As a reminder, I’m posting one thought per day in a series of 15 posts over the course of 15 days until we get to game day.
With seven days left until kickoff, this is the ninth post of the series.
If you missed the other posts, the links are below
Post #1 - “The Youth Movement Continues”
Post #3 - “Texas Needs To Score More”
Post #4 - “Offense Part 1: The Trenches”
Post #5 - “Offense Part 2: The Supporting Cast”
Post #6 - “Can the Texas defense improve enough?
Post #7 - “Where will Texas land in the final B12 standings?”
Post #8 - “Texas is set to get a great quarterback in 2017 in Sam Ehlinger”
As the final weekend without Longhorns football comes to a close, I can’t help but sit here and wonder what this upcoming season will hold. There are so many different ways it could play out and so many question marks still floating around this team.
With seven days left until kick off, here are seven questions rolling around my head as the season quickly approaches. (Apologies for the delayed post. Was a busier Sunday than expected).
- Regardless of how many snaps Swoopes and Buechele get all season, will the quarterback position as a whole produce enough to help Texas take that next step?
At the end of the day, Texas just needs the ball to get into the hands of its playmakers. And it needs whichever quarterback is on the field to manage the offense, avoid doing anything to put the team in a bad situation, and utilize the rest of the weapons on the field.
Whether its Swoopes, Buechele, or a mix of both, the goal doesn’t change. Texas needs to score more points this season. It’s just tough to visualize how it will all play out at that position over the next 12 regular season games.
2. Is there a realistic scenario for seven or eight wins even if the quarterbacks struggle?
Texas won five games last season while basically being forced to play with one hand tied behind its back at quarterback. If neither Buechele nor Swoopes really grabs control of the starting job in a productive way, can this team lean on other areas of the depth chart to squeeze out seven to eight wins?
The answer is probably “no”. But hey, the ‘Horns were close to beating Cal and Ok St last year. And what if the tandem of D’Onta Foreman and Chris Warren is too much to handle for some of these Big 12 defenses?
Alright, taking the optimism glasses back off for the realistic ones.
3. If Texas goes 1-2 in its non-conference stretch losing to Notre Dame and Cal, is eight wins still realistic?
It’s a scenario I cringe at and one that would not sit well with anyone. Don’t look now, but Cal apparently found an answer at quarterback in the post-Goff era with former Red Raider Davis Webb via grad transfer. He and Cal seemingly played pretty well, even if it was against a weaker Hawaii team.
At the end of September, if Texas is 1-2 with losses to Notre Dame and Cal, can Texas at least go 6-3 in Big 12 play? Or would it really need to be 7-2 to get to that magical eight in mark?
The difference between 2-1 and 1-2 before conference play is huge, if you’re asking me.
4. Will the Texas offense be starting at least four true freshman on offense by November?
Maybe its crazy to envision this, but what if tomorrow you were told that by November quarterback Shane Buechele, center Zack Shackleford, wide receiver Collin Johnson, slot receiver Devin Duvernay, and another lineman like Denzel Okafor were all in the starting lineup?
This team is still crazy young. And some of those guys are already pushing for starting spots. Plus, last season we saw games where John Burt, Chris Warren, Connor Williams, and Patrick Vahe were all in the starting lineup as freshmen. Just something to think about...
5. Will Charlie Strong and Vance Bedford have this defense ready to take the type of step it really needs to in 2016?
Now that the keys to the offense have been given to offensive coordinator Sterlin Gilbert, I can’t help but wonder if extra attention from Coach Strong will get this defense pointed in the right direction.
I’d also be lying if I said I wasn’t concerned with the front six, more specifically against the run.
Other than Malik Jefferson, it’s tough to point to another linebacker right now that’s really a proven commodity. Tim Cole is the only upperclassmen to mention. And the rest of the young players kind of seem like just a bunch of guys right now. No one really stands out at the moment.
The defensive ends should create some havoc chasing down quarterbacks, but the biggest concern will be in the middle at defensive tackle. Texas was awful when trying to stop the run last season. And we’ll see a lot of freshman getting minutes at the tackle positions.
An improved offense is great. But without better play from the defense, Texas really could struggle again this season.
6. Are we overlooking the importance of the special teams units? And will they play better too?
When I think back to the span of the multiple 10-win seasons under Mack Brown, I’m reminded how common it was for the Longhorns to have electric special teams units.
Whether the group was blocking kicks, nailing big time field goals, or scoring points on returns, it always seemed like Texas could count on the special teams units to at least make a handful of plays here and there throughout the season.
You’d naturally think that with more talent being added back to the roster with each recruiting class, this special teams should play better. Add in grad-transfer Trent Domingue at kicker, and this group has a chance to take a step forward as well. And really, it absolutely needs to. But will it?
7. Am I nuts to wonder if 2018 is really the year we need to be talking about?
Before you put your head into your hands, walk with me as I explain this.
Let’s say Texas goes 7-5 in 2016. This roster is still young, and the ‘Horns could be starting a true freshman at quarterback at some point this season. In 2017, Texas wins nine or ten games, heck maybe even an eleventh in a bowl game (but miss the playoffs).
By 2018, the Longhorns have the quarterback position figured out with either junior Shane Buechele or sophomore Sam Ehlinger. The roster is finally balanced with the ‘15 class as your group of seniors and the ‘16 class as your group of juniors. And the team is poised for an undefeated season similar to the 2005 title run it had after winning the Rose Bowl the previous season in 2004.
We all knew this program needed a massive overhaul. And we’re seeing the talent and pieces get added each recruiting cycle. But maybe, just maybe, 2018 is the year we should really be talking about and patient for (*ducks head at flying tomatoes*).
There are many more questions out there for this team. And there are countless ways this season could play out. Luckily, we’ll finally have some answers soon enough. By this time tomorrow, we’ll officially be in game week.