The Texas Longhorns are about to become one of college football’s more hotly debated teams of the offseason.
Some pundits will key in on a runner-up finish in the Big 12 and a Sugar Bowl win over the Georgia Bulldogs as signs that UT can contend for a bid to the College Football Playoff. Skeptics will point out the Horns won seven games by seven points or fewer last season, including against the likes of Kansas, Kansas State, Texas Tech, and Tulsa.
Burnt orange optimists have at least three good reasons to believe a conference title and playoff shot are within reach in 2019.
1. Sam Ehlinger
Texas endured a string of undistinguished quarterbacks after Colt McCoy graduated. Ehlinger changed that in 2018 with a season that might have been worthy of a first-team All-Big 12 selection but for Kyler Murray. Among his most impressive accomplishments, Ehlinger threw and ran for a combined 41 touchdowns for the season.
Ehlinger is more than just a solid passer and bruising runner. He gives the Longhorns an identity, and they clearly feed off his presence in the game. If UT wins its first conference title since 2009, Ehlinger will have a big hand in it.
2. Coaching continuity
After a disastrous 2010 season, Mack Brown essentially lived on the hot seat for three years and shuffled through a host of assistant coaches in that time. Charlie Strong started hearing whispers about his job security almost as soon as he signed his first contact with the Longhorns.
Tom Herman returns for a third season in Austin firmly entrenched as Texas’ head coach, which offers a level of stability that has been missing for way too long. UT’s entire coaching staff from 2018 will be back, too.
3. Recruiting on a roll
Texas never hurts for talented recruits, but the current coaching staff has kicked it up a notch. According to the 247Sports Composite recruiting rankings, the Longhorns landed the No. 3 recruiting class in the country in 2018. As of now, the 2019 class comes in at No. 8 nationally. Don’t be surprised if a lot of those youngsters make up the core of the squad by the end of the year. Rising sophomores such as running back Keaontay Ingram and defensive backs Caden Sterns and B.J. Foster were already playing big roles for the team in ‘18.
— Written by Allen Kenney, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. Kenney is founder and editor of BlatantHomerism.com and host of the Blatant Homerism Podcast. Follow him on Twitter @BlatantHomerism.