Watching film and doing research will unquestionably provide some insight into an upcoming opponent, but sometimes there's nothing better to do than talk to an expert. BON traded questions on Wednesday night with BYU beat writer Brandon Gurney of the Deseret News to get his take on the Cougars and how they will match up with the Horns.
Burnt Orange Nation: How much of a threat is Taysom Hill in the passing game? Can BYU get anything going there against a Texas secondary that will probably try to limit big plays if Cody Hoffman doesn't play? Even if he does at less than 100%?
Brandon Gurney: It remains to be seen how big of a threat Taysom Hill is as a passing quarterback. Saturday's game against Virginia, and Hill's 13-40 throwing stats, surely didn't inspire much confidence in his ability to beat a defense with his arm. A lot of Hill's throwing woes can be chalked up to poor pass protection from a very shaky and inexperienced offensive line.
Hill doesn't lack arm strength, but accuracy remains a big concern. In light of BYU's pass protection issues along with Texas' strength at defensive end, I don't anticipate BYU running as many straight drops for Hill as it did against Virginia.
BYU was thought to have good play-makers at receiver, other than Hoffman, when the season started. None of them are game proven as such, however, and few, if any plays, were made against Virginia. Granted that the receivers didn't get much of a chance due to pass protection and quarterback accuracy issues.
I'd be surprised if Hoffman didn't play. He'll at least give it a go considering he was close to playing last week.
BON: Against a deep and pretty talented Texas defensive line, can the Cougars afford to give the absolute majority of their carries to HIll and Jamaal Williams as they did against Virginia? Is there any depth at running back that could make a difference?
BG: It was a bit surprising to see Jamaal Williams carry the ball 33 times last week and it's doubtful he'll shoulder that much work against Texas. BYU has a good stable of running backs behind Williams led by senior Michael Alisa, who has struggled with injuries. Paul Lasike is a Rugby All-American, who has received a lot of praise from coaches along with sophomore Adam Hine.
Williams is clearly the best running back on the team, which warrants the lion's share of touches, but I'd be surprised if he saw more than 25 carries this week.
Although Hill had 11 carries against Virginia, he never made the impact on the ground most were anticipating. While there are questions about Hill's ability to beat a defense with his arm, there aren't many questions about his ability to beat a defense with his legs. Hill possesses extraordinary speed and quickness for a a quarterback, but didn't put those abilities on display against Virginia. It will be interesting to note if Hill becomes more of a running threat this week.
BON: What's the best way to go about limiting star outside linebacker Kyle Van Noy? Is it basically a case of hoping to contain him?
BG: Kyle Van Noy is an exceptional talent and easily one of the best outside linebackers in the entire country. He added some good weight in the offseason which allows him to take on blocks more effectively.
He was good against Virginia, but did miss a couple of tackles in the backfield that he usually makes with ease. He should have a chip on his shoulder from that and is certainly looking forward to the stiff challenge Texas presents.
Van Noy presents a rare speed and strength combination that regularly gives opposing defenses fits. Linebacker is certainly the strongest position at BYU and Van Noy is helped considerably by the abilities of players like Spencer Hadley (Buck linebacker), Uani Unga (Mike linebacker) and Alani Fua (Sam linebacker.) The strength that BYU has at all four linebacker positions makes it difficult to completely focus on stopping Van Noy.
BON: Is there going to be any drop off in the BYU front seven this year after the losses along the defensive line or is it just going to be business as usual? Can nose tackle Eathyn Manumaleuna be displaced in the run game as Romney Fuga was not? How big of a force can Bronson Kaufusi be as a complement to Van Noy.
BG: BYU is strong along its defensive front, but relatively thin. Coaches believe they have five guys they can play during games, but beyond that, there are big question marks.
Manumaleuna is a very experienced player and has started at both defensive end, and at nose guard since he was a freshman. As good as Fuga was, Manumaleuna has proven every bit as effective at nose tackle and possesses better overall athleticism than Fuga.
A lot is expected of Kaufusi this season, but he was relatively quiet against Virginia last week. Many believe he's an NFL talent that can effectively replace a lot of what Ezekiel Ansah brought to the team last season. The potential weakness is on the other side of Kaufusi, where BYU starts Remington Peck. Peck is a decent player, but lacks the size, strength, and all-around ability that Kaufusi has. Look for Texas to test Peck, and his ability to stuff the run early and often.
BON: If Texas wants to play this game in space offensively, are there any concerns with individual members of the secondary in coverage or basic competency of the whole? How much of BYU's success against the pass has been because of the front seven's strength?
BG: Safety is a strength for BYU. Senior Daniel Sorensen might be the best strong safety the program has ever fielded and he was very good in both coverage and run support last week. Junior Craig Bills starts at free safety and is a solid player with a lot of upside. Both are very physical players who play like linebackers in run support.
BYU's cornerbacks played very well against Virginia, but weren't severely tested by what appeared to be a weak passing attack. That will change against Texas, who obviously has a large stable of athletes who can beat a defense on any given play.
As a whole, Texas presents a completely different level of challenges for BYU on both sides of the ball.