Football: Strong making his presence felt as new boss
It didn’t take new football head coach Charlie Strong long to demonstrate the toughness and discipline that his teams have been known for. Strong has yet to coach a game at Texas but given the way he came down on several Longhorns over the past couple weeks, his message is clear: Get on board now or get off the bus.
Despite the loss of several key players to graduation and several more that Strong has now booted off the team, this year’s edition of the Longhorns is still full of promise.
The defense is loaded with talent and given Strong’s defensive background, they will be expected to be one of the best units in the Big 12 this year. Led by senior superstars Cedric Reed and Quandre Diggs, the defense will be physical and aggressive, serving as the backbone of this year’s team.
Offensively, the question remains whether junior quarterback David Ash can stay healthy all season. We know how great running backs Malcolm Brown and Johnathan Gray can be in the Longhorn backfield, but the receiving corps is very thin and the offensive line is relatively inexperienced. Given the strength of the defense, Ash’s health and the ability to play well consistently will likely determine how successful the Longhorns can be in Strong’s first season at the helm.
Men’s Basketball: Turner, returning starters drive high expectations for Horns
After a couple down years that had many Longhorn fans calling for head coach Rick Barnes’ firing, his young Texas team had surprising success last season, finishing 24-11 and making an appearance in the Round of 32 in the NCAA Tournament.
Every player, including all five starters, from last year’s team is back this season, but the biggest name on this year’s squad is the new guy on campus — incoming freshman Myles Turner. Turner, who came out of Euless-Trinity ranked as the second-best recruit in the nation by ESPN, brings plenty of hype with him to the 40 Acres. Depending on how Barnes is able to fit Turner into a rotation chalk full of returning players, the Longhorns have a chance to make a deep run in this year’s NCAA Tournament.
Women’s Basketball: Aston looks to build on last season’s success
Much like Barnes, Karen Aston was in jeopardy of losing her job after her first season at Texas went horribly. But the Longhorn women, led by forwards Imani Mcgee-Stafford and Nneka Enemkpali, bounced back last year, posting a 22-12 record before losing in the second round of the NCAA Tournament. McGee-Stafford and Enemkpali are back and highly-touted freshman Ariel Atkins leads a strong class of newcomers as the Longhorns look to build on last season’s success and make an even deeper NCAA tournament run.
Volleyball: Eckerman, Horns look to make third consecutive Final Four appearance
Expectations were so high for the top-seeded Longhorns last season that their loss to Wisconsin in the semi-finals of the NCAA Tournament felt like a major disappointment. Star outside hitter Haley Eckerman is back for her senior season while many of the underclassmen who contributed to last year’s success will get an opportunity to assume starting roles. Head coach Jerritt Elliot has reloaded for the 2014 season and, given the success he has had over the past couple seasons, all signs point to another trip to the Final Four in 2014.