There's plenty to be excited about this weekend for Texas football — the 'Horns could reach bowl eligibility for the first time since 2014, and Texas should be returning future NFL first rounder Connor Williams to boost the offensive line.
Still, after Saturday's far from convincing 42-27 victory over Kansas, there are many concerns with this team. The offense has clearly still not been figured out and Holton Hill's absence is noticeable in the secondary.
We break down the plusses and minuses and general mixed feelings of being a Texas Longhorn fan in this week's BON writers' roundtable below.
Did last weekend's sloppy win over Kansas make you more confident or less confident about this Texas team the rest of the season? Why?
Wes Crochet, contributor: I left less confident after seeing the defense give up some big chunks and plays through the air without Holton Hill locking down one side of the secondary. And the offense didn't do anything new that made me gain a ton of confidence either.
Anthony Rizzo, contributor: Less confident, but not by a significant amount. The ‘Horns failed to beat a winless Big 12 Kansas team handily and made costly mistakes allowing Kansas to remain in the game. Although it may have not looked pretty, a win is still a win.
Gerald Goodridge, contributor: I am definitely less confident. The defense really struggled in coverage without Holton Hill, against a team that only managed three field goals against Baylor. Texas is now faced with must-win situations against two more elite offenses.
How much of a boost will the potential return of Connor Williams be for this Texas offensive line? Will the junior's return be enough to significantly improve most of the o-line's problems?
Wes: There's only one Connor Williams so he won't erase all the whiffs, missed assignments, and bonehead plays nor will he add mass to Kerstetter or improve anyone's athleticism. Where he will likely help is by anchoring the either quarterbacks' blind side and hopefully influencing the other linemen to step up their game. It seems like whoever plays Left Guard always has a boost in play when playing next to Connor Williams.
Anthony: The return of Connor Williams is huge for the whole offense. With the struggles at the left tackle position, Williams can fill in right away and make a major difference. There’s a reason why he’s listed as a Top 10 draft pick in multiple NFL mock drafts. The offensive line should look much better than it has been ever since he went down with an injury.
Gerald: I think any NFL talent on that line is an improvement, but with missing as much time as he has, he will need to knock some dust off for a bit. I believe Williams is a top-tier lineman, but my expectations are tempered based upon what I have seen from the rest of the team in his absence.
Daniel Young received 21 carries against the Jayhawks this past weekend, and Toneil Carter added three carries for 34 yards. Has the freshman tandem established themselves as the future at RB and what kind of role can guys like Chris Warren have going forward?
Wes: Said this a few weeks ago, these two freshmen running backs are your starters the rest of the way and should start next season. Why Kyle Porter continues to receive valuable snaps has to only be because he works hard in practice and Herman wants to set the tone this season that working hard in practice pays off. Young and Carter should absolutely get the majority of the carries, and there's no debating that.
Anthony: I think so. Carter and Young should be the No. 1 and 2 running backs going forward for the rest of the season. With stud in-state running back Keaontay Ingram coming in next year, Texas will have the perfect combination of power, speed and agility coming out of the backfield for the next couple of years. Warren’s role going forward should be exactly what it was against Kansas. I like him as a blocking back and as a tight end. It’d be nice to see the offense incorporate him in the passing game with some screens considering how effective he’s been this year on dump passes/screens.
Gerald: Both Young and Carter show an ability to make guys miss in the backfield, which is a requirement with the way the offensive line has played this season. The young RBs clearly provide some spark. I think Chris Warren may have found his spot at H-Back, as he was always the pass protection guy and is dangerous on a wheel route coming out of the backfield.
From Baker Mayfield to Mason Rudolph, Texas has faced some of the most elite QBs in the country this year, and West Virginia's Will Grier will be no exception. What does the WVU QB bring to the table that Texas hasn't seen thus far this year?
Wes: As a passer, Grier's strengths won't be completely new to this defense. What comes along with Grier could arguably be the most well-rounded set of receivers this defense will have played to this point. And with no Holton Hill, Grier could spray the football around to a number of different receivers. It should be noted that Grier does lead the conference in interceptions with 12.
Anthony: Grier is similar to Baker Mayfield in a way. Grier probably has the best overall arm in the Big 12 when it comes to passes down the field. His decision making can be questionable at times as he has 12 interceptions on the season.
Gerald: Initially, the sheer volume of passes he throws, he is No. 11 nationally in pass attempts, including five games with more than 40 pass attempts.
What should be the plan for shutting down David Sills? Which Texas DB is going to have to step up the most in Morgantown?
Wes: It sounds like this will be Kris Boyd's task as he stepped into that No. 1 CB role last week against Kansas. Doing a rain dance could be a smart move for this Texas defense as well. No quarterback enjoys passing in the rain.
Anthony: Have a safety overtop on Sills as much as possible, especially in the redzone. It can be hard with how often West Virginia spreads it out, but Stills is arguably one of the best wide receivers in the nation and the secondary has to contain him as much as possible. With Josh Thompson being out with a concussion, it leaves the secondary with very little depth. After a rough performance against Kansas, junior cornerback Davante Davis has to step up and have a solid game.
Gerald: I imagine David Sills is going to draw a lot of safety help, meaning that a guy like Davante Davis must have a good game one-on-one in coverage. If the defense can force the ball to one receiver who is locked down in single coverage, it's going to be a good night for the Texas defense.
Who is your MVP this weekend and additionally who is an unexpected player that will make an impact?
Wes: If Texas wins, the MVP will go to Todd Orlando for keeping this a low-scoring affair. And if Texas wins, the unexpected impact player will be Patrick Vahe for upping his blocking with Connor Williams finally on his left side again.
Anthony: Collin Johnson finally got his starting spot back as the ‘Z’ receiver due to Dorian Leonard’s injury. This means he should be involved early and often. He’s my pick for MVP of the game. Watch out for linebacker Jeffrey McCulloch having a breakout performance coming off the edge.
Gerald: Breckyn Hager and Malcolm Roach will have to use their superior edge-rushing abilities to disrupt this West Virginia passing game. Again, I think Boyd is going to have his best game of the season in pass protection and make a few big plays.
Breckyn Hager claimed the Morgantown crowd is full of "hillbillies drinking moonshine." Thoughts?
Wes: My uncle makes some pretty stout moonshine in east Texas that will put hair on your peaches. I can't get on Hager for calling it like he sees it.
Anthony: Very fitting and hilarious comment. Mr. Hager should get more opportunities to speak with the media that’s for sure. He’s the best.
Gerald: Bernie Mac once said "I say the stuff you're scared to say." Breck may be this team's Bernie Mac.
Your prediction for the game?
Wes: WVU 31, Texas 21
Anthony: Went back and forth on this one. If this was a night game in Morgantown I’d pick West Virginia. Texas 30, West Virginia 26.
Gerald: Unfortunately I think Texas loses this one 42-35.