As the start of Big 12 football nears, we wrap up our look at each team in the conference. Throughout summer and now into the fall, we’ve been previewing the entire conference, providing an overview of the offense, defense, and special teams. Included here as well is a projected depth chart, with returning starters in bold.
Coming off a landmark Sugar Bowl victory, last season was supposed to mark a continuation of high level play for Texas in 2019. A close loss to future national champion LSU seemed to portend quality play to come, but after a 4-1 start, defensive issues were exposed in Big 12 play. Despite managing a third place finish in the conference and bowl win, 8-5 is not exactly the standard that Texas aims to achieve.
With last season’s youth hopefully translating into a roster of experienced playmakers, the Longhorns are looking for marked improvement in their 2020 campaign. Texas lost some key offensive pieces, but after bringing back a sizable amount of players on the defensive side, the Longhorns have a view to competing for their second Big 12 Championshpberth in three years.
Projected 2020 Texas Depth Chart
|QB||Sam Ehlinger (Sr.)||DE||Marqez Bimage (Sr.)|
|RB||Keaontay Ingram (Jr.)||NT||Keondre Coburn (So.)|
|WR||Malcolm Epps (So.)||DT||Ta’Quon Graham (Sr.)|
|WR||Jake Smith (So.)||JACK||Jospeh Ossai (Jr.)|
|WR||Brennan Eagles (Jr.)||MLB||Ayodele Adeoye (So.)|
|TE||Cade Brewer (Sr.)||WLB||DeMarvion Overshown (Jr.)|
|LT||Samuel Cosmi (Jr.)||CB||D’Shawn Jamison (Jr.)|
|LG||Tope Imade (Sr.)||FS||Caden Sterns (Jr.)|
|C||Derek Kerstetter (Sr.)||SS||B.J. Foster (Jr.)|
|RG||Junior Angilau (So.)||CB||Jalen Green (Jr.)|
|RT||Denzel Okafor (Sr.)||SPUR||Chris Adimora (So.)|
Texas Offensive Outlook
Offensively, expect things to revolve once again around senior quarterback Sam Ehlinger, who could be the best returning quarterback in the conference. Ehlinger will helm an offense with a new coordinator in Mike Yurcich, who’s had experience coaching offenses in the Big 12. He’ll have depth to work with at the running back position, which is headlined by junior Keaontay Ingram, an 853-yard rusher last season.
Up front, Texas returns one of the best tackles in the country in Samuel Cosmi, and senior Derek Kerstetter will provide a veteran presence with his 28 starts. The right side of the line will also likely be manned by guys who have starting experience in games in Denzel Okafor and Junior Angilau. Left guard is a bit of a question mark, but offensive line coach Herb Hand could make some noticeable strides with this group.
Receiving options for Ehlinger won’t be limited, but they will be somewhat young. Sophomore Jake Smith, the fourth leading receiver from a year ago, is expected to start in the slot, although he could get competition from incoming transfer Tarik Black out of Michigan. Another sophomore, Malcolm Epps, will likely start at wideout, but he’ll hope to increase his production from last year’s 232 yards receiving. Cade Brewer returns as a dependable starter at tight end. Junior Brennan Eagles, who amassed just over 500 yards receiving last season, could turn into a star on the offense if he becomes a consistent playmaker.
Texas Defensive Outlook
It’s no secret that Texas struggled defensively last season, when they gave up 455.9 yards per game in conference play. To remedy that performance, head coach Tom Herman went out and hired Chris Ash, a former defensive coordinator at Ohio State, to revamp that side of the ball. He’ll have experience up front, where three of four starters return along the defensive line. Joseph Ossai and Keondre Coburn could shine at the “Jack” and nose tackle positions, respectively.
Of particular concern for Texas this season will be the linebackers, where the Longhorns are a bit thin on experience. Ayodele Adeoye started ten games last year, and he’s a likely starter at the Mike linebacker in Ash’s defense. Junior Juwan Mitchell and DeMarvion Overshown should figure into the mix as well, but coaches have seemed excited about Overshown, who’s moving down from the secondary to compete at Will linebacker.
The back has fewer questions. In spite of its being a liability at times for the Longhorns last season, there’s promise among this group. Free safety Caden Sterns could be in for some postseason hardware if he lives up to the potential he displayed his freshman season. The other three returning starters all showed flashes in their first season as full-time starters in 2019, so more consistency this year could really pay off. The “Spur” position in Ash’s secondary will likely be up for grabs, but look for Chris Adimora as a possible starter there.
Texas Special Teams Outlook
Most of the specialists return for Texas, and so there could definitely be improvement in that area. Cameron Dicker made 77.8 percent of his kicks last season, and he could bring that number up in 2020, it will be helpful for Texas in close games. Kickoff and punt returns were strengths for this team last season, so having players like D’Shawn Jamison back could gives the ‘Horns an advantage in conference play.
The biggest question for Texas remains whether or not they can actually get over that hump and actually win a Big 12 title in a season that will surely be anything but normal. Herman’s not exactly on the hot seat, but every day that goes by, his successful second season year seems like more of a distant memory. With a fourth year quarterback – who’s improved statistically every season he’s been in Austin – on the depth chart and a load of starters returning, things are lining for Herman’s squad to make a leap forward.
It’s difficult to predict a conference championship in 2020, but the Longhorns can certainly get back to the title game if they answer a few questions on both sides of the ball. The offense has long been very reliant on Ehlinger, and it’ll need a complimentary star to emerge in order for Texas to start dreaming big. Getting Chris Ash to remake the defense should help the Longhorns get better on that side of the ball, but if Texas wants to realize their championship-level dreams this season, they’ll have to play championship-level football on both sides.
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