We'll take a look at some of the Big 12's breakout stars this spring, but we'll move forward with a series looking at guys who will be stepping into bigger roles this season and what they have to provide. Some are going from being role players to starters. Some are going from starter to star. Some from stars to bona fide superstars.
Let's move on with Texas.
Texas' spring step forward: LB Peter Jinkens
No team in the Big 12 needs to take a step forward like Texas does next season after rebounding from a disastrous five-win season in 2010 to average years of eight and nine wins in 2011 and 2012. That's nothing to be embarrassed about, but it's simply not good enough at Texas, where the money and recruiting advantages are a cut above what any other program in college football has to work with.
How does that growth happen this year? Folks can talk about David Ash, the running backs and the offensive line all they want. I'm staring right at the linebackers as the most important position for Texas to climb back to the top of the Big 12 heap. It was the biggest question mark for the Longhorns defense entering last season, and on the field, it was the biggest weakness, made even worse once Jordan Hicks was sidelined for the season.
The linebackers were a huge reason why Texas gave up more rushing yards (2,488) last season than in any previous year in program history, and why opponents averaged 4.62 yards a carry, and when you consider that number factors in a Big 12-high 34 sacks for a total of 229 yards, it's even worse.
Hicks should be back this year, but he needs some help, and after a promising true freshman season that featured 27 tackles and three tackles for loss (and his first career start), he's a guy that could be a huge fix for Texas in a trouble spot as a sophomore. He got a lot of time as a backup last season, but I wouldn't be surprised to see him earn a starting spot next fall. In his lone start against Iowa State last season, he made eight tackles and one for a loss. The 6-foot-1, 213-pound talent from Dallas has a bright, bright future, and if he can take a step forward this spring, we may see Texas' defense take a big step forward come fall.
As a result, you may see the Longhorns take a step into a double-digit win total for the first time since 2009.