The Longhorns football team give fans a glimpse of what to expect in the upcoming season during the 2016 University of Texas Orange-White Game April 16. 04/16/16 Tom McCarthy Jr. for AMERICAN-STATESMAN

Kirk Bohls

American-Statesman Staff

Column

Bohls: My Texas predictions? Strong will win and survive, come hell or high losses

Posted September 1st, 2016

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Story highlights
  • Buechele will win the job and make some mistakes, but he will impress.
  • Defensive tackle Gerald Wilbon will stand out among all the freshman down linemen.
  • Malik Jefferson, Connor Williams will make All-American teams. Kent Perkins will be the first Texas lineman drafted by an NFL team in nine years.

It came like a vision.

Well at least VistaVision or whatever 35mm film Hollywood uses these days.

Of course, I was looking for assistance anywhere I could find it.

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I wouldn’t say unbridled enthusiasm for this upcoming Texas football season is universally felt, but excitement is so robust in some corners that even Marcus, Jeff Bridges’ coarse Texas Ranger character in the movie “Hell or High Water,” likes what he sees.

“The Longhorns are going to have a good team this year,” Bridges’ gruff character said as he swigged on a beer in a West Texas motel room, watching a Texas-USC Rose Bowl replay on the Longhorn Network.

So if a movie star says it, it must be true.

Bridges should be right. Texas should have a good team this year. Just how good is the question, and I’ve wrestled with that for weeks. I see a window of seven to nine wins, an improbable 10 if it avoids all major injuries and Shane Buechele is the next Joe Montana. Don’t bet on 10.

Aside from a tough schedule (15th hardest in the nation, says one magazine, with nine 2015 bowl opponents), lots of inexperience (only 12 starters back), a clear lack of any momentum (no bowl game last year and a staggering three losing seasons in the last six years), the Longhorns should turn the corner in 2016. They should show signs of becoming Texas again. Yeah, that Texas.

UT head coach Charlie Strong watches his team warm up before the Baylor game at McLane Stadium in Waco on Saturday December 5, 2015. JAY JANNER / AMERICAN-STATESMAN
UT head coach Charlie Strong watches his team warm up before the Baylor game at McLane Stadium in Waco on Saturday December 5, 2015. JAY JANNER / AMERICAN-STATESMAN

Charlie Strong has reached a critical juncture in his Longhorns tenure, desperate for progress and hopeful he doesn’t become the first coach in school history to have three consecutive losing seasons. Texas has never strung four of those in a row since head coaches Jack Chevigny — a former Notre Dame back under Knute Rockne — and Dana X. Bible each had two straight between 1935-38.

Chevigny once won one for the Gipper. Considering how often Strong has changed his mind on announcing a quarterback, Strong’s players need to win a bunch for the Flipper.

Strong’s karma is already changing with four Baylor recruits and an LSU kicker falling in his lap this summer and with the arrests of six Notre Dame players. Now it’s up to him and his staff to mold two Top 10 recruiting classes into a winning program. This is the year we find out if Strong is as successful on the sidelines as he is in living rooms.

Here’s an uneducated guess about how the season will go down:

Texas quarterback Shane Buechele goes through drills during practice at Royal-Memorial Stadium Sunday, August 7, 2016. JAY JANNER / AMERICAN-STATESMAN
Texas quarterback Shane Buechele goes through drills during practice at Royal-Memorial Stadium Sunday, August 7, 2016. JAY JANNER / AMERICAN-STATESMAN

(1) Buechele will start every game.

He has to. He will wow with his mobility, improvisational skills and poise, but, yes, he will make mistakes. He will throw for 2,105 yards and 18 touchdowns and 12 interceptions. He will run for 185 yards and two touchdowns.

(2) Backup Tyrone Swoopes will have success in his short-yardage package, but give up some snaps to Jerrod Heard out of the wildcat formation. Swoopes will score five touchdowns and also throw for 95 yards and a touchdown.

(3) Heard will do his Daje Johnson 2.0 impersonation by catching 24 passes for 318 yards and two touchdowns. He can be magical in space and on jet sweeps.

(4) John Burt will excel as the featured receiver and finish with 62 grabs for 780 yards and eight scores. (5) Collin Johnson will be the second most prolific wideout as the red-zone target with 33 catches for 574 yards and five touchdowns. (6) Armanti Foreman will have a solid year with 25 receptions for 235 yards and two touchdowns.

(7) Freshman Devin Duvernay will split slot duties with Jacorey Warrick as well as be the top punt returner, and run back two for scores.  (8) Duvernay makes 27 catches for 231 yards and two scores, Warrick 15 grabs for 187 yards.

(9) Neither D’Onta Foreman nor Chris Warren III will top 1,000 yards. (10) Both will miss time with injuries, but Foreman will run for 920 yards and seven scores, and Warren 764 yards and four scores. (11) Kyle Porter will be the change of pace back and rush for 238 yards and a touchdown. (12) Foreman will turn pro early.

(13) Tight end Caleb Bluiett, my favorite, will surprise and have 32 catches for 157 yards and two scores.

(14) Left guard Kent Perkins will have a dominant year and become the first Longhorns offensive lineman drafted by an NFL team since 2008. (15) Connor Williams will be named second-team All-American.

(16) Defensive end Charles Omenihu will lead the team in sacks with eight. (17) Naashon Hughes and Breckyn Hager will each have six.

(18) Defensive tackle Paul Boyette will lead up front with 10 tackles for a loss, and Chris Nelson will be instrumental in choking off the run. (19) Gerald Wilbon will have the best season among the freshman defensive tackles. He’ll have seven tackles for a loss.

Texas linebacker Malik Jefferson reaches to tackle Rice quarterback Driphus Jackson during the game against Rice at Royal-Memorial Stadium on Saturday September 12, 2015. JAY JANNER / AMERICAN-STATESMAN
Texas linebacker Malik Jefferson reaches to tackle Rice quarterback Driphus Jackson during the game against Rice at Royal-Memorial Stadium on Saturday September 12, 2015. JAY JANNER / AMERICAN-STATESMAN

(20) Malik Jefferson will top 100 tackles and be named first-team All-American. (21) He will line up at defensive end a lot. (22) He will have a 20-tackle game. (23) Anthony Wheeler will have a terrific year with 74 stops and allow Jefferson to line up wide.

(24) Dylan Haines will have three more interceptions to give him 12 in his career, but Brandon Jones will replace him after the OU game. Dylan would expect nothing less. You gotta admire his fortitude. (25) P.J. Locke III will step in at nickel back and make a name for himself. (26) Holton Hill and Davante Davis will both make All-Big 12 cornerbacks and combine for five picks.

(27) New kicker Trent Domingue will make 17 of 21 field goals with a long of 48 yards, will win a game with a field goal, but also miss a critical kick. (28) Michael Dickson will be the All-Big 12 punter.

(29) Other All-Big 12 picks will be Williams, Foreman, Burt, Jefferson, Hill and Davis.

(30) On Sunday, Texas will play tough, lead at halftime but lose a heartbreaker to a more veteran Notre Dame team, 26-24. (31) The Longhorns will fall to Oklahoma State, Oklahoma, TCU and Texas Tech, but beat Baylor, finish 7-5 and play Georgia in the Liberty Bowl.

It’s not exactly a breakthrough year, but it’s not a broken year. Right, Jeff Bridges?

Besides, Matthew McConaughey is on board, too. Texas may not be great in 2016, but the Horns should be all right, all right, all right.

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