The Longhorns’ 2016 expectations
What can we expect from the Texas Longhorns for the 2016 season? The championship seems pretty unlikely, but that doesn’t mean they don’t have high hopes and expectations. Here are some thoughts on what you may see from the ‘Horns this season.
The season that counts
This year is a crucial one for Texas. They enter this season with a freshman quarterback and a brand new offense. Last year, you could see the team was somewhat disorganized; with new players and no real cohesion, you could see them struggle to find their flow.
Honestly, though, what can you expect from a team that is truly in a rebuilding state? Under Charlie Strong, the past three years have been difficult. While the win-loss ratio has not been what Longhorn fans are used to, the truth is that Charlie Strong is in for the long haul. The strides he has made in the last three seasons are to set the stage for big gains in the seasons to come. Even though the future looks bright for the Longhorns, expectations for this season is that there be some evidence of the progress that he’s made in year three of being head coach. That is likely to happen, as long as the chips fall the right way for Strong.
Here is a major issue: The Longhorns have a quarterback who is experienced, but they have severe limitations in Tyrone Swoopes. Now, has he improved in his time at Texas? Yes, but his improvement is not at the place it should be to be counted on in crucial games. And then you have Shane Buechele. Buechelle is a stellar player, as he has shown in his recent games against Notre Dame and UTEP. But, when the real challenges (like Oklahoma, Baylor, and TCU) come up, will he be up to the challenge at that point?
Is it a smart bet to put the fate of Charlie Strong’s job on a quarterback who might not have the talent of Buechele but has a predictable skill set to where an offensive and defensive strategy can be set? Maybe they should they go with a stellar promise, but an ultimate unknown when they are faced with must-win games?
This would have been a lot easier to decide if one or the other showed their dominance in practice before the season start, but at that time they were pretty much so dead even and the scale had the potential to tip either way. So now, it is really committing to a quarterback and sticking by that decision as the difference maker on whether Charlie Strong will continue, or whether this will be his goodbye tour in Austin. I think it’s safe to say that if either quarterback can get the ball to D’Onta Foreman or Chris Warren III, then give them the opportunity never to look back on their way to the endzone, Charlie Strong can get comfortable.
Along with their offense, Texas also has some big holes to fill in their defense and special teams. The Longhorns have 8 starters returning on defense this year, including fifth-year senior Paul Boyette and junior Poona Ford. With them, along with Preseason All-American Malik Jefferson, the Longhorns could definitely have some tricks up their sleeve in defensive play. The key to making this work is the offense giving the defense the opportunity to be fresh by not overworking them. This has been an issue in recent seasons, as the offense has been lackadaisical at best. The expectation this year is that they will be able to move the ball and put points on the scoreboard. This in itself should give the Longhorns defense the ability to stay rested and fresh, which will allow them the ability to stop opposing offensive from getting in the endzone and scoring. Trent Domingue and the second year of Michael Dickson should bring some significant improvement to special teams as well.
So the eyes of the Lone Star state are watching Charlie Strong. With their win against Notre Dame, they have already done something that most analysts had predicted would not happen – they have set themselves up to be the dark horse of the Big 12. From there, it’s up to them where they will go. Smart money is either to the Texas Bowl or to the Cactus Bowl, but you never know until the whistle blows. The Longhorns should give us something interesting to watch this season.