The Longhorns and Terrapins will battle it out in Austin on September 2nd to open the Tom Herman Era. Let’s take a look at how the two offensive units matchup:
The Terrapins entered fall camp with a question mark at the quarterback position. Head Coach DJ Durkin said 4 QB’s would compete throughout fall camp for the starting job. Sophomore QB’s Tyrell Pigrome and Max Bortenschlanger both saw limited playing time in 2016, with each making one start. Pigrome poses a dual threat ability, ranking third on the team in rushing yards last season. Bortenschlanger is seen as a more polished passer, but completed less than 50% of his passes in his lone start against Nebraska.
The duo will also compete with North Carolina transfer Caleb Henderson and true freshman Kasim Hill. Henderson has seen limited playing time in his collegiate career, playing in 2 games during his 2 season at North Carolina before sitting out the 2016 season at Maryland due to NCAA transfer rules. The former U.S Army All American battled injury issues throughout the spring and was not at 100% health when fall camp began. Hill, a 2017 Under-Armor All American, enters his freshman year after totaling 2,316 yards and 26 touchdowns during his senior season at St. Johns in Washington D.C.
Durkin and offensive coordinator Walt Bell look to find a QB to improve upon a passing unit that ranked 106th in passing yards per game in 2016.
Tom Herman is also holding a competition of his own to determine the starting QB, but this competition may be a little bit clearer. All signs point to Shane Buechele opening the season as the Longhorns starting QB for the second consecutive year. The sophomore looks to build on his freshman campaign that saw him set Texas freshman records for passing yards (2,958) and touchdowns (21). Buechele played in all 12 games and threw a touchdown pass in 11 of those games.
Behind Buchele will be freshman Sam Ehlinger. Ehlinger enters his first year on the 40 acres after a 3 successful seasons as the starting QB for nearby Westlake HS. Although Ehlinger battled injuries his senior season, the 2015 MaxPreps Junior of the Year shined when he was on the field. He finished his career with 9,886 total yards and 125 touchdowns. Standing at 6’2 and 230 pounds, Ehlinger could step in and play a key role in short yardage run packages, taking over a void left by Tyrone Swoopes.
Junior RB Ty Johnson leads the charge for a rushing attack and averaged 199.5 yards per game on the ground in 2016. The 2017 Doak Walker Award watch list nominee rushed for over 1,000 and collected 6 TD’s last season, while averaging a whopping 9.1 yards per carry.
Along with Johnson, the Terrapins will also run out sophomores Lorenzo Harrison and Jake Funk. Harrison was named to the All-Big 10 Freshman team after rushing for 633 yards and 5 touchdowns, all while only appearing in 9 games. Funk saw limited playing during his freshman season, getting into the endzone once and turning his 29 carries into 136 yards.
Maryland will be led by their rushing game in 2017, and Johnson and Harrison figure to play key roles in helping an offense that struggled to move the ball through the air in 2016.
The RB position may be the biggest question on the offensive side of the ball for the Longhorns heading into 2017. Running Back’s coach Stan Drayton and offensive coordinator Tim Beck will be in charge for finding a way to replace the production left behind by the early departure of D’onta Foreman to the NFL. Chris Warren looks to have a healthy junior season after a knee injury ended his sophomore season early. Sophomore Kyle Porter looks to take a big step forward after showing flashes during limited playing time in 2016. A wildcard for the Longhorns this season could be RB Kirk Johnson. Johnson has had an injury riddled first two seasons after coming in as the 28th ranked running back in the country in 2015.
Daniel Young and Toneil Carter enter their freshman seasons’ looking to establish themselves in the running back rotation. Young profiles as a guy who can use his pad level well and run between the tackles, while Carter has the speed and hands to be used on jet sweeps and as a receiver out of the backfield.
Wide Receiver/Tight End
The receiver group for the Terrapins only returns 3 players who caught a pass in 2016. DJ Moore enters his junior season having made 23 consecutive starts dating back to his freshman year. Moore hauled in 41 catches for 637 yards and 6 TD’s last season. The only 2 other receivers who recorded a catch in 2016 are DJ Turner and Jahrvis Davenport, who combined for 3 catches for 21 yards.
Two players who Maryland are hoping to step up and compliment the returning pass catchers are Taivon Jacobs and Jacquille Veii. Jacobs missed all of 2016 with injury, but recorded 21 catches in 2015. Veii was forced to sit out last season due to transfer rules, but was the leading receiver for Towson in 2015, catching 44 balls for 505 yards.
Maryland uses the tight end sparingly, but they have a capable one when they need him. 6’5 TE Derrick Hayward returns after starting all 13 games last season. The senior caught 4 passes for 17 yards and one TD.
Arguably the deepest position on the roster, Texas QB’s will have no shortage of weapons to throw the ball to. While no Texas receiver surpassed the 420 yard mark in 2016, they return 7 players who scored a receiving touchdown last season. The receiving unit will be led by sophomore Collin Johnson, junior WR Jerrod Heard and sophomore Devin Duvernay. Seniors Dorian Leonard, Lorenzo Joe and Armanti Foreman will also provide a steading presence, along with Junior John Burt, who looks to put a disappointing sophomore season behind him.
Tom Herman has emphasized the importance of the TE position throughout the summer. Senior TE Andrew Beck showed flashes as a pass catcher last season, hauling in 2 touchdowns. Beck recently broke this foot though, and is unlikely to play in 2017. After Beck, there is a lot to be desired in terms of depth on the roster. Freshman Reese Leitao is a capable blocker, but will not be available for the Maryland game due to suspension. Fellow freshman Cade Brewer may be the best pass catching TE on the roster, but will need time to improve as a blocker. Brewer will be thrust into action early in his career to see if he can make an impact, especially with the injury to Beck and the suspension of Leitao.
New Offensive Line coach Tyler Bowen will inherit several talented pieces in the trenches. Junior OT Damian Prince is widely considered to be one of the top offensive linemen in the country. Austin native Brendan Moore returns after starting all 13 games in 2016 and was placed on the preseason Rimington Award Watch List for the top Center in college football. Derwin Gray and Terrance Davis also bring starting experience to unit that paved the way for a 1,000-yard rusher last season, but struggled at times to protect the QB, ranking 127 out of 128 teams in sacks allowed at 3.77 per game.
For the first time since 2008, Texas should have an offensive linemen picked in the NFL draft. OT Connor Williams earned All-American honors last season as a sophomore, and enters his junior season as a consensus first round pick in the 2018 NFL draft. Williams will lead an offensive line that returns 4 of 5 starters from a year ago. Guards Jake McMillon and Patrick Vahe return along with Center Zach Shackelford. The biggest question mark remains at the other tackle position. Brandon Hodges transferred in the spring and Elijah Rodriguez recently underwent ankle surgery, leaving Tristan Nickelson and Denzel Okafor in a competition for RT. Texas struggled as well to protect the passer, allowing 2.67 sacks the game. The offensive line as a whole remains strong, and if a RT steps up, Texas will boast one of the best OL units in the Big 12.