As we begin August, DCTF's Greg Tepper gives a reason for every FBS team in Texas to be optimistic.
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Today is the first day of August. Football comes back in August. Today is a very good day.
Both high school and college football will be back by this time next month, and if that doesn’t get you excited, you’re probably on the wrong website.
This is the time of year when fans get excited about their team, and begin to convince themselves that this is their year, this is the season that their team surprises everyone and becomes “that team” that everyone will be talking about.
And here’s the great thing about this, the final month of the offseason: every fan base is right! Each of the 12 FBS teams in Texas has a chance to be the team that we’re all talking about come season’s end. That’s the beauty of this time of year: hope springs eternal.
But why? Why should each team be optimistic heading into the 2013 season? Here’s one big reason for optimism for each of Texas’ 12 FBS teams.
Baylor: That offense!
Great googly moogly, the Bears have a lot of weapons offensively. From self-proclaimed Heisman candidate RB Lache Seastrunk to potential breakout WRs Antwan Godley and Jay Lee to new but promising QB Bryce Petty, the boys in green and gold have speed and talent to burn. And let’s not forget: they have one of the nation’s best offensive gurus running the show.
It was a tumultuous 2012 for the Coogs, losing key mainstays on both sides of the ball like QB Case Keenum, losing their coach Kevin Sumlin and installing Tony Levine as the head man and dealing with the harrowing near-death experience of DB D.J. Hayden, it’s safe to say that last year just wasn’t their year. But with a second year under coach Levine, a new permanent home in the American Athletic Conference and leaders like QB David Piland and LB Derrick Mathews, there’s plenty of reason to think 2013 will far exceed 2012.
North Texas: Experience!
Returning starters aren’t everything, but Dan McCarney has to feel good about all the quality pieces he had coming back from last year’s rough season. From the glamour positions like RB Brandin Byrd and WR Brelan Chancellor, to the underappreciated spots like OL Antonio Johnson and LB Zach Orr, this is a team that will know what it’s doing once it hits the field on August 31 against Idaho.
Quick: when was the last time that Rice won five games in a row? Give up? Try 2008, when the Owls rattled off seven straight. It’s been a long, long time since Rice was this hot, finishing the season with five consecutive wins. And with improved depth and a ton of returning starters, including star CB Phillip Gaines, this could be the Year of the Owl.
SMU: That Offensive Backfield!
Getting excited about SMU football is easy: just look at who’s going to be handling the ball. QB Garrett Gilbert showed flashes of what made him a super-elite prospect coming out of Lake Travis last season; if he rises to the occasion this season, the Ponies have one of the American Athletic Conference’s finest QBs. And then there’s new RB Traylon Shead, who is getting a second chance after a record-smashing high school career at Cayuga. That duo should make afternoons on the Hilltop a lot of fun.
TCU: That Secondary!
One of the odd byproducts of the Horned Frogs’ injury-riddled 2012 season was that many different players got a lot of experience. That’s a big reason why TCU’s secondary could be a determining force in the wide-open Big 12 race. Between All-American corner Jason Verrett and solid bookend Kevin White, and standout safeties Sam Carter and Elisha Olabode, coach Gary Patterson’s Frogs should be one of the toughest teams to pass on in the conference.
Texas: That Offensive Line!
Forget, for a moment, the stable of running backs, the return of LB Jordan Hicks, the potential breakout year from QB David Ash, all of it. Instead, look up front, where the Longhorns are returning all five starting offensive linemen. Know how many teams in the nation can claim that? Ten. There seems to be a lot of expectations for Texas to get back to the national conversation, and if they’re going to get there, it’s going to be because of guys like Donald Hawkins, Mason Walters and Josh Cochran up front.
Texas A&M: Those Young Stars!
Yes, this is a big year for A&M, with plenty of preseason hype. But the cupboard is also stocked for the future, and what could turn the Aggies from good to great could be the young stars. From RB Trey Williams to WR Mike Evans to CB De’Vante Harris to OL Germain Ifedi to, yes, that guy who’s going to play quarterback for them, there are plenty of exciting underclassmen that are going to get a chance to shine this season in College Station.
Texas Tech: The Buzz!
It’s been a while – at the very least, since Mike Leach left – that Texas Tech has been in the national spotlight. But for the first time since the pirate’s ungraceful exit, Texas Tech is cool again. The hiring of Kliff Kingsbury instantly made Tech an exciting program to watch, and the idea of seeing the Air Raid offense take the field again in Lubbock is thrilling – and should lead to some wins. Tech is one of those programs that seems to thrive in the spotlight, and once again, the spotlight is back on the Red Raiders.
Texas State: Those Linebackers!
The move to the Sun Belt will require an adjustment for the still-new-to-FBS Bobcats, but there’s no doubt where the strength of the team lies: in the middle of the defense. LB David Mayo was a star in the middle last year, and should be even better as a junior. Transfer Michael Orakpo has earned major praise from the coaches, and a fresh start could do wonders for him. And Chad Moncure is ready for his shot on the next level after starring in high school. Factor in key backups like Damion McMiller and Jerid Jeter-Gilmon, and the Bobcats’ linebacker corps is about as solid as it gets.
UTSA: That Passing Game!
Let’s see: one of FBS’ most underrated quarterbacks (Eric Soza), a solid core of offensive linemen (led by center Nate Leonard) and some underappreciated yet explosive wide receivers (like Kam Jones, Marcellus Mack and Brandon Freeman). That’s what the Roadrunners will feature this season, and that could keep the Alamodome rocking all throughout the 2013 season.
UTEP: That Coach!
Let’s be honest: things haven’t been going well for the Miners lately. But the departure of Mike Price and the installment of Sean Kugler in El Paso has given a sizable jolt to a seemingly floundering program. Kugler is the perfect coach for the program’s rebuilding efforts: an alumnus with a passion for the school and the community, with a no-excuses attitude that will demand excellence from his players. That should spell immediate improvement from the Miners.
Greg Tepper is the associate editor of Dave Campbell's Texas Football and TexasFootball.com.