We've been talking with both SB Nation Texas blogs this week. Here's part II with Ian Boyd (Nickel Rover) from Barking Carnival.
WVUIE97: How excited were you to see Andrew Buie not on our roster this year?
Ian: Last year we had a pretty straightforward formula for victory against the Mountaineers: match the spread formations with dime personnel and force Holgorsen to beat our D with the run game.
Unfortunately, it turned out that we had one of the most incompetent run D's in the entire nation and the Mountaineers complied with Buie's famous performance. I can't imagine what would have happened if Holgs had stuck Tavon Austin at RB for that game...
Anyways, the Texas D made heroes out of many run games last year. My reaction to Buie being supplanted on the roster wasn't joy, but great concern since I knew he wasn't that great and the Texas D would now have to grow enough to handle a real RB in Morgantown.
WVUIE97: Is the revamped defense more a product of the schedule or the addition of ...wait, I'm actually going to ask this, Greg Robinson?
Ian: A little of column A, a little of column B. Diaz was trying to do too much with this defense and clearly didn't have enough control over the program or culture to install his entire D. As a result, many guys were actually regressing from how they had played in high school, uncertain of their assignments or role on the field.
Greg made a few technique tweaks but mostly just simplified everything down so that for a few weeks Texas ran 1 base defense with a few basic man blitzes thrown in. Slowly but surely, the natural athleticism and skill of the Texas players has now been allowed to come forth. This might be the best DL in the country but for the first several games Texas was amazingly squandering that precious resource.
Now the defense is slowly adding a little more and starting to nail down definite and manageable roles for the players to grow into.
Greg Robinson has done a great job of simply managing to harness what was already an exceptionally talented group.
Also, we haven't faced opponents for several weeks who can beat our press coverage or who've used the kind of run schemes that have really troubled our linebackers for the last two years. That's helped a great deal. It's still possible that WV or someone else will expose our D as still a long ways away from being "fixed" with some good option or power run game and a vertical passing game.
WVUIE97: Does the win over Oklahoma and the current win/loss record buyanother year if he keeps it up? Or is he gone? How would a loss to WVU this weekend affect his situation?
Ian: I'd think that a loss to WV, or really anything less than a conference title, would seal his fate. What Mack is alleged to bring to the program is stable culture, resource harnessing (great recruiting of players AND coaches), and general accountability.
We're not running the "Mack Brown offense" or "Mack Brown defense" because no such things exist. He just has ideas of what he wants the team to look like and then he tries to find people to execute that vision. For example, "I'd love to have Boise's offense...hey Harsin, got a second?"
All that to say, if that vision isn't executed, it's still his fault. He's been pointing to 2013 as the breakout year now for a long time and the potential for the season was already ruined by the disastrous losses to BYU and Ole Miss.
Without a conference title to point to, I don't think Mack can keep his position. Additionally, if he wins the conference title, and maybe a fun BCS victory over another tradition-rich program, what better time to ride off into the sunset? I tend to think he'll be gone either way. A loss to WV would almost certainly spoil any hope of this season being salvaged with a conference title and push him to retire to avoid the axe.
WVUIE97: How big were you on getting Oliver Luck? Any disappointment that they hired Patterson instead or are you satisfied with how the process went and with the results?
Ian: I wasn't terribly concerned with Luck vs Patterson, both are guys that would undoubtedly bring fresh blood and vision to the program and, most importantly, focus on marshaling Texas' massive resources better. From what I've garnered, Patterson was seen by the selection committee as the guy more willing to dirty his hands and bring systematic change that would sharpen the department's energies and cut some fat.
I'm excited for that and I'm glad that we'll have an AD who, as a Longhorn of multiple decades, will understand that getting blown out by Oklahoma every other year is an absolutely unacceptable offense.
WVUIE97: With Ash being ruled out for this weekend's game, does (or has) the game plan change(d) with McCoy playing? What does he bring to the table? What are his strengths and weaknesses?
Ian: At this point I'm waiting to see if David Ash will ever play football again. If not, I doubt Mack is interested in coming back next year to continue his legacy reclamation project with totally untested, underclassmen QB's. That also becomes priority one for the next Coach, quickly create some options for the QB position.
Case McCoy brings just enough to utilize all the exceptional talent around him. He has very limited arm strength, but he's accurate throwing short or over the middle, and he throws a beautiful fade. As it happens, Texas now has two exceptional receivers for those deep fade routes in Mike Davis and Marcus Johnson. A few teams have managed to keep Davis fairly quiet only to be burned by Johnson vs. their 2nd or 3rd best DB.
Due to Texas' improving run game and bevy of dangerous deep receivers, it's hard to punish Case for his weaknesses. He's had horrendous pocket presence in the past but that actually seems to be improving as he generally knows where to go with the ball. He's a crafty foe who's managed to overcome many of his numerous weaknesses in athleticism and arm strength with cunning and making full use of his strengths.
If you could stuff Texas' run game from your 2-deep looks that take away the fade routes, we could see Case's weaknesses emerge in a big way.
WVUIE97: What do the Longhorns have to do to earn their first victory over the Mountaineers?
Ian: From what I've seen of this Mountaineer squad this year and in how they tend to perform in high profile games in Morgantown, I think this could be a tricky one.
Texas has to be able to run the ball, but I note that West Virginia's DL is of the thick and tough variety that Texas has struggled to get a push against for the last several years. As I said before, if Texas can't get WV out of their 2-deep looks by running the ball things could get interesting for the 'horns.
I'm not sure if Texas can put a lot of points on the board trying to work their way down the field with runs and short passes against the Mountaineers if you take away the deep bombs to Davis and Johnson that have sparked the offense of late.
Other than the deep pass, our most dangerous weapon is Daje Johnson, who has some of Tavon Austin's insane acceleration and ability to change directions on a dime. You'll need a strong game tackling from Cook and Joseph against Daje to execute a bend don't break strategy against the Texas offense.
Defensively, Texas has been playing pretty aggressively with Greg Robinson. Other than the big man blitzes he's been bringing, Texas has been playing a lot of single-high safety coverages with some press coverage on the outside.
That's helped Texas keep the linebackers jobs simple: stop the run. If you can run the ball, there's not a whole lot of adjustments Texas can make to help their front out. I don't know how often WV likes to pull linemen but that's generally been the best way to exploit Texas' run defense.
Trickett clearly likes to look deep and that'll be key Saturday night. Texas' corners will dare you to beat 'em deep so the opportunities will be there
WVUIE97: Prediction time: How do you see the game playing out?
Ian: Whoever runs the ball better probably wins. If that's a draw, the team who lands more big hits in the vertical passing game will take it. I doubt Texas fans took note of the fact that Sims went for over 100 yards on TCU but this guy certainly did.
I've also noted the tendency of Holgorsen teams to play differently in games like this than in an afternoon game in Lubbock.
If Texas has another shocking loss on the schedule (losing to Baylor shouldn't be a shock to anyone) this very well could be it. West Virginia has the kind of stout run defense that could pull apart the Texas offensive system as well as the kind of run game that could shatter the story of Texas' improvement on run D.
Most likely outcome is a Texas victory that's narrower than what fans expected. The way that Texas is starting to bring all their athletes to bear with a great kicking game, the explosiveness of Daje Johnson, the strong run game/deep ball offense, and the DL's pressure should win out over an incomplete team like the Mountaineers.