AMES — Texas. Is. Back.
For the last several years, since Mack Brown left in 2013, the question has been posed: Is Texas Back?
Texas has been a perennial power since the dawn of college football and it has an athletics budget that would make even the wealthiest blush. But it has been mired in mediocrity since Brown left.
Charlie Strong had a brief stint as the Longhorns coach from 2014-16. His best season was his first with a record of 6-7. After that he had two consecutive 5-7 seasons and in his last season, Strong only went 3-6 in the Big 12.
Strong was replaced by Tom Herman in 2017. Herman was Iowa State’s offensive coordinator from 2009-11. Herman went 7-6 in his first season at Texas with a bowl win and went 10-4 (7-2 Big 12) last season with a 28-21 Sugar Bowl win over Georgia.
Texas returns quarterback Sam Ehlinger, who is in the conversation for the Big 12’s best quarterback and is the 2019 Big 12 preseason offensive player of the year.
Ehlinger made school history last season by becoming the first Texas player to pass for at least 25 touchdowns and rush for at least 15 more. In total, Ehlinger passed for 3,292 yards with a completion percentage of 65 percent. He passed for 25 touchdowns to just five interceptions.
He also rushed for 482 yards and 16 touchdowns.
Ehlinger and Texas lost receiver Lil’Jordan Humphrey to the NFL Draft. Humphrey caught 86 passes for 1,176 yards and nine touchdowns.
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While Humphrey’s loss will be felt, Texas does return 6-foot-6 receiver Collin Johnson. Johnson caught 68 passes for 985 yards and seven touchdowns.
The Longhorns also get Devin Duvernay back. Duvernay caught 41 passes for 546 yards and four touchdowns.
To help Ehilinger and the receivers out and keep defenses off balance, Texas returns sophomore Keaontay Ingram.
As a freshman, Ingram was Texas’ second leading rusher with 708 yards on the ground and three touchdowns on 142 attempts. He also proved to be a pass-catching threat out of the backfield, catching 27 passes for 170 yards and two touchdowns.
While Herman is known as an offensive-minded coach, he’s always had a decent defense during his relatively short time as a head coach.
Texas had an above average Big 12 defense last season, allowing 25.9 points per game and 392.8 yards per game. And the defense doesn’t appear to be slowing down in 2019.
Among the leading returners for Texas’ defense is sophomore defensive back Caden Sterns. Sterns was named the Big 12 Defensive Freshman of the Year last season.
Defensive backs are a premium in the Big 12 and its style of offense, and Sterns led Texas with four interceptions. He also had 62 tackles, three tackles for loss, one sack and four pass breakups.
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Texas gets the pick of the litter every year when it comes to recruiting. It has had no shortage of talent during its down seasons, but it finally looks like it’s being put to good use.
Way too early prediction: Texas has to travel to Ames on Nov. 16, when the average high temperature is 47 degrees and the average low is 28. I don’t think weather will make that much of a difference, especially when the pads get strapped on and the players start moving, but it is something to point out.
The weather would play more of a factor if the game ended up being a night game, when the temperature would begin to drop to below freezing.
I think the game will be cold and Jack Trice Stadium will be loud.
I don’t know if Texas is actually back, but it feels like it could be. Herman is a good coach and he has a really good quarterback at his disposal.
Herman will have his guys ready for the potential cold and I have the Longhorns beating Iowa State by less than a touchdown in front of a rowdy Iowa State fan base on a frigid day.
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