Head Coach Tom Herman run onto the field with his team against Kansas Jayhawks during the NCAA college football game in Austin, Texas, on Saturday, November 11, 2017. (RICARDO B. BRAZZIELL / AMERICAN-STATESMAN)

Kirk Bohls

American-Statesman Staff

Column

Bohls: Reviewing my preseason Texas predictions — Close on quarterbacks, not on record

Posted December 22nd, 2017

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Story highlights
  • Got really close on the position-sharing quarterbacks as neither Shane Buechele nor Sam Ehlinger could hold onto the starting job.
  • Pegged Poona Ford's rise but didn't see the collapse of the Texas offensive line.
  • Really thought the Longhorns might spring the stunning upset of USC, but figured Texas wouldn't beat any of the top three in OU, Oklahoma State and TCU.

It’s that time again. No, no, not for egg nog. Prediction review.

But I always review my Longhorns preseason predictions and have to own up now. So here we go with my August musings in bold print:

By the time the end of the 2017 bowl season rolls around, Texas will have gotten closer to becoming Texas again. After four losing seasons in the last seven years, the Longhorns are on the rebound.

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Must have meant the Texas basketball team.

But the football Longhorns were better in 2017. Honest. Anyone who watched the season unfold, I believe, would admit the product was for the most part better if only because Texas was tenacious and tough on one side of the ball and had a chance to win every game. It’s modest improvement, but an upgrade.

Texas offensive coordinator Tim Beck talks with quarterbacks Shane Buechele (7) and Sam Ehlinger (11) during warmups before an NCAA college football game against Texas Tech in Austin, Texas, on Friday, Nov. 24, 2017. NICK WAGNER / AMERICAN-STATESMAN

Shane Buechele will start seven games, and Sam Ehlinger will start five.

Pretty, pretty close. Buechele took the first snap in six games, and Ehlinger six.

Their level of trust in the sophomore starter remains questionable, and it wouldn’t surprise if lapses by Buechele force Herman and offensive coordinator Tim Beck to turn to the precocious, ultra-confident Ehlinger at some point.

Hard to see a whole lot of trust in Buechele, who got two series as the starter in the win over West Virginia and only one as the backup in the finale against Texas Tech. If he transfers, no one would be stunned.

Buechele starts seven games and throws for 1,765 yards, 16 touchdowns and six interceptions.

Not quite. Buechele passed for just 1,350 yards with only six touchdowns and four interceptions.

UT wide receiver Collin Johnson (9) makes a touchdown reception against TCU cornerback Jeff Gladney (12) in the first half at Amon G. Carter Stadium in Fort Worth on Saturday November 4, 2017. JAY JANNER / AMERICAN-STATESMAN

Ehlinger throws for 1,334 yards, 11 touchdowns and six picks and rushes for six more scores.

Closer. The freshman totaled 1,803 yards in the air, 10 touchdowns and seven interceptions, two of them bad ones against Oklahoma State and West Virginia. He ran for two.

Collin Johnson reigns as the wide receiver supreme, wins All-Big 12 honors with 65 catches for 1,173 yards and 11 touchdowns. Dorian Leonard has a solid final season with 53 receptions for 758 yards and five scores. Reggie Hemphill-Mapps catches 32 balls for 422 yards and three touchdowns, Devin Duvernay grabs 28 passes for 323 yards and four touchdowns, Jerrod Heard catches 18 balls for 276 yards and scores twice, and Armanti Foreman plays little as the odd man out.

Johnson did lead all receivers in yards with 725 yards, but only had 51 catches and was often invisible with four games of only two receptions. He only had two scores and didn’t come close to being named all-conference. Leonard broke a bone in his foot against Kansas and fell short with only 18 grabs for 150 yards and no scores.

Got closer with Hemphill-Mapps, who had moments of brilliance with 36 catches for 400 yards. Duvernay still can’t find a coach to harness his incomparable speed and was barely seen, with nine catches for 124 yards. Heard remains trapped in no man’s land between wide receiver and quarterback but made me look good by winding up with exactly 18 grabs for 150 yards and a score. We still don’t quite understand why Foreman remained in the doghouse all season; he indeed played little but flashed with a 27-261-4 line.

Duvernay returns one kickoff for a touchdown, and Hemphill-Mapps run backs one punt for a score.

Duvernay never crossed midfield that I remember, as one of seven to fulfill that duty, and Hemphill-Mapps did me proud by running one punt back for 91 yards and a touchdown in the opener against Maryland.

Oklahoma State defensive tackle Darrion Daniels (79) wraps up Texas running back Chris Warren III (25) during the second half of an NCAA college football game in Austin, Texas, on Saturday, Oct. 21, 2017. Oklahoma State defeated Texas 13-10. NICK WAGNER / AMERICAN-STATESMAN

Running backs coach Stan Drayton juggles ball-carrying duties among whoever can stay in one piece. Kyle Porter leads the way with 852 yards and eight touchdowns while Chris Warren III stays upright long enough to run for 716 yards and five scores before going down with the chicken pox.

Who didn’t have a carry? Oddly enough, more receivers (five) than running backs (four) carried the ball. Even nickel back P.J. Locke III had a carry.

I mistakenly expected Porter and Warren to go crazy. There was a pox on Warren, but not the chicken pox. Instead, Porter had just 325 yards and Warren 314 before switching to tight end and then announcing he will transfer elsewhere. Ehlinger took away most of Warren’s carries as Warren became Foreman’s regular roommate in the doghouse.

Toneil Carter makes his biggest impact as a receiver out of the backfield with 22 catches while Daniel Young produces 258 yards between the tackles as the rugged back of the future. Kirk Johnson adds 189 yards.

Carter did get his hands on six passes for 31 yards and a score, and Young did show down the stretch that he’s the rugged back of the future, finishing with 325 yards. Johnson’s hamstrings never let him on the field.

Texas offensive lineman Connor Williams (55) signals touchdown during an NCAA college football game against West Virginia in Morgantown, West Virginia, on Saturday, Nov. 18, 2017. NICK WAGNER / AMERICAN-STATESMAN

Left tackle Connor Williams earns first-team All-American honors for the second consecutive year. Zach Shackelford gets named second-team All-Big 12 at center. True freshman Derek Kerstetter continues to improve and finds playing time at right tackle, the weakest spot in an otherwise very strong offensive line.

Williams had one great game against West Virginia after missing seven games with a knee injury, but will still probably be a first-round draft choice. Shackleford didn’t improve as expected and might even get replaced at center by guard Patrick Vahe. Kerstetter did play a ton at right tackle, and I humbly apologize about the high expectations for the offensive line.

The much-maligned tight end position produces 24 catches and 213 yards and three scores, split equally among Garrett Gray, Reese Leitao and Cade Brewer.

Fell a little short there with 15 catches and 118 yards, but nailed the three touchdowns, two of them from Brewer. Leitao redshirted.

Poona Ford has twice as many tackles for losses (12) as words spoken (6) and makes first-team All-Big 12 with a consistent push from inside. Defensive end Malcolm Roach gets eight sacks and Charles Omenihu gets five. Rover Malik Jefferson finally lives up to his billing, sacking opposing quarterback 11 times and making All-Big 12 and some All-American teams. Junior-college transfer Gary Johnson flashes in a big way and gets six sacks and some of the biggest hits of the year.

Ford was a consensus All-Big 12 pick, as expected, and had eight tackles for losses. The rest were below my predictions for sacks from Roach (two), Omenihu (three), Jefferson (four) and Johnson (two).

Texas defensive back DeShon Elliott (4) waves his finger after breaking up a pass during an NCAA college football game against Texas Tech in Austin, Texas, on Friday, Nov. 24, 2017. NICK WAGNER / AMERICAN-STATESMAN

The secondary accounts for 12 interceptions, paced by DeShon Elliott’s five picks. Kris Boyd is named first-team all-conference as a lockdown corner.

The defensive backs did that even better, finishing with 15, six from Elliott, so I was in the neighborhood. Boyd improved tremendously, wowed in the Texas Tech game and led the team with 14 pass breakups and had two interceptions.

Michael Dickson averages 47 yards a punt, nails 23 inside the 20-yard line and gets one blocked.

Mr. Automatic was even more impressive with a 48.3-yard average and placed 32 inside the 20 with nary a blocked punt of any of his 73 punts. He good.

New kicker Joshua Rowland hits 16 of 23 field goal attempts, misses one key field goal try in a stinging loss but makes another to cement a win.

The special teams players of the year will be Antwuan Davis and Marqez Bimage.

Rowland did miss seven kicks as forecast, hitting just 10 of 17, missed a pair of attempts with one block in the 10-point loss to Maryland and did kick all three of his field goals that should have won the Texas Tech game until third-and-2 happened. I think Antwuan Davis excelled on special teams.

Freshmen will contribute in a huge way. As many as four could start by the end of the year. Besides Ehlinger, the best performances will be Nacogdoches cornerback Josh Thompson followed by Temple defensive end Ta’Quon Graham.

Boy, did they. Eight freshmen played, and six started. Ehlinger had the most impactful run. Graham flashed in the finale with a sack, one of his two tackles for losses, and Thompson had 11 tackles.

Herman gets flagged at least once for unsportsmanlike conduct for walking too far onto the field.

Nope. He chewed his Dubble Bubble on the sidelines and minded his business.

Longhorn Nation becomes euphoric about a bowl game and thinks Herman can walk on water.

Euphoric? Not exactly. Not even remotely satisfied. Herman’s yet to walk on water, but hopefully walking into homes of some top recruits, especially on the line.

Texas upsets USC to climb into the top 10, but loses to Oklahoma, Oklahoma State and TCU to finish 9-3 and go to the Liberty Bowl to play LSU.

The 6-6 Longhorns came within 45 seconds of knocking off the Trojans before an overtime loss and lost to those other three teams. They were a candidate for the Liberty Bowl until they were selected by the Texas Bowl to face a hot Missouri team.

I predict I’ll make more crazy predictions in 2018.

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