Texas 2019 Season Preview

Offense

Finding something Sam Ehlinger doesn’t do at an elite level is difficult. Need a play with his legs? He can give it to you. Need a big throw? Here it comes. Need a soul extinguishing twelve play drive? He’s your guy. Short on belief? Sam’s got you covered.

Sam Ehlinger texassports.com

Sam Ehlinger is a great football player. One of the best quarterbacks in college football, I would argue the most well-rounded in the game.

Ehlinger’s pass completion percentage is at an elite level and he’s a touchdown machine, but the element I love is his interception avoidance. He’s smart with the football, even if he doesn’t push the ball downfield. He throws short to intermediate, into traffic, as well any quarterback in college football. When you add in what he does with his legs, he’s a total package.

He’s worked hard to get become that player. The growth from freshman Sam Ehlinger to sophomore Sam Ehlinger was substantial. It’s a marriage of talent, supporting staff, and scheme. That growth is bi-product of a lot of factors, including Ehlinger’s work mixed with improved offensive line play, the emergence of a bonafide go-to receiver, and most importantly the run game.

Sam Ehlinger radar graph 2017.*

Sam Ehlinger radar graph 2018.*

Sam Ehlinger radar graph 2018.*

Collin Johnson has all the makings of the next great Texas receiver. He’s 6-6, 220 pounds, runs well, and is physical on the catch. Texas will miss Lil’Jordan Humphrey, but Johnson could make up for a lot of his absence. The other receiver to watch is Devin Duvernay, he’s the dirty work guy, but he comes up with big catches.

Texas returns Keontay Ingram at running back after rushing for 708 yards as a true freshman. He’s an every-down back and big reason by why this team can compete for a Big 12 title. Texas can punish you on the ground. Herman’s best team at Houston pummeled opponents with the rush. Ehlinger is a critical part of the ground and pound.

The player I’m excited to see added to that is freshman Jordan Whittington from Cuero. He’s one of the most impressive high school players I’ve ever seen, and he’s blown coaches away since moving to running back.

When you trace the lackluster last few seasons of Texas football, you see it most in their misses in offensive line recruiting. Zach Shackleford helped change that. After starting as a true freshman, he’s turned himself into one of the best offensive linemen in the Big 12. Samuel Cosmi returns but moves to left tackle. Cosmi is a great athlete for his size, and he can play multiple positions. Three new starters on the line give you pause, and if the Horns lose a starter, they’re thin.

*We track percentile ranks among quarterbacks with 100 or more attempts in a given season. We take statistics like yardage accounted for, touchdowns per play, completion percentage, yardage per attempt, yardage per play, plus sack and interception avoidance and put them into a visual of efficiency and explosiveness. The bigger the radar area, the better the player performed.

On Texas Being Good At Football

If you’ve never experienced National Power Texas, whether they’re actually a National Power or not, it can get exhausting. Nothing grabs clicks and coverage like a competent Texas football team. Thanks to Charlie Strong and Mack Brown mailing in his recruiting, we haven’t seen a woke Texas in nearly a decade. Texas is woke or back or whatever, and we’re exhausted.

Everyone wants a piece of Sam Ehlinger, the latest Texas cover boy, and with good reason. Ehlinger is electric, a legacy with all the essential tools of a great story. He’s gritty, tough, and with bravado for days. He’s become the coal that feeds the locomotive in Austin with Tom Herman thinly masking his dorkness under a hood of confidence.

Whether late-era Mack or total era Strong failed to find the proper 5-star recruits or develop those 5-star recruits, Herman found the secret sauce again in Austin. This team is big, strong, fast, and most importantly, finally, physical. They can play with anyone on their schedule and are close to challenging those exclusive waters of the playoff for the first time. Those are the facts. Trust me; you’ll hear plenty about it.

Defense

Talented but unknown might be the best way to describe this Texas defense. The Horns replace nine starters. The good news is they played a lot of players last season in the rotation, so their newcomers have seen some action.

Up front, Malcolm Roach is back in a starting role. Roach always seems on the fringe of a breakout, but his reps started to dwindle the past few seasons. He’s heady and physical enough to be one of the better edge linemen in the Big 12. At a minimum, you need him out there, especially early, to act as an experienced hand with two new starters on the defensive line. He and Ta’Quon Graham played supporting roles last season to Charles Omenihu and Breckyn Hager; they move into the spotlight.

Keondre Coburn is a 340-pound redshirt freshman monster who’ll take over for Chris Nelson in the middle of the defense. This three-man front might be more physical than last seasons, whether they can replicate Omenihu’s disruptive output is the question.

Kaden Sterns texassports.com

Texas most significant loss on defense might be Gary Johnson, the speedster middle linebacker who covered a multitude of sins by covering so much ground. Texas doesn’t have a linebacker with that sort of spark at this point. Jeffrey McCulloch is a thumper with experience inside. Redshirt Ayodele Adeoye gets first crack inside with McCulloch. At outside linebacker, Joseph Ossai could be a game-changer.

Caden Sterns skipped the line and became one of the best safeties in college football as a true freshman. He’s unique and a centerpiece of Todd Orlando’s plans. Brandon Jones came in as hyped as any defensive back in the state; he’s been as advertised, especially last season. B.J. Foster is a downhill thumper who played nickel last year. He could turn into a box player, maybe even third down MIKE if necessary. He’s disruptive. Sterns, Jones, and Foster, give Orlando a world of flexibility with his scheme.

At corner, it’s a lot of talent and a lot of unknown. Texas will feel the loss of Kris Boyd and to a lesser extent, P.J. Locke. Boyd wasn’t the fastest, certainly not the biggest, but he had so much dog in him that you could put him on an opponent’s best receiver and expect good things to happen.

The Horns will be young at corner, and that’s going to cause growing pains, they’ll hope to have three or four contributors by the time they get to league play. A couple of true freshmen might make that mix, including Under-Armor All American Kenyatta Watson.

Specialists

The legend of “Dicker the Kicker” was born in the Red River Shootout with nine seconds left and a 40-yard field goal separating Texas from a win over their hated rival. The smile and wink Cameron Dicker gave on the sideline said it all, the true freshman trotted out and made himself a legend.

Dickers converted 18 of 25 field goals including a 52-yard long against Texas Tech. His 105 points set a Longhorn freshman record.

Coming off Michael Dickson’s spectacular career, Texas’ punting took a step back last season. Not terrible, but when you’re following a player like Dickson, there’s going to be some fall-off. Aussie freshman Ryan Bujcevski averaged 40 yards per punt, second to last in the Big 12. Bujcevski had 18 downed inside the 20 and nine of more than 50 yards.

The Schedule

If Texas can shore up their offensive line and rebuild nine starters on defense, they’ll be able to beat anyone on the schedule. That sounds as ridiculous as it is. That’s why I think this team is a year away from truly competing on a national stage. We credit Ehlinger for his abilities, perhaps too much considering he’ll work behind a rebuilt offensive line.

LSU promises a more potent offense if you’ve heard that before raise your hand? Me too. They have fewer holes than Texas, but DKR will be electric on national TV. The games to circle, as always, Oklahoma, which loses a ton of talent as well, and TCU in Fort Worth. Gary Patterson lives to be the foil, and he’ll have his squad ready to go.

The two-game stretch in Ames and Waco is quicksand. Matt Campbell and Matt Rhule are seeking program defining wins against the Horns, and they think they’ve got the horses to pull it off.

Date Opponent Conf Prediction Notes
8/31/19 Louisiana Tech CUSA W A nice primer for another Louisiana team.
9/7/19 LSU SEC L No reason Texas can't beat the Tigers.
9/14/19 Rice CUSA W A blowout win before Big 12 begins.
9/21/19 Oklahoma State Big 12 W Horns can avenge last year's loss against their boogeyman.
10/5/19 at West Virginia Big 12 W Neers are depleated, but Morgantown is a tough trip.
10/12/19 Oklahoma Big 12 L Another massive Red River Shootout.
10/19/19 Kansas Big 12 W It's not basketball season.
10/26/19 at TCU Big 12 W Huge game in Fort Worth.
11/9/19 Kansas State Big 12 W First look at a new K-State regime.
11/16/19 at Iowa State Big 12 L Ames is becoming a tough place to play.
11/23/19 at Baylor Big 12 W Baylor will be ready in Waco.
11/29/19 Texas Tech Big 12 W Road team has won the last 5.

Checking Our Work

So you’re asking yourself, yeah, but what do you know? You’re right, not much, so in the interest of full disclosure, let’s look at our predicted wins in years past vs. the actual wins. We hang our hat on transparency and grammatical indifference.

Texas Predicted Actual
2016 8 5
2017 9 7
2018 10 10

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