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Top 25 Athlon Team Previews: Texas Longhorns

2009 Record: 13-1 (7-0 in Big 12)
Head Coach: Mack Brown
Sam Acho :: James D. Smith/Icon SMI
2010 Schedule
Sept. 4at Rice (Reliant Stadium)
Sept. 11Wyoming
Sept. 18at Texas Tech
Sept. 25UCLA
Oct. 2at Oklahoma
Oct. 16at Nebraska
Oct. 23Iowa State
Oct. 30Baylor
Nov. 6at Kansas State
Nov. 13Oklahoma State
Nov. 20Florida Atlantic
Nov. 25Texas A&M (Dallas, Texas)
2009 Results
Sept. 5UL-MonroeW59-20
Sept. 12at WyomingW41-10
Sept. 19Texas TechW34-24
Sept. 26UTEPW64-7
Oct. 10ColoradoW38-14
Oct. 17vs. OklahomaW16-13
Oct. 24at MissouriW41-7
Oct. 31at Oklahoma StateW41-14
Nov. 7UCFW35-3
Nov. 14at BaylorW47-14
Nov. 21KansasW51-20
Nov. 26at Texas A&MW49-39
Dec. 5vs. NebraskaW13-12
Jan. 7vs. Alabama (BCS Championship)L37-21
2009 Rankings
OFFENSEPER GAMEBIG 12NAT'L
Scoring39.3 ppg13
Rushing147.6 ypg561
Passing273.6622
Total421.2 ypg529
DEFENSEPER GAMEBIG 12NAT'L
Scoring16.7 ppg312
Rushing72.4 ypg11
Passing179.6 ypg219
Total251.9 ypg13
TO MARGINPER GAMEBIG 12NAT'L
+9+0.64115
2010 Projected Rosters
OFFENSE
WRMalcolm Williams (Jr.)Mike Davis (Fr.)
WRMarquise Goodwin (So.)DeSean Hales (So.)
WRJames Kirkendoll (Sr.)John Chiles (Sr.)
LTKyle Hix (Sr.)Paden Kelley (Fr.)
LGMichael Huey (Sr.)Mason Walters (Fr.)
CDavid Snow (Jr.)Garrett Porter (Fr.)
RGTray Allen (Sr.)Thomas Ashcraft (Fr.)
RTBritt Mitchell (Sr.)Luke Poehlmann (So.)
TEGreg Smith (Sr.)Barrett Matthews (So.)
QBGarrett Gilbert (So.)Sherrod Harris (Sr.)
RBTre' Newton (So.)Fozzy Whittaker (Jr.)
DEFENSE
DEAlex Okafor (So.)Jackson Jeffcoat (Fr.)
DTKheeston Randall (Jr.)Ashton Dorsey (Fr.)
DTCalvin Howell (So.)Taylor Bible (Fr.)
DESam Acho (Sr.)Eddie Jones (Sr.)
SLBKeenan Robinson (Jr.)Dravannti Johnson (So.)
MLBDustin Earnest (Sr.)Ryan Roberson (So.)
WLBEmmanuel Acho (Jr.) Jordan Hicks (Fr.)
CBCurtis Brown (Sr.)Chykie Brown (Sr.)
CBAaron Williams (Jr.)Eryon Barnett (Fr.)
SSChristian Scott (Jr.)Kenny Vaccaro (So.)
FSBlake Gideon (Jr.)Nolan Brewster (Jr.)
SPECIAL TEAMS
KJustin Tucker (Jr.)KRM. Goodwin (So.)
PJohn Gold (Sr.)PRAaron Williams (Jr.)
RETURNING LEADERS
Passing: Garrett Gilbert (310 yards, 2 TDs, 4 INT)
Rushing: Tre' Newton (116 car, 552 yds, 6 TDs)
Receiving: James Kirkendoll (48 rec, 461 yds, 6 TDs)
Tackles: Keenan Robinson (74, 42 solo)
Sacks: Sam Acho (10)
Interceptions: Blake Gideon (6 for 31 yds)
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PLAYERS TO WATCH

Sam Acho, DE/DT: Led the team in 2009 with 10 sacks while also forcing two fumbles and recovering a team-best four fumbles.

Kheeston Randall, DT: Proved himself on the nation's top-ranked run defense in 2009 (72.4 ypg) and also notched nine quarterback pressures and a forced fumble.

Aaron Williams, CB: The lockdown corner has been playing the nickel because he's fast enough to cover the slot and strong enough to provide run support.

Garrett Gilbert, QB: The five-star recruit from Austin has a bigger arm than Colt McCoy, but is facing a ton of expectations.

Tre' Newton, RB: Emerged as the go-to guy late last year because he can run (4.8 yards per carry), catch and pick up the blitz.

IMPORTANT LOSSES

Colt McCoy, QB: His 45 wins as a starter and 76.7-percent completion rate in 2008 are NCAA records.

Jordan Shipley, WR: Set single-season records for receptions (116) and yards (1,485) last season while also making huge plays on special teams.

Lamarr Houston, DT: The driving force behind Texas' top-ranked rushing defense in 2009 also recorded eight sacks.

Sergio Kindle, DE/OLB: Led the team with 36 QB pressures in 2009 and recorded 2.5 sacks in the BCS Championship Game.

Earl Thomas, S: Left for the NFL after posting eight interceptions in 2009.

NUMBERS GAME

30: Number of consecutive games Garrett Gilbert has won as a starting quarterback, dating back to consecutive state title seasons at Lake Travis (Texas) High.

OFFENSE

Mack Brown will go old-school with his offense in 2010, replacing the shotgun, zone-read, spread attack that helped Texas win a national title with Vince Young in 2005 with a power-running game and play-action passing with the quarterback under center.

Brown didn't like the way Texas ran the ball last season, when the 'Horns averaged just 4.0 yards per carry, their lowest since 2002. But he also wants to help take pressure off sophomore quarterback Garrett Gilbert, who replaces four-year starter Colt McCoy.

"Our offense was built to have Colt beat teams with his arm because he was so accurate," Brown said. "We're not saying Garrett can't carry out the same offense. But we want to go back to being more balanced."

On an offense seeking to replace the quarterback, top receiver (Jordan Shipley) and three fifth-year seniors on the line, Gilbert is no longer a major question mark. He bounced back from the shock of having to relieve an injured McCoy just five plays into the BCS national title game against Alabama with an impressive spring and will be aided this season by a stable of running backs led by sophomore Tre' Newton, a receiving corps led by junior Malcolm Williams and four seniors on the offensive line.

DEFENSE

The nation's No. 1-ranked rushing defense in 2009 has some key holes to fill, including DT Lamarr Houston, DE Sergio Kindle, LB Roddrick Muckelroy (the team's leading tackler the past two season) and ball-hawking S Earl Thomas (8 INTs last season).

But coordinator Will Muschamp is confident he has the players to fill those key roles, starting with DE Sam Acho (10 sacks last season), DT Kheeston Randall, LBs Keenan Robinson and Emmanuel Acho and S Blake Gideon, who had six interceptions last season.

"Our expectations will never change at Texas," Muschamp said.

SPECIALISTS

Jr. Justin Tucker, who has never attempted a field goal in college, must replace Hunter Lawrence, who was 6-of-6 on field goals in victories over Oklahoma the past two years and booted the game-winner from 46 yards in the Big 12 title game. John Gold has been a solid punter, and Texas has big-play men in the return game led by Marquise Goodwin and D.J. Monroe, who both had kick returns for touchdowns last season, and punt returner Aaron Williams.

FINAL ANALYSIS

The defenses under Muschamp have been championship caliber, and with a secondary containing three NFL-caliber players, this year should be no different.

But Gilbert and Texas' new-look offense will need to find a comfort zone quickly, because Texas faces a tough four-game stretch starting Sept. 18 (at Texas Tech, UCLA, Oklahoma in Dallas, at Nebraska).

If Texas can survive that run unblemished, the Longhorns will again be the favorite to win the Big 12 title and could possibly make a return trip to the BCS national championship game.

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