The Oklahoma Sooners have an opportunity to win their sixth consecutive Big 12 championship. The Oklahoma State Cowboys are loaded with their own rendition of star power in Chuba Hubbard and Tylan Wallace. But maybe this is the Texas Longhorns’ year after all.
From coaching to quarterback play, the Big 12’s intriguing storylines are worth monitoring. Most of the conference’s teams are expected to improve at the quarterback position, as 70 percent of the league’s starting quarterbacks return this season. Of the three teams that don’t return a starting quarterback, the Texas Tech Red Raiders brings back a healthy Alan Bowman and – *drum roll* – the Spencer Rattler era is set to begin in Norman.
With Matt Rhule out and Dave Aranda for the Baylor Bears, now half of the league’s coaches are in their first or second-year as head coach, making fourth-year Tom Herman a wise man of sorts.
Those are just a few of the most exciting narratives at play. Let’s get into it.
We’ll start with ... more of the cream of the crop.
Behind a revamped coaching staff on both sides of the ball and senior quarterback Sam Ehlinger, is this finally the year for Texas? Finally?
It’s safe to say Texas has an elite quarterback that can get the team over the hump.
As for other areas of the team, that remains to be seen.
It’s not just about chasing Oklahoma at the top, either.
Head coaches Mike Gundy and Gary Patterson have had Tom Herman’s number since he arrived at Texas. Under Herman, the Longhorns are a combined 2-4 against Oklahoma State and TCU, mostly out of the fact that his teams have lacked consistency.
All in all, Texas can no longer afford to play ‘B’ or ‘C’ games against middle-tier Big 12 opponents if they want to compete atop the conference.
The staff shakeup that transpired following last season was a necessary move for Herman to make in order to improve all areas of coaching and development across the program, especially on defense and among the team’s wide receiver ranks. Longhorn receivers lacked separation in their routes under former wide receivers coach Drew Mehringer. Ehlinger often had to be pin-point accurate with his throws in order to move the ball.
Newly hired wide receivers coach Andre Coleman brings professional experience to the program as a former NFL wide receiver himself. If last year’s Alamo Bowl win over the Utah Utes was an indication of what’s to come from Texas’ receivers under Coleman’s tenure, the wide receiver room is in the right hands, it seems. Or at least we hope that’s the case.
As Texas transitions into a more modernized spread offense under new offensive coordinator Mike Yurcich, they’ll need athletic receivers to step up in the absence of Collin Johnson and Devin Duvernay — who will each be playing in the NFL on Sundays this fall.
Expect the offense to operate with a lot more urgency and tempo under Yurcich, too.
“On offense, I felt like we got stale. Me calling plays for two years, I had become the jack of all trades and a master of none. I wasn’t a very good offensive coordinator and I obviously wasn’t a very good head coach. And I knew I can’t do this another year. I was running myself ragged trying to play both sides.” Herman admitted in a recent feature from Max Olson of The Athletic.
The Longhorns running back group is more talented and as deep as it’s been in over a decade. Combine that with two big-body outside receivers in Brennan Eagles (six-foot-four inches) and Tarik Black (six-foot-three), plus the combo of Jake Smith and Jordan Whittington in the slot, the weapons are certainly in place for Texas to be elite on offense.
As Herman’s first full recruiting class enters their junior season, there’s certainly NFL potential from this particular class on both sides of the ball. Depending on how this season plays out, Ehlinger, Samuel Cosmi, Joseph Ossai, and Caden Sterns may be first or second-round draft picks when all is said and done.
As former Texas head coach Charlie Strong once said, “The cake is baked.”
If there ever was a time where that statement was remotely true regarding the Longhorns’ Big 12 championship aspirations, that time is now entering Herman’s fourth season as head honcho.
No more excuses, in other words.
This program can no longer lack consistency if they want to compete with the best.