Since last week, we’ve been examining the strongest and weakest positions on each Big 12 roster as teams enter summer workouts.
The series continues with the Texas Longhorns.
Strongest position: Defensive line
Rivaled perhaps only by the Longhorns’ collection of dynamic receivers, the D-line, among all groups on the Texas roster, best combines talent with results and a readiness to play at a dominant level this fall.
Look for nose tackle Poona Ford, after a productive spring, to contend for All-Big 12 honors as a senior. Flanking the 6-foot-3, 310-pound Ford are sophomore Malcolm Roach at defensive end and junior Chris Nelson at the other tackle spot, though Charles Omenihu and D'Andre Christmas appear also prepared for meaningful snaps.
Yes, defensive coordinator Todd Orlando inherits a strong and deep unit. But while Texas ramped up the pass rush last year to the tune of 41 sacks -- 12th nationally and second in the Big 12 -- it surrendered 190 yards rushing per game in 2016 with more of a four-man front.
The shift in philosophy, which moves Breckyn Hager further from the line of scrimmage as part of a solid group of linebackers, ought to benefit the three defensive linemen, too, by occupying UT foes with a more potent package of blitzes.
A source of optimism for coach Tom Herman in his debut season at Texas, the Longhorns’ defensive line opens preseason camp in August as the best in the Big 12.
Weakest position: Quarterback
Hey, it was either QB or the secondary, where Texas placed fourth in our post-spring position rankings. Texas quarterbacks ranked fifth -- led, of course, by returning starter Shane Buechele, who set the school freshman record with 2,958 yards and 21 touchdowns in 2016.
On the flip side, the Longhorns’ season-long QBR registered ninth in the Big 12 as Buechele threw 11 interceptions and did not possess the experience to carry Texas over the top in five losses by seven points or fewer.
He faced a legitimate challenge from incoming freshman Sam Ehlinger in the spring but practiced well enough to create some distance ahead of preseason camp.
With Buechele and Ehlinger, Texas may have the best young duo in the league.
Still, Buechele's fit long term in the offensive system installed by Herman and coordinator Tim Beck remains open for discussion. He can end the debate by prospering after his rough introduction to the Big 12. If so, Buechele may threaten every passing record at the school.
We'll know a lot more in six months.