UT Head Coach Tom Herman watches his players at practice at Royal-Memorial Stadium on Saturday March 25, 2017. JAY JANNER / AMERICAN-STATESMAN

BEVO BEAT

The American-Statesman’s Top 25 countdown: No. 22 Texas

It's been awhile since the Longhorns have been nationally relevant. Will Tom Herman do for Texas what he did for Houston?

Posted July 8th, 2017

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Sure, it’s July. But it’s never too early to talk college football. Here’s your daily fix — our eighth annual countdown of the preseason Top 25, as selected by the American-Statesman sports staff.

Last year’s CFP semifinalists were ranked Nos. 1, 2, 7 and 17 on our 2016 list.

Today’s team: No. 22 Texas (Related coverage: Is Texas worthy of being ranked? Danny Davis makes the case for; Brian Davis makes the case against)

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Best-case scenario: At this point, just getting back to a bowl game constitutes progress. But this coaching staff expects more. Shane Buechele needs to show progress both athletically and verbally, and Chris Warren III needs to stay healthy. A defense chalk full of experienced players is eager to roll with Todd Orlando’s scheme. The Big 12 is wide open.

Worst-case scenario: Early losses to Maryland and USC would cripple this group’s psyche. The coaching staff fears losing Buechele and turning things over to freshman Sam Ehlinger, who could use more seasoning. Any injuries on the defensive line would be difficult to absorb.

The key game: Sept. 16, at USC. The rematch of the 2005 national title game will draw plenty of attention and eyeballs. Texas’ trip to USC will be a huge measuring stick for both the Longhorns and this coaching staff.

INSIDE THE LONGHORNS

Coach: Tom Herman (first year; 22-4 overall at Houston)

2016: 5-7, 3-6 in the Big 12 (no bowl)

Returning starters: 7 offense, 10 defense

Goodbye: RB D’Onta Foreman (Texans, 3rd round); QB/TE Tyrone Swoopes (Seahawks, undrafted free agent); G Kent Perkins, DT Paul Boyette Jr. (Raiders, UFA), LB Tim Cole, S Dylan Haines

Spring cleaning: Herman looked for a graduate transfer at quarterback but came up empty. Meanwhile, there was typical attrition that happens after all coaching changes. DL Jordan Elliott, G Brandon Hodges and TE Peyton Aucoin all headed elsewhere, and WR Jake Oliver quit football.

Texas quarterback Shane Buechele prepares for “The Eyes of Texas” after losing to Kansas State on Saturday, October 22, 2016 at Bill Snyder Family Stadium, Manhattan, Kansas. RICARDO B. BRAZZIELL/AMERICAN-STATESMAN

RETURNING STAT LEADERS

Passing: Shane Buechele, 236-391-2,958, 21/11

Rushing: Chris Warren III, 62-366-3 (2nd)

Receiving: Armanti Foreman, 34-420-3 (1st); Dorian Leonard 29-397-3 (4th)

Tackles: LB Anthony Wheeler, 65 (1st); DE/LB Breckyn Hager, 64 (2nd), LB Malik Jefferson, 62 (3rd)

Sacks: DE/LB Breckyn Hager, 6 (1st); LB Malik Jefferson, 5.5 (2nd)

RETURNING ALL-CONFERENCE PLAYERS (8)

Offense: QB Shane Buechele (offensive freshman of the year), OT Connor Williams (1st team, offensive lineman of the year), C Zach Shackelford (hon. men.)

Defense: DL Malcolm Roach (freshman defensive player of the year), P Michael Dickson (special teams player of the year), DL Breckyn Hager (2nd team), DT Poona Ford (hon. men.), DT Chris Nelson (hon. men.)

University of Texas lineman Connor Williams warms up before the Longhorns game against Cal Sept. 19, 2015 at Darrell K. Royal Memorial Stadium in Austin, TX.

TEXAS: FYI

Poll position: Just because Texas has a new coaching staff does not mean the program will return to national prominence overnight. Remember, UT has cracked the final Associated Press Top 25 poll only once this decade — 19th, back in 2012. Herman faces a tall task, but there are incredible rewards if he can get it done.

Watching Williams: Fans should really enjoy LT Connor Williams. Assuming he stays injury free, Williams should go through the season as one of the best left tackles in college football and jump into the 2018 NFL draft. Williams’ play should motivate Patrick Hudson and Denzel Okafor. But while the left side of the offensive line is set, the right tackle position is a huge question mark.

The whistle whisperer: With Herman at the controls, there should be fewer in-game coaching mistakes. No more botched coin tosses. No more questionable decisions on fourth-down play calls or whether to punt. And for goodness sake, with an emphasis on special teams, no more blocked extra points. Eliminating self-inflicted mistakes alone could notch a victory or two.

Texas' schedule

DATEOPPONENTLAST YR'S RESULT (IF PLAYED)
Sept. 2Maryland
Sept. 9San Jose State
Sept. 16at USC
Sept. 28at Iowa State*W, 27-6
Oct. 7Kansas State*L, 24-21
Oct. 14Oklahoma*L, 45-40
Oct. 21Oklahoma State*L, 49-31
Oct. 28at Baylor*W, 35-34
Nov. 4at TCU*L, 31-9
Nov. 11Kansas*L, 24-21
Nov. 18at West Virginia*L, 24-20
Nov. 24Texas Tech*W, 45-37
* Big 12 game

The last 5 years

YEARW-L (CONF.)RANKINGBOWL GAME
TOTAL33-30 (24-21)1-2 in bowls
20129-4 (5-4)15th/19thW, Alamo
20138-5 (7-2)NR/NRL, Alamo
20146-7 (5-4)NR/NRL, Texas
20155-7 (4-5)NR/NRNo bowl
20165-7 (3-6)NR/NRNo bowl

Note: Ranks are that year’s preseason/final rankings.

 

2016 NATIONAL TEAM STAT RANKS

Scoring: 46th (31.9 ppg)

Points allowed: 90th (31.5 ppg)

Passing: 50th (252.0 ypg)

Rushing: 17th (239.3 ypg)

Total off.: 16th (491.3 ypg)

Total def.: 94th (448.3 ypg)

OUR TOP 25 SO FAR

No. 25: Boise State

No. 24: Oregon

No. 23: Tennessee

No. 22: Texas

No. 21: Coming Sunday. Want a hint? This school is one of only a few that produced at least one player taken in the NFL, MLB, NBA and WNBA drafts this year. Oh, and it’s a Big 12 team.

BY CONFERENCE

1: Big 12 (22-Texas); Mountain West (25-Boise State); Pac-12 (24-Oregon); SEC (23-Tennessee)

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