College basketball is heading down the home stretch, college baseball has started, but let’s not forget (I know many of you aren’t) that spring practice is already getting underway across the country. We will handle spring previews for every Big 12 football team and roll them out based on when their respective spring practices begin. Next up is the Texas Longhorns who will start up spring practice on Tuesday, March 20th.
Most Exciting Returnee: QB Sam Ehlinger
There will be a ton of eyeballs on Sam Ehlinger this spring and it is easy to see why. Sam led the team in passing yards, passing touchdowns and even rushing yards last season believe it or not. To sum it up, he was pretty much the Texas offense in 2017. He averaged 212 passing yards per contest along with 11 touchdowns and 7 interceptions in 9 games. Sam also completed his 57.4% of his passes which is something that needs to be improved heading into 2018. The biggest question is can Sam Ehlinger take this quarterback job by the horns?
Most Exciting Newcomer: WR Brenan Eagles
It’s no secret that Texas struggled offensively last season. I know Texas loaded up on the defensive side of the ball, but I feel like I had to go with an offensive player here. I could have easily gone with an offensive lineman, but a wide receiver has an easier time finding playing time early. The Longhorns will still have Collin Johnson returning, but they do lose both Armanti Foreman and Reggie Hemphill-Mapps. Now insert Brennan Eagles, a top-10 wide receiver in the nation for the 2018 class. Eagles has the size (6’3.5) to be physical on the outside and really compete down the field on single coverage. He has solid quickness and if the offensive line play improves, Texas fans should be excited to see what Brennan Eagles can provide for this offense that needs a spark.
Whenever your quarterback situation hasn’t been stable since 2009, it’s a problem times ten. Longhorn fans have been desperate for someone to step up and take charge at this position for years. In this quarterback driven league, having a good quarterback is crucial and everyone knows that. Between Sam Ehlinger and Shane Buechele, someone must step up. I am not going to break it down stat by stat but what you should know is that Shane Buechele is a pocket passer who has better accuracy, but Sam Ehlinger fits the offense better with his skillset. Both guys were banged up last season, so it was kind of a plug and play at quarterback for Texas. Ultimately, I think Sam Ehlinger wins the job outright but it’s not going to be easy. The bottom line, both guys need to improve this spring.
This was, without a doubt the worst position group for Texas last season. Texas ranked 7th in rushing offense last year in the Big 12 and averaged 3.6 yards per carry. Believe it or not, Texas Tech, who runs an air raid offense, rushed for more yards last season than Texas did. That is truly mind boggling, along with giving up 34 sacks in 2017 which ranked 9th in the conference. I will say that the Longhorns were absolutely decimated with an injury plague last season with this group. With so many new faces and lineups, their struggles weren’t all that surprising. The 2018 starting lineup should look something like LT Calvin Anderson (Rice Grad Transfer) who was the biggest grad transfer target out there, LG Patrick Vahe (31 career starts), C Zach Shackelford (17 career starts), RG Patrick Hudson and RT Derek Kerstetter (10 career starts). This lineup is by no means set in stone. The RG and RT positions are most likely going to be an open competition that should play out through the spring. Other guys to keep an eye on are Mikey Grandy, J.P. Urquidez and Elijah Rodriguez.
Replacing Poona Ford
Coming up with a defensive storyline for Texas was about as difficult as deciding between your two favorite BBQ joints to chow down at. Luckily, I had some help from two die hard Longhorn fans Ryan Lee (@ryanjlee_13) and Ky Sandelovic (@Ky_San17) to help me here and I must say, I agree. While DT Poona Ford didn’t fill up the stat sheet like a superstar, he meant a TON to this defense last season especially against the run. Poona ate up double teams and clogged running lanes all year long doing the dirty work for Texas. Between Chris Nelson, D’Andre Christmas and Jamari Chisholm, somebody will have to step up. I do want to mention that DT Keondre Coburn won’t arrive until the summer so some of the veterans are going to get plenty of work in the spring.