If patience was already running thin in Austin with Charlie Strong after a 6-7 debut with Texas in 2014, fast-forwarding to this December might give the die-hard fans a panic attack.
Texas, which hasn’t won more than nine games since its BCS National Championship appearance in 2009, still has massive holes at key positions throughout its roster and doesn’t have any clear path to becoming a Big 12 contender this fall.
“[Texas fans] might have to be [accepting of another rebuilding season],” said CBS Sports college football writer Tom Fornelli during his Eye On College Football Podcast. “They open on the road against Notre Dame. In conference play, they’ve got to play TCU, West Virginia, and Baylor on the road. They get Oklahoma on a neutral site, and have home games against Oklahoma State, Kansas State, and Texas Tech.
“I’m looking at 8-4 or 7-5.”
The biggest factor concerning the Longhorns’ many recent struggles is instability at quarterback, which doesn’t look to be too promising again heading into April. Texas has two scholarship quarterbacks on the roster – Tyrone Swoopes and Jerrod Heard – after having four-star Zach Gentry flip to Michigan right before National Signing Day.
“It’s pretty much been the same story with Texas since Colt McCoy left,” said Fornelli. “Do they have a quarterback? We saw with Tyrone Swoopes last year that he had some good moments and a lot of bad moments.”
Swoopes, a rising junior that started 12 games last season following David Ash’s retirement due to injuries, completed 224-of-384 (58.3 percent) of his passes for 2,409 yards, 13 touchdowns and 11 interceptions, adding 262 yards and four scores on the ground. A former four-star prospect, there were times when Swoopes showed glimpses of hope as the future long-term starter, but erratic and insufficient performances against top competition (e.g. Baylor, Kansas State, TCU, Arkansas) emphasized the need for a different direction in Year 2 of the Strong era.
Texas is going to need all the help it can get from its quarterback, seeing how it lost a substantial amount of experienced production on defense this offseason.
“That’s one spot where I’m not totally sold on yet. …those are a lot of players that were A) super talented and B) had played a lot of football together,” said Chip Patterson, co-host of the show. “I’m worried that [Strong] is looking at a defense that might be performing more like his first year at Louisville than necessarily where he had them playing right before he left.”
Still, what does a young, inexperienced defense benefit from? A potent offense that can chew time off the clock – not one that ranked 67th in time of possession and 107th (!) in third-down conversions (34.3 percent) last season.
That might not be a realistic scenario for 2015.
“I don’t feel great about Swoopes. I don’t know if he really even fits into what Charlie likes to do on offense because they run that pro style and are pretty conservative,” said Fornelli. “It’s just can he take care of the ball and can he do what is asked of him if he wins the job. I’ve heard good things about Heard but haven’t seen him play so I can’t make a real judgment there, but would not be shocked if by the season rolls around Heard has won that job.”
From the looks of it, Texas fans might have to continue enduring the dry spell of being a real-time national college football contender for (at least) one more year.