The Texas Longhorns will be looking to return to the top of the Big 12 in 2013, as they return the bulk of their starters. The rest of the conference's best are in some sort of transition mode, and the opportunity is there for Texas to return.
There are high expectations every year in Texas, and fans are growing frustrated after the Longhorns finished with just five conference wins in 2012 and couldn't take down the league's better teams. Texas stumbled in the final weeks of the regular season, losing to TCU and Kansas State. However, their performance in the Alamo Bowl against Oregon State did give fans some optimism.
To grab the Big 12 title, the Longhorns will likely have to go through Oklahoma and TCU. The Sooners lose quarterback Landry Jones, but still have plenty of talent on boths sides of the ball. The Horned Frogs return a whopping 19 starters, including 10 on defense.
With the rest of the league expected to be a little down, head coach Mack Brown's seat will get hot if he can't deliver a big year in Austin. That will start with getting an altered offensive scheme situated in spring football.
Spring practice start date: Feb. 21, 2013
Spring game date, location: Mar. 30, 2013, Darrell K. Royal -Texas Memorial Stadium
Approximate returning starters: The Longhorns are expected have a whopping 19 returning starters, with 10 on offense and nine on defense. The entire offensive line is intact, which is good news for whichever returner at quarterback gets the nod.
Case McCoy and David Ash took turns under center towards the end of 2012, but Ash took the vast majority of overall snaps. Ash's stats overall were solid, as he completed 67 percent of his passes for 19 touchdowns to just eight interceptions.
Whoever gets the nod should be well-protected and supported by the running game. The offensive line allowed just 16 sacks last year, and Texas returns its top four rushers.
Biggest addition: With so many returners, it will be tough for any freshman to crack the lineup in Austin. That means the biggest addition comes on the coaching staff in new running backs coach Larry Porter, though his impact should come mostly as a recruiter.
Porter has a long history of coaching successful running backs, including stints at Oklahoma State, LSU, and Arizona State. He also served as the head coach at Memphis in 2010 and 2011.
Biggest loss: Alex Okafor departs after leading the Big 12 in sacks. Sprinter-turned-receiver Marquise Goodwin was exciting to watch as he made big plays out of the backfield and through the air, but he touched the ball just 39 times on offense.
New players? Four new Longhorns started classes early and will be participating in Spring camp. Center Jake Raulerson, potential dual-threat quarterback Tyrone Swoopes, outside linebacker Deoundrei Davis, and tight end Geoff Swaim are already hitting the books and the weight room.
Swoopes could be the next great star at quarterback for Texas, as his skillset reminds some of Vince Young. From way back when Burnt Orange Nation first scouted him:
He's relatively advanced for a dual-threat quarterback, showing off a strong arm, decent footwork, and the ability to make some big-time throws. To make another comparison, Swoopes is further along than Matt Davis was at this stage last year mechanically and to continue down that lazy path, Swoopes looks a bit like Vince Young with a delivery that isn't quite ideal, coming out around shoulder level rather than over the top and at the earhole of his helmet.
New coaches? Porter was the only personnel change.
New schemes? Major Applewhite is set to take over the playcalling duties for the Longhorns, and there will be changes to the offense. Texas will be paring down its playbook a bit so that it can move to a no-huddle style, mimicking some of the most successful offenses in the Big 12. As Burnt Orange Nation notes, the teams that ran the most plays in the conference gained the most yards per play in the conference.