2012 Longhorn football
It’s here. 2012 college football begins Monday as the Texas Longhorns joined student-athletes all over the U.S. checking into their dorm rooms Sunday.
One year ago, the Texas Longhorns limped into camp after their worst season in the Mack Brown era. And many of the questions fans asked in August 2011, continue haunting this coaching staff. Will an elite quarterback separate himself and lead the team? Can a young team (only six seniors with significant playing time) play above their experience?
Two questions however received emphatic answers during the off-season:
1) Young superstar high school players still yearn to play in Austin, Texas. The Longhorns managed once again to land a top five freshman class including the best running back in the country, Johnathan Gray and the second best defensive tackle, Malcolm Brown along with a highly touted quarterback, Conner Brewer.
2) The entire Texas coaching staff is back. A year ago more than half of the coaching staff had never coached a game at Texas. Today, they are all on the same page of a book they wrote together.
Yes, they also handed a Heisman trophy to Baylor’s Robert Griffin III and embarrassed themselves against Oklahoma, but… did I mention they beat the Aggies!
It’s the quarterback question that will get 99 percent of the press for the next 27 days and deservedly so. After all it was the quarterback position that so badly damaged the team last season.
But 2012 is a long way away from 2011. With three of the country's best running backs, all youngsters, Texas’ quarterback may need to simply not screw things up as opposed to actually having to make things happen. With a decent offensive line, Texas could conceivably hand the ball to three different guys over 40 times each game and run the ball down the field. With a stingy defense ready to score points, that may be all Texas needs.
A year ago I suggested that with more than four losses in 2011, Head Coach Mack Brown’s job might be in question. Well, he lost five, but the Horns beat Texas A&M and won a huge Holiday bowl game against California. Yes, they also handed a Heisman trophy to Baylor’s Robert Griffin III and embarrassed themselves against Oklahoma, but… did I mention they beat the Aggies!
“This thing is headed back in the right direction,” said Brown in his first 2012 press conference. It may be, and Brown’s optimism is meant as much for the team as for the fans, but this is truly the season that will mark Brown’s legacy. A three-year slide simply doesn’t happen to the greatest coaches and if Brown brings back the nine-win standard, his already great legacy will be untarnished and the 2010-2011 will be but a blip on Brown's stat page.
Today Texas finds itself ranked 15th in the Coaches poll. They’re one of six ranked Big 12 teams. The SEC ranked seven. (No, Texas A&M was not one of them.)
If you listen to Brown you get alternating “we can be really good” and “we’re not as good as we need to be” statements. Don’t let that fool you. Brown knows exactly where his team stands today.
We, however, won’t know until the end of September, after the team has its way with Wyoming and New Mexico and plays Ole Miss on the road.
Next week we’ll break down the season: the offense, the defense, the schedule, maybe a prognostication or two.
If last season was one of redemption, this season is about resurgence, a return to greatness, a judgment on Mack Brown’s legacy. This season could result in 10-win glory or 8-win retreat to disaster.
While the questions will continue, the facts point to a resurgent Texas team and if Mack Brown deserves anything, he deserves the trust of a Longhorn nation. Brown knows enough to change when he needs to. He trusts his staff, he trusts his players (maybe to a fault). Most importantly, Brown trusts that he knows what he’s doing, and he’s earned the trust of Longhorn nation, at least until September 1st, that’s the day every fan becomes smarter that he is.