By this point in the year, it feels like we’re all starving while we wait for our meal to come, and the meal won’t come soon enough. For just a little longer, we have to make do with saltines and chips before we actually get some real food, some real football.
As we lead up to the season, I’ll be posting 15 thoughts across 15 days before the Texas Longhorns kick off against the Notre Dame Fighting Irish at DKR stadium in Austin on September 4th.
Each day, I’ll post one thought. With 15 days left, we begin at thought #15.
The youth movement continues
For the second year in a row, this Longhorns team will need a lot of underclassmen to step up early and be factors throughout the season whether it’s in a starting role or as a reserve
Of the 85 scholarship players currently on roster (which is the max amount any team can have), 58 of those players are either first or second year players (28 freshman, 6 redshirt freshman, 24 sophomores).
In other words, nearly 70 percent (68.2%) of the players on scholarship at Texas are underclassmen. And of that 70 percent, nearly 50 percent (48.3%) are true freshman.
The remaining 27 upperclassmen are split pretty evenly among the junior and senior classes with 13 being seniors and 14 being juniors.
Final season of a lot of true freshman contributors
The biggest takeaway from the roster still being bottom heavy this season is that this is likely the last season that Coach Strong and the Longhorns will need to rely on this many true freshmen to contribute in key roles.
I’m not saying we won’t see more true freshman contribute next season. The total just won’t be as big as it was in 2015 or projected to be in 2016.
As it stands right now, about four or five true freshman could start and about another four or five could see extended time as a key reserves/first off the bench.
The list of names includes QB Shane Buechele, WR Collin Johnson, WR Devin Duvernay, C Zack Shackelford, OL Patrick Hudson, OL Denzel Okafor, DL D’Andre Christmas, DL Jordan Elliott, LB Jeffery McCulloch, and S Brandon Jones.
Over the course of the season, that list could grow. But after this season, Texas probably won’t need 8-10+ freshmen to start/come off the bench in 2017. And that’s a good thing.
The roster begins to balance next season
Heading into the 2017 season (not factoring in any attrition that will happen), the number of upperclassmen will jump from 27 to 38. That’s a 41 percent (40.7%) increase for the group of juniors and seniors on roster.
Instead of having a team nearly 70 percent full of underclassmen (as it stands in 2016), Strong and his staff are set to have a team that hovers around 55 percent underclassmen and 45 percent upperclassmen.
In a perfect world, the split would be 50/50. Right now, Texas is looking at a 70/30 split. Though some of you may like 70/30 when picking out hamburger meat (personally, I’m an 80/20 guy), 50/50 is the target number to be at for college football rosters.
Similar to last season, we’ll probably see some growing pains from the freshmen and sophomores that do contribute. And though this team could improve from last year’s 5-7 season, it probably won’t be enough to get to the “9+ wins” range.
At the moment, I’m still sticking with eight wins (maybe seven wins and a chance for the eighth in a bowl game — we’ll know more after the first few weeks of the season).
But if Strong and his staff can keep things together well enough to hold on for another year, we could really see this Texas team take it’s biggest step in 2017.