#27 Texas Football 2016 Preview

Texas Longhorns
Overall Rank: #27
#5 Big 12
After two tough years of rebuilding under the direction of head coach Charlie Strong, the Texas Longhorns head into a very critical 2016 season. The Longhorns don’t necessarily need to contend for a national title this season, but they need to show tangible signs of progress by getting to around eight to nine wins and winning a bowl game. There is a plenty of young talent on hand to get this done, but it’s just a matter of actually doing it on the field where it matters the most.
2015 Record: 5-7, 4-5
2015 Bowl: None
Coach: Charlie Strong (11-14 at Texas, 48-30 overall)
Offensive Coordinator: Sterlin Gilbert
Defensive Coordinator: Vance Bedford
Returning Leaders:
Rushing: D’Onta Foreman, RB, 681 yards
Passing: Jerrod Heard, QB, 1,214 yards
Receiving: John Burt, WR, 457 yards
Tackles: Malik Jefferson, LB, 61
Sacks: Naashon Hughes, DE, 5.5
Interceptions: Jason Hall, S, 2
Other Key Returnees: RB Chris Warren, QB Tyrone Swoopes, WR Amanti Foreman, OL Connor Williams, OLPatrick Vahe, CB Holton Hill, DT Poona Ford, DT Paul Boyette
Key Losses: RB Jonathan Gray, WR Daje Johnson, LB Peter Jinkens, CB Duke Thomas
Running the football should not be a problem for new offensive coordinator Sterlin Gilbert as he implements the Baylor up-tempo offense in Austin. D’Onta Foreman and Chris Warren III form a very powerful combination at running back that will drive Big 12 defensive coordinators crazy all year long. The secondary should be a strength of the defense and it has to be in the pass-happy Big 12. Davante Davis and Holton Hill should take big steps forward in their sophomore seasons this fall after playing a ton last year as freshmen. Malik Jefferson at linebacker had a very good season in 2015, earning freshman All-American honors. Jefferson is going to have to set the tone early with the defense by making plays as the defensive line has a lot of young, inexperienced talent that is going to take time to develop.
Quarterback has been a problem at Texas since Colt McCoy left the program. Freshman Shane Buechele should end up getting the starting nod at quarterback. While Buechele has a ton of talent, he is still a freshman and he will still have those games where things like interceptions will rear their ugly head and put the Longhorns in trouble offensively. John Burt and Collin Johnson are going to have to elevate their play at wide receiver and they have plenty of ability to do so since Texas has to improve in the passing game very badly in 2016. The Longhorns finished 117th in the nation in passing yards per game at 145.9. This number has to get closer 250-275 yards per game in 2016 as that will provide the balance necessary for the offense to thrive, which will then ease the pressure on the defense as well. Special teams last year was an adventure as this unit cost Texas the Cal and Oklahoma State games, which created the end result of the Longhorns missing a bowl game. Finding even an average placekicker would be significant progress for Texas as they are going to be in plenty of close games that will require key kicks to be made.
The Bottom Line:
The schedule will be a tricky one to navigate right from the beginning of the season for the Longhorns. Notre Dame visits on Sunday night September 4th and it is very important for Texas to put up a much stronger fight this year against the Fighting Irish. Trips to Cal and Oklahoma State, along with the annual battle in Dallas against Oklahoma, are also part of the first five games. A good goal for this Longhorn team will be to get to 3-2 after five games. If they can do that then they will be in a very nice position to get to eight wins this season. It won’t be easy with a freshman quarterback, but look for Coach Strong and Texas to get better and find a way to get to around the 8-4 mark with fewer blowout losses.
Projected Bowl: Texas Bowl
2015 Team Stats:
Rushing Offense: 224.8 (17th in nation, 3rd in conference)
Passing Offense: 145.9 (117, 10)
Total Offense: 370.8 (92, 8)
Scoring Offense: 26.4 (83, 8)
Rushing Defense: 219.2 (111, 8)
Pass Defense: 233.4 (73, 3)
Total Defense: 452.6 (106, 7)
Scoring Defense: 30.3 (87, 5)
Turnover Margin: 0.92 (8, 2)
Sacks: 3.08 (5, 1)
Sacks Allowed: 2.67 (102, 6)
Madness 2016 Recruit Rankings:
#46 Brandon Jones
#76 Jeffrey McCulloch
#91 Erick Fowler
#110 Jordan Elliott
#134 D. Christmas-Giles
#138 Jean Delance
#162 Shane Buechele
#167 Andrew Fitzgerald
#190 Chris Daniels
#212 Eric Cuffee
#232 Collin Johnson