Know Your Opponent: Texas Longhorns
Record: (5-5 Overall, 4-3 in Big 12 play)
For those wondering who the hell I am, my name is Derek Duke. I am a writer over at Heartland Mountaineers are playing the Texas Longhorns this week and since I live down in south Texas, I am very familiar with everything going on in Austin. Whether I like it or not, the coverage down here for the Texas program is crazy to say the least. In case you are curious, I have decided to let the Mountaineer faithful get a closer look at this Texas team and show you what you should expect to see on Saturday.
(135 rushing yards per game) (273 passing yards per game)
Quarterback or shall I say Quarterbacks (Grade: B-)
It is still early in the week, but I would expect to see both Shane Buechele and Sam Ehlinger take snaps on Saturday. Both quarterbacks excel at certain aspects of the game but overall both guys are incomplete. Sam is a true freshman and at 6’2 230, he isn’t the easiest guy to bring down. He can create on his own, but he won’t outrun anyone by any means. Believe it or not he is throwing for more yards per game (238) than Shane Buechele is (219.3). Where Sam struggles at is his accuracy because he only completes 56.2 % of his passes. Shane Buechele is a little different than Sam and is a pocket passer who isn’t the most athletic guy in the world. However, Shane is a much more polished passer than Sam. I should mention that both guys are battling some injury bugs. Sam is back this week (concussion) and Shane has been gimpy with an ankle issue for the last few weeks.
Running Backs and Wide Receivers (Grade: B-)
Don’t expect Texas to just use one back in this game. Nobody has been able to take this running back spot by the horns. Kyle Porter is an average back who does his best work in passing situations. He isn’t going to wow you in any way. Tom Herman did say that true freshman Daniel Young and Toneil Carter will get their fair share of carries. Daniel Young is the power back while his classmate Toneil Carter is more of a home run threat. I think you will see that Toneil Carter is the best back in this offense. For those wondering, Chris Warren (6’4, 250) has been moved to fullback.
At wide receiver, expect three guys to be the main targets. It all starts with 6’6 Collin Johnson (68.3 yards per game) who has the big catch radius but has struggled in recent weeks. The second and third options will be Reggie Hemphill-Mapps and Lil’ Jordan Humphrey (Yes, that his real name). Reggie is the slot option who is shifty and Lil’ Jordan is a 6’5 athletic specimen. Other than this, tight end Cade Brewer has been playing well but overall Collin Johnson is the guy you want to shut down.
Offensive Line (Grade: C)
This is easily the worst unit of this offense. Here are the starters up front for Texas, LT Tristian Nickelson, LG Patrick Vahe, C Zach Shackelford, RG Jake McMillon and RT Derek Kerstetter. All-American LT Connor Williams will be eased back into the rotation this week after being out for several weeks due to injury. The middle of this line from right guard to left guard is the best part of this line. Where things get shaky is at both tackle positions. LT Tristian Nickelson is a big guy (6’10-315) but he hasn’t been able to put it all together and really struggles in pass protection. RT Derek Kerstetter is better but he is a true freshman who is still trying to get his feet under him since he is so young. Injuries have absolutely decimated this line this season and Texas doesn’t have the depth right now to overcome it. Texas has lost 3 starters up front due to injuries.
(115 rushing yards allowed per game) (252 passing yards allowed per game)
Defensive Line (Grade: B+)
This unit is one of the strengths of not only the defense but the entire team. You’re going to see a rotation of guy up front for Texas. At nose tackle, the guy to keep an eye on is Poona Ford who is short in stature but plays like his hair is on fire. Poona could be an all-conference guy at his position after the season ends. The Defensive ends have a lot more bodies to rotate but Malcolm Roach and Breckyn Hager are the two best options. Breckyn Hager is the best pure pass rusher Texas has right now and Malcolm Roach can stop the run as well as help on the edge rushing the passer. Two others you will see here are Chris Nelson and Charles Omenihu who show flashes at times but are inconsistent overall.
Don’t get me wrong the defensive line is good but I think this is where Texas really shines. Texas will use Naashon Hughes and Jeffrey McCulloch at the hybrid position which requires you to sometimes set the edge and rush the passer as well as dropping back into coverage. Both guys are decent at rushing the passer, but Jeffrey McCulloch is much better suited for coverage. The other key pieces at middle and the “rover” linebacker positions will be Anthony Wheeler (MLB), Malik Jefferson (Rover) and Gary Johnson (Rover). Wheeler is aggressive and ok, but the stars are Malik Jefferson and Gary Johnson. Both guys look the part and play it damn well. Don’t get me wrong though, Malik Jefferson is the MVP of this defense. He has 10 TFLs this season as well as 4 sacks. The guy is fast, physical and aggressive.
Secondary (Grade: B)
I am going to start in the middle here with safeties Brandon Jones and DeShon Elliot. Brandon is a very physical safety who has yet to reach his potential but overall, he is a solid player. DeShon on the other hand has had a break out season. He has been a ball hawk with 6 interceptions and continues to be around the ball wherever it may be. The cornerback spot is a little more concerning. Texas will start Kris Boyd and Davante Davis while P.J. Locke and Antwaun Davis will handle the duties at nickelback. Both Kris Boyd and Davante Davis are inconsistent at times, so it just goes game to game with these guys. Holton Hill was a star at corner for the Longhorns but due to some off the field issues, he is gone for the remainder of the year and the loss of him really hurt this group. P.J. Locke is coming back this week from injury and I would expect to see Antwaun Davis fill in some at nickel. P.J. is one of the leaders of this defense but Antawun is very capable of playing well like he did last week filling in.