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Texas Tech Football | Texas Longhorns Preview

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Texas at a Glance
Home | Austin, TX (Big 12 Conference)
2011 Record | 8-5 (4-5) (Big 12)
Offensive Starters Returning | 9
Defensive Starters Returning | 7
2012 Offensive MVP | RB Malcolm Brown
2012 Defensive MVP | DE Jackson Jeffcoat

This is my yearly attempt to educate myself on the teams on the Texas Tech schedule. I am not an expert about any of these teams, but rather I have spent a few hours studying the team and it is more likely than not that I have something wrong. Please correct me in the comments. All helmet images via The Helmet Project.

Important Links | NCAA Stats (54th Total Offense; 11th Total Defense) . . . I spent 10 minutes looking for some sort of spring prospectus or depth chart or something to link and couldn't find anything, so either there isn't anything like that on UT's site or it takes 11 minutes to find it . . . I did find a spring game box score (PDF) and quotes . . .

The Coach | So I think what Mack Brown did was interesting. Brown essentially fired everyone on staff (this is an exaggeration, but he fired a lot of people) and completely changed the look of the Longhorns during an offseason. I think this is an interesting experiment. I have no problem with Brown being a manager of a program and cleaning house. From everything that I had read, the program had become stale and complacent and I think that says something about Brown's personality. Sure, he let the program become stale and complacent, but he could have collected checks and not thought twice about it. He didn't. I appreciate the fact that he wants to leave the program (at some point in the future) in a good place and it seems like that's what he is trying to do.

I think Brown hit a homerun with Manny Diaz as the defensive coordinator. The defense hasn't skipped a beat since he arrived. The offense has been the problematic part of the team. Brown hitched his wagon to co-offensive coordinators Major Applewhite and Bryan Harsin, although it appears that Harsin is in charge of the offense for the most part. I don't think the offense has been bad and to be honest, UT literally went from a spread offense to a traditional 21 or 22 personnel in one offseason. That type of change in offense doesn't happen overnight.

DTN 2012 Previews
* 9/1/12 Northwestern St. Demons (Preview)
* 9/8/12 @ Texas St. Bobcats (Preview)
* 9/15/12 New Mexico Lobos (Preview)
* 9/29/12 @ Iowa St. Cyclones (Preview)
* 10/6/12 Oklahoma Sooners (Preview)
* 10/13/12 West Virginia Mountaineers (Preview)
* 10/20/12 @ TCU Horned Frogs (Preview)
* 10/27/12 @ Kansas St. Wildcats (Preview)
* 11/3/12 Texas Longhorns (Preview)
* 11/10/12 Kansas Jayhawks (Preview)
* 11/17/12 @ Oklahoma St. Cowboys (Preview)
* 11/24/12 Baylor Bears (Preview)

What We Do Know | A lot of major parts do return for the Longhorns. David Ash should be the quarterback for the year and that should help. Ash was spectacular against Texas Tech, and when I write spectacular I mean he only had to attempt 7 passes and had 125 yards, but was less than impressive against most opponents. Ash averaged only 6.2 yards per attempt and had 4 touchdowns to 8 interceptions. There may not be the emphasis on quarterbacks as in previous year, but UT has to have more production from the quarterback spot.

The arrival of RB Jonathan Gray and last year's best offensive player, RB Malcolm Brown, should be quite the two-headed monster. If you go ahead and add in Joe Bergeron and now Texas has some real weapons at the running back spot and lucky for Texas Tech fans, the Red Raiders showed no ability to stop the run last year so that should be fun.

At the receiver position, Mike Davis, Jaxon Shipley and D.J. Grant all return and they were three of the top four receivers. I think that Marquise Goodwin is busy this summer so I don't know how much he's going to contribute this year. These are all talented and young and if you wanted to point to Ash struggling, then this might be one of the reasons, i.e. the receivers were inexperienced and receivers take time to adjust.

I wish I could talk intelligibly about the offensive line, but I think that David Snow is the only lineman that is leaving and Mason Walters is most likely the best lineman of the entire bunch. I should also mention that UT was incredibly young along the offensive line last year, starting a handful of sophomores and I even think a true freshman. This group is going to only get better.

Let's go ahead and get out of the way the talent that graduated, including Emmanuel Acho, Kheeston Randall, Blake Gideon (OhHai!), and Keenan Robinson. Jackson Jeffcoat is my pick for the best defensive player on the team. He started slow, but he really picked things up in the second half of the season and played really well. In fact, Jeffcoat didn't have a sack for the first six games of the year but ended up with 7.5 for the year. In addition to Jeffcoat, Desmond Jackson, Calvin Howell, Ashton Dorsey and Alex Okafor all return.

The secondary is going to be really good, maybe because Gideon has graduated (#jokes), but there may be some truth to that. The cornerbacks were young last year and they were really good. Quandre Diggs and Carrington Byndom are solid and Kenny Vaccaro isn't a slouch.

The interesting thing about the entire defense is that other than the players that left due to graduation, a large part of the players that played last year were sophomores and freshmen, so these were a lot of young players that played significant parts last year. Much like the offensive line, this is a young group last year that was really good and I think will be even better this year.

More after the jump.

What We Do Not Know | The big elephant in the room is if the offense will make improvements this year. I'm not sold on Ash as a quarterback, but I don't know how much that matters. The transformation from a spread team to a team that runs two tight ends was painful and may still be painful, but it's going to make the Longhorns really tough to beat, especially when you consider how good I think the defense will be this year and if you consider the type of talent they are able to recruit on the offensive line.

With the Longhorns' transition to a more traditional offense (which I really enjoy watching) there is less pressure on the quarterback to perform. Ash didn't perform very well last year and neither did backup Case McCoy, but statistically he was better than Ash. Watching both of them, you could see that Ash had more upside, but only a 56% completion rate, a interception to touchdown ratio of 1:2 and 82 passing yards a game isn't going to get it done. This is really my biggest question mark for UT and maybe the only one. I could maybe quibble about some of the defensive players that graduated, but I don't think they are fatal losses.

Best Player | I think it has to be Malcolm Brown. Impressive stats for a freshman, 74 yards a game, 5 touchdowns and 4.31 yards per carry.

Break Through Player Candidate | Ummm . . . freshman phenom Jonathan Gray, who is expected to pair with Brown and Bergeron to form a deep and talented backfield.

Overall Fear Level With 1 Being Not Afraid At All and 5 Being So Scared Baby | The thing that scares me the most about this game is the Longhorn defense and seeing how Texas Tech spit the bit last year offensively against UT is disconcerting. On some level, you can understand the Texas Tech defense being crappy, but the game with UT last year started an offensive slide of epic proportions for Texas Tech. The Texas Tech offense is going to have to be significantly better, but will need to make significant improvement and with the game being in Lubbock, I feel a lot better, but Texas Tech is going to have to show me that they can compete against really good defenses other than Oklahoma. I don't know if that happens. I'm going to go with a 4 for the Longhorns because I think they are really an incomplete team right now, but that could change by the time this game kicks off in November of 2012.