Conference Big 12
The Purple and Gold travel to Austin, Texas this Saturday to face an opponent shrouded in mystery. At this point in the season, Greedy Texas may not know how good, or bad it is. The Longhorns beat an outmanned Louisiana Tech team in its first game of the season. The one thing to know about Texas, is they have a lot of good athletes. The question is, whether these athletes are good football players.
At the beginning of the season, the Texas offensive depth chart listed 33 players. Five are seniors and eight are juniors. Fourteen are freshmen. Eight of the 14, however, are redshirts, so they have been in the Texas system for one year.
Junior Sam Ehlinger returns as a starter at quarterback for the Longhorns. In 2018 Ehlinger threw for 3,392 yards and 25 touchdowns. He ran for 482 yards and 16 touchdowns. One of his targets is senior wide receiver Collin Johnson. In 2018 Johnson had 68 catches for 985 yards and seven touchdowns. Senior Devin Duvernay had 41 catches for 546 yards and four touchdowns. Another target is junior tight end Cade Brewer.
Sophomore runningback Keaontay Ingram returns as the starter at tailback. In 2018, his freshman season, he ran for 708 yards on 142 carries, just under five yards per carry. He ran for three touchdowns and had two receiving scores. The sophomore caught 27 passes for 170 yards last year.
The offensive line lost three starters, but two good ones return in sophomore left tackle Samuel Cosmi, and senior center Zach Shackleford. In 2018 the latter was named first team All-Big 12 for the Longhorns.
Like the offense, only five seniors are on the Texas depth chart on defense. Actually, the Longhorns rush defense allowed 131.4 yards per game last year. This was 28th nationally, so their defense against the run was not great, despite losing a lot of starters. However, that unit allowed only 72 yards rushing to Georgia in Texas' Sugar Bowl win last season.
Last season, linebackers Jeffrey McCulloch and Joseph Ossai had 33 and 20 total tackles, and one sack each. McCulloch is a senior and Ossai is a sophomore. They did not start last year.
Senior defensive end Malcolm Roach started the first three games in 2018 before he injured his foot. He played in nine games, most of them after returning from injury.
The strength of the Longhorn defense is the secondary.
Sophomore safety Caden Stearns started every game last year, except the Sugar Bowl, which he missed due to injury. In 2018 he was the Big 12 Defensive Freshman of the Year. Stearns had 62 tackles, 46 solos, three tackles for losses (tfls), four interceptions, and four breakups. Senior safety Brandon Jones averaged seven tackles per game last year, which led the team. He had 70 tackles, 48 unassisted. He accomplished this despite missing four contests last season. Sophomore nickleback B.J. Foster had 46 tackles, 33 solos, including 2.5 sacks during the 2018 campaign.
Texas is ranked highly at the beginning of the 2019 season. It remains to be seen if they deserve it. A note of caution: The Longhorns, like the Purple and Gold, recruit very well. Some of their freshmen play at a high level. Last year was no exception, with the likes of Ingram, Cosmi, Sterns, Jones, and Foster. Texas head coach Tom Herman likes to stockpile players by redshirting them. He has redshirted 38 players in two full seasons as head coach. There are 21 freshmen listed on the overall Texas depth chart, and 12 of them are redshirts. So 12 freshmen may not have measurable playing time, but they have been in the Texas system for more than a year. They might not be as green as they appear to be.
The 2019 version of Greedy Texas resembles a package of plastic explosives. In a non-hardened state, plastic explosives are non-lethal. Presently, the Longhorns do not appear hardened, or at least, not most of them.
Saturday will reveal if Texas is deserving of their number nine ranking.