SI.com 2003 College Football Preview




SI.com's College Football Team Previews - from Athlon Sports

  Texas Longhorns

 
The Lowdown
Coach: Mack Brown (6th year, 49-15)
2002 record: 11-2 (Beat LSU 35-20 in Cotton Bowl)
Big 12 finish: 2nd (South)
2002 offensive stats:
Rush: 135.5 ypg
(8th in Big 12, 74th in nation)
Pass: 250.1 ypg (4th, 34th)
2002 defensive stats:
Rush: 142.5 ypg (4th, 47th)
Pass: 165.2 ypg (1st, 8th)
Projected Starters
Offense (8 returning starters in bold)
FL   82   B.J. Johnson   Sr.  
SE   4   Roy Williams   Sr.  
LT   71   Jonathan Scott   So.  
LG   61   Tillman Holloway   Sr.  
C   52   Jason Glynn   Jr.  
RG  51  Mike Garcia  So. 
RT  63  Justin Blalock  Fr. 
TE   84   Brock Edwards   Sr.  
QB  Chance Mock  Jr. 
TB   32   Cedric Benson   Jr.  
FB   26   Ivan Williams   Sr.  
Defense (7)
DE  98  Bryan Pickryl  So. 
DT   95   Marcus Tubbs   Sr.  
DT   90   Rodrique Wright   So.  
DE  43  Kalen Thornton  Sr. 
SLB   45   Reed Boyd   Sr.  
MLB  56  Garnet Smith  So. 
WLB   11   Derrick Johnson   Jr.  
CB   3   Nathan Vasher   Sr.  
CB  Cedric Griffin  So. 
SS   7   Michael Huff   So.  
FS   9   Dakari Pearson   Sr.  
Special Teams
14  Dusty Mangum  Jr. 
13  Taylor Landin  So. 
KR  Selvin Young  So. 
PR  Nathan Vasher  Sr. 
2003 Schedule
Aug. 30  New Mexico State 
Sept. 13  Arkansas 
Sept. 20  at Rice 
Sept. 27  Tulane 
Oct. 4  Kansas State 
Oct. 11  #Oklahoma 
Oct. 18  at Iowa State 
Oct. 25  at Baylor 
Nov. 1  Nebraska 
Nov. 8  at Oklahoma State 
Nov. 15  Texas Tech 
Nov. 28  at Texas A&M 
   #Dallas, Texas 
Location, location, location. Mack Brown said that with consecutive 11-win seasons and top-10 finishes, his Longhorns have set up shop in the proper subdivision -- National Title Estates.

"We've moved into the neighborhood," Brown said. "Now, if you stay in that neighborhood, if you're fortunate, everything will fall in place one year and you will win all the games."

So when will the UT family vacation involve a trip to the national championship game or at least an excursion to a Bowl Championship Series contest? In Brown's five seasons, UT has made three short treks to the Cotton Bowl in Dallas and a couple of pre-New Year's Day visits to San Diego for the Holiday Bowl. In that time, four Big 12 teams have enjoyed outings to the more desirable locations of Pasadena, Tempe, New Orleans and Miami -- sites of the BCS bowls.

With 15 starters returning, including some of the country's top offensive skill players, Texas has its eyes on the top prize.

"We have what it takes," junior quarterback Chance Mock said. "With the players we have, the national championship has to be the goal."

OFFENSIVE KEYS:

With a bevy of experienced receivers, led by one of the nation's best in Roy Williams, and a running back in Cedric Benson who has recorded back-to-back 1,000-yard seasons, Texas should have no problem moving the football.

Mock may be a first-time starter at quarterback, but that shouldn't be a problem -- he's been waiting in the wings for four years. He may have difficulty holding off redshirt freshman Vincent Young, but Mock can and should be productive.

Defenses face an agonizing choice -- commit to stopping Benson (2,346 yards in two seasons) or play soft to keep Williams, B.J. Johnson and Sloan Thomas from running wild in the secondary. Few defenses in the country can accomplish either goal anyway.

There are questions on the Longhorns' offensive line, but the unit should be more aggressive than it has been, thanks to new O-line coach Mac McWhorter.

DEFENSIVE KEYS:

This is where the Longhorns may slide a bit. UT had the No. 1 defense in the country in 2001, but finished 16th last season, including 47th against the run.

Health is the biggest concern up front. Four returning contributors have missed time to injury since the middle of last season. The seniors on the right side, end Kalen Thornton and tackle Marcus Tubbs, were hobbled during the season with nagging injuries. The sophomores on the left side, end Bryan Pickryl (shoulder) and tackle Rodrique Wright (knee), missed the spring because of offseason surgeries.

Linebacker Derrick Johnson should find his name on preseason All-America teams. The junior is a perfect fit in Carl Reese's speed-dependent scheme. Reed Boyd's experience should keep him in the mix, though he is being pushed by an athletic group of sophomores and redshirt freshmen. Expect a four- or five-man rotation in the spots alongside Johnson.

A lack of depth in the secondary could be a problem, but the top five is a strong group, with honors candidate Nathan Vasher leading the way at corner.

SPECIAL TEAMS:

Dusty Mangum (32-of-49 in his career) returns for his third tour of duty as the kicker, but Brown won't hesitate to insert David Pino. Taylor Landin or Justin Smith will be the punter, and either should match the 40.1 yards per kick UT got last year from Brian Bradford.

When healthy, Vasher is one of the better punt returners in the country, and Selvin Young is nearly as dangerous.

FINAL ANALYSIS:

A stagnant running game has proved to be the Longhorns' major problem in their biggest game of the season for the past three years. Texas has a combined 73 yards rushing on 77 carries in its three straight losses to Oklahoma. UT can't average 3.4 yards per carry, finish 74th in the country in rushing offense and win the national title. The offensive line needs to get up to speed.

Defensively, Reese loves man-to-man coverage and a heavy blitzing scheme, while Brown prefers less risky zone coverages and four-man pressure. Which will be the preferred style? Probably somewhere in the middle, but however they play, the Longhorns need to be able to adjust on the fly. Championship contenders don't allow a back to rush for 248 yards (Oklahoma's Quentin Griffin in the Horns' first loss) or a QB to throw for 473 yards and six touchdowns (Texas Tech's Kliff Kingsbury in UT's second loss).

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