Texas: Future Looking Brighter Heading Into 2016


The Texas Longhorns just endured another disappointing season under second-year head coach Charlie Strong, but things might be looking up heading into 2016.

Not since the 1988-89 football seasons had the University of Texas suffered losing seasons in back-to-back season. The storied program met that mark again thanks to a 48-45 loss to the Texas Tech Red Raiders on November 26.

It’s often said that it’s not how you start, but rather how you finish that matters most to any football team.

Such is the case for Texas at the end of 2015.

Entering Saturday’s season-finale in Waco against a Baylor Bears football team that was at the very center of College Football Playoff talk until mid-November, Texas hadn’t won a football game since blowing out the Kansas Jayhawks at Darrell K. Royal Stadium back on November 7.

Just a couple of days prior to that Longhorns win, Baylor logged its eight consecutive win over the Kansas State Wildcats, just for perspective. That happened to be the first start for true freshman quarterback Jarrett Stidham, a youngster who initially replaced injured season-starting quarterback Seth Russell before getting injured himself.

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Since that narrow 31-24 win in Manhattan, Kansas, Baylor would go only 1-3 while losing a small platoon of quarterbacks along the way – and the Longhorns pounced to end their own disappointing season.

In his first start since the season-opening loss to the Fighting Irish of Notre Dame, junior quarterback Tyrone Swoopes led a Texas charge over the downtrodden Bears that resulted in a somewhat surprising 23-17 win for the Longhorns.

Hey, a win is a win, right? It matters not that Baylor played a fourth quarterback this season while falling just short of a potential comeback win on the final possession on Saturday.

Texas survived despite losing the time of possession battle and also giving up almost twice as many first downs as they earned – Baylor had 29 for the game.

But head coach Charlie Strong’s defense came to play in this close-out game while forcing four turnovers, a huge bonus for Texas that was almost solely responsible for this win.

Baylor loses out on its shot at the Allstate Sugar Bowl, but should still end up playing in another.

There won’t be a bowl game for Texas this year, but Strong believes that this particular victory is one that can help the Longhorns build some momentum during the long offseason that lies ahead, according to Sports Illustrated.

"We have something to build on that we can take into the offseason. Not pleased with the year we had. You look at it, you go beat Oklahoma, you bounce back and go on the road and go beat Baylor. I don’t have an answer for this team. I wish I did. I wish every week could have been like this."

Perhaps the most encouraging news for the Texas program was this week’s hiring of Mark Richt as head coach at University of Miami, a potential destination for Strong just a matter of days ago.

This ensures at least one more season of continuity for a Texas program that’s not in much worse shape than those once-dominant Hurricanes of decades past.

One thing is for sure: Strong has to get better quarterback play next season or it could very well be his last in Austin. Both Swoopes and soon-to-be sophomore Jerrod Heard, who started for most of this season, will return to the Longhorns in 2016, but one of them has to prove that he can do more than just run out of the pocket.

The defense needs work as well, an area in which Strong has specialized throughout his coaching career. Blowout losses, like the two to TCU during his two years on the job in Austin, have to vanish quickly.

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If Strong can deliver a strong offseason, it’s not impossible to see Texas being quite relevant in the Big 12 next season. While Russell should return to Baylor for his senior season – that’s an issue in and of itself – the same can’t be said for Trevone Boykin of TCU. Remember that Texas already knows it can beat the Oklahoma Sooners, an annual affair that generally goes back and forth regardless of records.

Offense wins games and defense wins championships. Texas can afford a significant infusion of both during a ’16 campaign that kicks off against the Fighting Irish for the second straight year.