13 December 2011
The brick-by-brick approach that Texas used this season paid off to a certain extent. The Longhorns posted a 7-5 record, an improvement from last year’s 5-7 abomination but a mark that proves that Mack Brown and Co. have a ways to go before Texas becomes a conference or national title contender again. But with another top-notch recruiting class coming in - one that’s currently ranked No. 1 - and the fact that underclassmen accounted for many of the Longhorns’ biggest contributors this past season, the future looks bright for the Longhorns. Here’s a look at what their depth chart on offense might look in 2012:
Quarterback: 1st string – Case McCoy, 2nd string – David Ash, Others – Connor Brewer, Jalen Overstreet
The position behind center was unquestionably the most turbulent in 2011. Incumbent junior Garrett Gilbert beat out three others during fall camp for the starting spot before being ousted by sophomore Case McCoy in Texas' second game against BYU. While Gilbert was getting shoulder surgery and transferring to SMU, McCoy and freshman David Ash were busy splitting snaps and playing hot potato for the starting quarterback job. McCoy started in wins against UCLA and Iowa State and in a loss to Oklahoma before Ash took over against Oklahoma State. Mack Brown claimed that Ash provided a mobility and strength that McCoy couldn't but it was McCoy's 25-yard scamper that set up Justin Tucker's 40-yard game-winning field goal as time expired to cap off a 27-25 win over Texas A&M, the Longhorns' signature victory this season and a loss that provided the nail in Mike Sherman's coffin.
Connor Brewer is a highly-touted, three-time state champion from Chaparral High School in Arizona who committed this February while Jalen Overstreet is a less highly-touted recruit that pledged to play for Texas much more recently. Brewer is a traditional pocket passer while Overstreet, who many thought would play safety in college, is a dual-threat quarterback. Because of the way McCoy finished the season, with a four-interception outing in a loss against Baylor in the season finale, the quarterback position will end the year in a state of flux. But co-offensive coordinator Bryan Harsin, who has decided what to do with his gunslingers all year long, said after falling to the Bears that McCoy would start against Cal in the Bridgepoint Education Holiday Bowl Dec. 28. Even if McCoy plays well and the Longhorns beat the Golden Bears, it won't guarantee him the starting spot at the beginning of next season.
Running back: 1st string – Malcolm Brown, 2nd string – Joe Bergeron/Jonathan Gray, Others – D.J. Monore, Jeremy Hills
Thanks to an extraordinary stable of running backs, it might not matter so much how Texas' quarterbacks play, as long as they're able to hand the ball off. The Longhorns lose Fozzy Whittaker, who many of his teammates called the heart and soul of the team, but bring back freshman phenoms Malcolm Brown and Joe Bergeron. Both Brown and Bergeron showed glimpses of brilliance, combining for more than 1,100 yards and scoring five touchdowns apiece, but each missed multiple games due to injuries. If they can stay healthy, Texas will have one of the country's best backfields.
Jonathan Gray - two-time Gatorade National Player of the Year and member of the two-time defending state champion Aledo Bearcats (who faces Manvel in the state championship game this Saturday) - has rushed for more than 10,000 yards and scored more than 200 touchdowns during his illustrious high school career and promises to immediately add a spark to the Longhorns' offense. Even with Brown and Bergeron proving themselves worthy of playing time this season, Gray should push for carries, too.
Wide Receiver: 1st string – Marquise Goodwin, Mike Davis, Jaxon Shipley; 2nd stringers – Miles Onyegbule, DeSean Hales, John Harris; Others – Cayleb Jones, Bryant Jackson, Thomas Johnson, Marcus Johnson
Whoever wins the starting quarterback job will also be aided by a top-notch receiving corps. The group was short on experience and depth this season but has never been short on speed or talent. Marquise Goodwin, who briefly pursued Olympic dreams, joined the team midseason but should look like a seasoned senior next year. Goodwin, who claims to run a 4.28 40-yard dash, will be joined by junior-to-be Mike Davis and fabulous freshman Jaxon Shipley. Mike Davis has caught 92 passes over his first two years as a Longhorn, three of which have been for touchdowns. Davis served as Texas' deep-threat wideout but will need to find the end zone more often in 2012. Had Shipley not missed three contests with a knee injury, he would have been the Longhorns' leading receiver in his first year on the Forty Acres 40 catches and 593 yards. Jordan Shipley's younger brother also threw a pair of touchdown passes.
The second-teamers include freshman Miles Onyegbule (who caught four passes and made one start this year), freshman John Harris (who caught two passes and threw a 36-yard touchdown pass to Shipley in the Longhorns' season opener against Rice), and junior DeSean Hales (a highly-touted prospect who has only 13 career receptions). Local product Cayleb Jones headlines a trio of incoming freshmen wideouts who will provide depth to a group of receivers that sorely need it.
Tight End: 1st string – D.J. Grant, 2nd string – Barrett Matthews, Others – Dominique Jones, Darius Terrell, M.J. McFarland (Luke Poehlmann??)
Mack Brown called Texas' tight end play "inconsistent" and for good reason. D.J. Grant notched three touchdown receptions in a 49-20 rout of UCLA after no Longhorns pass catcher - wide receiver, running back or tight end - had more than two all of last season. But those would be Grant's lone scoring plays of the season as no Texas tight end would find the end zone in the next three games before senior Blaine Irby caught a touchdown pass in each of his last three games. Irby, who saved his best touchdown catch (a one-handed grab as he was falling in the back of the end zone against Baylor) for last, would have a good chance to get another year of eligibility but is likely done as a Longhorn. Meanwhile, Barrett Matthews and Dominique Jones, who each caught a touchdown pass each in 2010, return next season, along with current freshmen Darius Terrell and M.J. McFarland. Rising senior Luke Poehlmann entered this season as an offensive linemen but contributed as a tight end, mainly as a blocker, but scored on a short touchdown catch against Baylor.
Offensive Tackle: 1st string – Josh Cochran, Trey Hopkins; 2nd stringers – Paden Kelley, Garrett Greenlea, Others – Taylor Doyle
When Colt McCoy began his career at Texas, he was a baby-faced freshman who had not come close to gaining the respect of an experienced offensive line fresh off a national title campaign. The Longhorns employed a no-huddle offense so McCoy didn't have to face his offensive lineman before every play. If McCoy's younger brother, who will be a junior in 2012, wins the job, that won't be a problem. But he will be in a similar situation as his older brother in that an unproven quarterback will become the beneficiary of a talented and experienced offensive line.
Josh Cochran took over for senior Tray Allen about halfway through this season as the starting left tackle and performed well enough to be considered a freshman All-American by Yahoo and Scout.com. Trey Hopkins was also solid at right tackle. Both were big reasons why Texas was able to run the ball so effectively, especially in wins over Kansas and Texas Tech - games where the Longhorns outscored their opponents by a combined score of 95-20 and ran for a collective 880 yards.
Offensive Guard: 1st string – Mason Walters, Donald Hawkins; 2nd string – Thomas Ashcraft, Sedrick Flowers
Both Mack Brown and Bryan Harsin consistently praised two offensive linemen all season long - David Snow and Mason Walters. With Snow departing after this season, Walters becomes the leader of 2012's offensive line. At 6'6", 315 pounds, Walters is a tough person to get around. Freshman Sedrick Flowers, a 6'3", 313-pound mammoth in his own right, had Brown and his staff excited this year would have played many more than three games had he not been hampered with injuries. But Brown has resorted to recruiting junior college players as a part of rebuilding his football program. The Longhorns will welcome two former junior college players, including offensive guard Donald Hawkins, next year, as many as Brown had brought in during his first 14 years as the Texas head football coach. Hawkins stands at 6'5" and 320 pounds and was an offensive tackle at Northwest Mississippi Community College but could move over to offensive guard at Texas (unless Hopkins moves back to guard, where he started four games as a freshman, opening up Hawkins to just stay at tackle). Thomas Ashcraft will provide depth behind Walters at the other guard spot.
Center – 1st string – Dominic Espinosa, 2nd string – Garrett Porter
With David Snow being the only member of this year's offensive line to come into the season with multiple years of starting experience (19 starts over his first three years as a Longhorn to be exact, more than the rest of the offensive line before this year combined), it seemed like a foregone conclusion that Snow would start at center in 2011. It was the four guys around him that was a bit uncertain. But despite missing time during spring ball, redshirt freshman Dominic Espionsa impressed new offensive line coach Stacy Searels so much that he decided to make him the captain of the offensive line as Espinosa started all 12 games for Texas at center this season. Garrett Porter should serve as Espinosa's backup once again.
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