Texas Football: We Know Nothing


As a bizarre season full of headache and heartache draws to a close, the future of Texas Longhorns football is still as murky as it was in August.

One of the most diasppointing seasons in Texas football history will thankfully draw to a close on Saturday morning in Waco when Texas plays out the string against the Baylor Bears.  At the beginning of the year, this game looked like it could have massive importance to one or both teams.  As it turns out, it will be meaningless.

For the Longhorns, the season-ending tilt in Waco was seen as a barometer check.  The smart money said that if the Longhorns took care of business in the much easier second half of the season, given the trials of the first half, the Baylor game could be for bowl aspirations.  If things went well for Texas, the Baylor game could be a coming out party, setting the table for a big 2016.

That won’t be the case on Saturday.  Baylor, now at 9-2 and firmly out of any sort of playoff consideration, is down to their third string quarterback and have nothing but bowl positioning to play for.  Texas is just trying to finish a season that, for all intents and purposes, ended with a 50-7 beatdown to TCU in early October.

The Longhorns have been a disaster this year and they really haven’t improved much from game one to the Thanksgiving loss to Texas Tech.  There were the Longhorns on Thursday night, missing tackles, dropping passes, shooting themselves in the foot with driving killing penalties.  They played well enough to be competitive, but made enough mistakes to keep themselves from winning.  It wouldn’t have been a 2015 Longhorns game without at least one WTF moment, this time an interception turned immaculate touchdown for Jakeem Grant.  If you’re a Longhorn fan, you just have to laugh.

The glass half-full people were out in force after the game, pointing out how the Longhorns didn’t hang their heads and quit despite many opportunities to do so.  The half-empty people will point out that Tech isn’t a very good team in their own right and that if the Red Raiders boasted any sort of defense, Texas likely would have been blown out.

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What it all boils down to is that pundit and fan alike know nothing about this program going forward.  In fact, I would say the stunning regression of the Longhorns this season makes the waters more murky heading into 2016.  Did any of us envision a scenario in which Charlie Strong’s return in 2016 was uncertain?  The hope that Strong brought with him last year is all but gone, eroded by poor coaching hires and worse play on the field.  How much hope do we have that Strong will make the right hires this off-season with his job hanging in the balance?

Despite what some of the professionals out there have said, Longhorn fans entered this season knowing that it could be a rough one.  We knew this was a young team with a brutal first half schedule.  We knew they could play better than last year and emerge with a worse record.  None of these things were a suprise.

The problem is, this team didn’t play better than last year’s squad.  They didn’t even play better from one stretch to the next.  I wrote in my season preview that by the time the Longhorns emerged from the post-Oklahoma bye week, they would be a much improved team that no one was going to want to see on their schedule.  WRONG.

The most stunning thing about this season and about Strong’s first two years in general is how he’s been unable to motivate this team.  I expected a young team to make mistakes but to make up for it with aggressive, physical play thlat would make up for much of that.  Yes, the youthful mistakes were there, but there was a decided lack of high level physicality and aggression.  This is a team that at times seemed uninterested in playing and at others were so emotionally fragile that they fell apart at the slightest provaction.  Even when they did so fight, their ineptitude often derailed the effort.

What is there that leads us to hope that 2016 will be better other than blind faith?  The 2016 recruiting class is coming together in fits and spurts but there doesn’t appear to be a Malik Jefferson in this class.  In fact, there doesn’t seem to be any immediate impact recruits already committed or likely to commit.  That means that Strong will have to fnd a way to coax much better play out of the same cast of characters next year.  Do you believe?

Texas Longhorns
Texas Longhorns /

Texas Longhorns

One thing is for certain, Strong must hire a offensive coordinator that can turn Jerrod Heard into a real quarterback, or at least get Shane Buechele ready quickly.  Tyrone Swoopes, given some opportunities down the stretch to show improvement, instead showed that his future is at fullback.  Kai Locksley is another athlete, like Heard, who is unlikely to be the immediate answer Texas needs. Charlie Strong must hit a homerun with this hire, or else.

Meanwhile, in Waco, Baylor has seen high hopes evaporate quickly.  Their top two quarterbacks are done for the year and Oklahoma danced away with the conference title and probable playoff berth the Bears thought would be theirs.  With an early kickoff Saturday, how motivated with the Bears be?  It’s doubtful that they will even be able to ramp up their usual Texas hate, given the poor state of the Longhorn program.

So, even if Texas beats Baylor, will it mean anything?  It’s already become obvious that the Longhorns’ “signature victory” over OU had more to do with Oklahoma being overconfident and poorly prepared than anything Texas did.  A win over Baylor will probably be the same thing.

Be it 5-7 or 4-8, this season will go down as one of the darkest, if not the darkest,in the Longhorn history.  It’s a season that can’t end soon enough.  A season that was supposed to shine some light on the trajectory of the program instead leaves the program’s future mired in uncertainty.  We have to wait until September to find out of this was just the darkness before the dawn or the approach of a coming storm.

By early afternoon on December 5, Longhorn Nation will be in the same place it was on September 3, with more questions than answers.  We will still know nothing.