing the Longhorns' 31-21 win over K-State on Saturday, here's a look back at five plays that helped decide the game and end the five-game losing streak.
1. Sams to the sidelines
Did he get hurt? Bill Snyder doesn't divulge injury information, but that was the assumption Texas defensive coordinator Greg Robinson made. He thought Sams might've tweaked something on that rush. The TV broadcast proves inconclusive on this issue.
Whatever the reason, Sams didn't come back. Would he have changed the game had he stayed in? It's possible, but Texas had stopped him for no gain on his previous two carries, and he didn't attempt a single pass on the night. It's entirely possible that once Texas went ahead 24-7, KSU would've abandoned Sams and went with Jake Waters as its best bet to come back. We'll never know. But taking Sams out of the equation made life a little easier for Texas' defense, even if the plays he ran were predictable.
2. A key conversion
Mack Brown pointed out after the game that going ahead 17-0 late in the second quarter was huge for his team's momentum. He's right, and don't forget how Texas got there. After David Ash scrambled for eight yards on third and 10, Texas went with a surprising look on fourth down.
Instead of lining up in a power set, the Longhorns went four wide with Joe Bergeron lined up next to Ash. Presumably, a dive play was coming for Texas' short-yardage back. Instead, he motioned out of the backfield, a savvy move by the coaching staff to get K-State's middle linebacker to follow and cover him.
With the middle of the field wide open, Ash hit Jaxon Shipley on a quick slant for 10 yards to get to the 26. Two plays later, Johnathan Gray scored from 21 yards out. Getting aggressive on fourth down paid off big.
3. Ash leaves early
There's no easy way to pinpoint what went wrong here. We know very little about what happened to Ash on Saturday night or whether a specific play or hit caused his concussion-related symptoms to return. All we know is Brown is hopeful the issues are not serious.
But with 14 seconds left in the first half, Texas called a timeout. Ash was obviously wincing as he walked to the sideline. He took a sip of water and kept wincing and blinking. Then he went back on the field and threw incomplete on fourth down while trying his best to avoid being hit. He walked off the field with his head down, and his night was over.
To their credit, the Longhorns found a way to survive without him in the second half. But we won't know how important this moment was until we know how Ash is doing these days.
4. De La Torre's dash
You don't win games like this without seizing moments. The Longhorns scooped up a John Hubert fumble to open the second half but then faced a fourth down near midfield. They lined up in a punt safe formation, and fans started booing, which they would regret.
Two blockers lined up in front of Fera to protect him. One is lineman Garrett Porter, who snuck up to the line before the snap. The other is fullback Alex De La Torre, who took a direct snap and dashed downfield. Thanks to big blocks from Porter, Chet Moss and defensive backs Sheroid Evans and Leroy Scott, DLT picked up 19 to the KSU 29. Four more Johnathan Gray carries and Texas leads 24-7.
5. The fumble
I guess we're calling this a butt fumble, right? Jake Waters was about to put Texas in the danger zone. K-State was down 10 with a little more than two minutes left and was 7 yards from the end zone. KSU also had three timeouts left, in case its onside kick failed. If Texas allowed the score, it would be an interesting ballgame.
But Waters, on a delay power run right, stumbled behind lineman Cody Whitehair. The ball slipped out of his grasp when his right arm grazed Whitehair's behind. Dalton Santos quickly hit Waters and pounced on the fumble. He went crazy, as he is prone to doing, and Texas went to 2-2.
AUSTIN, Texas -- The best teams in college football aren’t the ones that got lucky and avoided injuries.
In 2012, Alabama lost five players to season-ending injuries by the end of September. Notre Dame lost two starters in its secondary for the year early on. Two of Oregon’s best senior starters went down before Week 3. It happens.
The best teams in college football are usually deep enough to replace any missing pieces. Mack Brown knows this. He’s preached the need for depth in each of the past two years, insisting the starting 22 listed on the depth chart don’t matter as much as having 22 more good men.
Now it’s time to walk the walk. By the end of Texas’ 31-21 win over Kansas State, six key starters were injured. Linebacker Jordan Hicks is done for the year with a torn Achilles. Running back Daje Johnson is out indefinitely and hasn’t played in two weeks. An ankle issue kept receiver Mike Davis out of the KSU game.
And then there’s quarterback David Ash, who earned the start and didn’t come back from the locker room at halftime. Concussion-related symptoms are the issue, but the details and severity are mostly unknown.
A case can be made that they’re four of the most important players on this 2013 team, the guys most capable of deciding whether Texas ends up winning 10 games or five.
Against Kansas State, the guys tasked with replacing those game-changers took care of business. In this must-win game, embracing a next man up mentality paid dividends.
Kendall Sanders and Marcus Johnson are a shining example of that. The sophomore receivers both earned starts and did plenty to make up for the absence of Davis.
Sanders did what David does best: He ran a deep post route and hauled in a bomb on a play-action pass from Ash for a 63-yard touchdown, the first of his career.
“I was really nervous, but I’ve been working my tail off so I was kind of calmed down,” Sanders said. “I just treated it like practice. I’ve been working my tail off for this long so might as well show everybody.”
Johnson added 70 yards on five catches, including two long receptions on third downs to help set up scores. Brown lauded him for playing like he’d been around a long time, when in fact he entered the night with one career reception.
Texas went with another sophomore, Kennedy Estelle, to replace right tackle Josh Cochran. Dalton Santos, whose injury status was questionable entering the game, recovered the tide-turning Jake Waters fumble in the fourth quarter as K-State was about to cut the deficit to 31-28.
He’s likely set to play a major role now that Hicks’ season is over. The guy Santos will help replace was a key cog, but his teammates know they have to move on and trust Texas’ depth.
“If he is [out], he is,” cornerback Carrington Byndom said. “We have to continue to go forward. We have to have people step up and fill that role.”
There was no better example of that mentality on Saturday than when Case McCoy took over for Ash. Longhorn players were surprised by the news that Ash was out, but they’ve been down that road before.
He played the role of reliever well and led two scoring drives. He didn’t need to do much – McCoy handed the ball off on three-fourths of his snaps – but he did just enough. More important, his teammates didn’t flinch. They were unfazed by the sudden change of plans.
“We play behind all our quarterbacks,” running back Johnathan Gray said. “When one is down and the other one comes in, we rally around whoever is in the game. That’s what we did tonight and it was a plus for us.
“I didn’t know David was out. It changed nothing. We kept what we were going to do for our offense. We stayed with it.”
As the injuries continue to pile up, that’s precisely the mentality Texas players plan to maintain. And that’s got to last more than one night, especially if Texas wants to get back to playing like one of the nation’s best.
AUSTIN, Texas -- The good vibes and positive momentum Texas got from a much-needed win on Saturday just took a big hit.
Texas beat Kansas State 31-21, but the cost of that victory was significant. Starting linebacker Jordan Hicks will have surgery to repair a ruptured left Achilles tendon and is done for the year.
Last year, Hicks went down with a hip injury that supposed to keep him out a few weeks. He missed the rest of the season, and Texas missed him badly.
That injury, suffered in the nonconference finale against Ole Miss, came before a four-game gantlet of Oklahoma State, West Virginia, Oklahoma and Baylor. The results for Texas’ defense were ugly.
In those first four games without Hicks, Texas gave up 197 points and 2,320 yards. The defense lost its confidence and couldn’t stop the run, allowing 266 yards per game on the ground. By the end of that stretch, Texas had a Big 12-leading 76 missed tackles.
This year could be a different story for a few reasons. The imminent schedule is a bit more favorable now -- 11 days off, then a road trip to play an 0-2 Iowa State team, then eight more days to prepare for Oklahoma.
Plus, losing Hicks last year meant former defensive coordinator Manny Diaz had to throw several linebackers into the lineup. A total of seven earned starts on the year, which means that group is now more experienced and better prepared for Hicks’ absence this time.
Now that Texas is getting into its Big 12 schedule, where it will face many more spread offenses, defensive coordinator Greg Robinson can get away with playing two linebackers in most games.
Some combination of Steve Edmond, Peter Jinkens and Dalton Santos would likely make the most sense right now, though Edmond can’t play in the first half of the Iowa State game due to a second-half targeting ejection against KSU. Texas likes the experience it has in veteran backups Tevin Jackson and Kendall Thompson.
Missing Hicks for 10 games last season means Texas will be ready for this scenario, but that doesn’t make it any less of a big loss. Hicks was one of the respected leaders of Texas’ defense and established himself as the team’s best linebacker.
He was playing some of the best ball of his career on Saturday, with seven tackles and 2.5 tackles for loss against the Wildcats. It appears Hicks could be eligible to apply for a medical redshirt and a sixth season of eligibility.
Texas played the run better against Kansas State, holding KSU to 115 yards on the ground, but it’s still one of this defense’s weaknesses and Big 12 foes will surely try to exploit it.
Another lapse in confidence and execution like the one the Longhorn defense had without Hicks a year ago would spell trouble. There’s not much margin for error right now with a team that’s already lost two games.
Simply put, Texas is better prepared to play without Hicks than it was a year ago. But that doesn’t mean this will be easy.
The reason why the Texas junior middle linebacker fell behind freshman backup Dalton Santos this spring was simple: He just didn’t love the weight room enough. He was tipping the scales at 260 pounds, and progress was stagnant.
Now, it seems, everything has changed. He’s 235 pounds again. Players say he’s a menace in scrimmages, making sideline-to-sideline plays and chasing down running backs behind the line.
Edmond underwent a much-needed transformation this offseason. We’ll find out Saturday just how far he’s come, but the results so far have received unanimous praise.
“Steve started gaining respect in the offseason by losing a lot of weight,” Texas coach Mack Brown said. “He’s had a very good camp and it’ll be fun to watch him on Saturday night, because I think he’ll be so much better than what people saw last year that I think they’ll really be surprised and pleased.”
What went wrong last season? Edmond wasn’t ready, or at least not as much as most assumed. Once Jordan Hicks went down with a season-ending injury, Edmond had no one to lean on for help, either. Edmond racked up 103 tackles, but on the days Texas’ defense struggled he was too slow to make reads and too hesitant to make stops.
When the offseason hit, Texas defensive coordinator Manny Diaz had urged his players to take their commitment to training to another level.
“Our guys, they didn’t not prepare before,” Diaz said Monday. “They just didn’t understand the level they had to prepare at to be successful.”
Santos bought in, lost weight and started thriving in the offseason lifting. That had to push Edmond.
By the time Edmond took the field for spring practices, Diaz saw a slightly different player -- one who finally competed with urgency. But the real progress came after the spring game. That’s when the light bulb came on.
“We went into April, went back to the weight room, and now Steve started realizing, ‘Whoa, these weights are changing me,’” Diaz said. “All the sudden he saw his body change, and the way he moved around changed.”
He put that on display throughout three weeks of fall camp, leaving no doubts about who would man the middle of the Texas defense in 2013.
The Longhorns would prefer to lean on Hicks and Peter Jinkens once the Big 12 slate begins and nickel defense is a necessity, but Edmond’s efforts to lose weight put him in much better shape to contribute.
When his teammates saw him chasing down fleet running back Johnathan Gray on a swing pass in a scrimmage, they knew he was going to be trouble for opposing defenses this time around.
“He definitely got going,” Hicks said. “He’s been playing very well. He’s a force. Now he’s smarter, he’s more experienced and he’s a force back there. He’s helping lead this linebacker corps. It’s just going to make our defense that much better.”
All that progress gets put to the test on Saturday against New Mexico State. Edmond’s more confident now, but Hicks says his personality hasn’t changed much. He’s still the quiet East Texan with a propensity for big hits.
“He’s the same Steve,” Hicks said. “Steve doesn’t really change for anybody.”
But he changed for Diaz, and soon we’ll find out just how much he’s changed for the rest of the Longhorn defense.
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That the defense briefly did change in the second half was more the result of a Herculean effort by one, now departed, senior, Alex Okafor, and a completely depleted Oregon State offensive line.
Now the time has come to see if Diaz, in his third season at Texas, will make any permanent changes to what was the worst defense in program history. He has lost his two most productive and best players, Okafor and Kenny Vaccaro. But he does return nine starters, including linebacker Jordan Hicks, who was injured in the third game last season. So there are some reasons for optimism. Texas coach Mack Brown pointed out that Diaz led a unit that ranked No. 11 in defense in 2011, and he didn’t forget how to coach.
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But there are still players to be found who have not lived up to their potential but are on the verge of doing just that. And, like always, there is plenty of debate over just who those players might be. For our weekly debate at HornsNations, we decided to take on the question of just who would be the next player or players to step from the shadows and into the spotlight.
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Class of 2015 offensive guard Wyatt Santos has watched his stock rise in recent weeks after an outstanding performance at the East Texas Sports Network Combine on May 19 in Tyler, Texas.
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To wit: Texas passed over J.W. Walsh, a runner/thrower, in favor of the stronger-armed David Ash. Walsh fit better at Oklahoma State. Ash fit better with the SEC-like direction Texas wanted to go.
Ah, but systems change. The players, on the other hand, usually don’t. Which brings us to the interesting goings on at Texas. The Longhorns, who recruited for an SEC-style offense for two years, have now decided to go with a Big 12-style scheme.
Knowing that change is happening, we at HornsNation thought it time to address, in this week’s question of the week, just who would benefit the most from those changes.
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2012 conference record: 5-4 (third in the Big 12)
Returning starters: Offense: 10; defense: 9; kicker/punter: 1
Top returners: QB David Ash, RB Johnathan Gray, WR Mike Davis, WR Jaxon Shipley, LT Donald Hawkins, RT Josh Cochran, G Mason Walters, DE Jackson Jeffcoat, LB Jordan Hicks, CB Quandre Diggs, CB Carrington Byndom
Key losses: P Alex King, S Kenny Vaccaro, DE Alex Okafor, WR Marquise Goodwin
2012 statistical leaders (*returners)
Rushing: Johnathan Gray* (701 yards)
Passing: David Ash* (2,699 yards)
Receiving: Mike Davis* (939 yards)
Tackles: Kenny Vaccaro (107)
Sacks: Alex Okafor (12.5)
Interceptions: Quandre Diggs* (4)
1. Under center: Texas has finally ended all the debate about its quarterback situation and settled on David Ash. While Ash has yet to be stellar in his first two years at Texas, the junior has steadily improved -- he was top 25 in pass efficiency rating in 2012 -- and has won the trust of new quarterbacks coach Major Applewhite. Applewhite believes Ash is the quarterback best suited to run the new up-tempo, spread attack.
2. Loaded at linebacker: One year after being the worst tackling team in the Big 12, Texas went into the spring looking to shore up its linebacker position. And it had plenty of options. Texas has seven linebackers who have started at least one game. Included in that group is Jordan Hicks, who is back after missing 10 games last year because of a hip injury. Hicks will team with true sophomores, Dalton Santos and Peter Jinkens for what should be a much faster and aggressive unit in 2013.
3. Along the lines: While there were a sprinkling of injuries along the offensive line this spring (Josh Cochran and Trey Hopkins), Texas appears to have finally solved the depth riddle at that position. Tackle Kennedy Estelle was able to get quality snaps and should prove to be a solid backup and Sedrick Flowers finally emerged as an option at guard. While Texas returns all five starter from a year ago along the line, the Longhorns know that in the new up-tempo offense it will have to lean heavily on these backups.
1. Speed thrills: Texas wants to move the ball fast. So fast that the offensive players were even taught how to quickly get the ball back to the official so that they could put it down and Texas could line up and run the next play. But Texas only decided it wanted to play this way in mid-December when there was a change in playcallers from Bryan Harsin to Applewhite. So Texas has only had a handful of practices to get up to speed. With a schedule that has Texas at BYU for the second game of the season there doesn’t appear to be much time to get things perfected.
2. Safety dance: Texas’ defense was the worst in school history and that was largely due to the play of the back seven on defense. And now the best player in that back seven, Kenny Vaccaro, is gone. He was a first-round draft pick. That has left Texas wondering who will step up and make some stop at the safety position. Adrian Phillips takes over for Vaccaro, but he was inconsistent last season. The coaches blamed a shoulder injury and the fact he missed the spring. Mykkele Thompson and Josh Turner also missed their share of tackles but both are being called on to be possible starters.
3. Receiving praise: Texas has not had a 1,000-yard receiver since Jordan Shipley in 2009. Mike Davis had 939 yards last year and appears poised to break the 1,000-yard mark this season. But to do that he will need help. And right now there are some questions as to where that help will come from. Texas wants to go with four wide receivers but two of the four players expected to fill those roles -- Cayleb Jones and Kendall Sanders -- are currently suspended because of legal issues. Both will probably be back. But even then, Texas is very thin at wide receiver and needs some other players to step up to help take the double teams away from Davis.
First down: Questions about running backs
Will Texas' transition to a spread attack on offense be unfriendly to the running backs? No. Nothing could be further from the truth.
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