No. 22 – The Texas Longhorns come off the board, and is the first Big 12 team in the Top 25. The Longhorns enter 2017 after a down year and the firing of Charlie Strong after three seasons and a mediocre record of 16-21. Tom Herman arrives in Austin after the Longhorns finished 5-7, including a loss to Kansas and another bowless season. Herman is bringing in 18 recruits, highlighted by running back Toniel Carter and linebacker Gary Johnson.
Last season, Texas leaned on the 2,028 rushing yards from D’Onta Freeman for most of their offense, and with his departure to the NFL, the Longhorns look to a group of young backs to field some of the production. Texas will look for returners Chris Warren III and Kyle Porter to start the season strong in a year where Texas has higher expectations than the past few years.
Shane Buechele enters his second year as QB1 with a year under his belt and brand new coach. As a freshman, Buechele threw for 3000 yards, 21 touchdowns and 11 interceptions. Tom Herman was dubbed the “quarterback whisperer” at Ohio State and helped turn Greg Ward Jr. into a household name at Houston, so his pairing with Buechele could be a perfect match. Buechele has spent the off-season improving his arm strength, and recently won the quarterback competition at the Manning Passing Academy. If Buechele and the Longhorns start slow, look for Sam Ehlinger to get some reps and potentially become the starter.
Texas started 2016 with a cornerback duo expected to burst into stardom after Davante Davis and Holton Hill had incredible freshman seasons, but they both dropped off significantly and lost their starting spots by the end of the season. Aside from those two, Texas plans on former No. 1 safety recruit Brandon Jones taking on a bigger role. The secondary ranked 7th in the Big 12 last season, and this year the defense looks to make big strides.
Some key games for the Longhorns in 2017
– Sep. 16- Texas @ USC – Los Angeles, CA
– Oct. 14- Texas vs. OU – Dallas, TX
– Nov. 18- Texas @ West Virginia – Morgantown, WV