Good performances by the first-team Texas Longhorns offense and defense in the annual Orange-White game apparently increased the stock of head coach Tom Herman’s program, at least according to ESPN’s post-spring top 25.
Ranked No. 25 following the national championship game, the ‘Horns moved up two spots coming out of spring practice.
The improvement of the defense, which harassed back-up quarterback Sam Ehlinger throughout the scrimmage, was a likely reason — Mark Schlabach cited it as an area of concern in January, but did note that there were 10 potential returning starters.
Here’s his take now:
Outlook: New Texas coach Tom Herman spent the spring tearing down -- literally and figuratively -- what has been an underachieving program the past few seasons. From the locker room to recruiting, Herman hasn't been shy about putting his stamp on the program in a big way. On the field, Herman declined to name a starting quarterback, but Shane Buechele appears to be the clear leader, after throwing for 369 yards with three touchdowns in the spring game. Injuries hampered the Longhorns' search for D'Onta Foreman's replacement this spring, and tight end Andrew Beck broke his foot during offseason workouts.
So ESPN didn’t ding Texas too badly for not getting a look at Chris Warren III in the spring game or for the lack of depth at tight end.
But it does seem that sophomore quarterback Shane Buechele’s improvement, which included better pocket presence and overall understanding of when the pull the ball down and run, played a role in the upward trajectory.
Texas moved past Pittsburgh and Washington State in the rankings, both programs that lost more contributors to exhausted eligibility — running back James Conners and quarterback Nathan Peterman are both gone from the Panthers, while the Cougars lost three wide receivers, including the top two in school history.
Given the amount of returning talent in Austin, the Longhorns have some definite upside above the current rankings, especially if Herman and his staff can better maximize the talent on hand, in addition to leveraging the team’s increased experience.
However, the top of the Big 12 may be better this season — Oklahoma State ranks No. 6, Oklahoma ranks No. 8, and Kansas State and West Virginia both rank ahead of Texas, as well.
Maybe this will be a fun football season. One can only hope.