- In Tom Herman's third year as head coach, Texas is ready to make the jump to becoming a playoff contender.
Our college football 2019 season preview issue is here, which means we're checking in with all 25 teams from SI's official preseason Top 25 ranking. What do you need to know about each of this year's top contenders, from top-ranked Alabama down to Stanford? We'll be rolling out scouting reports for each team over the next two weeks, all of which are being collected here. Next up, it's No. 5 Texas.
THE BIG STORY
In Tom Herman's third year as head coach, Texas is ready to make the jump to becoming a playoff contender. The development of quarterback Sam Ehlinger has been key, but so has Herman's recruiting: The Longhorns are starting to reap the rewards of two straight top-five recruiting classes arriving in Austin and have closed the talent gap on Oklahoma, which topped Texas in the Big 12 title game.
Ehlinger loses his top receiver Lil'Jordan Humphrey from last season but has another NFL-level talent in Collin Johnson, who opted to return for his senior year. Johnson, who caught 68 passes for 985 yards, is a 6'6", 220-pound Biletnikoff contender who presents nightmare matchups. Johnson and the offensive line, led by Zach Shackelford, make up a big reason why the Longhorns' passing attack could rival Oklahoma's.
The Longhorns defense was third in the Big 12 in yards per play (5.6), but only three defensive starters are back. Will the young talent from Herman's first few recruiting classes be ready to make an impact this fall? In a conference loaded with high-powered offenses, Texas's less than seasoned unit must make quick progress.
Last year safety Caden Sterns became the first Texas true freshman defensive back in over a decade to start the first 13 games of his career. He took Big 12 Defensive Freshman of the Year honors during a season in which he supplied a number of memorable moments, including a blocked field goal against USC and a key interception against Tulsa. This year the top recruit in Tom Herman's 2018 class will have to do even more in a young and inexperienced defense. With All-Big 12 cornerback Kris Boyd graduating, Sterns, who led the team with four interceptions last year, becomes the leader of Texas's secondary.
OVER OR UNDER?
Over 9.5 wins. Aside from the clashes with LSU and Oklahoma, the Longhorns should be favored in every game this season
THE BOTTOM LINE
It's been more than a decade since Texas won 10 games or more in back-to-back seasons. After a 10-win season in 2018, anything short of double-digit wins would be a disappointment in Austin.