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SB Nation Takes Early Look At 2011 Texas Football Team

Andy Hutchins begins his preview of his preseason top 25 by looking at Nos. 21-25. Texas comes in at No. 22, ahead of Central Florida, Houston and Auburn and behind USC.

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22. Texas

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There is much anxiety deep in the heart of Texas about whether the Longhorns can recover from a miserable 5-7 season in 2010, but it's hard not to expect the storehouse of talent Mack Brown has built to at least improve on that record. Garrett Gilbert should be better in his second year as a full-time starter, and he may have a new every-down back in Malcolm Brown to rely on. Texas' defense, burnt repeatedly in key situations and by turnover-caused short-field scenarios (the Longhorns were sixth in total defense, but 49th in scoring defense), should improve enough to make Texas a middling Big 12 team. And in an up year for the Big 12, that might not be a bad thing.

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Pros: Deep recruiting class should be full of playmakers that might get on the field sooner rather than later.

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Cons: Coaching chaos may stymie natural development of players; switch from Will Muschamp's defense to Manny Diaz' system could produce growing pains.

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"Middling Big 12 team" is likely not Mack Brown's goal for next season, but it will be a fascinating year. Hutchins doesn't mention the biggest change - the new offensive brain trust led by Bryan Harsin. Their ability to implement a new scheme and coach Gilbert and a new offensive line will be a huge factor in Texas' success. The Longhorns have questions all over the field, from offensive line to the defensive secondary to QB to the interior defensive line. Given all of the unsettled personnel and coaching changes, the ranking seems perfectly fair.

Photographs by jamesbrandon, jdtornow, phlezk, flygraphix, mcdlttx, tomasland, and literalbarrage used in background montage under Creative Commons. Thank you.