In what appears to be the most anticipated game of the year for the Texas players and staff, BYU comes into town it what should be a rather intense ball game. We asked Dustin McComas of OrangeBloods.com to give us some insight on Tyrone Swoopes, Charlies Strong's X's and O's and Austin BBQ.
VANQUISH THE FOE: With David Ash out with a concussion, what does backup QB Tryone Swoopes bring to the table? How much will we see of the prized recruit Jerrod Heard?
Dustin McComas - Orangebloods.com: Swoopes brings a dynamic with his legs that Ash doesn't have or wasn't allowed to use depending on how you look at it. At 6-4, 243 pounds, he's a load to tackle, and he opens the playbook because now the Texas staff can use quarterback-designed runs, zone-read-type looks, and move the pocket with run-pass options. The problem for Texas is that Swoopes, a true sophomore that watched his redshirt get burned in a blowout midway through the season for no good use in particular later in the year, has very limited experience, is raw as a passer, and isn't nearly as polished in everything about the passing game like Ash. Judging from Shawn Watson's comments this week, it would be a surprise if Texas used Jerrod Heard. A surprise coming out of camp was that Swoopes won the No. 2 job without a debate, so it's clear that Heard is still a true freshman, which is to be expected.
VANQUISH THE FOE: We've heard a lot about Charlie Strong and the strong sense of discipline that he has brought to Texas. What changes has he made in regard to X's and O's?
Dustin McComas - Orangebloods.com:In the first game against North Texas, the defense looked noticeably different. Texas created opportunities that forced quarterbacks to try to throw over the top of linebackers in passing lanes with safeties lurking behind, which resulted in four interceptions - two by safeties and two by linebackers. At times, Shiro Davis, who is on the field for his ability to get after the quarterback, could be seen in the flat or sprinting down the field 20 yards in coverage, including on a play that resulted in the game's first interception. Texas was aggressive with its pressure, but created coverage problems for the quarterback with its coverages.
Offensively, I'd be lying if I said I knew what to fully expect from a X's and O's standpoint this Saturday.
VANQUISH THE FOE: In last year's matchup the Longhorn offense fared relatively well compared to what their defensive counterpart. How will they look to attack BYU's 3-4 defense?
Dustin McComas - Orangebloods.com: Again, it's tough to truly know because we've only seen this Watson/Joe Wickline offense in one game that matters and that quarterback won't be under center Saturday, and we've barely seen Swoopes play in situations that matter and situations when the full playbook is available.
What I think will happen is that Texas will try to ride Johnathan Gray and Malcolm Brown as much as they can, but the offensive line looked shaky last week. And the offensive line is now without its most experience player Dominic Espinosa and the two most likely starters at offensive tackle for the BYU game Desmond Harrison and Kennedy Estelle after they were both suspended. So, it won't be easy for the Longhorns to pound the rock, especially against a solid front seven like BYU.
So I'd look for Texas to get Swoopes out of the pocket some to cut the field in half, make decisions easier to make, and to force the defense to account for his legs. I'd also look for play-action shots deep down the field out of run formations because Swoopes' strength as a passer is the deep ball vertically down the field.
Basically, Texas will probably run the ball as much as it can and try to give Swoopes easy, quick decisions in the passing game while taking advantage of his ability to run.
VANQUISH THE FOE: I don't need to remind you of what Taysom Hill is capable of. Which players need to have a big game in order to help the Texas defense stop Hill?
Dustin McComas - Orangebloods.com: The edge players on the defensive line (Cedric Reed, Shiro Davis) and the linebackers, especially the outside linebackers (Jordan Hicks, Steve Edmond, and Peter Jinkens as well as others), need to have big games for the Longhorns because of what Hill did to them last year, which was basically turn into 1996 Tommie Frazier in an option-based offense. Texas can't ask its safeties to consistently have to make tackles at the second level, and it can't afford for its defensive lineman and linebackers to make poor decisions defending the run and miss tackles.
VANQUISH THE FOE: BYU's special teams hurt them significantly in their bowl game against Washington and looked shaky again against UConn. How does Texas look on special teams?
Dustin McComas - Orangebloods.com: Texas nearly blocked two punts last week. In fact, I recall Strong giving Naashon Hughes an earful after Hughes missed a block that Strong thought he should have gotten. And the Longhorns have some big play potential at punt returner and kickoff returner.
As for their kicking game, well, I'm not sure the Longhorns know what they're going to get each time the placekicker or punter steps on to the field.
VANQUISH THE FOE: In a game like this, the play of the offensive and defensive lines will be key factors. How do the Longhorns look in the trenches?
Dustin McComas - Orangebloods.com: The defensive line looked absolutely fantastic in week one against North Texas, and the offensive line might have looked the polar opposite. Defensively, Malcom Brown and Desmond Jackson were consistently disruptive at the tackle spots, and Hassan Ridgeway had his coming out party off the bench at defensive tackle. Cedric Reed is still Cedric Reed, which means he's a potential All-American and the ends opposite him were solid. Offensively, there were positive moments for the Longhorns but also a lot of hits on the quarterback - Ash being out is because of a hit he suffered very early in the game - and the duo of Gray and Brown had to earn a lot of their yards by breaking a tackle near the line of scrimmage or making a guy miss. If you ask a Longhorn fan his biggest concern that's not the QB position, his or her answer is the offensive line without even a millisecond of hesitation.
VANQUISH THE FOE: For the BYU fans making the trip to Austin, should they brave the 4 hour wait for Franklin's BBQ? Or are we better off checking out La Barbecue or John Mueller Meat Co.?
Dustin McComas - Orangebloods.com: Now we're speaking my language. I will say that Franklin is worth the wait. It really is everything everyone says it is, and the first bite of that brisket takes the taste buds to food heaven. But as you mentioned, the line can be brutal, especially if you're not there at like 8:30 or 9:00 a.m. well before the place even opens. Personally, I'd recommend snagging some BBQ at a place like La Barbecue, John Mueller, Freemen's, Lamberts, and the recently opened Terry Black's. All of those places are not that far from downtown/stadium area.
VANQUISH THE FOE: How do you see the game playing out?
Dustin McComas - Orangebloods.com: I would be shocked if the Longhorns didn't come to play defensively. Texas' defensive players know how embarrassing last year was for them. Strong is an outstanding X's and O's coach defensively and defensive coordinator Vance Bedford has been at his side for years now. Throughout the fall camp, Texas probably focused on hitting and tackling more than anything else, and it showed in week one in an absolutely dominant performance in every sense of the word. Strong is also a tremendous motivator, or at least he was at previous stops like Florida and Louisville. So I expect Texas to take the field with the mentality that it wants to prove everyone who doubts it wrong.
But then there is the offense, which could go a number of directions. Anyone that tells you they have a great idea how Swoopes and the offense will play is lying. So, I'm expecting a few big plays here or there once Swoopes settles in but it will be very tough for him and Texas early.
In the end, Texas' defense should keep it in the game until the fourth quarter, and then it could come down to who gets the big break in the special teams, who forces the big turnover, or who hits the home run offensively. I think Swoopes surprises people with a couple of big plays late and the Longhorns get the break they need to steal a 24-23 win.