clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

Can Texas' Charlie Strong pull off a long-term rebuild in a short-term world?

New, comments

At a normal school, this would already show signs of being an encouraging rebuild. Texas is not a normal school. This is Bill C's daily preview series, working its way through every 2016 team. Stay tuned!

Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

Confused? Check out the advanced-stats glossary here. Below, a unique review of last year's team, a unit-by-unit breakdown of this year's roster, the full 2016 schedule with win projections for each game, and more.

1. Texas is in total disarray

On Sunday evening, September 4, Texas will host Notre Dame in what might be the most narrative-heavy game of the season. The Fighting Irish have their own. Are they a Playoff-caliber team? Do they have the receivers they need? Et cetera.

But the speed with which the momentum shifts from one side to the other for Texas is staggering, and the result of this game will take us down one of two paths: Texas is falling apart, or Texas is almost back.

We learned last year you can switch from path to path. Texas was Almost Back after Jerrod Heard's brilliant performance against Cal, upsetting Oklahoma, upsetting Baylor, and a strong recruiting class. And Charlie Strong was Almost Toast after shellackings at the hands of Notre Dame, TCU, and Iowa State and a home loss to Texas Tech.

Eventually, you cross the point of no return. And with Houston head coach Tom Herman's name floating around, this is a big year for Strong.

It's a bad year to be breaking in a new offensive coordinator and, potentially, another freshman quarterback, but here we are. Texas and Strong head into 2016 with no proof that any of their issues -- quarterback play, offensive inconsistency, a run defense that was inexplicably bad -- are rectified.

The Longhorns have to prove themselves all over again, and Strong has to prove the up-tempo spread offense he brought in will be allowed to run properly. For a defense-minded coach used to slower offenses, that is sometimes an issue.

Mack Brown spent the final three years of his career attempting to salvage both his job and his program after a stunning 2010 collapse. He succeeded to some degree for two years, then, to use a word he has all but trademarked during his two-year broadcasting stint, he lost his momentum. The downward spiral began again in 2013, and it has continued under Strong.

As incredible as it is for anybody who watched college football a decade ago, Texas -- with all of the money in the world and its own damn network -- is 41-35 over the last six seasons. The Longhorns have ranked in the S&P+ top 20 just once in that span, fewer times than conference mates Baylor, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, and TCU and fewer times than former conference mates Missouri and Texas A&M.

While Strong inherited the dying embers of Brown's program and can hardly be blamed for the Longhorns' slide, through two years, he hasn't stopped it. And now, in his third year, he's pulling what can be viewed as a coach-on-the-hot-seat panic move and completely changing his offense. Such a move could work -- think about what happened when TCU's Gary Patterson made such changes two years ago (even if his seat wasn't hot) -- but frequently doesn't.

2. Texas is building something

Take the horns off the helmet, and our perceptions of Strong's tenure change dramatically. Because this is such a high-pressure job, and because you're NEVER supposed to have to rebuild at Texas, we have been waiting on Strong to simply flip a switch.

It doesn't work that way. Strong was brought in to change a stale program. For all of his recruiting rankings and CEO-type strengths, Brown had let his roster grow undisciplined. Hiring Strong was the "dating the opposite of your ex" move, and while those can work, they don't work overnight. They usually don't work within two years.

Strong sent a lot of players packing when he arrived, and a few more left of their own volition. That created a young, thin squad that played inconsistent football. A redshirt freshman quarterback averaged 16 pass attempts per game, freshmen and sophomores rushed 24 times per game, were targeted with 10 passes per game, started 25 games on the offensive line, and accounted for 33 tackles per game on defense, 53.4 percent of the defense's total.

Of course a team that young is going to be inconsistent. That the good moments were as strong as they were could be a tremendous sign. Plus, Strong just signed another excellent recruiting class (that is to be expected at Texas, but we're taking "Texas" out of the equation for a second), and his offensive shake-up could be viewed as the simple righting of a wrong.

Strong told reporters this spring that he should have moved toward a Big 12-style spread offense all along. I'm not sure I agree -- there can be great value in zigging when others are zagging, especially when your background has made you less adept at zagging -- but at least the defense gets to practice against the type of offense it will see in the fall.

If you look at this as a rebuild and not as Texas attempting to reassert its dominance, it appears to be humming along nicely. If the offensive identity settles in, and a defense that was desperately young gels a bit further, you could be looking at 2017 as a time when all the pieces click.

If Strong gets a fourth year, that is.

2015 Schedule & Results

Record: 5-7 | Adj. Record: 6-6 | Final F/+ Rk: 68 | Final S&P+ Rk: 72
Date Opponent Opp. F/+ Rk Score W-L Percentile
Performance
Win
Expectancy
vs. S&P+ Performance
vs. Vegas
5-Sep at Notre Dame 7 3-38 L 6% 0% -24.3 -25.0
12-Sep Rice 123 42-28 W 87% 99% -4.3 -1.5
19-Sep California 29 44-45 L 64% 48% -4.2 +5.5
26-Sep Oklahoma State 40 27-30 L 36% 7% -3.2 +0.5
3-Oct at TCU 19 7-50 L 2% 0% -27.3 -28.0
10-Oct vs. Oklahoma 4 24-17 W 80% 63% +35.1 +24.5
24-Oct Kansas State 81 23-9 W 90% 99% +16.3 +10.0
31-Oct at Iowa State 79 0-24 L 7% 0% -20.2 -30.5
7-Nov Kansas 127 59-20 W 83% 100% +17.8 +10.5
14-Nov at West Virginia 31 20-38 L 43% 9% +2.9 -9.5
26-Nov Texas Tech 60 45-48 L 41% 20% +2.4 -4.5
5-Dec at Baylor 14 23-17 W 84% 71% +30.5 +26.5

Category Offense Rk Defense Rk
S&P+ 28.1 73 28.4 68
Points Per Game 26.4 83 30.3 87

3. The broadest range imaginable

When the narratives are spanning such a huge range, it would make sense that the team itself did, too.

Take out three games, and Texas played like a high-potential team in 2015, one that went 5-4 in part because of two devastating special teams miscues (a missed PAT against California and a dropped punt snap against Oklahoma State).

But those three games -- total duds against Notre Dame, TCU, and Iowa State in which they were outscored by a 112-10 margin -- count. And that muddies the picture.

  • Texas' three duds (ND, TCU, Iowa State):
    Average percentile performance: 5% (~bottom 10) | Record: 0-3 | Yards per play: Opp 6.3, UT 3.7 (-2.6)
  • Texas' other nine games:
    Average percentile performance: 68% (~top 40) | Record: 5-4 | Yards per play: UT 6.3, Opp 5.4 (+0.9)

I'm not sure I've seen a team combine five performances at the 80th percentile or higher with three below the 10th in the same season. I haven't been working with the "percentile performances" idea for too long, but the range is staggering.

After the dud against Notre Dame, Strong demoted offensive co-coordinators Joe Wickline and Shawn Watson and promoted receivers coach Jay Norvell to the play-calling chair. He also started giving Jarrod Heard the lion's share of the snaps at quarterback. The result was often excellent and occasionally dreadful.

A lot of can be written off as Things Young Teams Do. But how much? And how many more ups and downs come with a new offense?

Offense

FIVE FACTORS -- OFFENSE
Raw Category Rk Opp. Adj. Category Rk
EXPLOSIVENESS IsoPPP 1.33 32 IsoPPP+ 95.7 88
EFFICIENCY Succ. Rt. 39.6% 91 Succ. Rt. + 93.7 100
FIELD POSITION Def. Avg. FP 30.5 85 Def. FP+ 29.5 61
FINISHING DRIVES Pts. Per Scoring Opportunity 4.7 43 Redzone S&P+ 91.0 108
TURNOVERS EXPECTED 14.1 ACTUAL 14 -0.1
Category Yards/
Game Rk
S&P+ Rk Success
Rt. Rk
PPP+ Rk
OVERALL 92 95 100 88
RUSHING 17 52 70 36
PASSING 118 114 118 110
Standard Downs 53 76 48
Passing Downs 117 113 118
Q1 Rk 86 1st Down Rk 86
Q2 Rk 118 2nd Down Rk 49
Q3 Rk 97 3rd Down Rk 108
Q4 Rk 41

4. Change requires commitment

Step 1: New, spread-oriented coach comes in and gets guys working more quickly than they thought possible.

Step 2: Everybody talks about renewed energy.

It's easy to grow cynical about these things because we hear this so damn much -- a few new teams attempt Step 1 every year, and everybody goes through Step 2 each March -- but sometimes "energy" and "tempo" aren't just spring buzzwords.

Strong succeeded at Louisville because his defense eventually came around (the Cardinals ranked 11th in Def. S&P+ in his last year in town) and because he had a wonderful quarterback in Teddy Bridgewater. The offense could have been dragged down by a lack of tempo and creativity, and the Cardinals still only ranked 50th and 47th, respectively, in Off. S&P+ in 2012-13. But Bridgewater and a solid supporting cast were able to make enough plays to overcome that.

Without a Bridgewater, Strong's and Watson's offense was going to struggle. And when Strong overthought and created a staff of mismatched parts -- Watson from Louisville, Wickline from Oklahoma State (given the coordinator title mainly to avoid having to pay Oklahoma State), then Norvell from Oklahoma in 2015 -- he ended up with an identity-free offense.

At the very least, there's an identity now. Strong brought Sterlin Gilbert and line coach Matt Mattox from Phillip Montgomery's Tulsa staff (Montgomery was Art Briles' coordinator at Balyor through 2014) and running backs coach Anthony Johnson from the same role at Toledo. The spread principles seem to be aligned, even if new receivers coach Charlie Williams is an old-school NFL guy.

Simply having an identity and sticking to it is a huge part of succeeding offensively. Texas was a hot mess in 2014-15. We'll see if the new identity sticks.

Quarterback

Note: players in bold below are 2016 returnees. Players in italics are questionable with injury/suspension.

Player Ht, Wt 2016
Year
Rivals 247 Comp. Comp Att Yards TD INT Comp
Rate
Sacks Sack Rate Yards/
Att.
Jerrod Heard 6'2, 203 So. 4 stars (5.9) 0.9653 92 159 1214 5 5 57.9% 28 15.0% 5.5
Tyrone Swoopes 6'4, 254 Sr. 4 stars (5.8) 0.9188 47 93 537 4 1 50.5% 2 2.1% 5.3
Kai Locksley 6'4, 188 RSFr. 4 stars (5.8) 0.8907
Matthew Merrick 6'3, 200 RSFr. 3 stars (5.5) 0.8263
Shane Buechele 6'1, 191 Fr. 4 stars (5.9) 0.9210

5. It also requires a quarterback

Tyrone Swoopes is a big, efficient runner and decent decision-maker with an arm that just doesn't quite do what he needs it to do. Heard is a smaller, smoother athlete and equally efficient runner who throws a prettier ball but couldn't make decisions quickly enough to avoid sacks in 2015.

Both have shown plenty of potential, but neither appeared any better at the end of 2015 than months or years earlier.

Enter Shane Buechele. The four-star son of a former MLB player (Steve Buechele) reported for spring practice and showed command and understanding of Gilbert's offense. He was able to run the offense at the right tempo, and while we overreact to spring games, his performance far outshined Swoopes'. (Heard was out with injury.)

It would be surprising if Buechele wasn't the starter from the first week on. He will almost certainly struggle -- if nothing else, freshmen often struggle on the road at first, and every road opponent on the schedule is well-versed in defending an up-tempo spread -- but he's got the tools, and he might best fit the identity that Texas is finally trying to create.

Running Back

Player Pos. Ht, Wt 2016
Year
Rivals 247 Comp. Rushes Yards TD Yards/
Carry
Hlt Yds/
Opp.
Opp.
Rate
Fumbles Fum.
Lost
Johnathan Gray RB 123 489 3 4.0 3.8 29.3% 0 0
Jerrod Heard QB 6'2, 203 So. 4 stars (5.9) 0.9653 111 736 3 6.6 5.5 53.2% 3 2
D'Onta Foreman RB 6'0, 238 Jr. 2 stars (5.4) 0.8383 95 681 5 7.2 8.0 46.3% 1 1
Tyrone Swoopes QB 6'4, 254 Sr. 4 stars (5.8) 0.9188 72 480 12 6.7 5.4 54.2% 1 1
Chris Warren III RB 6'2, 255 So. 4 stars (5.9) 0.9605 71 470 4 6.6 7.7 42.3% 0 0
Kirk Johnson RB 6'0, 191 So. 4 stars (5.8) 0.8866 9 54 0 6.0 11.8 33.3% 1 0
Daje Johnson WR 6 28 0 4.7 2.6 66.7% 2 1
Roderick Bernard WR 5'9, 172 Jr. 3 stars (5.6) 0.8792
Kyle Porter RB 5'10, 207 Fr. 4 stars (5.8) 0.9035







Receiving Corps

Player Pos. Ht, Wt 2016
Year
Rivals 247 Comp. Targets Catches Yards Catch Rate Target
Rate
Yds/
Target
%SD Success
Rate
IsoPPP
Daje Johnson SLOT 55 37 427 67.3% 22.8% 7.8 58.2% 45.5% 1.43
John Burt WR-Z 6'3, 189 So. 4 stars (5.9) 0.9358 52 28 457 53.8% 21.6% 8.8 51.9% 28.8% 2.78
Armanti Foreman WR-X 5'11, 209 Jr. 4 stars (5.8) 0.9448 28 11 182 39.3% 11.6% 6.5 60.7% 28.6% 2.21
Marcus Johnson SLOT 21 12 118 57.1% 8.7% 5.6 71.4% 33.3% 1.56
Andrew Beck TE 6'3, 244 Jr. 3 stars (5.7) 0.8665 16 8 77 50.0% 6.6% 4.8 50.0% 31.2% 1.27
Caleb Bluiett TE 6'3, 266 Sr. 3 stars (5.6) 0.8797 11 8 167 72.7% 4.6% 15.2 63.6% 63.6% 2.08
Johnathan Gray RB 10 6 84 60.0% 4.1% 8.4 50.0% 60.0% 1.27
Jacorey Warrick SLOT 5'11, 172 Sr. 4 stars (5.8) 0.9107 10 6 35 60.0% 4.1% 3.5 60.0% 30.0% 1.14
D'Onta Foreman RB 6'0, 238 Jr. 2 stars (5.4) 0.8383 9 5 64 55.6% 3.7% 7.1 22.2% 33.3% 1.74
Chris Warren III RB 6'2, 255 So. 4 stars (5.9) 0.9605 8 5 13 62.5% 3.3% 1.6 37.5% 12.5% 0.91
Lorenzo Joe WR-X 6'3, 207 Jr. 4 stars (5.8) 0.9219 7 4 73 57.1% 2.9% 10.4 14.3% 42.9% 2.36
Ryan Newsome SLOT 5'8, 166 So. 3 stars (5.7) 0.9088 7 4 23 57.1% 2.9% 3.3 14.3% 28.6% 1.02
Roderick Bernard WR 5'9, 172 Jr. 3 stars (5.6) 0.8792 1 1 4 100.0% 0.4% 4.0 100.0% 0.0% 0.00
Jake Oliver WR 6'3, 222 Jr. 4 stars (5.9) 0.9265
Dorian Leonard WR-Z 6'4, 208 Jr. 3 stars (5.7) 0.8634
Blake Whiteley TE 6'5, 252 Jr. 3 stars (5.6) 0.8685
DeAndre McNeal WR-X 6'2, 227 So. 3 stars (5.7) 0.8963
Collin Johnson WR 6'6, 212 Fr. 4 stars (5.9) 0.9189

6. From potential into production

John Burt averaged a robust 8.8 yards per target as a freshman receiver. D'Onta Foreman averaged 7.2 yards per carry, Chris Warren III averaged 6.6, and Kirk Johnson averaged 6.0. Four-Star Running Back A and Four-Star Receiver B are in the pipeline (insert whichever names you like from a long list of candidates).

In last year's Tulsa offense, three players carried the ball at least 70 times, and five were targeted at least 40 times. Texas will want to snap the ball quickly and distribute the ball to as many different players as possible. And there is massive potential within the skill corps. Plus, new guidance might be welcome for a line that returns four players with starting experience.

All that's left is to turn potential into top-line production. All the impressive averages above were generated from secondary roles. If Foreman and Burt can generate the same averages as No. 1 weapons, and if receivers like junior Armanti Foreman and senior Jacorey Warrick can thrive in this new system, Texas' offense will hum. [Update: sophomore receiver DeAndre McNeal was suspended indefinitely and will transfer.]

Offensive Line

Category Adj.
Line Yds
Std.
Downs

LY/carry
Pass.
Downs

LY/carry
Opp.
Rate
Power
Success
Rate
Stuff
Rate
Adj.
Sack Rate
Std.
Downs

Sack Rt.
Pass.
Downs

Sack Rt.
Team 101.4 3.06 3.32 43.9% 71.9% 18.4% 53.3 8.6% 17.3%
Rank 67 38 56 14 34 47 127 117 128
Player Pos. Ht, Wt 2016
Year
Rivals 247 Comp. 2015 Starts Career Starts Honors/Notes
Sedrick Flowers LG 11 25
Kent Perkins RT 6'5, 320 Sr. 4 stars (6.0) 0.9801 10 24
Taylor Doyle C 12 23
Marcus Hutchins LT 2 15
Connor Williams LT 6'6, 288 So. 4 stars (5.8) 0.8773 12 12
Patrick Vahe RG 6'3, 326 So. 4 stars (5.8) 0.9396 10 10
Jake Raulerson C
0 4
Tristan Nickelson RT 6'9, 316 Jr. 2 stars (5.3) 0.7839 3 3
Elijah Rodriguez C 6'5, 307 So. 2 stars (5.4) 0.8166 0 0
Terrell Cuney RG 6'2, 298 So. 3 stars (5.6) 0.8632 0 0
Jake McMillon LG 6'3, 294 So. 3 stars (5.5) 0.8489 0 0
Alex Anderson RG 6'3, 314 So. 3 stars (5.5) 0.8398 0 0
Brandon Hodges LG 6'4, 318 Jr. 3 stars (5.6) 0.8717 0 0
Garrett Thomas LT 6'6, 274 RSFr. 3 stars (5.5) 0.8641

Zach Shackelford C 6'3, 296 Fr. 3 stars (5.6) 0.8408

Jean Delance OL 6'5, 299 Fr. 4 stars (5.8) 0.9437

Denzel Okafor OL 6'4, 295 Fr. 4 stars (5.8) 0.8998


SIGN UP FOR OUR COLLEGE FOOTBALL NEWSLETTER

Get all kinds of college football stories, rumors, game coverage, and Jim Harbaugh oddity in your inbox every day.

Defense

FIVE FACTORS -- DEFENSE
Raw Category Rk Opp. Adj. Category Rk
EXPLOSIVENESS IsoPPP 1.11 6 IsoPPP+ 115.2 24
EFFICIENCY Succ. Rt. 46.5% 112 Succ. Rt. + 101.8 57
FIELD POSITION Off. Avg. FP 29.2 86 Off. FP+ 29.8 70
FINISHING DRIVES Pts. Per Scoring Opportunity 4.6 83 Redzone S&P+ 103.0 57
TURNOVERS EXPECTED 20.8 ACTUAL 25.0 +4.2
Category Yards/
Game Rk
S&P+ Rk Success
Rt. Rk
PPP+ Rk
OVERALL 107 39 57 24
RUSHING 112 78 65 73
PASSING 74 20 45 12
Standard Downs 42 63 34
Passing Downs 26 57 18
Q1 Rk 28 1st Down Rk 40
Q2 Rk 71 2nd Down Rk 41
Q3 Rk 85 3rd Down Rk 37
Q4 Rk 25

Defensive Line

Category Adj.
Line Yds
Std.
Downs

LY/carry
Pass.
Downs

LY/carry
Opp.
Rate
Power
Success
Rate
Stuff
Rate
Adj.
Sack Rate
Std.
Downs

Sack Rt.
Pass.
Downs

Sack Rt.
Team 98.5 3.42 3.27 42.7% 66.7% 15.1% 136 7.8% 11.3%
Rank 74 124 71 112 69 116 16 6 15
Name Pos Ht, Wt 2016
Year
Rivals 247 Comp. GP Tackles % of Team TFL Sacks Int PBU FF FR
Naashon Hughes FOX 6'4, 239 Jr. 3 stars (5.6) 0.8635 12 48.5 6.5% 9.0 5.5 0 1 1 0
Paul Boyette Jr. NT 6'3, 314 Sr. 4 stars (5.8) 0.9027 12 31.5 4.3% 8.0 3.0 0 2 0 0
Poona Ford DT 5'11, 313 Jr. 3 stars (5.7) 0.8994 12 30.5 4.1% 6.0 2.5 0 1 1 0
Hassan Ridgeway DT 11 30.0 4.0% 6.5 3.5 0 0 0 2
Desmond Jackson NT 11 25.0 3.4% 2.5 1.5 0 0 0 1
Shiro Davis DE 11 23.5 3.2% 5.5 2.0 0 0 2 0
Bryce Cottrell DE 6'2, 266 Sr. 3 stars (5.6) 0.8547 12 21.5 2.9% 6.5 4.0 0 1 0 0
Charles Omenihu DE 6'6, 262 So. 4 stars (5.8) 0.8771 11 16.0 2.2% 1.0 0.0 0 0 1 0
Breckyn Hager FOX 6'3, 230 So. 2 stars (5.4) 0.8236 9 14.5 2.0% 0.0 0.0 1 0 0 0
Quincy Vasser DE 6'4, 246 Sr. 3 stars (5.7) 0.8681 7 5.5 0.7% 0.0 0.0 0 0 0 0
Derick Roberson FOX



9 5.0 0.7% 2.0 2.0 0 0 1 0
Chris Nelson NT 6'1, 301 So. 3 stars (5.5) 0.8489 8 5.0 0.7% 1.0 1.0 0 0 0 0
Jake McMillon DT NR 12 2.0 0.3% 0.0 0.0 0 0 0 0
Jordon Elliott DT 6'3, 322 Fr. 3 stars (5.7) 0.9440
Chris Daniels DT 6'4, 328 Fr. 4 stars (5.8) 0.9222
Andrew Fitzgerald DE 6'5, 255 Fr. 3 stars (5.7) 0.9178
D'Andre Christmas-Giles DT 6'2, 292 Fr. 4 stars (5.9) 0.8920








7. A strangely bad run defense

For as impressive as Strong's résumé was as a longtime defensive assistant, his defensive track record as a head coach hasn't been as impressive as you might think. In four years at Louisville, his Cardinals ranked 39th, 41st, 60th, and 11th in Def. S&P+; in two years at Texas, the 'Horns have ranked seventh and 68th.

When Strong and coordinator Vance Bedford have the right pieces, they can put together a defense as good as anyone's. But they have struggled to overcome issues with talent (early at Louisville) or experience (in 2015 at Texas). Most do.

To the extent that Texas' drastic defensive drop-off last year was an experience issue, that should be rectified. Texas returns its top three linemen (and seven of the top 10), four of five linebackers, and 10 of 11 defensive backs. A vast majority of those returnees are now sophomores and juniors; Texas might be starting as few as one or two seniors.

Experience aside, Texas was startlingly bad against the run last year. That probably wasn't all because of experience. The Longhorns ranked 116th in stuff rate and 112th in opportunity rate, and while those are not adjusted for opponent in the tempo-happy Big 12, Rushing S&P+ (78th) and Adj. Line Yards (74th) are.

The returning trio of Naashon Hughes, Paul Boyette Jr., and Poona Ford combined for 23 tackles for loss up front, and blue-chip sophomore Malik Jefferson added seven more. But the depth of play-making was shaky, and when the Longhorns weren't making a play, they were allowing one: They gave up 92 rushes of 10-plus yards last year, 114th in the country. (On the plus side, only five of those rushes gained 30-plus, 23rd. Safety play appeared to be a strength.)

Inconsistency up front was disappointing even while acknowledging youth. That will need to change in 2016.

Linebackers

Name Pos Ht, Wt 2016
Year
Rivals 247 Comp. GP Tackles % of Team TFL Sacks Int PBU FF FR
Peter Jinkens WLB 11 60.5 8.2% 9.5 6.5 0 0 0 0
Malik Jefferson MLB 6'3, 238 So. 5 stars (6.1) 0.9929 11 49.0 6.6% 7.0 2.5 0 3 1 1
Anthony Wheeler WLB 6'2, 232 So. 4 stars (5.9) 0.9613 12 29.0 3.9% 1.0 0.0 0 1 0 0
Timothy Cole MLB 6'1, 240 Sr. 4 stars (5.8) 0.9159 11 23.5 3.2% 1.0 1.0 0 0 0 0
Edwin Freeman WLB 6'1, 232 So. 4 stars (5.9) 0.9264 5 10.5 1.4% 3.0 0.0 0 0 1 0
Dalton Santos LB 6'2, 257 Sr. 3 stars (5.7) 0.9171
Cameron Townsend LB 6'0, 222 RSFr. 3 stars (5.7) 0.9023
Demarco Boyd MLB 5'11, 240 Fr. 4 stars (5.8) 0.8670
Jeffrey McCulloch LB 6'2, 234 Fr. 4 stars (5.8) 0.9678
Erick Fowler OLB 6'1, 240 Fr. 5 stars (6.1) 0.9627








Secondary

Name Pos Ht, Wt 2016
Year
Rivals 247 Comp. GP Tackles % of Team TFL Sacks Int PBU FF FR
Duke Thomas CB 12 50.0 6.7% 3 0 1 5 0 0
Holton Hill CB 6'2, 195 So. 4 stars (5.9) 0.9600 12 43.0 5.8% 1 0 1 4 0 0
Dylan Haines SS 6'1, 201 Sr. NR NR 11 42.0 5.7% 3 1 5 3 0 0
Jason Hall FS 6'3, 219 Jr. 3 stars (5.6) 0.8438 12 42.0 5.7% 0.5 0 2 2 1 0
Davante Davis CB 6'2, 199 So. 4 stars (5.8) 0.8960 12 32.5 4.4% 1 0 1 7 0 0
John Bonney SS 6'1, 192 So. 3 stars (5.7) 0.9029 12 26.5 3.6% 2 1 0 1 1 0
Kris Boyd CB 6'0, 192 So. 4 stars (5.9) 0.9531 12 12.5 1.7% 0 0 0 0 1 0
P.J. Locke III NB 5'10, 204 So. 3 stars (5.6) 0.8625 12 12.0 1.6% 1 0 0 1 1 0
DeShon Elliott FS 6'1, 215 So. 4 stars (5.8) 0.9202 6 12.0 1.6% 0 0 2 1 1 0
Kevin Vaccaro SS 5'8, 182 Sr. 3 stars (5.5) 0.8166 10 12.0 1.6% 0 0 0 1 1 0
Antwuan Davis CB 6'0, 200 Jr. 4 stars (5.9) 0.9359 12 7.0 0.9% 0 0 0 1 0 0
Bryson Echols CB
6 2.0 0.3% 0 0 0 0 0 0
Sheroid Evans CB 6'1, 194 Sr. 4 stars (5.8) 0.9358
Brandon Jones DB 6'0, 195 Fr. 4 stars (5.9) 0.9786
Eric Cuffee CB 6'0, 187 Fr. 3 stars (5.7) 0.9017








8. All the components of a great pass defense

Losing ace blitzer Peter Jinkens won't help a pass rush that ranked 16th in Adj. Sack Rate a year ago. But with the return of ends Naashon Hughes and Bryce Cottrell (combined: 9.5 sacks), plus three potentially awesome sophomore linebackers, I cannot bring myself to worry. The pass rush should be fine, and it will get help from a sticky, aggressive secondary that played beyond its years last fall.

Texas ranked 20th in Passing S&P+ in 2015 despite the fact that six of the top nine players in the unit were freshmen. Losing corner Duke Thomas will hurt, but with sophomores Holton Hill, Davante Davis, and Kris Boyd back, that will only hurt so much. Meanwhile, safeties Dylan Haines, Jason Hall, John Bonney, P.J. Locke, and DeShon Elliott will give Texas one of the deepest, most exciting secondaries in the country. Texas' pass defense will be good again in 2016 and otherworldly in 2017.

Special Teams

Punter Ht, Wt 2016
Year
Punts Avg TB FC I20 FC/I20
Ratio
Michael Dickson 6'2, 213 So. 77 41.3 5 32 20 67.5%
Kicker Ht, Wt 2016
Year
Kickoffs Avg TB OOB TB%
Nick Rose 63 63.1 47 3 74.6%
Place-Kicker Ht, Wt 2016
Year
PAT FG
(0-39)
Pct FG
(40+)
Pct
Nick Rose 38-39 9-10 90.0% 4-7 57.1%
Returner Pos. Ht, Wt 2016
Year
Returns Avg. TD
Daje Johnson KR 22 24.0 0
Kris Boyd KR 6'0, 192 So. 9 20.6 0
Daje Johnson PR 21 10.7 1
Duke Thomas PR 2 27.5 0
Category Rk
Special Teams S&P+ 41
Field Goal Efficiency 42
Punt Return Success Rate 20
Kick Return Success Rate 113
Punt Success Rate 63
Kickoff Success Rate 23

9. A special teams rebuild

Despite the two plays we all remember (the game-turning gaffes against Cal and OSU), Texas' special teams unit was mostly fine.

Of course, that's all past-tense because with the loss of kicker/kickoffs guy Nick Rose and return man Daje Johnson, the Longhorns are starting over a bit. Goodness knows there should be plenty of potential return men, but we'll see about the kicking.

2016 Schedule & Projection Factors

2016 Schedule
Date Opponent Proj. S&P+ Rk Proj. Margin Win Probability
4-Sep Notre Dame 11 -4.0 41%
10-Sep UTEP 126 29.6 96%
17-Sep at California 49 0.9 52%
1-Oct at Oklahoma State 23 -6.9 35%
8-Oct vs. Oklahoma 4 -12.8 23%
15-Oct Iowa State 71 11.4 75%
22-Oct at Kansas State 67 3.7 58%
29-Oct Baylor 13 -3.7 42%
5-Nov at Texas Tech 43 -0.8 48%
12-Nov West Virginia 33 3.5 58%
19-Nov at Kansas 112 18.2 85%
25-Nov TCU 31 3.0 57%
Projected wins: 6.7
Five-Year F/+ Rk 14.4% (40)
2- and 5-Year Recruiting Rk 12 / 11
2015 TO Margin / Adj. TO Margin* 11 / 6.6
2015 TO Luck/Game +1.7
Returning Production (Off. / Def.) 80% (79%, 81%)
2015 Second-order wins (difference) 5.2 (-0.2)

10. I have no idea ... again

There have been two themes to every Texas preview I've written since 2011:

  1. Texas seems to have the pieces you need to turn things around.
  2. I have no idea if the Longhorns will turn things around.

For a couple of years, it looked like the turnaround was well underway. And then it wasn't.

In a vacuum, I would say Strong's project is unfolding at a normal pace. Last year's freshmen and sophomores are now sophomores and juniors, the staff changes on offense might result in an offensive identity, and last year's high-upside moments had an awfully high upside. Given another couple of years, he could have everything he needs, where he needs it.

But that requires another couple of years. And if Texas loses to a potentially awesome Notre Dame in the opener, the vultures will circle all over again, seemingly as they have since Strong's second game.

A Texas' head coach, Strong is 11-14. That carries weight that a normal rebuild would not. This has been the worst start to a Texas head coach's tenure since Dana Bible went 3-14-1 in 1937-38.

Given infinite time, Strong would almost certainly establish what he was hired to establish. But we'll see if the clock runs out first.