Texas returns superb backfield, solid defense while leaving much to be desired on coaching staff


Lawrence Peart

Linebacker Tevin Jackson celebrates after one of Texas' 10 sacks during its victory over Oregon State in the Alamo Bowl.

Drew Lieberman

Quarterback: Assuming David Ash stays healthy and effective in every game this season, he will be a top quarterback in the Big 12. If Ash misses an extended amount of time, the Longhorns will probably struggle to replace him with only Case McCoy or a raw Tyrone Swoopes the only realistic options with Connor Brewer transferring. Grade: A


Running back: All four of Texas’ running backs could start at nearly every other school in the country and throughout the Big 12. Jonathan Gray should lead the unit, but Malcolm Brown and Daje Johnson will get touches between the 20’s and Joe Bergeron being used in goal-line situations. Grade: A


Wide receiver: The Longhorns have two studs at receiver in Mike Davis and Jaxon Shipley, with a lot of possible breakout guys available to be the third or fourth receiver. The loss of Cayleb Jones hurts, but John Harris, Kendall Sanders, Marcus Johnson, Duke Thomas or Jake Oliver should be able to fill the void. Grade: A


Tight end: The tight end position at Texas hasn’t done too much since Jermichael Finley in 2007. The potential of that changing this year isn’t very high, unless M.J. McFarland’s play takes a giant leap. This is by far the weakest group on Texas’ roster, but is also the least important on either side of the ball. Grade: D


Offensive line: This unit, led by seniors Trey Hopkins and Mason Walters, returns all five starters and is arguably the most experienced offensive line in the country. Impact additions include Darius James and JUCO transfer Desmond Harrison, both of whom could make a name for themselves early. This line has as much potential as any team in the country, but no one knows if they will reach it. Grade: B+


Defensive line: Texas’ defensive line will be fine despite losing Alex Okafor and Brandon Moore. If Jackson Jeffcoat can stay healthy, Cedric Reed or Shiro Davis should hold down the other end. Malcom Brown, Ashton Dorsey and Desmond Jackson will lead another deep tackles unit oozing with NFL-caliber talent.  Grade: B+


Linebacker: The return of Jordan Hicks should drastically help a unit that struggled in 2012.  With more experience, expect upcoming star Peter Jinkens to reach his potential alongside Dalton Santos, Steve Edmond and Kendall Thompson. Grade: B+


Secondary: Quandre Diggs could win the Thorpe Award in the next couple of seasons, and will be relied on to carry weight at either cornerback or safety. Senior cornerback Carrington Byndom and safety Adrian Philips are poised to return to 2011 form. The last DB spot is a question mark but “DBU” has enough talent to fill the spot. Grade: B+


Special teams: The losses of Marquise Goodwin and D.J. Monroe leave Texas uncertain at both kick returner spots in 2013. The place-kicking job could be shared by Nick Jordan and Nick Rose, but neither will have the fans’ and coaches’ confidence until they make that clutch kick they will be remembered by. Anthony Fera, in his second season at Texas since transferring from Penn State, could handle punting duties. Grade: D


Coaching: Mack Brown’s inability to beat Oklahoma or win conference titles, makes 10/12/13 a must-win game if he is going to be the coach that leads the Longhorns back to prominence. Inexperience is no longer an excuse, with Brown’s time at Texas in danger of running out with another mediocre campaign. Grade: C