Texas Football: Longhorns Biggest Questions Heading Into 2015
The Texas Longhorns have a lot to prove this season after finishing the 2014 season with a 6-6 regular season record and 5-4 in the Big 12 Conference. The Longhorns were also blown out 31-7 by the Arkansas Razorbacks in the Texas Bowl to put an end to their season.
Things were bad for the Longhorns from the beginning of the season until they that final whistle of the season was blown against the Razorbacks in the Texas Bowl.
It all started when new head coach Charlie Strong decided to clean house and get rid of all the players that caused problems on and off the field. By the time the season ended Strong had kicked nine players off the team in all. He claimed that he was trying to change the “culture” of Longhorns football.
Along with all the players that were kicked off the team quarterback David Ash decided to retire after the team knocked off North Texas 38-7 to open the season. Ash finished the game completing 55.9 percent of his passes for 190 yards and one touchdown. He also had one rushing touchdown off seven carries because of the two sacks he suffered.
The hits Ash took against the Mean Green were enough to convince him that his playing days were over. The next week Ash hung his pads up stating that he was retiring because of injuries.
When Ash retired is when the Tyrone Swoopes Era started. Or at least Swoopes was the only other player to take attempt a pass during the 2014 season for the Longhorns. Swoopes struggled through most games but at times showed he had what it takes to be a solid college quarterback.
During 12 games last season Swoopes completed 58.3 percent of his passes for 2,409 yards, 13 touchdowns, 11 interceptions, and four rushing touchdowns. He was also sacked 27 times while trying to make a play happen.
Even with the experience Swoopes was able to get under his belt last season at this point it is still unclear who will be the Longhorns starting quarterback when the season starts. Ever since spring practice started in Austin, sophomore Jerrod Heard has stepped his game up and is challenging Swoopes for the job.
As long as the competition keeps up between Heard and Swoopes, the biggest question heading into the the Longhorns season is; Who will be the starting quarterback that runs strongs offense this season?
Another question the Longhorns offense needs answers to is, who is going to emerge as the next Longhorns great running back? This is a program that has been known for its rushing attack since the beginning and last season that attack was almost invisible for most of the season.
The biggest problem the Longhorns faced last season with their rushing attack was Joe Bergeron was kicked off the team. Bergeron was the Longhorns strongest running back heading into the season but was kicked off the team for breaking Strong’s new policies.
When Bergeron was kicked off the team, Malcolm Brown emerged as the teams top running back with 183 carries for 708 yards and six touchdowns. The problem with Brown this season is that he will be available on draft night
The good thing for the Longhorns is that Johnathan Gray will be back for his senior season. During the three seasons that Gray has spent in the Longhorns backfield he has carried the ball 455 times for 2,118 yards and 14 touchdowns. He has also made 46 receptions for 344 yards and a touchdown.
Last season Gray emerged as the second leading back on Strong’s offense with 147 touches for 637 yards and seven touchdowns. This season Gray should see the bulk of the work as long as he stays healthy.
On defense, the Longhorns were pretty solid last season. For most parts the defense kept the Longhorns in games until they were just too exhausted from all the time they spent on the field because of the poor play from the offense.
The defense will have some holes to fill this season though. Defensive tackle Malcom Brown, defensive tackle Desmond Jackson, cornerback Quandre Diggs, and cornerback Sheroid Evans will all be available on draft night.
Brown and Diggs will be the hardest shoes to fill on that Longhorns defense. Brown should easily be a first or second round pick while Diggs will be picked up in the middle to late rounds of this years draft.
Along with questions on the field the Longhorns will be trying to answer this season, Strong also has a lot to prove to the school and to fans this season. He needs to show fans that his way is the right way and not let all these changes he is trying to make to the culture of Longhorn football be in vain.
This season the Longhorns have a pretty favorable schedule before heading Big 12 play starts. The only real tough challenge the Longhorns face is when they travel to South Bend to play Notre Dame to open the season. After starting the season on the road the Longhorns return home to face Rice and California before facing Oklahoma State on September 26 to open conference play.
The Longhorns really need to pick up a win against the Irish. That one game could set the tone for the entire season for the Longhorns. A win in one of the nations hardest stadiums for visiting teams to win in would give this team the confidence it takes to make a championship run. If not a championship run definitely a better season than the 2014 season produced.