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2012 College Football Team Previews

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The Texas coaching staff let the players pick their motto for this season, and coach Mack Brown approved of the final choice.

"They came up with RISE. The R in RISE is for relentless, the I is for intensity. They want the S to be swagger. A number of our coaches and (strength coach Bennie Wylie) thought it should be sacrifice first, then you get your swagger. They said you don't come off 8-5 with swagger, you have to earn that right, you earn that through time. Then the E is for emotion. They even designed a logo for it."

Brown then added a revealing postscript.

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"We do feel like last year's team was all over the place and was not capable of doing some of this stuff themselves. Bennie and the staff came up with 'brick-by-brick' [last year's motto]."

That was a young team, but so is the 2012 squad, which may feature just four seniors in the starting lineup.

The 2011 squad was great against the bottom teams on the schedule, but had a tough time being competitive against the top of the Big 12. Apart from a dramatic win over Texas A&M in the final meeting between the two schools as conference rivals, the Longhorns faltered when challenged, getting blown out by Oklahoma and Baylor, and managed little offensively against Oklahoma State, Missouri or Kansas State.

Injuries played a part in that, particularly in the backfield. But the Longhorns didn't seem to have the stars to be elite, something the coaching staff hopes will be alleviated with the incoming recruiting class in another year of experience.

Is that enough to get the Longhorns back in the top 10?

"I don't know. We can be," Brown said. "None of us really know what we've got this summer, unless you have an older team. We have a younger team. We'll have an older team next year. All of those things I just told you can all work. They worked in '08. They can all work. If they work, yes, we'll be a top-10 team. If they don't, we won't be."

HEAD COACH: Mack Brown, 16th year at Texas, 141-39 record at Texas and 227-113-1 as a head coach

MOST IMPORTANT PLAYER: QB David Ash -- It's still a competition with Case McCoy, but the job is Ash's to lose. Texas has a ton of talent in the backfield, but the passing game is less certain given the transition on the offensive line and the uncertainty at wideout. The passing game let the team down in 2011, especially against top teams. For the Longhorns to get back into the ranks of the elite, that can't happen in 2012.

BREAKOUT STAR: CB Carrington Byndom -- Texas has usually been strong in the secondary, and 2012 will be no exception. The understated Byndom was one of the best in the Big 12 a year ago, and should be poised for a big junior season if opposing quarterbacks are willing to throw the ball to his side of the field.

NEWCOMER TO WATCH: OL Donald Hawkins -- The trenches aren't the glamour positions, but Cochran may have the biggest impact of any newcomer to the Longhorns. The junior college transfer is good enough that he's expected to start at left tackle, with Josh Cochran, who started six games there in 2011, moving to the right side.

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KEYS TO SUCCESS: Texas has a lot of talent, but it's not demonstratively better than the rest of the teams at the top of the Big 12. For the Longhorns to be elite, it's going to need the starting quarterback (likely David Ash) to take a huge step forward, since the passing game was a weak link a year ago. The offensive line will need to raise its level of play, since the Longhorns have plenty of running backs but few linemen who could open holes for them a year ago. And the defense will have to stay healthy, particularly the linebacking corps, because there isn't a lot of depth at key spots.

AREAS OF CONCERN: The offensive line was a big point of emphasis for Texas this offseason. It was a disappointment in 2011, and contributed to the Longhorns difficulty in gaining yards on the ground against top teams. The defense has holes to fill at linebacker, where Emmanuel Acho and Keenan Robinson will be missed for their leadership as much as their play on the field.

Notes

-- The Longhorns' offensive coaches spent part of the summer incorporating a new position, a hybrid between tailback and the "Z" receiver. It's an attempt to get more touches for athletes like D.J. Monroe and Daje Johnson, since they have the speed to be gamebreakers when they get the ball in space.

-- Senior DE Alex Okafor was named the Big 12 Preseason Defensive Player of the Year at the Big 12 Media Day, as chosen by the media. Fellow defensive players Jackson Jeffcoat and Kenny Vaccarro were also first-team selections, as was running back Malcolm Brown.

-- WR Jaxson Shipley saw his freshman season cut short by a knee injury, but was ready to go by the time preseason practice began.

-- OL Camrhon Hughes suffered a knee injury during the spring. He was expected to redshirt anyway, and the injury makes that a certainty.

 
 
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