Texas is the only one of two schools in my top 25 with a brand new head football coach. Charlie Strong was a great defensive coordinator at South Carolina and then at Florida. He then did an excellent job as the head coach at Louisville. I believe he will do the same at Texas, and do it pretty quickly.
Charlie Strong’s specialty is defense. His defense at Louisville was either the best in the country or right up there with Michigan State. The Longhorn defense will improve right away and it will need to.
The Texas defense lost All American Jackson Jeffcoat up front. But, they do return Cedric Reed (6-6,260) and he sacked the QB 10 times last season and he was 3rd on the team in tackles with 77. He will make a lot of preseason AA teams and possibly again at the end of the year. Attempting to replace Jeffcoat is Shiro Davis (6-3,250) a junior from Shreveport. He has experience and brings tremendous quickness to the defensive line. Caleb Bluiett (6-3,255) played some as well and could be in the mix. Bryce Cottrell (6-3,240) will also play at end and he has a lot of potential.
Derrick Roberson (6-4,235) is a top recruit out of San Antonio should play a lot as a freshman. Another freshman, Jake McMillon (6-3,245) played DE but may be asked to beef up and move inside.
Malcom Brown (6-4,305) was extremely good at DT last season and had 66 tackles and a couple of sacks. The other DT spot should be Desmond Jackson (6-1,305). Jackson brings plenty of experience, but he may be pushed by Hassan Ridgeway (6-4,305).
Texas needs some young tackles to step up like Paul Boyette (6-4,295) or Alex Norman (6-4,295). In the make me feel old category, Alex Norman is the grand son of former Dallas Cowboy TE, Pettis Norman.
The Horns need depth at DT and brought in Poona Ford (6-0,285) from Hilton Head, South Carolina and Chris Nelson (6-2,280) from Lakeland, Florida. They will need to produce pretty quickly if Texas is to be dominant up front.
At LB, Texas has had issues for a while. Biggest issue is the health of Jordan Hicks (6-2,240). Hicks is one of the best players in the country when healthy, but he has missed most of the last 2 seasons with injuries. With Hicks in the lineup, the LB play has been pretty good. Without him, it has been pretty inconsistent. Hicks is a former top recruit out of Ohio and has lived up to his billing when healthy.
Both Dalton Santos (6-3,240) and Steve Edmond (6-3,245) return in the middle and split time a year ago. I personally prefer Santos, but Edmond really improved towards the end of last season. Edmond played a little at OLB last season and could move there if needed, but Santos is strictly a MLB.
If Hicks cannot go, look for Kendall Thompson (6-3,240) or Tevin Jackson (6-2,240) to play. Jackson is much like Hicks. He’s a former highly recruited player that hasn’t been on the field much due to injury and he’s running out of time.
Peter Jinkins (6-1,215) is back for his junior year and has started since his freshman season. Tim Cole (6-2,235) could contribute at LB as well.
Edwin Freeman (6-1,210) and Cameron Hampton (6-0,200) are 4 star commits that might help out right away. Andrew Beck (6-3,225) from Tampa, Florida could play in the middle, but he also may move to TE where he played some in high school.
Expect a big shake up in the secondary, so your guess is as good as mine with some of these positions.
Quandre Diggs (5-10,200) will be a 4 year starter in the secondary but this year he should be back at his corner spot after playing safety last season.
Look for Duke Thomas (5-11,175) to retain his other corner spot and he led the team in INTs a year ago with 3.
Sheroid Evans (6-0,190) and Antwuan Davis (5-11,190) are absolute burners that should see some playing time. Evans has been plagued by injuries and Davis redshirted last year.
Josh Turner (6-0,180) should start at Strong Safety. Leroy Scott (5-11,190) just got booted from the team, or he may have challenged for playing time.
Free Safety should be a battle between Mykkele Thompson (6-2,185) and Adrian Colbert (6-2,205). Thompson has the experience, while Colbert is another burner. The 4 guys I have listed as back ups would be the fastest secondary in the country, probably. Chevoskie Collins (5-11,190) could be another challenger here.
I do expect a lot of shake up with this defense with Charlie Strong being one of the greatest defensive coaches in the country. I would not even be surprised if Texas went to a 3-4 defense as it’s base.
QB has been a huge problem at Texas since the departure of Colt McCoy. David Ash (6-3,225) has all the physical tools to be the Texas QB, but he has concussion issues. Ash was thrown into the fire as an 18 year old true freshman in 2011 and has had his struggles. He threw for right at 2700 yards as a sophomore and was injured early in 2013 after throwing for 760 yards. If you think that Ash is not a gifted athlete, go and watch the Alamo Bowl against Oregon State in 2012 and see his TD run. He is a big strong guy with a good arm, just has questionable leadership abilities. He is also one hit away from being on the sidelines again.
Depth has been an issue for a while at QB. Tryrone Swoopes (6-5,250) is a little used true sophomore that has a very strong arm, but is really rough around the edges. Swoopes was a former 5 star recruit, but played small school football and needed to redshirt last season but Texas did not have that option due to the depth issues and injuries.
The future QB at Texas should be Jarrod Heard (6-2,195). He was a highly recruited 2 time state champion at Denton Guyer High School who can run with the best of them. He will need some time to develop his passing game at the big time level, but he has the tools.
To show how desperate the new coaches are about QB, they have moved former TE Miles Onyegbule (6-4,235) to QB. He played QB in high school but was recruited to play WR and grew into a TE prospect. He was never going to play at TE so I commend the new coaches for their efforts and trying to find some answers here. I have no idea why Mack Brown let things go at this position like he did.
Texas still leads for Max Wittek the USC graduate transfer which would be huge for them. He may not be the long term answer for Texas, or anyone else, but he is a warm body and can play at least enough so that Heard can have a chance at redshirting.
Running Back is another story for Texas. They did lose top RB Johnathon Gray (5-11,210) with a torn achilles tendon, and he should miss this season as well. But, they were really deep at the position. Senior Malcolm Brown (6-0,225) returns for his last season after running for 904 yards a year ago. He has dropped a few pounds and looks prime to have a real breakout season.
`Joe Bergeron (6-1,230) is also back for his senior year after rushing for 362 yards a year ago and having 1392 career yards to his credit. It will be interesting to see what the new staff plans to do with Daje Johnson (5-10,180) an under used junior speedster that can take it the distance on any given play. He had 140 yards rushing last season and can run the 40 in the 4.3 range, supposedly.
Donald Catalon (5-10,195) is a 4 star incoming freshman that should play quickly. D’Onta Foreman (6-1,215) is a big recruit that is rated pretty low and could surprise some people. Or, he may move to defense.
WR loses big play man, Mike Davis. But, they have everybody else back and the passing game was pretty awful last year with horrible QB play.
Jaxon Shipley (6-1,195) caught 56 passes last season and has 159 career catches. He is back for his last year and should have a big season. Kendall Sanders (6-0,185) and Marcus Johnson (6-1,190) are big play guys and both are back. Sanders had 37 catches a year ago and Johnson added 22. Senior John Harris (6-3,225) is the only other WR with any experience and he has very little.
Montrel Meander (6-2,190) is a redshirt freshman with speed to burn. Jake Oliver (6-4,205) is another that redshirted and could develop into a possession receiver for the Horns.
Armanti Foreman (5-11,175), Lorenzo Joe (6-3,195), Garrett Gray (6-4,205), Rodrick Bernard (5-10,170) and Dorian Leonard (6-4,200) are incoming freshmen that could provide instant depth. Foreman and Joe could be instant stars.
Tight End is another problem position for the Horns and has been for a number of years. For a while, Texas was producing NFL quality TEs by the truck load, but that ended at some point.
Geoff Swaim (6-4,250) is a good blocker at TE, but he has hands of stone as shown in the Alamo Bowl against Oregon. Greg Daniels (6-5,250) has played here but is no threat as a receiver. MJ McFarland (6-6, 240) is a real head scratcher here. He looked ready to blossom in 2012 but didn’t see much action at all a year ago.
Blake Whiteley (6-5,240) is a Canadian transfer from a JC and could be the answer to a lot of problems. He has the hands and is an adequate blocker.
Texas hired the best OL coach in the country in Joe Wickline from Oklahoma State. But, he has a mess on his hands right now with depth and experience.
LT lost reliable Donald Hawkins. Kennedy Estelle (6-7,290) should move into this spot but he has had grade issues in the past. He does have the talent, if eligible. LG should be part time starter Sedrick Flowers (6-3,310).
Center returns Dom Espinoza (6-4,305) who will be a 4 year starter.
RG lost Mason Walters who was also a 4 year starter and the job should be a battle between sophomore Curtis Riser (6-4,310) and redshirt freshman Rami Hammad (6-5,315)
RT could be Kent Perkins (6-5,310) or Camrhon Hughes (6-7,320)
Chief back ups should be Jake Raulerson (6-5,270) at center, Darrius James (6-5,320) at either guard and Desmond Harrison (6-8,310) at tackle.
Texas is a pretty hard call for 2014. New coaching staff will be interesting to follow. Texas is a team that has deep issues, but they are also a team that has some talent. I believe the defense will be better from day one, and I also believe the offense will improve if from nothing else than better QB play.
I am going out on a limb and predicting a 9-3 season for the Horns with better days to come as Strong installs his own program.