5 critical questions for the Longhorns as Texas prepares to open their season on Saturday

HOUSTONBy Jake Meltzer, KPRC Contributor

A lot of familiar faces will be on the field when the University of Texas takes the field against Louisiana Tech on Saturday.

However, many questions remain unanswered after the Longhorns lost eight defensive starters and a handful of key players on the offensive side of the ball.

Here are some key questions and answers you might have as we enter the season:

1. What will Texas have to do differently this year to avoid another Week 1 upset? 

Texas must avoid turnovers and convert on third down. In the season-opener last year against Maryland, the Texas offense came out strong scoring 29 points. Despite that, the team was 3-15 on third down which halted many drives. Texas must convert third downs, score, and keep the defense off the field as much as possible in that Texas heat.

Despite issues on third down, Texas was only down two points early in the fourth quarter last year against the Terrapins. Two late interceptions from Sam Ehlinger derailed the comeback and sent the Longhorns home packing with a “1” in the loss column. If Texas can emphasize ball security and third-down efficiency like they did to finish the season last year, Texas should win their opener with ease.

2. Despite losing eight starters on defense, who is one defender who you think could make an impact this season?

Sophomore defensive back Caden Sterns was a four-star recruit from south Texas who turned down offers from Michigan, LSU, Oklahoma, and ten more schools to wear the burnt orange. He was 4th in the Big 12 last year with 4 interceptions and was 5th on the team in tackles with 62. The Texas defensive backfield is going to need more than just one person to step up to replace P.J. Locke III and Kris Boyd, but the team interception's leader from last year is capable of taking on the challenge of leading this secondary.

3. Who is one key player on Louisiana Tech that Texas should be aware of heading into Week 1?

The Texas secondary’s first game as a new unit will be no cakewalk, as they will have to keep wide receiver Adrian Hardy under wraps. The 6’2’’ junior finished 2018 with 75 receptions for 1,145 yards, both tops in C-USA. Hardy is arguably one of the top receivers in the country, and despite Louisiana Tech quarterback J’Mar Smith’s struggles, Hardy has shown he is more than capable of creating his own plays.

4. Which Texas starter has the most to prove heading into the season?

The departure of Lil’Jordan Humphrey means that 6’6’’ receiver Collin Johnson will have to utilize his size and speed to become the playmaker that this Texas offense needs. Johnson has shown in the past that he can create big plays for this offense. He ranked second on the team in receptions, receiving yards, and touchdowns behind Humphrey. Johnson will have a size advantage over most defenders in the country and will have to be a major part of the Texas offense if they want to win the shootout games this year. Expect to see a major increase in Johnson’s targets.

5. Should Tom Herman have to worry about his job security this year?

After leading Texas to their first 10-win season since 2009, the likely answer to this question is no. Yes, this is the Texas Longhorns and the expectations are higher than the UT Tower, but Herman knows how to win games. He is an excellent recruiter, an offensive genius who has experience coaching alongside some of college football’s greats, and most importantly he is respected by the players. 

The question of whether Texas is capable of matching or improving their 2018 record will begin to answer itself this Saturday when the Louisiana Tech Bulldogs come to town. With the Maryland losses to open the season the last two years still certainly looming, there is no doubt Texas will do everything they can to be mentally prepared for this game and avoid an upset.