Charlie Strong's third and final year at Texas was another wild roller coaster of ups and downs ending with a third consecutive losing season and a coaching change. A review of the Longhorns' 2016 season:
What went right: Texas developed D'Onta Foreman into the best running back in college football and he delivered week after week on his way to 2,028 rushing yards and 15 touchdowns. The Horns got much better quarterback play from true freshman Shane Buechele and scored more points. They pulled off gusty last-minute wins over No. 10 Notre Dame and No. 8 Baylor. The defense improved in Big 12 play under Strong's watch and ranked No. 7 in FBS in sacks. They weren't that far off from being much better, with five of their seven losses coming in close, winnable ballgames.
What went wrong: The Longhorns lost 24-21 in overtime against 1-9 Kansas. They lost their final three games and six of nine in Big 12 play in a year when going 7-5 might have been enough to save Strong's job. Notre Dame (4-8) and Baylor (6-6) ultimately weren't very good. Strong ended up demoting one of his coordinators again, four games into the season, and took over defensive playcalling. Several promising players endured sophomore slumps. Strong was convinced all year long he had a great team that just needed to find its turning point, and that never came.
Player of the year: Foreman. He put the Longhorns on his back with a whopping 323 carries in 11 games, by far the most per game of any back in FBS, and finished his career with 13 consecutive 100-yard games. Foreman played his heart out and badly wanted to save Strong's job. He deserves to win the Doak Walker Award and probably should have received more Heisman Trophy votes for his unbelievable production. He made the right call in deciding to go pro and will make one NFL franchise quite happy next year.
Breakout player: DE/LB Breckyn Hager. The excitable sophomore stepped up as pass-rushing specialist this season and proved to be a ferocious threat, leading the team with 13.5 tackles for loss and six sacks. When Strong sent Hager and freshman Malcolm Roach in to get after the quarterback, they got pressure and got results. He also broke out as the most quotable player on the team, though he stopped doing interviews after the Patrick Mahomes II incident.
Play of the year: Tyrone Swoopes' game-winning touchdown to beat Notre Dame was a cool moment for the player and for the program, but this is an easy call. It's Foreman breaking away for a 74-yard touchdown run against Texas Tech right after his shoe was ripped off his left foot. He ran even harder when he lost it, to make sure nobody caught him. You don't see that too often. It was a heck of a highlight on a day in which he rumbled for 341 rushing yards.
2017 outlook: New coach Tom Herman takes over a roster full of young but experienced talent and will put them through a brutally tough offseason in the hopes of convincing them to finally reach their full potential and put together a big run. Texas has another fearsome power back in Chris Warren III to keep the run game rolling and nearly every receiver returns, so the offense has a chance to be dangerous. The defense is loaded and only loses one senior starter. Herman has nearly all the pieces he needs to complete the puzzle and get Texas back in Big 12 title contention, but there's still a ton of work to be done to get there.