The Longhorns need big plays from special teams on both the receiving side and the punting side. Texas ranked dead last at No. 125 last season in kickoff return defense. Texas ranked similarly on punt return defense, No. 98 overall with 336 total yards by opposing teams. On the other side, Texas ranked No. 98 last year in kickoff returns totaling 763 total yards. Texas did a little better on punt returns, ranking No. 60 overall with 177 yards. Special teams needs to learn to make big plays because they were clearly incapable of that last season.
Texas is without its two leading receivers from last season, John Harris and Jaxon Shipley, which means other guys need to step up. This is the time for senior Marcus Johnson. Johnson only had 27 receptions last year for a total of 313 yards and one touchdown. There are high hopes for Johnson that he has yet to fulfill, but this season he’s in the perfect position to be the go-to receiver. Senior Daje Johnson is finally entering a season without being suspended. Johnson has hopped around positions, and his speed can be a game-changer. If he gets hot, he could be the “it” factor for Texas offensively. Jacorey Warrick and Armanti Foreman will also get reps at receiver. They both only had 10 receptions each last season.
If Texas wants to call themselves Defensive Back University (DBU), the backs are going to need to prove it. The leaders of DBU last season, Mykkele Thompson and Quandre Diggs, both graduated. Senior cornerback Duke Thomas will need to take that leadership role. Thomas had a successful season last year and put himself on the map with 33 solo tackles and three interceptions. Sophomore Jason Hall and junior Dylan Haines will need to help out at safety. Hall had 24 solo tackles last year as a true freshman, and Haines had 45 solo tackles and three interceptions. If Hall, Thomas and Haines can continue this play, DBU will be able to handle Notre Dame’s receiving core.
This may be last, but it is the most important. Texas’ quarterbacks must step up. Junior Tyrone Swoopes is officially the starter, but redshirt freshman Jerrod Heard will also get some reps. Last year, Swoopes had a completion percentage of 58.3 percent with 13 touchdowns and 11 interceptions. If Swoopes performs like he did last season, Heard will be thrown into the game. Regardless of who is under center, one of them needs to make plays. All these other pieces are pointless if the QB cannot be a playmaker.