Texas is now under a month away from starting training camp in August. While all eyes are on the quarterback battle – head coach Charlie Strong hasn’t tipped his hand yet – the team faces several other questions before facing Notre Dame on Sept. 4.
Here are some of the top stories to watch heading into the season.
An offense under construction
Strong envisioned a up-tempo spread offense going into the 2015 season. However, the unit never realized that identity and floundered throughout the Longhorns’ 5-7 campaign.
Enter Sterlin Gilbert, Texas’ new offensive coordinator who was hired in December.
Gilbert brings a resume of coaching explosive, fast-paced offenses. Last season, he coached a Tulsa offense that ranked No. 21 in scoring and No. 13 in yards per game.
Strong is counting on Gilbert to bring a similar boost to the 40 acres. He says Gilbert’s offense fits the team’s personnel – most of the team’s players come from spread backgrounds at Texas high schools.
A smooth transition toward Gilbert’s offense would go a long way towards Texas’ hopes for a bounce-back year.
Freshmen making a splash
Last season, the Longhorns weren’t shy about playing freshmen. Strong and his staff emphasized that the best players will play despite any lack of experience. In total, around 15 freshmen played critical roles for Texas last season.
And it may be more of the same this year.
The Longhorns added some top-notch talent in its 2016 recruiting class, which ranks No. 7, according to 247sports. The class features quarterback Shane Buechele, who threw for 299 yards and two touchdowns at the Orange-White game in April. It also brings in an abundance of playmakers, including wide receivers Devin Duvernay – the team’s highest rated commit – and Collin Johnson.
Defensively, freshmen should contribute immediately up-front. The team added six defensive linemen, including four-star defensive tackles Jordan Elliott and Chris Daniels.
Expect the depth chart to be full of young talent come September.
A deep wide receiver competition
Texas has searched for a go-to receiving target since Mike Davis graduated in 2014. With a crowded receiving corps, Strong hopes the team finds its answer outside this offseason.
Sophomore John Burt led the team in receiving last season and is expected to pick up where he left off as a starter. But outside of Burt, the group has a lot of question marks – and a lot of potential.
Johnson and Duvernay are both young, but talented options. Standing at 6-foot-6, Johnson excelled as a red-zone target and one-on-one play-maker in spring practices. Duvernay brings the speed needed for big plays – he scored 22 touchdowns as a senior at Sachse High School.
The two freshmen will compete for playing time against several veteran players, including senior Jacorey Warrick and juniors Armanti Foreman, Lorenzo Joe and Dorian Leonard.
The Longhorns are counting on a few receivers to emerge from the field and boost the team’s passing attack.