With the 2017 season (finally) approaching we’re analyzing the situation in the Big 12. We’re here to breakdown every team and give you our 2017 outlook.
Let’s get going.
STADIUM: Darrell K Royal–Texas Memorial Stadium (1924)
SEATING CAPACITY: 100,119
2017 RECRUITMENT RANKINGS: 26th (2nd in Big 12)
ALL-TIME RECORD vs. TEXAS TECH: 50-16-0
Goodbye, Charlie Strong. After the third consecutive seven-loss season, the Longhorns parted ways with the former Louisville head coach and decided to start a new tenure.
A double-overtime win against Notre Dame in Week 1 seemed like the first pale rainbow after the rain for Texas, but in hindsight, it only demonstrated that the flood was more intense in Indiana, as the Fighting Irish themselves had a disappointing 4-8 season.
During the season, the Longhorns showed to have quality on the team, but they failed to put all the pieces together: in the first five games the offense averaged 41 points but the defense allowed 39.6. After four of those games Strong decided to demote his defensive coordinator, Vance Bedford, and call defensive plays himself. Things improved, as Texas allowed an average of 25.7 points in the last seven games, but they discovered a sputtering offense that could only score 25.4 per game.
The tombstone to Strong’s tenure was the three-games losing streak to end the season. Texas’ athletic department had a clear plan in mind and went out to execute it, hiring Houston head coach Tom Herman two days after the final game of the season.
At age 42, Herman increases the number of young coaches in Big 12, has knowledge of the state and of the university (he was a graduate assistant in 1999-2000), and inherits a young but experienced team to which he added immediately with a touted recruiting class.
Herman’s ability to develop quarterbacks -Greg Ward Jr., J.T. Barret, and Cardale Jones are the brightest examples- will be extremely important in grooming Shane Buechele, who took the starting job in his true freshman season and showed lots of enticing qualities, despite some mistakes due to inexperience.
The young quarterback won’t need to create chemistry with his receiving corps, with seven out of nine 100-yard wide receivers from 2016 returning to Austin, as all but one offensive linemen do. A lot of attention will be drawn by All-American left tackle Connor Williams, who will be a junior but is expected to be a first rounder in the 2018 NFL Draft. Conversely, it is difficult to point out a receiver who can become the go-to guy for Buechele, maybe sophomore Collin Johnson, who has the size to be a red-zone target and will be an important piece in Herman’s system.
Things are different for the running game. D'Onta Foreman and Tyrone Swoopes are gone, and most of the duties will fall on Chris Warren III, a massive 250-pound back who can really be the squad’s workhorse. In case Warren has problems, Kyle Porter is a highly-recruited sophomore who averaged a poor 4.5 yards per carry in 2016, and Kirk Johnson returns after an injury that led him to miss the entire 2016.
Herman decided not to travel alone to Austin and brought with him his defensive coordinator Todd Orlando. Orlando is tasked with a tricky assignment, as he has to limit some of the best offenses in the nation, but he can count on consistent group of returning players who still have multiple years of eligibility and a lot of playing experience in their freshmen and sophomore seasons.
The star of the unit is another first-round worthy junior, outside linebacker Malik Jefferson, who is an ultra-athletic player with outstanding acceleration and a natural ability to chase the runner. With his skills, he promises to be a nightmare for many offensive linemen.
When Texas and USC met last time, they had one of the best games in the history of college football. We were in January 2006 and the Longhorns won the national title, defeating the Trojans, 41-38.
This year’s game probably won’t be as hard-fought as the last one because at the moment USC is a better team than Texas, but it will be interesting to see how Herman will manage the first challenge of his tenure. The hard month will be October, as the Longhorns will face Kansas State, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, and Baylor in a row.