After starting the season 1-3, there have been some rumblings that the Texas Longhorns should take a hard look at going in another direction from head coach Charlie Strong. And there have also been questions about the Longhorns' potential down the road. To those skeptics and doubters, I say that it's silly and too early to make statements and conclusions like that.
When I watch the Longhorns this season, I basically watch them in two different ways. The first is watching how they play as a team from week to week. I am basically watching like anyone else would to gauge how good this team is each week and how good or bad they will be the next week and the rest of the season.
But when watching the games, I also find myself analyzing the players as if I'm watching a preseason NFL game... What do I mean by that?
When watching preseason NFL games, it's common for scouts, media, and analysts to focus on the individual performances of players rather than the overall outcome of the game to get a better idea of what type of players a team has to work with moving forward. And when I watch the Longhorns, I often find myself analyzing individual performances of the players to get a better idea of what type of team Texas could be by the end of the season and the seasons to come.
Basically, I'm asking myself, "Who does Texas have to build off of? Who has the potential to develop into a reliable player by the end of this season, next season and even those after it?"
After observing individual performances through four games, it's becoming more and more obvious that Charlie Strong's first recruiting class that was truly his own -- the 2015 class -- is littered with players that have the potential to be reliable players down the road. And some are already well on their way to becoming reliable players now.
The players in the 2015 class are just different cats than most of the ones Charlie inherited. They have the makings to be the types of impact players that help lead this program to that next level; the level Texas used to live at during the first decade of the 2000's.
Need some evidence? Let's list the true freshmen that have already been called upon to play minutes in games.
LT Connor Williams (starter)
LG Patrick Vahe (starter)
LB Malik Jefferson (starter)
WR John Burt (starter)
RB Chris Warren
DE Charles Omenihu
DB Kris Boyd
DB Holton Hill
DB Davante Davis
S PJ Locke
P Michael Dickson (starter)
WR DeAndre McNeal
WR Ryan Newsome
LB Anthony Wheeler
LB Breckyn Hager
And it's only a matter of time before we see safety Deshon Elliott, who is recovering from a toe injury sustained during fall camp.
Excluding Elliott, that is 14 true freshmen that come to mind that have already stepped onto the field, not to mention junior colleg transfer Tristan Nickelson, the offensive tackle who replaced senior Marcus Hutchins at right tackle against Oklahoma State. And a handful of those guys, including the obvious starters, have been making an impact when on the field. That is crazy to think about. And let's not forget that the starting quarterback, the one that Texas finally can build around, is also a redshirt freshman. Can you remember a team at this level of college football that needed this many freshmen on the field making plays? I know I can't. Neither can most of the Texas coaches.
This assessment brings me to three conclusions...
1) If Coach Strong and his staff can continue to develop these freshmen and the other young players on the roster, he will have a very seasoned and polished group in the coming seasons.
2) If Coach Strong can continue to recruit like he did with the 2015 class (even after Texas lost seven games and was embarrassed in their last two games of the 2014 season), he will continue to raise the level of talent and increase the number of reliable players Texas has on roster. He and this team really need at least another class or two of the right players.
3) Wow, Coach Strong really did not inherit all that much...
There's no question it's been a rough start for the Longhorns. And it doesn't appear to be getting any easier these next couple of weeks. But to call for Coach Strong's job right now is the last thing Texas needs. I'd also feel differently had Texas been blown out of the other two games that resulted in losses.
But looking big picture, it's apparent that this team is revealing more of its long-term potential each and every game. And though it's no sure thing, as long as Coach Strong and his staff can stay the course, Texas football has the potential to reach that level that fans have been starved for since 2009.