Remember the days when BCS was a goal rather than a dream for the Longhorns?
Mack Brown does, and he thinks his football team is on the verge of being ready to relive those days.
That, fans would agree, would certainly be preferable to reliving the more recent history of a combined 11-15 Big 12 record over the past three years and being outscored by Oklahoma by a combined 118-38 total over the past two years.
But Brown said Monday that he thinks his 16th Texas edition will be closer to the BCS-quality entity than whatever it has been the past three seasons.
“I do think we’re headed back in the right direction and we have another run in us,” Brown said. “I want (fans) to hang on and be positive and continue to love their school, and they’re going to enjoy the ride.”
But then Brown added an important caveat.
“We’ve got to prove it,” he said. “We’ve got everything in place, and we’ve worked two years to get it in place. But until we do it, it’s just chatter.”
For the chatter to become reality, various things must happen. Among them:
- David Ash must be The Man.
Barring injury, Ash will log his 20th career start Sept. 7 at BYU. That’s more than enough time to get settled into the quarterback position and establish consistency.
Texas needs Ash to be the quarterback who obliterated Mississippi and rallied the Longhorns for a huge victory at Oklahoma State. It can’t afford for him to be the guy who faltered badly at Kansas and seemed stricken with terminal stage fright against the Sooners.
“He definitely is at a different place than he was,” Brown said. “He is the guy on offense running the team. He is the quarterback.”
Ash’s backup, meanwhile, isn’t so definitive.
The season probably will start with senior Case McCoy returning to the role. But with McCoy on a 10-week summer mission trip to Peru, it opens the door for young quarterbacks Tyrone Swoopes and Connor Brewer to make a move, probably in that order since freshman Jalen Overstreet will be looked at for other spots (like the hybrid role played by Daje Johnson) to get his athleticism on the field.
- The O-line must excel.
That hasn’t happened since, arguably, 2006. But offensive line coach Stacy Searels has rebuilt the unit to where Brown feels there’s a chance for a legitimate two-deep.
“It’s the first time we’ve been two-deep around here in a long time,” he said. “I know we’re headed in the right direction.”
All five starters return. Junior college newcomer Desmond Harrison might be a candidate to start at left tackle, which would give Searels flexibility to possibly move around 2012 starter Donald Hawkins or guards Trey Hopkins and Mason Walters.
- The defense must bounce back.
Manny Diaz’s first Texas unit led the Big 12 in overall defense in 2011. Last year, not so much, as the younger and often out-of-place Longhorns set a school record by allowing 413.1 yards per game.
Brown, however, said he likes the way the defense played late in the season. He also likes the depth at various positions.
Those include tackle and end. In the interior, the Longhorns can rotate a quartet of Ashton Dorsey, Malcom Brown, Chris Whaley and Desmond Jackson. At end, there’s a nice mix of experience (Jackson Jeffcoat, Cedric Reed and Reggie Wilson) and youth (Shiro Davis, Bryce Cottrell and Caleb Bluiett).
“We’ve got the same system we had that was very successful two years ago with older players,” Brown said. “It wasn’t as good last year because we didn’t execute it as well. I feel like the system is sound.”
How sound will Texas be this fall? Check back Aug. 5, when the Longhorns hold their first practice of camp.