Texas Longhorns at a glance
Coach: Mack Brown
Coach Year at school: 15th
2011 record: 8-5, 4-5 Big 12
Last year vs. KU: The Longhorns held the Jayhawks to 46 yards total offense, three first downs and negative-two yards rushing in a 43-0 rout on Oct. 29, 2011, in Austin, Texas.
Returning starters: 17
Impact newcomers: Brandon Moore, 6-6, 330, DT, Texas; Donald Hawkins, 6-5, 320, OL; Malcolm Brown, 6-2, 295, DT; Johnathan Gray, 5-10, 205, RB.
Key games: Sept. 15 at Ole Miss; Oct. 6 vs. West Virginia; Oct. 13 vs. Oklahoma in Dallas.
Vs. Kansas: Oct. 27 in Lawrence.
Note: This story is a part of the 2012 KU football preview section that appears in Sunday's Journal-World.
Following a disappointing 8-5 season a year ago, Texas’ biggest question mark is the same in 2012 as it was in 2011.
That would be the quarterback position, where sophomore David Ash and junior Case McCoy return after inconsistent play last season.
“That’s a key to us being better is we need to play better at quarterback,” UT coach Mack Brown said. “And I think that means we need to have more explosive plays from that position and at the same time we need to protect the ball better.”
Though Brown is claiming that both quarterbacks left spring practices “even,” those around the program believe that Ash will be the Longhorns’ Game One starter barring an injury.
His numbers last season weren’t pretty. Ash completed just 57 percent of his passes with four touchdowns and eight interceptions. He also was indecisive, as he was sacked 16 times in part-time duty.
Mike Davis (45 catches, 609 yards) and Jaxon Shipley (44 catches, 607 yards) return as the Longhorns’ top two receiving options, though UT’s greatest strength offensively is at running back.
Sophomores Joe Bergeron and Malcolm Brown are at the top of the depth chart after combining for more than 1,200 yards last year, while true freshman Jonathan Gray comes to Austin after being ranked the No. 1 RB in the class of 2012 by Rivals.com.
Though Texas also brings back six offensive linemen with some starting experience, Brown said that his coaches will resist the temptation to become a one-dimensional team.
“We feel like to win our league, which is what we want to do, we’ve got to be balanced and we’ve got to be able to throw it as well as run it,” Browns said. “So we do not want to be a running football team. We’d like to be a team that can do both.”
Defensively, the Longhorns are loaded with talent.
That starts up front, where senior Alex Okafor and junior Jackson Jeffcoat both were named to the preseason All-Big 12 team.
Jeffcoat posted 21 tackles-for-loss and eight sacks a year ago, while Okafor was right behind with 14 TFLs and seven sacks.
Junior linebacker Jordan Hicks will be relied upon more following the departure of leading tackler Emmanuel Acho.
“He’s played in some big ball games and played very well for us,” Brown said of Hicks. “He’s stayed healthy and he needs to be the leader in the middle of that defense and kind of captain of the defense for us.”
Senior free safety Kenny Vaccaro is a preseason All-Big 12 pick after posting eight tackles-for-loss, eight pass breakups and two interceptions in 2011, while Brown believes junior Carrington Byndom should compete for national awards at cornerback.
“Carrington will be one of the best defensive backs that we’ve had,” Brown said. “He’s smart. He’s in great condition. He’s very confident.”