FanHouse's 2010 Preseason College Football Poll -- No. 4 Texas
The Colt McCoy era was actually over five snaps into last season's BCS national championship game last January. But that didn't prevent any Longhorns fans from continuing to look down the tunnel at the Rose Bowl, hoping he might make the triumphant return and rally the team past Alabama.
This season, however, there isn't the slightest bit of hope McCoy will return. The most successful four-year run of any college quarterback in history has officially come to an end.
What that all means for head coach Mack Brown and his staff is this could be a year of rebuilding and growing pains. The Garrett Gilbert era got going a game sooner than any expected or honestly would have liked, but the question now is how will the baptism by fire against the Crimson Tide carry the sophomore signal caller through this season? After a shaky start in the national title game, Gilbert recovered and began to help mount a short-lived comeback. All indications are he has picked up where he left off and has been accepted as a team leader. Here's a FanHouse TV segment where Gilbert discusses the title game and the upcoming season.
Brown has vowed to place more emphasis on the running game to take some of the pressure off Gilbert. But with perhaps his best running back still playing high school football and a slate of offensive linemen better suited for pass blocking than knocking people off the ball, Brown's dream of effectively running the ball could be put on hold.
You combine the lack of a proven running game with some serious holes to fill along the Longhorns defensive front and you could be looking at a season that is disappointing by the high standards Brown has set. But if there is a team that can overcome some youth and inexperience, it would be the Longhorns, who still have interesting talents like wide receivers Malcolm Williams and James Kirkendoll along with safety Blake Gideon and linebacker Jared Norton.
THE BASICS: Texas is coming off a stellar 13-1, 8-0 Big 12 season in which it didn't lose a game until falling to Alabama, 37-21, in the BCS national title game. The Longhorns have 10 starters returning, including four on offense and six on defense.
KEY PLAYER YOU PROBABLY DON'T THINK OF AS A KEY PLAYER: As Mack Brown looks to re-establish the run after four years of relying on Colt McCoy's accurate arm, no player may be more key than sophomore running back Tre' Newton. As a redshirt freshman, the son of former Dallas Cowboys great Nate Newton flashed at times, but there were other games where he seemed very much the freshman. Newton finished with a team-best 552 yards and six touchdowns on 116 carries. He could be key in Brown's effort to increase the Longhorns' rather ordinary 4.0 yards per carry average.
FLY IN THE OINTMENT: Last year, the Longhorns were No.1 in the nation against the run with defensive tackle Lamarr Houston, defensive end Sergio Kindle and linebacker Roddrick Muckelroy swarming to the ball and giving ball carriers few options. But with those defensive stalwarts missing, third-year defensive coordinator Will Muschamp will have his work cut out to get the same production from defensive front that only returns senior defensive end Sam Acho as a starter.
DON'T MISS: Oct. 2 vs. Oklahoma at Cotton Bowl. For a spell, Mack Brown and the Longhorns had been on the losing side of the Red River Rivalry. But the pendulum has swung in their favor in recent years with the Longhorns winning four of the past five games on the neutral field in Dallas. Texas needs to keep it going this season if it has any hope of defending its Big 12 title.
PREDICTED RECORD: 9-4
FanHouse's Texas team page with schedule