You are using an older browser version. Please use a supported version for the best MSN experience.

Preview 2019: Texas. 5 Things You Need To Know, Season Prediction

College Football News logo College Football News 5/14/2019 Pete Fiutak
a group of baseball players standing on top of each other: File Photo © File Photo File Photo

UP NEXT
UP NEXT

Preview 2019: Previewing and looking ahead to the Texas Longhorns season with what you need to know.

- Contact/Follow @ColFootballNews & @PeteFiutak

- What You Need To Know: Offense | Defense

- Top Players | Key Players, Games, Stats

- What Will Happen, Win Total Prediction

- Recruiting Class Analysis | Schedule Analysis

- Texas Previews 2018 | 2017 | 2016 | 2015

2018 Record: 10-4 overall, 7-2 in Big 12

Head Coach: Tom Herman, 3rd year, 17-10

5. WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT THE TEXAS OFFENSE

- The offense can be better. It was able to move the chains, it showed a toughness that hasn't always been there over the years, and it did a great job of not turning the ball over. However, in the high-octane Big 12, the Longhorns averaged a middle-of-the-pack 411 yards and 31 points per game. There are some big holes to fill, but the main man is back under center.

- It's Sam Ehlinger's Texas team. He's the face of the franchise for this year, he's the spokesman, and he's the tough guy who can pound for hard yards while also hitting 65% of his passes. The Longhorns aren't going to bomb away unless they have to, but they have the pieces to do it, with NFL-caliber target Collin Johnson returning after a 68-catch season, and he's not alone.

Leading receiver Lil'Jordan Humphrey took off early, but Devin Duvernay and Joshua Moore are more than complementary targets around Johnson. With the expected emergence of Malcolm Epps and top recruit Bru McCoy, the parts are there for Ehlinger to work with.

- The addition of Georgia Tech transfer Parker Braun is a big help at one of the open guard spots. Sophomore Samuel Cosmi should move from right tackle to the left side to take over for Calvin Anderson, and senior Denzel Okafor brings ore size to Cosmi's old spot. It all works around one of the Big 12's best centers, Zach Shackelford.

- The less Ehlinger has to pound away and take shots, the better. He finished third on the team with 482 yards with 16 touchdowns as a near-automatic producer on short-yardage plays. Sophomore Keaontay Ingram is the main man at running back after averaging five yards per carry with 708 yards and three scores, with junior Daniel Young a 230-pound veteran and true freshman Jordan Whittington a part of the rotation.

NEXT: What You Need To Know About the Defense, Top Players, Keys to the Season, What Will Happen

4. WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT THE TEXAS DEFENSE

- Just three starters are back from a defense that allowed 26 points and 393 yards per game. On the down side, there are whole lot of holes to fill after the program built up to what the defense was last season. On the positive front, there's a lot of talent and plenty of options to play around with the lineup. Four of the top five tacklers and seven of the top 12 are gone, but …

- The secondary is full of young playmakers. Brandon Jones is the senior leader at one safety spot as the team's top returning tackler with 70 stops. BJ Foster and Caden Sterns were thrown to the wolves as true freshmen, and they came up large combining for 108 tackles - the Longhorns are set at safety. Corner is a bit more of an issue.

Anthony Cook got his feet wet in the rotation as a true freshman, and now it's his time to step into one of the corner gigs, and sophomore Jalen Green brings good size to grow into one of the other spots.

- The D line takes the biggest hit on the defense with the loss of Breckyn Hager and Charles Omenihu on the ender, and without Chris Nelson on the nose. The pieces are there to form a decent rotation on the ends - Malcolm Roach is a veteran who should be fine on one side - and the hope is for 340-pound redshirt freshman Keondre Coburn to become a star on the nose in a rotation with 335-pound senior Gerald Wilbon.

- The 1-2 tackling punch of linebackers Gary Johnson and Anthony Wheeler have to be replaced, but senior Jeffrey McCulloch is back on the outside to add some stability to the very inexperienced, very big, very talented linebacking corps.

Redshirt freshman Ayodele Adeoye and JUCO transfer Caleb Johnson bring the size to the inside, and 6-4, 245-pound sophomore Joseph Ossai will get the first shot to take over the outside job on the other side of McCulloch.

NEXT: Top Players, Keys To the Season, What Will Happen

3. TOP TEXAS PLAYERS

Best Texas Offensive Player

QB Sam Ehlinger, Jr.

The 6-3, 235-pounder suffered from being in the same conference as Kyler Murray and Will Grier, and he also suffered from playing a different sort of a role.

He completed 65% of his passes for 3,296 yards and 25 touchdowns, and he ran for 482 yards and 16 scores. Just as importantly as his ability to come through when needed - he threw for 300 yards or more in four of the last nine games - he only gave away five picks, and just three after the opener against Maryland.

Now the Heisman, Big 12 Championship, and College Football Playoff spotlight and pressure are on. He can handle it.

2. WR Collin Johnson, Sr.

3. C Zach Shackelford, Sr.

4. OT Sam Cosmi, Soph.

5. RB Keontay Ingram, Soph.

Best Texas Defensive Player

S Caden Sterns, Soph.

Throw any of the Texas safeties in here and you're probably right. The 6-1, 210-pound sophomore stepped in and rocked right away, finishing sixth on the team with 62 tackles with a sack and three tackles for loss. But it was his play with the ball in the air that helped him earn First-Team All-Big 12 honors, picking off four passes including two against TCU. Very smart, very quick, and physical, he's a special young NFL-caliber safety who'll be on ever All-America short list.

2. S Brandon Jones, Sr.

3. S BJ Foster, Soph.

4. LB Jeffrey McCulloch, Sr.

5. LB Joseph Ossai, Soph.

NEXT: Keys to the Season, Prediction & What Will Happen

2. KEYS TO THE SEASON

Biggest Key To The Texas Offense

The running game has to be better. More to the point, it has to be more effective and a bit more explosive. The Texas offense was able to wing it around when it had to in shootouts, and Sam Ehlinger was and will be more than fine on the midrange throws to keep things moving, but for a team that relies on ball control, turnovers, defense, and third down conversions to own games, being able to average more than 3.77 yards per carry would be a plus.

The ground game wasn't awful, but it only hit the 200-yard mark once, and that came against Tulsa early on in the season. That game, the blowout win over San Jose State early in 2017, and the win over West Virginia later that year were the only three times the team averaged over five yards per carry under Tom Herman.

And those were the only three times the ground game ran for over 200 yards. By comparison - not that this is necessarily a positive considering the overall results - Texas ran for 200 yards or more eight times in 2016.

Biggest Key To The Texas Defense

Besides having to fight through the growing pains of a massive youth movement, coming up with more key third down stops would be nice. Of course, all Big 12 defenses get graded on a curve considering the offensive firepower in the league, but the Longhorns struggled on third downs against USC, Georgia, and in key spots against Maryland, too.

The D only held an offense to under 30% on third downs once, and that was in the tight battle against Tulsa early on. The D allowed 50% or more five times in the last seven games, and 45% or more seven times in the last eight.

Get the 44% mark to under 40, and the offense will take care of the time of possession part of the puzzle on its own.

Key Player To A Successful Season

DE Ta'Quon Graham, Jr.

Or Malcolm Roach. Or Marquez Bimage. Or Jacoby Jones. Or any of the defensive ends that have to replace Charles Omenihu and Breckyn Hager. The pass rush was just okay throughout last year, but getting into the backfield wasn't a problem and the D did a great job of generating plenty of tackles for loss.

There aren't any real issues in the secondary - the corners will be fine - and the linebackers are young and talented. Now it's up to the 6-3, 295-pound Graham - who came up with 12 tackles with two tackles for loss as a reserve - and the rest of the ends to wreak havoc in the backfield.

Key Game To The Texas Season

LSU, Sept. 7

This is the moment when Texas has to prove that the Sugar Bowl win over Georgia wasn't just because the Bulldogs had their guts ripped out by Alabama in the SEC Championship.

Of course it's a new year, new players, new parts of the puzzle, but after all the "Texas is back" stuff after that terrific win in New Orleans, it all goes bye-bye if the Longhorns can't take care of a fantastic LSU team in the showdown in Austin.

Win, and the College Football Playoff hype will be legit. Lose, and with a brutal Big 12 schedule ahead, there's almost no way the Longhorns will better the ten wins of last season.

- Texas Schedule Breakdown & Analysis

2018 Texas Fun Stats

- 3rd Quarter Scoring: Texas 117 - Opponents 38

- Time of Possession: Texas 32:19 - Opponents 27:31

- Average Yards Per Carry: Texas 3.8 - Opponents 3.8

NEXT: What Will Happen

1. TEXAS WIN TOTAL PREDICTION: WHAT'S GOING TO HAPPEN

It only seems like Texas has been a year away for more than a decade.

The talent level has improved, Tom Herman is coming off a whopper of a recruiting class, and there haven't been any issues so far blending in underclassmen and true freshmen with the developed veterans.

The style of play has worked and the results were and are there - getting to the Big 12 Championship and winning the Sugar Bowl were fantastic steps forward to regain true superpower status - but with so many young parts of the puzzle and so much turnover, can the team really be better?

Texas might have lost four games, but the team was a play away in three of them - Maryland, West Virginia and Oklahoma State - from winning. Then again - consistency was one of the knocks on Herman before taking the gig - the team that was good enough to beat Oklahoma and Georgia was flaky enough to struggle against Tulsa and Kansas.

So how is the 2019 version with so many underclassmen playing key roles, and with so many issues with penalties, and with so many changes on the lines, and with so much inexperience at quarterback behind a battering ram like Sam Ehlinger who takes a ton of big shots, going to be better?

Set The Regular Season Win Total At … 9

The team actually will be more talented overall, but there's still developing to be done … or, there's the possibility that talent is talent - see 2018 Clemson - and age means nothing.

Even so, the problem is more than just the schedule, it's the timing and location of the key games.

Even if the Longhorns get by LSU on September 7th, they still have to go to Houston the following week to play Rice. They'll roll without breathing hard, but that starts a run of over two months with just two games - Oklahoma State and Kansas - in Austin, and that still doesn't count road games at Iowa State and Baylor in mid-to-late November.

In all, there's a stretch of six games in nine away from home before closing out against Texas Tech. Considering the goal is to win the Big 12 Championship and go to the College Football Playoff, there can be just one loss.

Can this team beat LSU, and Oklahoma, and TCU, and on and on in all the dangerous firefights in conference play and go 11-1?

Expect another nine-win regular season, and another ten-win campaign after Herman makes it a career 4-for-4 in bowl games.

- What You Need To Know: Offense | Defense

- Top Players | Key Players, Games, Stats

- Recruiting Class Analysis | Schedule Analysis

MORE:

NBA Free Agency 2019: The top players

This video from behind the bench might be the best view of Kawhi Leonard's buzzer-beater

Report: Chicago Bulls could offer top-6 pick for Lonzo Ball in trade

Giants' Daniel Jones opens voluntary workouts as QB3

Should the Raiders consider signing free agent DT Ndamukong Suh?

AdChoices
AdChoices

More From College Football News

College Football News
College Football News
image beaconimage beaconimage beacon