In advance of the Red River Rivalry on Saturday against the Oklahoma Sooners, Texas Longhorns head coach Mack Brown spoke to the media during his Monday press conference.
Here are the highlights:
-- Brown noted that Oklahoma has "more speed on the field" than in the past on defense, a rather interesting comment given that the Sooners have been playing their linebackers more this season. They will be without starting linebacker Corey Nelson, who is out for the season with a torn pectoral muscle. Former Texas target Aaron Franklin will compete with Dominique Alexander for Nelson's reps.
-- Junior offensive tackle Josh Cochran has missed the last two games after leaving the contest against Ole Miss early with a shoulder injury. He's expected to practice on Monday and may be able to play this weekend. Sophomore Kennedy Estelle has been solid replacing Cochran, but he hasn't been so dominant as to keep Cochran out of the lineup if he is fully returned to health by Saturday.
-- Texas didn't run the ball enough, Brown said, but he was quick to point out that many of the passes were on packaged plays in which defenders gave Case McCoy a pass read. However, the fact remains that Texas didn't force the issue despite having success and play caller Major Applewhite could have simply started calling straight running plays if he really wanted to get the ball in the hands of sophomore running back Johnathan Gray, whose 45-yard touchdown run early was seemingly an indication that he was building on the success achieved against Kansas State. Gray finished with only 16 carries.
-- Redshirt freshman Jalen Overstreet will be making the move back to quarterback because of the uncertain future of David Ash. While Brown didn't specify whether that uncertainty that was just in the short term or whether the concern extends to the continuation of Ash's career, he did say that Ash has still been having experiencing symptoms of his head injury and would need to be symptom-free for a week before he could play, which is why he was ruled out for Oklahoma so early.
-- The most animated Brown got during the press conference was when asked about not playing freshman quarterback Tyrone Swoopes, who warmed up on Saturday, but never entered the game. Brown said that raw quarterback still has to prove himself in practice, "He needs to show Major during the week that by putting him in, it will help us win."
Brown somewhat contradicted that statement though when he said that there was "never a comfortable time" to put Swoopes in the game against Iowa State. Texas did jump out to a 10-0 lead early.
-- The play of kickoff specialist Nick Rose and kicker Anthony Fera was lauded by Brown. Fera in particular dropped five punts inside the Iowa State 15-yard line, including one that died inside the five with no help from the coverage unit, which was faked out by the Cyclone return man acting as if he was going to fair catch the punt. Brown isn't as happy with the lack of explosiveness from both return games.
Texas ranks 59h in the country in kickoff returns at 21.4 yards per return, but the problem is that many of those have come out of the end zone, resulting in lost yardage when the Horns fail to reach the 25. The punt return game hasn't been much better -- the normally sure-handed Jaoxn Shipley fumbled against Iowa State and was lucky to recover the football and that unit overall ranks 54th nationally at just over nine yards per return.
Meanwhile, the kickoff coverage unit ranks 109th in the country, allowing 25.3 yards per return, an inexcusable number for a team that features so many highly-ranked prospects.
-- Brown wasn't happy with the gap integrity of the linebackers, so the Longhorns plan on starting junior Steve Edmond at the weakside linebacker spot that redshirt freshman Tim Cole was in last week. Sophomore Dalton Santos will stay in the middle.
The fact that the Longhorns are now putting their two slow middle linebackers on the field is further confirmation of just how far juniors Tevin Jackson and Kendall Thompson have fallen out of the rotation. After showing some late-season improvement last year, Jackson in particular has been completely missing from the rotation this year, having produced only a single tackle in 2013.
On one level, it makes sense to have two bigger linebackers in the game to deal with monster Oklahoma quarterback Blake Bell. On the whole, however, it's extremely risky because the Sooners will probably run Power Read with speedy running backs Damien Williams and Brennan Clay and then work to isolate those players on Edmond in pass coverage.
Suffice it to say that Edmond playing in more space isn't the answer for a linebacker corps that doesn't have many at the moment.
-- Brown also noted that Case McCoy made some plays last season against Oklahoma, because garbage-time success against third-team Sooners last year is a fantastic sign that McCoy will make plays against the best secondary Texas has faced this season.
During the press conference, Brown also said, "Last year's game has nothing to do with this year's game. You start over every year."