Texas hasn’t been great under Charlie Strong in his two years, finishing 5-7 overall last year and 4-5 in Big 12 play. However, there is reason for optimism with the Longhorns, although that’s probably the case every season. Texas showed it could play with better teams last year in beating Oklahoma and Baylor, but the consistency simply wasn’t there, falling to Iowa State and Texas Tech in other Games.
The reason for optimism falls to freshman quarterback Shane Buechele, who surprised a lot of people with how well he played in the spring Game. The decision made by new coordinator Sterlin Gilbert (Art Briles disciple) for starter won’t be made until the fall between Buechele and Tyrone Swoopes, but both guys will probably see time this year. Swoopes has experience, but last year he attempted just 93 passes, while carrying the ball 74 times. Texas likes Buechele because he can actually throw the ball, tossing for 299 yards and 2 TDs in the scrimmage. Also in the battle is Jarrod Heard, who missed the spring Game, but was another guy used mostly for his legs last season (139 carries).
With the running QBs and returning RBs, the ground Game should be just as good this year. D’Onta Freeman (681 yards, 7.2 ypc, 5 TDs) will lead the way at tailback with Chris Warren III (470 yards, 6.6 ypc, 4 TDs). The offensive line has some young pieces, including freshman center Zach Shackelford, but the group gelled in the spring and shouldn’t take a step back with three returning starters.
Receiver is a bit more of a toss up as the Longhorns didn’t really throw the ball much last year. John Burt (457 yards) should be one of the main options as well as Armanti Foreman (182 yards). Caleb Bluiett and Andrew Beck are also able at tight end.
The defense will again be the starting point for this team winning Games. The Longhorns return plenty of experience at all positions. However, they did struggle against the run at times last year and Strong only has three tackles to work with so that could be another issue. On the other end of that, Texas is loaded at linebacker with young guys in Malik Jefferson and Anthony Wheeler expected to make huge jumps in sophomore seasons.
The same can be said about the secondary where sophomore cornerbacks Davante Davis and Holton Hill look set to be future studs. And then there’s safety Dylan Haines, who has missed the last two years with injuries, but he looks ready to roll.
If the Longhorns can figure out what to do at quarterback, watch out. However, it won’t be an easy start to the season with a Game against Notre Dame once again opening things up. Texas lost that meeting 38-3 last year. If they can at least compete in that Game, hopes should be a little higher for the Longhorns, but a Big 12 slate that opens with Oklahoma State on the road and Oklahoma at AT&T Stadium, won’t be easy. The good news is that they get to host TCU and Baylor this year and if Buechele has QB down at that point, expect some fun Games.
The Longhorns should reach a bowl Game this year unless the inexperience at QB and WR becomes too much for a spread offense. While they probably won’t compete for the Big 12 title yet, seven or eight wins could easily be attainable for this group, if not more.
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2016 Texas Longhorns Football Schedule
Sept. 3 vs. Notre Dame
Sept. 10 vs. UTEP
Sept. 17 at California
Oct. 1 at Oklahoma State
Oct. 8 vs. Oklahoma (AT&T Stadium)
Oct. 15 vs. Iowa State
Oct. 22 at Kansas State
Oct. 29 vs. Baylor
Nov. 5 at Texas Tech
Nov. 12 vs. West Virginia
Nov. 19 at Kansas
Nov. 24 vs. TCU