Five Minute Guide to '99
Ricky who? The Longhorns won't be short on talent despite losing Williams
"Everywhere I've gone this summer, everyone wants to know if we can win without Ricky," says Applewhite. "Of course we can. One guy doesn't make a team."
Applewhite is right. In spite of losing Williams, Division I's alltime leading rusher, the Longhorns are not far from being a national title contender. Though Texas must replace 10 starters from last year's team, which snapped Nebraska's 47-game home winning streak and beat Mississippi State 38-11 in the Cotton Bowl, coach Mack Brown is hardly fretting. In his second year in Austin, Brown has built a program that is awash with young, very fast talent. In this year's recruiting class, which was lauded as the nation's best by numerous publications, Brown landed USA Today's offensive and defensive players of the year along with seven other USA Today All-Americas.
Eight starters are back from a Longhorns defensive unit that ranked 56th in the nation. A year of experience, along with the addition of linebacker Cory Redding, the USA Today high school defensive player of the year, should improve the D.
The key player this season, however, is Applewhite. Last year, as a redshirt freshman, he passed for more than 200 yards in 10 straight games, a school record, and was named the Big 12 freshman of the year. But even though Applewhite boasts an impressive résumé, he will most likely sit on the bench once freshman quarterback Chris Simms, USA Today's high school offensive player of the year last season, learns the playbook. Applewhite and Simms chatted briefly at the spring game, at which Simms was mobbed by autograph seekers, and the two became friends. "I'll do whatever I can to make him a better quarterback," says Applewhite. "But I see myself as the starter."
Applewhite will be joined in the backfield by fullback Ricky Brown, who served as Williams's blocking back the past two years, and tailback Hodges Mitchell, who has carried the ball just 37 times in his career. The lack of an established runner means Applewhite will see fewer eight-man fronts and more zone coverage. Speedy wideout Kwame Cavil, who finished fourth in the Big 12 in receptions (51) last season, should help the Longhorns stretch those defenses.
"Now that we don't have Ricky, we're going to open up the offense and come at defenses from every angle," says Applewhite. "There won't be much of a drop in production, if there is one at all."
For the sake of his stomach he had better hope so.
-- Lars Anderson
1998 record: 9-3 (6-2, 2nd in Big 12 South)
Oct. 2 vs. Kansas State
Nov. 26 at Texas A&M
Sans Williams, the Longhorns won't win any championships this season, but it's only a matter of time before the nation's top recruiting class turns Texas into a power.
Five Minute Guide to '99
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