Texas head coach Tom Herman smiles as he waits with his players to take the field before an NCAA college football game against Oklahoma at the Cotton Bowl in Dallas, Texas, on Saturday, Oct. 6, 2018. [NICK WAGNER/AMERICAN-STATESMAN]

Kirk Bohls

American-Statesman Staff

Column

Bohls: Texas exceeded preseason predictions — well, at least mine, anyway

Posted January 3rd, 2019

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Story highlights
  • Best prediction was an 8-4 regular season for the Longhorns, who went 9-4 before crushing Georgia in the Sugar Bowl.
  • Second best were the season results for an outstanding Collin Johnson and an up-and-down Cameron Dicker.
  • Texas wrapped up the year with terrific years from Sam Ehlinger, Charles Omenihu, and a host of freshman defensive backs.

So, to recap four months later.

Texas just pounded an SEC team to infuriate Georgia (and Texas A&M) fans everywhere, star wide receiver Collin Johnson is returning to school for his senior season, quarterback Sam Ehlinger, who wears his heart on his sleeve — and apparently his play-calling wristband, too — has a great weapon returning, Tom Herman looks like the guy for the job, and Bevo has forever bragging rights.

All that’s lacking was …. well, nothing really.

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With that as a backdrop, here’s a look back at my August predictions (after seeing maybe 15 minutes of one practice):

1. Chris Del Conte will get indigestion from eating on Bevo Boulevard with every fan he encounters. He seemed fine on the Superdome field after the game.

2. Herman and old boss Urban Meyer will not exchange texts or DMs. I’m fairly certain the two aren’t on the best of terms these days.

3. Ehlinger will run over somebody. Someone will run over Ehlinger. This will be repeated often. OK, so this was as safe as it gets. But Ehlinger gave better than he got.

4. Shane Buechele will start three games. Started none, but played almost the entire Baylor game and was a perfect 10-for-10 in the second half against Iowa State.

5. Ehlinger will start nine. He started all 14.

Texas wide receiver Lil’Jordan Humphrey (84) breaks a tackle by Iowa State defensive back Brian Peavy (10) to score a touchdown in the second half of a Big 12 Conference football game at Royal-Memorial Stadium, Saturday, Nov. 17, 2018. [Stephen Spillman for Statesman]
6. Buechele will not transfer before the season. So far, so good. But I’d still expect him to leave, play for a school like SMU and work on his master’s. He and Jerrod Heard were the consummate teammates.

7. Johnson or LJ Humphrey will each have a breakout game. Johnson went off against TCU and Baylor and was a virtuoso against Oklahoma in the Big 12 title game with eight catches for 177 yards and a TD. Humphrey had four 100-yard games, the season’s quintessential plays with his pile-driving play against OU and 159 yards and winning catch in Lubbock.

8. LJ will score at least two TDs on the ground, eight through the air with 920 yards. He had nine receiving touchdowns and one rushing score and 1,109 yards in the regular season. He also threw a TD pass.

9. Texas will start eight different offensive linemen. More like six. That unit stayed unbelievably healthy. The starters missed a total of three games.

10. A Longhorns tight end will catch 15 passes this season. Andrew Beck’s a likely choice. Beck had 27 receptions.

Texas defensive back Caden Sterns (7) pumps up the crowd against Tulsa in Austin on Sept. 8, 2018. NICK WAGNER / AMERICAN-STATESMAN

11. This will mark the Longhorns’ best freshman class in at least a decade. At least four will start a game and at least a dozen will play, several of them dramatically. Fifteen played, and six started a game if you count wide receiver Brennan Eagles and cornerback Anthony Cook for one game apiece.

12. Rookie safety Caden Sterns will be the Big 12’s freshman of the year. He won that honor but tailed off the second half, partly because of injuries, which also kept him out of the Sugar Bowl.

13. Linebacker  Gary Johnson will star as an All-Big 12 honoree with 122 tackles. He made the second team and had 90 tackles.

14. Texas will write sob letters to Michael Dickson, asking him to return. Yes. Ryan Bujcevski was hot and cold.

15. Defensive end Breckyn Hager will be sorely tempted to cut his hair after Texas’ first conference loss, but will be talked off the ledge — or the barber’s chair — by Beck. The hair hadn’t been touched as of the Sugar Bowl. He had a disappointing season and didn’t make a tackle against Georgia.

Texas kicker Cameron Dicker (17) holds up his horns after kicking the winning field goal in Texas’ 48-45 win over Oklahoma at the Cotton Bowl in Dallas on Oct. 6, 2018. [NICK WAGNER/AMERICAN-STATESMAN]
16. Herman will use two field goal kickers. Between Cameron Dicker and Joshua Rowland, they will make 18 of 25. Dicker will kick 14 of 19, including a 50-yarder, and Rowland will be 4 of 6. Dicker never lost his job, had the winning kick against OU and, counting the bowl game, made exactly 18 of 25 with a  52-yarder at Tech.

17. Freshman Keaontay Ingram will be the Longhorns’ leading rusher with 823 yards and seven scores. He will look dynamic and appear to be the long-awaited answer at running back. He battled injuries and finished with 683 yards and three touchdowns, but almost broke a zillion runs. He figures to be very good.

18. I’d look for Daniel Young to be next in line with 589 yards and seven touchdowns with Tre Watson filling in the gaps and adding another 423 yards and four scores. Young was a mop-up guy, and Watson impressed with his hard running style, leading the team with 695 yards and three scores.

19. Toneil Carter will lead the backfield in receptions with 21 but also have three fumbles. Carter didn’t play and announced he was transferring.

20. The American-Statesman will write 82 articles on who’s calling the plays. Readers should have taken the under.

Texas quarterback Sam Ehlinger (11) runs for a first down in the second quarter against Oklahoma safety Robert Barnes (20) during Big 12 Conference championship NCAA collage football game at the AT&T Stadium in Arlington, TX Saturday, December 1, 2018. [RICARDO B. BRAZZIELL/AMERICAN-STATESMAN]
21. Lake Travis star Garrett Wilson will briefly reconsider his commitment to the Buckeyes but will sign with Ohio State in December. He did indeed sign with the Buckeyes.

22. When asked in July how many elite players he has on his roster, Herman paused and said, “Some.” In January, without flinching, he will say, “A bunch.” I didn’t get the chance to quiz him on this subject Tuesday night, but my guess is he’d mention at least eight.

23. Cornerback Kris Boyd will be named All-American. He was not. He did have some terrific plays but some that were not so terrific and got scorched by Oklahoma State. He played well against Georgia, and if he keeps his head straight should have a very good NFL career.

24. Don’t look for the same revolving door at quarterback as we saw last season, but I just can’t see Ehlinger staying upright for all 12 games. He did technically, but played just one series against Baylor before injuring his shoulder and missed the second half of Iowa State.

25. I expect the sophomore to slide occasionally, throw for 2,542 yards with 10 interceptions — two returned for touchdowns — and 15 touchdowns and one concussion. He’ll improve his accuracy to 61 percent. He’ll run for six touchdowns. Try a school-record 17 rushing scores, a school record. He had 3,123 yards and 25 touchdowns with only five picks. He made himself into a legitimate Heisman candidate for 2019, right behind Alabama’s Tua Tagovailoa and Oregon’s Justin Herbert.

Texas defensive lineman Chris Nelson (97) rubs his belly while wearing the Golden Hat following Texas’ 48-45 win over Oklahoma in an NCAA college football game at the Cotton Bowl in Dallas, Texas, on Saturday, Oct. 6, 2018. [NICK WAGNER/AMERICAN-STATESMAN]
26. Buechele will pass for 652 yards and six touchdowns with three picks. He had just 273 yards and two TDs with one pick, but rescued Texas against the Cyclones.

27. Cameron Rising will mop up in four games (try none), but keep his four years of eligibility (he did but may be leaving anyway).

28. Humphrey will star (without question), but Johnson will shine as well (he did) and catch 54 balls for 732 yards and six touchdowns. In the regular season, he had 57 receptions for 768 yards and six scores.

29. Freshman D’Shawn Jamison will be impressive in the slot (he barely had an impact other than some entertaining punt returns)  and have 18 receptions for 192 yards and two scores. Freshman Joshua Moore will catch 17 balls for 212 yards and a touchdowns. They had 11 catches between them.

30. Chris Nelson will lead a brigade of replacements (I counted nine who played on the line against Georgia, including Mr. Belly Rub), but Ta’Quon Graham will blossom at both end and tackle. He did and should be the best returning defensive lineman.

Texas defensive lineman Charles Omenihu (90) imitates a conductor after defeating Georgia 28-21 in the Sugar Bowl NCAA college football game on Wednesday, Jan. 2, 2019, in New Orleans, Louisiana. [NICK WAGNER/AMERICAN-STATESMAN]
31.  Hager will lead all Longhorns with nine sacks and win All-Big 12 honors (uh, no), followed by defensive end Charles Omenihu’s four sacks. Omenihu flourished, had 9 1/2 sacks and was voted the Big 12 defensive player of the year.

32. Sterns, B.J. Foster and Cook will all have solid to spectacular seasons to give the Longhorns the best young secondary in the Big 12 (without question).

33. Todd Orlando will continue to impress (he finally did in the Sugar Bowl) and will take a head coaching job at Texas Tech. I was right that the Red Raiders job came open, but it went to Utah State’s Matt Wells.

34. Texas will split with USC and TCU, beating the Frogs (they did that) and rise to 3-1 with a top 15 national ranking (they did and reached No. 6 at 6-1) before falling to Oklahoma, West Virginia and Kansas State and finish 8-4. They won two of those and went 9-4 before demolishing Georgia.

35. Pencil the Longhorns in the Camping World Bowl against Virginia Tech. Nope. The Sugar was much sweeter.

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