Coach:Mack Brown (115-26 in 11 seasons; 200-100-1 overall in 25 seasons.) | Staff In 2008: 12-1 overall, 7-1 in Big 12 (tied for first in Big 12 South). Beat Ohio State in the Fiesta Bowl.
Returning starters: Offense: 7. Defense: 7. Special teams: 2. | Depth Chart Final 2008 Rivals.com ranking: 3rd. | Complete Final 2008 Rankings Past four Rivals.com national recruiting rankings: 5th in 2009, 14th in '08, 5th in '07, 5th in '06.
THE SCHEME: Texas runs the spread, with an emphasis on the zone read. There are indications the Longhorns will have the quarterback under center more often this season.
STAR POWER: Perhaps no individual in the country meant more to his team's success last season than senior QB Colt McCoy, who ranked third in the nation in passing efficiency. McCoy, the Heisman runner-up, passed for 3,859 yards and led the Longhorns in rushing with 561 yards. Though coaches would rather he didn't duplicate his team-leading rushing effort, McCoy remains the key to Texas' success. He has great mobility, is a strong passer and possesses the ability to turn broken plays into big ones. McCoy also has a knack of completing the 7-yard pass on third-and-6.
IMPACT NEWCOMER: Redshirt freshman D.J. Grant originally was listed here, but he sustained a season-ending knee injury that will require surgery. Running back also is a position of need. The Longhorns are using a committee approach, but would love for someone to take over the position or at least play a big part in the committee. Perhaps true freshman Chris Whaley, a 6-foot-3, 235-pound four-star recruit will fill that role. If not him, maybe redshirt freshman Tre Newton can handle the job; he is the son of former NFL offensive lineman Nate Newton.
WATCH FOR HIM TO EMERGE: Someone needs to pick up the production of departed WR Quan Cosby, who led the Longhorns with 92 catches last season. Look out for sophomore Malcolm Williams, a big target with the speed to be a deep threat. Williams caught 17 passes for an average of 17.9 yards as a freshman. He had a 91-yard touchdown grab against Texas Tech. With a more prominent role in the offense, he'll get more passes thrown his way and could develop into the next big-play receiving threat in the receiver-rich Big 12.
STRONGEST AREA: When a Heisman contender is at quarterback, that has to be a point of strength. Backup QB Sherrod Harris has limited playing experience and incoming freshman Garrett Gilbert has to make the transition to the college game. Fortunately for Texas, McCoy will be protected by an experienced line that returns four full-time starters. T Adam Ulatoski and C Chris Hall have earned All-Big 12 acclaim.
BIGGEST PROBLEM: Will the Longhorns just junk the tight end position? There is optimism about Grant's ability, but an undersized redshirt freshman tight end doesn't make for a best-case scenario. The most productive tight end in '08 was Blaine Irby, who managed 10 catches but played in only three games because of a knee injury. That injury will keep him out this season, too. No other tight end on the roster has more than one college catch.
THE SCHEME: A 4-3 defense is as familiar to Texas fans as the Alamo, beef barbecue and Shiner beer. That will remain the Longhorns' base set. But don't be surprised if the Longhorns show more three-man fronts in '09 because of questions at tackle and good depth at linebacker.
STAR POWER: From the minute senior Sergio Kindle signed with Texas as a five-star linebacker prospect, big things were expected. He delivered last season with 10 sacks. This season, he's moving to end full time to further capitalize on his pass-rushing ability. Kindle earned All-Big 12 honors last season; All-America recognition could come this season.
IMPACT NEWCOMER: A pass-rushing threat is needed opposite Kindle. The Longhorns have plenty of candidates to fill that role, and true freshman E Alex Okafor is one of them. A five-star prospect, Okafor had 12 sacks as a high school senior. Texas isn't counting on 12 sacks; rather, it will be enough if Okafor can complement Kindle and provide consistent pressure - even if it's just on obvious passing downs.
WATCH FOR HIM TO EMERGE: The departure of Roy Miller is a big blow to the Longhorns' interior. Sophomore Kheeston Randall will significantly ease the loss if he plays to expectations. Randall appeared in eight games as a true freshman and has added 21 pounds to get up to 288 on his 6-5 frame. He has nimble feet, so he's physically ready to take over a starting job. If he proves mentally ready, the Longhorns could again be quite good up front.
STRONGEST AREA: Linebacker is so well-stocked that moving Kindle to end full time made perfect sense. Senior Roddrick Muckelroy made 112 tackles last season - 40 more than anyone else on the team - and has all-conference potential. Jared Norton is a solid starter in the middle, and coaches feel sophomores Emmanuel Acho and Keenan Robinson have all-star potential.
BIGGEST PROBLEM: A big reason Texas ranked third nationally in rushing defense last season was the presence of Miller, who was taken in the third round of the NFL draft. His departure may leave Texas vulnerable in the interior. Lamarr Houston, a converted end who had 22 tackles last season, is a returning starter, but the Longhorns are counting on players with potential rather than production at the other tackle. Although there are high hopes for Randall, he managed just two tackles in '08. Aside from Houston, no tackles on this season's roster managed more than four stops last season. Incoming freshman Calvin Howell may be pressed into service immediately.
How good is Texas' kicking game? Well, Ryan Bailey has converted 25-of-30 field goals in his career and Justin Tucker averaged 45.2 yards on 14 punts last season. Yet, they're not even sure-fire starters. K Hunter Lawrence earned All-Big 12 recognition last season after converting 10-of-12 field goals and scoring 90 points. P John Gold averaged 45 yards on 21 attempts in '08. The return game is productive, too. WR Jordan Shipley averaged 26.3 yards on kickoff returns and had a key touchdown against Oklahoma. He also could return punts, although speedy redshirt freshman DeSean Hales might be an attractive option. The Longhorns covered punt wells in '08, but they need to get much better in kickoff coverage.
The days when critics would refer to Mack Brown as "February's coach" - great recruiter, questionable game-day coach - are gone. Or at least they should be. Brown is a tremendous recruiter, and his ability to rack up early commitments has helped change the recruiting process. But he's had tremendous on-field success since arriving in Austin in 1997 and inheriting an underachieving program. The Longhorns have posted at least nine victories in each of their 11 seasons under Brown and have a streak of eight seasons with at least 10 wins, which includes a national championship in 2005. The knock on him now is that he has won just one conference championship. Still, the criticism that Brown has received pales to that heaped on offensive coordinator Greg Davis over the years. Davis has been blasted for being too conservative, but Texas consistently has fielded one of the most explosive offensive teams in the nation. A big reason for that success is line coach Mac McWhorter, who annually assembles a solid line. On the other side, fiery defensive coordinator Will Muschamp - Texas' coach-in-waiting - generally is recognized as one of the best in his field. Last season was his first at Texas and he upgraded a leaky unit, but significant improvement still is needed against the pass. The Longhorns made just six interceptions last season, an embarrassingly low number.
Some might dismiss the Longhorns' list of non-conference opponents as a collection of cupcakes. Still, three of those teams have posted stunning upsets over "Big Six" teams the past two seasons: Louisiana-Monroe defeated Alabama and UCF upset North Carolina State in '07 and Wyoming defeated Tennessee last year. In addition, UTEP is a legitimate championship contender in Conference USA. There's no questioning the degree of difficulty in the conference schedule. Texas gets a break by playing at home against Texas Tech, which typically is much stronger at home than on the road. October is the month of reckoning, especially in a three-game stretch that features games against Oklahoma, Missouri and Oklahoma State - and none are at home. Texas has a tendency to stumble late in the season. Beware Nov. 21, when Kansas visits Austin, the hometown of Jayhawks star QB Todd Reesing.
A shot at the national championship literally slipped through the Longhorns' grasp last season: The drop of a tipped pass on a would-be interception was all that separated Texas from an unbeaten regular season and a probable shot at the national title. But Texas will be strong contenders again this season. The schedule, which last year included four consecutive games against top-11 opponents, doesn't appear quite as treacherous. McCoy directs an offense that has seven returning starters. In the second season under Muschamp, the defense figures to be improved, especially if new line starters play at an acceptable level. The pass defense figures to be upgraded. The annual midseason grudge match against Oklahoma appears to be the key to winning the Big 12 South. But Texas has beaten OU twice in the past three seasons only to lose later in the season. Should the Longhorns get by OU again, they still have to prove they can close the deal.