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Five Things to Watch Against Kansas

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Horns_bullet_mediumHow will this weekend the recruiting efforts of the Longhorns? Though the big news of the week is Darius White's unexpected and resurgent interest in Texas and official visit on Saturday, Jackson Jeffcoat's visit is no less important. Seen throwing up a Hook ‘Em sign in his playoff game last week, Jeffcoat has kept his feelings under wraps throughout the entire process, leaving few hints about his leader board or potential plans. Unfortunately, his father won't be able to make the trip with him, as was planned for the Texas Tech game, but Jeffcoat will have a chance to see the Legion of Boom up close and personal and Muschamp will surely provide him an idea of how the Longhorns would use him as an edge pass rusher in the Buck package.

Prospects like Jeffcoat aren't generally concerned about the depth chart - he is rated as one of the best players in the country regardless of position, after all, but USC and Oklahoma, the other two schools likely in his top three, both offer less competition at his position. At Texas, Jeffcoat would be competing with Eddie Jones, Sam Acho, Alex Okafor, and Reggie Wilson for playing time next season, not to mention Dravannti Johnson, Russell Carter, and Dominique Jones. Given his pedigree and the coaching advice he has received from his father, the latter group is probably not particularly imposing for him, but the former group represents a significant number of talented, experienced players competing for two positions.

Jeffcoat will probably remain relatively silent after his visit, so it will likely be difficult to tell just how much of an impact his visit will make until he elects to make a decision and it's impossible to know when that might come. Right now, however, things look good for the Longhorns and the visit this weekend will be a great opportunity for the Legion of Boom to show just how dominating they can be and how appealing it is to be a part of that group.

As for White, the prospects for an official visit seemed unlikely just days ago, particularly after the commitment of DeMarco Cobbs -- it seemed likely only a matter of time until White would become a Sooner. The depth chart is still a critical factor in his recruitment and may eventually help land him in Norman, as might the commitment of long-time friend Rashod Favors to Oklahoma. There's also speculation that his stepdad, who just recently married his mother, favors Oklahoma as well, though that is of course speculation.

The key is that White contacted the Texas coaching staff to express his renewed interest, much like Cobbs did a little more than a month ago -- his contacting the coaching staff makes his feelings for Texas seem as strong and genuine as they have in months. In other words, the official visit moves White's recruitment in a much more positive direction for Texas than it has since his visit for a summer camp in June. Oklahoma may still be a slightly favorite, but it appears that the Longhorns are back in the mix with White.

Another important visitor is San Antiono Madison running back Aaron Green, a top target for 2011 and a player who has taken few visits this season. Madison lost last week in the playoffs to Lake Travis, providing an opportunity for Green to take in the final Texas home game of the season. The Longhorns have been mentioned more often in recent weeks by Green, who says he has a srong relationship with Major Applewhite, but it's probably the Texas scheme that Green will be most interested in this weekend.

In nearly every interview, Green mentions that he wants to attend a school that runs a "pro style" offense, certainly a vague statement, but whatever that really means, it's apparently extremely important for Green. Most likely it means that Green doesn't want to play in a shotgun, zone blocking scheme, but it's difficult to say. The Longhorns will probably run some from under center, as they did last week against Baylor, though it won't be a big part of the offense -- if Green is looking for a school that runs from under center, the game against Kansas probably won't help much in that regard. The good news is that Texas will probably tweak the offense next season with Garrett Gilbert and may return to an offense more closely resembling the one that Texas ran with Chris Simms than the zone read-based offense under Vince Young and that may appeal to Green.

Horns_bullet_mediumWill Kansas rally around their embattled coach? The story of the week in college football in the increasingly hot seat upon which Kansas head coach Mark Mangino sits, as more and more stories emerge about systematic verbal abuse -- basically, Magino is not a nice person. At all. Though Mangino has tried to shift the blame to the parents of players and Mack Brown believes the current internal investigation by the Jayhawk athletic department will unite the team, that may not be the case. It's impossible to tell how the players on the team feel about the situation, but if the feelings of former players is any indication, things could be deteriorating radiply in the KU locker room. The current five-game losing streak only adds to that perception and increases the potential that the Kansas team could quit on Mangino.

If Texas gets out to a quick lead, will the Jayhawks fight back to help try to save their coach's job or will they hasten his increasingly-inevitable departure by quitting on the field? If the Jayhawks do give up on the game, their coach, and their season, things could turn ugly extremely quickly at DKR on Saturday night in front of a national television audience.

Horns_bullet_mediumWill the 2009 version of the "Midget Revenge Tour" end any more successfully than the 2008 version? Regardless of how Todd Reesing feels about his head coach, and he might not be on the best of terms with Mangino given his benching several weeks ago, the former Lake Travis star is one player on the Kansas roster who will surely give his best effort on Saturday night. Passed over by the hometown Longhorns, Reesing has surely circled this game on his calendar ever since he got to Kansas and this will be his opportunity to prove his doubters wrong, both on the Texas coaching staff and amongst the general populace. Reesing faces the same problem that Chase Daniel faced last year in his efforts for revenge -- he's just too short and not good enough to succeed against the superior athletes of Texas. Rather than proving that the Longhorns erred in passing him up, the game will more likely prove that Mack Brown and his staff made the right decision by choosing not to offer the pint-sized quarterback.

Horns_bullet_mediumCan Texas continue to build on the rushing success achieved against Baylor? Baylor wasn't exactly an elite or even average run-stuffing team, but the success of Cody Johnson and Tre' Newton against the Bears was a step forward, most notably for the play of the offensive line. Greg Davis simplified the number of running plays, repping the weakside zone, counter, and power repeatedly in practice against the different fronts and strategies they were likely to face against the Bears. It worked, as the offensive line missed fewer assignment than they had all season and the results were readily apparent.

Will Davis expand the rushing playbook against another poor run-stopping team in Kansas, or will the Longhorns continue to keep it simple? Can the offensive line perform well for a second straight week? One factor in the improvement may be the increased emphasis on drive blocking at times with the power play, which seemed to energize the offensive line, particularly the more physical players in the group like Michael Huey and Kyle Hix. Another week of successfully running the football could help allay continued concerns about Texas being unable to pick up critical yardage on the ground in a possible national championship game appearance.

Horns_bullet_mediumCan the defense continue to force turnovers and sack the quarterback? An enduring image from last season was Reesing stepping in the bucket and releasing a duck into the frigid Kansas air faced with the intimidating rush of...Blake Gideon, perhaps the least physically intidimating player on the team. At barely 5-10, Reesing is susceptible to pressure in his face and may face a great deal of it against the Longhorns - standing behind an inexperienced and underperforming offensive line isn't exactly the safest place when going against the Legion of Boom. If Texas even approaches the level of pressure they put on Reesing last year, it will be a long and frustrating game for the diminutive senior, much like it was for Chase Daniel in his lone appearance at DKR.

A point of emphasis this week will remain stripping the football and, just as importantly, recovering the football afterwards. The Longhorns defense has missed out on two touchdowns -- one against Oklahoma and one against Baylor -- by failing to recover the football in or near the end zone after a forced fumble. Forcing and recovering more fumbles is really the last step towards the Texas defense fulfilling its potential as the best all-around unit in the country.