Texas Longhorns quarterback Sam Ehlinger (11) looks down before Texas Longhorns place kicker Cameron Dicker (17) tries for the field goal before the end of the second quarter against Baylor Bears during an NCAA football game in Waco, Texas on Saturday, November 23, 2019. [RICARDO B. BRAZZIELL / AMERICAN-STATESMAN]

Kirk Bohls

American-Statesman Staff

Column

Bohls: Four months later, my crystal ball for the Longhorns is crystal-unclear

Posted December 26th, 2019

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Story highlights
  • I wrote Sam Ehlinger will wind up with 3,148 passing yards and 28 touchdowns. He had 3,462 and 29 touchdowns. He will produce 14 rushing touchdowns and 595 yards. He had just six scores but 590 yards. So close.
  • My prediction was Texas will have the best secondary in the Big 12 and one of the most athletic and versatile in college football. Uh, major failure here.
  • "Texas will go 10-2. That’s a leap of faith. I’m torn between that and 9-3 out of fear Ehlinger will miss big chunks of a game or two and the lack of running back depth. If Ehlinger misses two entire games or more, all bets are off." Oops. Was way, way off. Totally misread this team’s fire and consistency problems. Totally flat performances against TCU, Iowa State and Baylor that are very alarming.

Texas will remember the Alamo this season after a regular season it will soon try to forget.

While they can salve their considerable wounds following a disturbing 7-5 season with four losses in their last seven games, the unranked Longhorns try to pick up the pieces and salvage some pride and self-respect by upsetting a Utah team that was on the doorstep of a College Football Playoff berth, much like Georgia was a year ago.

With that as a reminder, here’s an annual review of the 2019 season gone bad and my predictions from late August for a team that was about to open the season ranked 10th in the preseason To 25 poll.

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Sam Ehlinger will start every game at quarterback.

He did, remarkably enough. He never sustained any type of serious injury despite his physical style. He did miss out on a trip to New York City alongside the Heisman Trophy finalists because of the team’s record as was forecast here. I said he would be hard-pressed to duplicate, much less top, last year’s numbers of 41 total touchdowns, but he would. He fell short, with 35. I wrote he’d wind up with 3,148 passing yards and 28 touchdowns. (He had 3,462 and 29). And that he would produce 14 rushing touchdowns and 595 yards. He had just six scores but 590 yards. So close.

Backup Casey Thompson will struggle in his first year of action.

But that he’d still throw for 169 yards and two scores and run for 89 yards. And that he’d play in four games. He barely made a blip on the radar with Ehlinger staying healthy and never took a meaningful snap. He threw for only 84 yards and no scores. He ran for only 15 yards. He played in four games.

Texas running back Keaontay Ingram (26) breaks a tackle by Baylor cornerback Grayland Arnold (1) on Nov. 23, 2019 in Waco. [Stephen Spillman for Statesman]
Texas won’t have a 1,000-yard rusher for the 12th time in the last 13 years.

No one came close. Keaontay Ingram had flashes of brilliance but just 745 yards and six touchdowns. I came close there, predicting he would gain 624 yards and seven touchdowns.

I was way off when I said freshman Jordan Whittington would become a star and be the leading rusher with 793 yards and eight scores. He caught two passes for 19 yards in the opener, then sat out the rest of the season after having surgery to repair a sports hernia.

I wrote that Ingram and Whittington would combine to make 22 catches for 312 yards between them. They posted 29 receptions for 233 yards.

I figured Devin Duvernay and uber-gifted freshman Jake Smith would each run for more than 100 yards on jet sweeps. Way off. Duvernay ran for 32 yards and Smith just nine.

Texas receivers Devin Duvernay (6) and Collin Johnson (9) celebrates a touchdown against LSU on Sept. 7, 2019 in Austin. [NICK WAGNER/AMERICAN-STATESMAN]
The Longhorns will not have a 1,000-yard receiver.

And that Collin Johnson would grab 76 balls for 927 yards and nine touchdowns, then get drafted in the third round.

Again, my crystal ball didn’t account for a season-long injury pattern for Johnson, whose chronic hamstring injury limited him to just 35 catches for 497 yards and two scores in six games. Played out over a full season, those numbers would have projected out to 70 balls for 994 yards and four TDs.

Duvernay will get the ball much more often and better utilized this fall.

And how. With him moving to the slot as a replacement for Lil’ Jordan Humphrey, I wrote that he’d catch 61 balls for 868 yards and seven touchdowns. He had a staggering 103 catches for 1,294 yards and eight touchdowns, producing only the third 100-yard catch season ever by a Longhorn. And I said that he could be the next Marquise Goodwin in the NFL. (He could, but probably will be even better.)

Jake Smith will tear it up.

Not exactly, but the freshman started and finished strong.  I predicted he’d get his hands on 42 receptions for 439 yards and four scores. He made 25 catches for 274 yards and got to the end zone six times.

I predicted that Duvernay and Smith would each return a kickoff or a punt for a touchdown. Neither came close to happening. Smith fumbled a punt, finished with minus-4 yards and lost all his confidence as a return man.

I called for Malcolm Epps to turn in 18 catches for 232 yards and a score. He had 20 receptions for exactly 232 yards and two scores. And I said Brennan Eagles would have 13 receptions for 135 yards. I undersold Eagles big-time. He ended up with 30 catches for 518 yards.

Tight end Cade Brewer will double Andrew Beck’s workload from 2018.

See injury excuse above. I wrote that he’d make 56 catches for 341 yards and five touchdowns. But he barely saw the field. He had 10 catches for 149 yards and one score in eight unremarkable games. And I said freshman Jared Wiley, the former 6-7 quarterback from Temple, would make his debut and have five receptions for 31 yards. He caught only one ball for 15 yards, but got in 11 games.

Left tackle Sam Cosmi will make the biggest splash on the offensive line.

And I predicted that Parker Braun, the grad transfer from Georgia Tech, would not redshirt. Braun didn’t — but was whistled for lots of penalties, including an unsportsmanlike conduct call against Baylor. He never once visited with the press. Was he really here? Cosmi did make a splash, but mostly with derogatory comments about Oklahoma’s defensive line, which blew up in his face. He was never allowed to come to another press conference.

Texas defensive lineman Malcolm Roach (32) celebrates a defensive stop against Kansas State during an NCAA college football game on Saturday, Nov. 9, 2019, in Austin, Texas. [NICK WAGNER/AMERICAN-STATESMAN]
Oscar Giles will continue to be a stud coach and recruiter. 

And that he’d get the most out of a raw, inexperienced defensive line even though Malcolm Roach was the only real returning mainstay. Neither stood out. But Giles at least has kept his job thus far. Collectively, I predicted the defense would blitz from all angles and positions and finish with 38 sacks. (Not even close. Texas registered a weak 22). The lack of credible pressure on opposing quarterbacks were a huge factor in Texas’ poor defensive performance.

Roach will lead the team in quarterback sacks with eight.

I predicted that he’d be this year’s Charles Omenihu. He kind of was in that Omenihu is gone and now with the Houston Texans, and Roach didn’t have the big presence Texas needed. He had a paltry two sacks and missed a great opportunity at a game-altering one on TCU’s Max Duggan in the end zone. I predicted that redshirt freshman Keondre Coburn would explode at nose tackle, making a huge impact up front. He had his moments but didn’t excel.

Texas defensive back DeMarvion Overshown (31) and Texas defensive back Jalen Green (3) celebrate stop on Baylor in the first half of an NCAA college football game on Saturday, Nov. 23, 2019, in Waco, Texas. [Stephen Spillman for Statesman]
Linebacker Joseph Ossai will have his breakout year and lead the team in tackles with 88 stops.

Why did I call that? Because he had eight tackles in the Sugar Bowl and looked ready to take his game to the next level. He finished second on the team behind Brandon Jones and had 81 tackles. One of the bigger disappointments. He faded in the second half after a strong September, but still has a lot of promise.

Texas will have the best secondary in the Big 12 and one of the most athletic and versatile in college football.

Uh, major failure here. I still believe in the talent in the secondary, but it did not translate on the field. Hence, Chris Ash has replaced Todd Orlando. For one, the defensive backfield just couldn’t stay healthy, setting it back.

I predicted that Caden Sterns would top the team with six picks. He had none and missed four games. And I said Brandon Jones would have four. He had two but also played hurt. I thought the team would total 15 interceptions with two returned for touchdowns. Texas had 12 and didn’t run any back.

I also predicted that two Longhorns would get flagged for targeting. Two did — Jalen Green and Roach.

Texas place kicker Cameron Dicker (17) celebrates after kicking the game-winning field goal to defeat Kansas State 27-24 in an NCAA college football game on Saturday, Nov. 9, 2019, in Austin, Texas. [NICK WAGNER/AMERICAN-STATESMAN]
Cameron Dicker will be more accurate after hitting 18 of his 25 field goals.

I wrote that the sophomore kicker would boot 21 of 26 field goal tries, make two from beyond 50 yards and have one game-winner. He missed four instead of five, hitting 13 of 17 in limited tries. He made one of his two tries from 50-plus yards. He had a pair of game-winners, beating Kansas and Kansas State at the wire.

Punter Ryan Bujcevski will be much improved.

But I also said he’d have one blocked. He was adequate at 41.4 yards a punt, and didn’t have any blocked before he got hurt.

Ehlinger, Cosmi, Shackelford, Johnson, Roach, Ossai, Jones, Sterns and Dicker will make All-Big 12. 

And I predicted that others like Coburn, Whittington, Foster and Green would make the second team. Talk about a reach. Only two of those — Duvernay and Shackelford — ended up as first-team selections. Cosmi and Jones were second-teamers.

Whittington will win league Big 12 freshman of the year.

Nope. See medical chart.

Texas will go 10-2.

“That’s a leap of faith,” I wrote in August. “I’m torn between that and 9-3 out of fear Ehlinger will miss big chunks of a game or two and the lack of running back depth. If Ehlinger misses two entire games or more, all bets are off.”

Oops. Was way, way off on Tom Herman’s third season. Totally misread this team’s lack of fire and consistency problems. Totally flat performances against TCU, Iowa State and Baylor that are very alarming.

“I now think the Longhorns will beat LSU,” I continued, “because Herman has some of Bob Stoops’ Big-Game moxie and DKR will be rockin’.” (Came close.) “They will lose to Oklahoma and on the road at Iowa State, but circle those games at TCU and West Virginia,” I predicted. (Did lose to OU and Iowa State as well as TCU.)

“They will see the Sooners in a rematch in Arlington and wind up in the Cotton Bowl against Memphis,” I forecasted. Baylor trumped Texas to reach Arlington. Got Memphis right in the Cotton Bowl, but the Longhorns are bowling in the Alamo.

The overall perception, I wrote in August, is that Texas is a stout team capable of winning them all but is probably a year away from truly standing out nationally. As we know now, they’re at least a year away. But it could be even farther back, as opposed to, say, being back.

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