Before the Texas Longhorns make their way up to Fort Worth on Saturday to take on the TCU Horned Frogs there for the first time since the Southwest Conference days, it's time to answer some questions from Twitter.
@SBN_Wescott which DB do you think Texas will be able to have the most success against— Kris Wellborn (@jkwellborn) October 25, 2013
Well, part of what makes the TCU secondary so excellent is that there is not a single player who stands out as a glaring weakness -- the Horned Frogs don't quite have the same drop-off that the Sooners do from their top defensive backs to their worst.
I think that looking at the list of TCU players with interceptions provides some perspective on this. Baylor makes a living offensively by isolating and attacking safeties, who tend to struggle more in coverage than their counterparts at cornerback, but the weak and strong safeties for the Horned Frogs lead the team in interceptions, as strong safety Sam Carter has three, as does weak safety Chris Hackett.
The guy that has traditionally been picked on the most is Round Rock Stony Point product Kevin White, a player I had a chance to watch a lot in high school and really liked as an underrecruited take for TCU. He has two interceptions himself this year, as well as six passes broken up, and has turned himself into a good Big 12 cornerback. I'm not sure that he is the guy who can be taken advantage of at this point.
In all, six TCU defensive backs have interceptions this year, so the success for Texas may have to come from out-scheming head coach Gary Patterson's defense rather than exploiting individual match ups, if that distinction makes sense.
@SBN_Wescott given 80 plays. Split the touches.— Matt S (@redsoxmtexas) October 25, 2013
Part of this question involves making a guess about the offensive game plan. Will it look like Oklahoma, with a heavy emphasis on the run or will it look more like Iowa State with a lot of packaged plays?
Head coach Mack Brown spoke this week about the power running game becoming a big part of the Texas identity, but TCU can leverage the running game so easily to outnumber the box because of the alignment of their weak and strong safeties, so going heavy probably won't be the advantage it was against the smaller Oklahoma front seven.
With that being said, let's assume Texas goes the Oklahoma route and McCoy attempts 25 passes compared to 55 runs. Daje Johnson gets eight of those carries, Johnathan Gray gets 23, Malcolm Brown gets 20, and Joe Bergeron gets four.
In the passing game, Johnson needs to get the ball on a jet sweep push pass or two and should be targeted in the passing game over the middle three times, with two catches. Call it four catches for Johnson, with the rest spread out between guys like Mike Davis, Marcus Johnson, and Kendall Sanders, who will have to find ways to get open deep despite TCU scheming with their coverages to take away post and corner routes.
Since Texas is going heavy though, some stick routes to Geoff Swaim from a flex tight end position could find success because it's harder for the defense to dictate where the ball goes with the option route. Three big catches for Swaim.
@SBN_Wescott which line will have have the most trouble on Saturday? Defense or Offense?— Martin Martinez (@martinmjr4) October 25, 2013
There's no question that the TCU defensive line is well ahead of the offensive line, though defensive tackle Davion Pierson is limited right now with an ankle injury and didn't practice Wednesday. He'll probably play, but he isn't likely to be close to 100%. The Horned Frogs have suffered from some other injuries there, most notably star defensive end Devonte Fields, who is out for the year, but make no mistake about it -- this defensive front is still formidable.
To put it bluntly, the offensive line run out there by the Horned Frogs is not good and it would be a major surprise to see the Longhorns defensive line struggled there because it should have a huge advantage on paper and since it has been playing at a high level in recent weeks, there's no reason to believe that the advantage on paper won't translate to the field.
@SBN_Wescott Does TCU having passing QB available drastically change GR's planning? Will we switch to zone coverage when he's in?— Scott Greene (@greenehorn2) October 25, 2013
Brown said earlier this week that it does change the game planning, as Texas has to prepare for Trevone Boykin, Tyler Matthews, and Casey Pachall, who will be available after being cleared on Thursday.
At this point, though, it probably doesn't change a lot because the defensive plan is already in place and was prepared with the possibility that Pachall could play.
Texas ran the zone blitz against Oklahoma that resulted in the Chris Whaley interception, but playing zone has not been a strength of Duane Akina's secondaries, so it would be surprising to see the Horns try to run much zone this weekend.
@SBN_Wescott TCU tough against run. Considering McCoy's limitations, what needs 2 b done in passing game? More rollouts? TE?— Corgiluve62 (@Corgiluver62) October 25, 2013
Kansas had some success with a misdirection screen and using motion from a heavy look to get the safeties out of the middle of the field. Since the TCU defense is so hard to beat over the top most of the time, I think both of those aspects have to be big parts of the game plan.
Otherwise, it's hard to come up with many solutions. Ian Boyd thinks Texas should use more packaged plays against TCU this week and go spread, but I'm not sure that there is a single play in those packaged looks that Texas can really exploit besides stick/inside zone and stick/draw, both plays the Horns haven't used extensively.
@SBN_Wescott looking at the depth chart and scholarship situation, what’s the biggest concern/need for this year’s class?— John Yarbrough (@jyarbrough) October 25, 2013
The Horns have managed to fill most of their needs for the class, but the big remaining need is a safety who could come in and play early or at least be able to contribute in 2015. That guy would obviously be Jamal Adams and things are perhaps looking a little bit better with him after the win over Oklahoma and the continued struggles of Florida -- there's some positive momentum for Texas for the first time in months.
@SBN_Wescott should jinkens be the spy on Boykin— Kris Wellborn (@jkwellborn) October 25, 2013
I don't think Texas will need to spy on Boykin as long as the defensive line can be disciplined with their pass rushes, which they were able to do against Oklahoma.
It depends a little bit on how McCoy plays -- if he's the cause of the loss, public perception is going to swing against him again. If he isn't the problem, it will probably continue mostly as it is now, though a loss certainly hurts the positive momentum he has been building in terms of how Texas fans perceive him.
@SBN_Wescott has the ou win made some waves with some recruits?— Dale A. (@Nvlonghorn5820) October 25, 2013
I'll let Mack handle this (from his Wednesday press conference:
"We really did and that's the one thing about that game that has really hurt us for the last two years," Brown said. "We've been in great shape going into that game. We've been a top 15 team going into that game. We were 11th once and 14 or something the other time. We got blown out both times and I think it hurt us in recruiting just leaving there."
"If it's a close game I don't think it matters that much but when one team dominates the other I think it does make a difference. We've had a lot of calls from kids from other schools asking if we still have room. Our guys are really excited. It was an important win for us and it gives us a lot of hope moving forward."
No word yet on the identity of those recruits, but that counts as making some waves, no?
@SBN_Wescott what has been the recent news from out top prospects: Adams, Thomas, Brown, Watkins and Freeman— John McCrary (@mccraryjohn) October 25, 2013
As mentioned above, the Oklahoma game probably helped Texas with all of those guys, especially Adams. I'm not sure it happens with Nick Watkins, who hasn't had much contact with the Longhorns and has made multiple visits to South Bend to visit the Fighting Irish. I think he ends up there. Texas needs to get Edwin Freeman on campus and continued success would probably really help wrest him away from Texas A&M, but keep in mind that he grew up a Longhorns fan. Tony Brown is not going to happen. As for Solomon Thomas, it continues to look like a Stanford-Texas battle and the Cardinal may have a slight edge at this time.
@SBN_Wescott is Good Bull Hunting going to be the next coach of Texas?— Jimmy Gards (@ColoradoAg) October 25, 2013
Will be in the mix, but the next Texas coach will clearly be Nick Saban and his offensive coordinator will be Kevin Sumlin. Some Aggies will view that as a backwards step for Sumlin, but it's not at all. Also, the sun will rise in the west tomorrow morning.