Practice has begun. The season opener is on the horizon. Football is back.
To preview Texas’ season, we’re continuing to spend part of August by asking 20 burning questions in 20 days.
Today’s question, which will be handled by columnists Kirk Bohls and Cedric Golden and beat writers Brian Davis and Ryan Autullo:
No. 11: Who’s got the biggest shoes to fill on this team?
BOHLS: SHIRO DAVIS.
Whose shoes? Jackson Jeffcoat.
“Shiro Davis has to step in and replace Jackson Jeffcoat, an All-American who had 40 career games and 33 starts and made big play after big play. It’s time for the 6-3, 258-pound defensive end from Louisiana to make the big splash expected of him when he arrived as a national top 150 prospect. He’s yet to make the impact that most thought he would.”
GOLDEN: CHARLIE STRONG.
Whose shoes? Mack Brown’s.
“Charlie Strong has the biggest shoes to fill at Texas since Fred Akers took over for Darrell Royal. Like him or not, Mack Brown brought Texas football back to national prominence, even if things went south at the end. The pressure will be even greater on Strong because he’s replacing a coach who was forced out even though he was one half away from winning a Big 12 championship, whereas Brown in 1998 was replacing John Mackovic, who had already worn out his welcome.
“For Strong to surpass Brown’s accomplishments, he basically will have to win two national titles, three conference titles and appear in at least three national championship games. Those are pretty big shoes, I’d say.”
DAVIS: THE BACKUP QUARTERBACK.
Whose shoes? Case McCoy’s.
“Starting quarterback David Ash jokingly took exception to a question about his backups early in training camp. But the fact is Texas’ backup quarterback has played critical roles in recent years. That was especially true last season when Case McCoy stepped in after Ash’s season-ending injury and almost led the Longhorns to the Big 12 title. That’s why UT’s coaching staff needs to go into the season feeling good about either Tyrone Swoopes or Jerrod Heard.
“Last year, fans were so upset with McCoy’s performance early, they were practically begging Mack Brown to rip the redshirt off Swoopes and hustle him on the field. Brown did exactly that in the wee hours of the TCU game, which had been delayed by weather. Swoopes ‘played’ in six games last season, including the Alamo Bowl. But almost all of that was in mop-up duty. He never went into the game in the first half or when the outcome was still in doubt.
“Heard would certainly tell you he’s ready for the spotlight, but the coaches feel differently. Heard isn’t trying to rush things. He’s simply trying to soak up as much as he can as fast as possible. Does that mean Heard could be ready, say, by Oklahoma week? Who knows?
“When baseball players go onto the field thinking ‘Oh please, don’t let the ball get hit to me,’ the ball always gets hit to them. If the Texas coaches go into the season opener feeling queasy about their backup situation, you can take it to the bank the backup will be needed at some point. Better to get one ready now.”
AUTULLO: NICK ROSE.
Whose shoes? Anthony Fera’s.
“The biggest shoe to fill is the one responsible for 20 field goals last year. Texas fans would be unwise to diminish the impact of All-America kicker Anthony Fera. Fera missed only twice in 22 field goal attempts, making Texas a source of envy for teams with misadventures in the kicking game. Nick Rose made quick work of Nick Jordan to replace Fera, claiming the job a week or so into camp. Strong made the announcement on Tuesday after practice. Rose, the team’s kickoff specialist, has never attempted a field goal in a college game, but was the more accurate of the two during Sunday’s open practice. Replacing Fera’s 40.7 yards per punt average should be seamless. Senior Will Russ is capable of handling the job and improving upon Fera’s average.”
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