Behind Enemy Lines: Get To Know Texas

first_imgThe Cowboys bring it home this week to face a well-rested no. 22 Texas Longhorn team coming off a bye week. College football analyst Phil Steele picked the talent-rich Longhorns as his most improved team for the 2016 season and while there’s a lot of football to be played, this underclassmen-laden team has an offense that is humming and a very talented defense.OffenseWhile the Cowboys had to adjust quickly from the Pitt ground-centric offense to the Baylor offense, this week will be much less of an adjustment as the Longhorns run the same style of attack as Baylor. “Two weeks in a row we’ve seen that same style of offense” says Coach Gundy as Art Briles’ disciple and former University of Tulsa offensive coordinator Sterlin Gilbert has really changed the offense in Austin.Against mostly Power 5 competition, the unit is scoring 44.7 points per game (13th in FBS) and racking up 500 yards of total offense, up from 26.4 points and 370.8 yards per game in 2015. So what’s changed? Stop me if you’ve heard this before, but the Horns may have found themselves a quarterback. True freshman Shane Buechele is averaging 240 yards per game while throwing for seven touchdowns to two interceptions and has twice been named the Big 12 Newcomer of the Week in this young season.The comps to a recent Longhorn legend are rolling in and combined with the 18-Wheeler package for Tyrone Swoopes, the QB play has really looked different in Austin lately.Buechele has spread the ball around well, but senior slot receiver and top punt returner Jacorey Warrick has the most catches (13) at this point. Starting with Warrick are outside receivers junior Armanti Foreman (twin brother of RB D’Onta) and sophomore John Burt, the top target from 2015. An X-factor in the receiving group is QB-turned-WR Jerrod Heard who has a couple of scores and is prime for some wildcat packages and reverse passes.The two-headed monster in the UT backfield is likely the most talented the Cowboys will play outside of Norman as D’Onta Foreman and Chris Warren are an absolute handful. They run behind a very solid offensive line, even without senior captain Kent Perkins who was suspended for the OSU game. On the left side of the line is a pair of all-conference sophomores who lead the way in tackle Connor Williams and guard Patrick Vahe. Junior right tackle Tristan Nickleson is supposed to return for conference play as he was hurt in the opener. The tandem of solid runners and a solid line play has racked up 238.3 yards per game on the ground (23rd in FBS), put mildly as a good test for the deep Cowboy front seven.DefenseLed by former OSU assistant Vance Bedford at defensive coordinator, the Longhorns defense is full of talent and “have a lot of big guys up front that are strong and can certainly hold their gap…. and they have speed on the perimeter” per Coach Gundy. With that being said, after getting exposed by Cal in week 3, there was wide speculation that Charlie Strong would be letting go of Bedford, but those rumors were put out and Strong will have a stronger influence on personnel and play calling moving forward.The unit is similar to OSU in that they’ve had more success stopping the run than the pass and that will be something to watch for. While historically a strength of Charlie Strong teams, the problems against Cal were primarily allowing big plays with several completions over 20 yards. Losing all-conference corner Davante Davis early in the game surely played a role but so far allowing a league high nine passing touchdowns and forcing no interceptions, Mason and the General may be in line for a field day.Similar to Baylor, the Horns run a 3-4 defense that occasionally turns into a 3-3 stack. Up front are veteran tackles Poona Ford and Paul Boyette who both put up a solid four plus tackles a game. A major strength of the front is a solid pass rush that leads the conference with 3.67 sacks per game. You can expect to see plenty of defensive end/outside linebackers Breckyn Hager and Malcolm Roach, who both have a couple of sacks to their name.The leader of the defense is 2015 Big 12 defensive freshman of the year, linebacker Malik Jefferson, affectionately referred to as “the Predator” . Beside Jefferson is leading tackler Anthony Wheeler who has a great nose for the ball, averaging almost seven and a half tackles per game. The other guy in the unit is “fox” linebacker (DE/LB hybrid) Naashon Hughes who has played consistent football.In the defensive secondary, sophomore Devante Davis is the playmaker and former walk-on Dylan Haines, starter of 25 games at safety, led the team a year ago with five interceptions. Cornerback Sheroid Evans leads the team with three pass break ups and is another encouraging story: as a sixth-year senior he hadn’t played a game before starting against Notre Dame since being sidelined in October 2013 when he tore is ACL, recovered, and then tore his ACL again.An X-factor for the defense could be releasing 2016 five star safety recruit Brandon Jones into the secondary. A special teams ace thus far, he’s blocked two punts and with recent issues in the secondary, don’t be surprised to see Jones getting some good time in the defensive backfield. Another player expected to be worked in is talented sophomore safety DeShon Elliott to try and right the ship.While the questions are well detailed, one Texas writer put it best when asking “is the defense fatally flawed, or is it inexperienced potential waiting to harden into realized greatness?”A question that Saturday in Stillwater will bring us one step closer to answering.If you’re looking for the comments section, it has moved to our forum, The Chamber. You can go there to comment and holler about these articles, specifically in these threads. You can register for a free account right here and will need one to comment.If you’re wondering why we decided to do this, we wrote about that here. Thank you and cheers!last_img

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