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15 Texas
August 20, 2012
A BCS-worthy D will make Big 12 QBs shake—but the Horns' own shaky offense will hold them back
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August 20, 2012

15 Texas

A BCS-worthy D will make Big 12 QBs shake—but the Horns' own shaky offense will hold them back

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Key Recruit

JOHNATHAN GRAY The most prized freshman tailback in America comes from Aledo, Texas, with 205 touchdowns on his résumé, the highest total in high school history. The 5'11", 207-pound Gray is a big-game player an optimal blend of chiseled size and breakaway speed.

Breakout Player

BRANDON MOORE Alabama booted the massive, yet athletic, Moore off its roster in the spring of 2011 for violating team rules. After a stopover at East Mississippi Community College, the 6'5", 335-pound junior is yet another wrecking ball on the Horns defensive front.

The Skinny

"YOU'VE GOT to have pass rushers," coach Mack Brown says. "The Big 12 is going to light you up if you don't." So count the Longhorns among the lucky. On one end of the defensive line is senior Alex Okafor (seven sacks last year), a likely first-round NFL pick next spring. On the other is junior Jackson Jeffcoat (7½ sacks), an even surer bet to be among the top 32 players selected come April. In fact, Jackson, the son of 15-year NFL defensive lineman Jim Jeffcoat, might be the best pass rusher in the country—and, though it's heresy to suggest this in his household, even better than his dad. Under defensive coordinator Manny Diaz's up-tempo, attacking scheme, the Longhorns' D should light up most of the Big 12 quarterbacks it sees.

Final Analysis

THE DEFENSE won't be a problem for Texas—but it wasn't a problem last year either, when it was the Big 12's top unit against the run and pass, and the Longhorns still went 8--5 and were blown out by Oklahoma and Baylor. The quarterback situation is as unsettled as it was in 2011, when David Ash and Case McCoy combined for 11 TD passes and 12 interceptions. Whether Ash, a sophomore, can spark the offense will determine whether the Longhorns contend for the Big 12 title. The Horns, perhaps the most unpredictable team in SI's top 25, could end up in the BCS title game or they could wind up in the Holiday Bowl.