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You’ve heard it before. “Charlie Strong left Tom Herman a roster that could contend for a New Year’s Six Bowl”. “Texas returns the most starters in the Big 12,” et cetera, et cetera. It’s true, from a pure talent perspective, Texas has a top-15 caliber team. Computer metrics like Bill Connely’s S&P+ has the Longhorns at or close to double digit wins. They will have to replace D’Onta Foreman and a few people on the offensive line, but other than that, the Longhorns return pretty much everyone from a team that could have gone 10-2 (5 of the 7 Texas losses in 2016 were by 7 points or less).
As I mentioned earlier, the Longhorns to lose one key player. D’Onta Foreman. Foreman carried the ball for Texas more than almost any other player in the nation, but Texas seems to have his replacement already lined up. Chris Warren, who was injured in 2016, was the #8 runningback in the class of 2015, and he seems to be the heir apparent to Forman. The Longhorns do return their quarterback, Shane Buechele, but Buechele’s starting job might be in jeopardy. He struggled mightily down the stretch last year, throwing more interceptions than touchdowns in the last four games.
Perhaps the best player on this Texas roster is the leader of the defense,. Malik Jefferson, who will be a high NFL draft pick in the next couple of years, is expected to make a big impact in his junior season under new coordinator Todd Orlando. Jefferson won freshman of the year in 2015, and if he continues on this trajectory, he could be a star on Sundays.
The Verdict: Texas’ roster is top tier, and with Bob Stoops stepping down, the gap just shrunk a little bit more. If they can win close games unlike last year, and the team takes to Herman and Orlando’s coaching quickly, this team could return to the top of the Big 12 faster than you might think.